Christmas is a time when the same old stories from ageing relatives are trotted out. Sometimes they bear a retelling, sometimes everyone groans and nods off until the tale is done. This year I heard one that was totally new to me.
One of my father's many uncles, Walter Holland came home to New Zealand from WW1 with a Danish bride. From photos it is clear that she always looked straight out of a band box, chic, groomed and fashionable, standing out next to the other aunts and uncles as a glamorous outsider. She was vivacious, beautiful and socially at ease. My father adored her, knowing her always as Tante.
Uncle Walter did alright for himself and used to regularly take Tante back to Denmark to stay with her family. The trips ceased during WW2 but as soon as the passenger ships started up again after the war, off they went.
In those days the New Zealand embassy was in The Strand and so itinerant Kiwis of means would often choose to stay at the Savoy. Here Walter and the gorgeous Tante stayed before travelling on to Denmark. On this particular trip they were settled in their rooms when there was an urgent knocking at the door whereupon Tante found a messenger with an urgent invitation for her. There was a ship being launched in the Clyde and to celebrate the reopening of trade routes with New Zealand they would like her to come and launch her. Tante saw that the invitation was just for her, Mrs Holland and she explained to the messenger that she would love to come up to the Clyde but that she was travelling with her husband and if the invitation could be extended to include him they would be delighted to oblige.
An invitation that included them both was produced, a Rolls Royce sent to pick them up and take them to the station. On the train there was a delightful reception for them and the ship was launched successfully. Another jolly reception ensued, and on the train back to London the next day Tante was feted further in first class accommodation. It really was all a rather lovely party.
The next morning Walter and Tante were having breakfast when Tante noticed a couple she recognised at a nearby table and asked Walter if they knew them, as she was unable to place them. Walter looked over and said "Yes, they are New Zealanders, and no, we don't know them. That's Prime Minister Sidney Holland and his wife"........
Merry Christmas everyone!