Thanks for visiting. This site will no longer be updated.

Please visit my new site.

You can find new writing, new photos at


Monday, December 24, 2007

Charles Dickens Has My Christmas Bonus

And Mr. Crummles has my heart. *swoon*

This Sunday, I finally went to the Great Dickens Christmas Faire. It's one of those things that I've just never gotten around to, and I'm so glad I finally went.

Just like the Art Deco Society that produces the wonderful Gatsby Summer Afternoon, there are diehard enthusiasts of the age when the sun never set on the British Empire, who have transformed the warehouses of the Cow Palace in Daly City into makeshift streets of old London, complete with Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, magicians, street urchins, pirates, bobbies, the parade of Father Christmas, and the procession of Queen Victoria (this year portrayed by a very slim blond woman. She must have been a very early Victoria indeed.)

Mr. Fezziwig' s Warehouse hosts troupes of talented performers: the Siamsa Scottish Dancers, and the Bangers and Mash String Band. Watching the male dancers perform, I felt a pang of regret that kilts are not commonly worn. I think we ladies are definitely being deprived: men look great in skirts. When the performers were not on stage, the floor was available for a variety of waltzes, line dances and other historical dances that everyone could participate in.

Of course, at the end of the day for me, it will always about what there was to eat and who wore what. I can't help it; food and clothes will always be at the top of my list of interests. (The bangers were excellent and the shepherd's pie was good, too.) I dressed as best I could coming into it, considering that I don't own anything remotely Victorian-looking in my closet. But within an hour at most, I was completely transformed into a proper lady, thanks to my two new discoveries at the fair: the fairylike Petrushka and her handmade hats, and the helpful ladies of Dark Garden.

Those two shops are where a goodly portion of my Christmas bonus went, happily but unexpectedly.

I hadn't planned to buy anything except for food--until I saw the exquisite artisan lovelies of Petrushka's little booth. Petrushka is one of those ageless pixie-type people whose art and passion for lovely adornments are her life. The hat pictured, the "Balmoral," is a woolen beret that ties at the back, letting the ribbons fall down the back of the neck. The front is clustered with velvet ribbons and roses and a hand-etched brass medallion with a Celtic pattern. The giant purple cockade feather is frothy and arches delightfully over the entire hat. (I can't tell you how beautiful this hat really is in person. I also bought an equally stupendous green hat. I really need to get a proper camera...these pics do absolutely no justice at all to my fine hats!)

After leaving Petrushka's and feeling like the rest of my outfit did not pay proper tribute to my hat, I found Dark Garden. Dark Garden specializes in corsetry and Goth clothing, and I knew that they do a lot of custom sewing, but they had a perfectly lovely shop filled with gowns, suits, skirts, petticoats, gloves and pretty accessories. Before I knew it, I had found a wonderful satin suit, a deep plum with a black shimmer in the fabric. The jacket is double-breasted, with a velvet collar. The sleeves are full towards the wrist and the entire jacket is embroidered. The jacket flares from the waist with a peplum, and goes over a slimmer, calf length matching skirt. I was already wearing black boots, so the outfit was pretty perfect. I shoved my old clothes in a bag and went to the coat check to get rid of them for a while. (The picture at left is from a catalog, but that's the jacket in the same color as mine.)

After that, I could do no wrong. Men smiled at me. I curtseyed and they laughed. People came up to me to compliment me. Someone took my picture. Mostly, I think it was the hat.

But whatever it was, I got to have a proper waltz with the very handsome Mr. Crummles. Mind you, I don't know how to waltz. I know how to tango and that's really about it. I can do a rudimentary Charleston, Lindy Hop and some East Coast swing, none of which would be required at a Victorian ball, either.

I had been standing by and watching the couples waltz: ladies in their full-skirted ballgowns and the men in their cutaway coats and breeches. My mom, who was seated next to me, asked me if I had noticed the tall good-looking guy who had been dancing, and I had to admit that there were several so I didn't know who she meant. At that point, a man touched my elbow and asked politely if I would like to dance. I had to be honest with him and tell him I didn't know how to waltz, to avoid disappointing him. My outfit made me look like I fit in, but I didn't want to embarrass either of us. I told him that I can do Argentine tango, and he smiled and said if I can do that, then I can do anything. Yay. *smile*

So off we went onto the dance floor. He offered his arm, and I took it. It felt so very proper. He introduced himself to me as a Mr. Crummles (who happens to be a favorite character from Nicholas Nickleby, so that made me smile) and I was so flustered I didn't have time to invent a persona so I just gave him my real name.

The waltz was smooth and lovely sailing for me. The dance involved some turning about the partner and making a "window" with the arms to look at each other (if any of you know what I am talking about, please enlighten me). Mr. Crummles was very kind to softly speak the steps and I think I did just fine, considering. Of course at the end, I had to blurt out that I thought he was amazing and that was the only time he broke character. I told him I that owe him a tango someday. When I was escorted off the floor, my mom said that was the guy she was talking about. Lucky me. (Again, I think it's all about the hat.)

There is a Dicken's Ball in two weeks from Saturday. I have until then to improve my waltzing in case Mr. Crummles makes an appearance. And I'll be sure to wear my lucky hat again, just in case.


katie December 26, 2007 at 8:29 PM  

Oh what a wonderful time you must have had! Pea green with envy!

Red shoes December 26, 2007 at 11:20 PM  

I wonder if you came across a young woman in a green plaid skirt playing accordion? She's been my friend since we were girls.

I adore your hat. Especially that lovely brooch (?).

tangobaby December 27, 2007 at 9:40 AM  

Hi Katie,

It was really fun, but there was so much to do and see that it was a bit overwhelming. It's really something you would have to visit more than once, so I'll plan to do that next year. Hopefully by then my Viennese waltz will be up to scratch.


Hi Ms. Red Shoes,

I very well could have seen your friend, although it was so crowded and bustling with people that I can't recall her now.

You would love the hat. And I got a green one too. The lady who makes them lives here in the city and I got her phone number. Maybe we can make a pilgrammage to her studio. You would love her.

I think the metal piece is a medallion. Perhaps it is a brooch, though? I should check!