Fancying herself depressed by the seemingly unending winter, she determined to bring Spring on with her own sheer will, and paid labour.
“I married him for a title, a grand house and the gardens, not his country’s climate for Chrissakes”.
Everyone, servants and all, had heard her bellow down the telephone she had had installed in the hall.
She was shouting, it transpired, at a visiting friend from across the pond, a Mrs Simpson, who apparently had sympathy but problems enough of her own.
On Wallis’ advice, she decided that tennis was the answer.
“In March?” his Lordship inquired raising a solitary eyebrow and both eyes from the crossword of The Times.
“Well? What the hell else are those lawns for?” she volleyed.
“Croquet?” he lobbed.
Whatever, the remark fell outside her hearing, she was already in another room and inside her head thoughts had moved on to courts and nets and whites and racquets.
The new phone pressed again into action so she could assemble her motley crew of contractors.
A wind machine marvel who engineered storms at Pinewood Studios would, so he said, work the contrary conjuring trick and turn frost bitten February-like weather to flaming high June.
A ‘Gro-Mo’ salesman promised that his potions would have the lawn moss free and at perfect pitch for playability within a week and was promptly engaged.
Then there was a Yugoslavian ‘professional’ who someone knew from a party on a yacht moored just of Monte Carlo, he came on board to help the ladies with their backhand strokes.
Lillywhites would supply the starched apparel to match their name and cook knew a recipe for lemon barley water.
Everything, therefore, was in place she announced over breakfast the next day and invitations were immediately dispatched.
The day of the game arrived and with it guests and an uninvited snow storm.
Freezing in flannels and tennis skirts to the knee she marched her fellow players out on court: the daughter of a Marchioness, a banker she met playing baccarat at the Ritz and his Lordship shivering and the first time in shorts since school, the Yugoslavian sat slumped in the umpire’s chair.
With the flick of a switch her movie magician summoned arc lights into action and suddenly the snow was falling in full summer sunshine.
He signalled to an engineer and the fantastically large fans began to whirr.
The effect was, granted, perhaps more that of giant hairdryer than summer breeze, but cold there was no more.
The no show “Gro-Mo” man had, it was true, let her down and the court was pure moss.
But it parched out to a bounce quick enough in this man-made Scirocco and its bitter scent soon filled the air.
The wafts of lawn mingled with winter grass, the pine of the polished racquets with the medicinally rubber balls, the musk of fresh laundered whites with sour lemon squash served from great jugs at changes of ends.
The aroma was intoxicating.
It was Wimbledon fortnight in suspended winter.
Then two sets in, the hostess serving for the match, a stray snow flake somehow snuck its way into the electricals and with an exuberant snap and scary spark sleight of hand sunshine and warmth were suddenly at an end.
Returned in an instant to Arctic climes our brave aristocratic athletes ran for cover.
But none would ever forget the day that desperate March was turned to Pinewood Studios Summer.
Estee Lauder’s Aliage is a determined and admirable attempt to bottle sporting summertime and make it available all year round.
As orderly and well managed as Centre Court on finals day, this is a fragrance marshalled with ex-military precision.
The opening is a brisk moss lawn made brilliant by warm sunshine. There are hints of citrus and a slightly malted fruitiness that tries but never succeeds in deposing tart as the chief mood.
This green persists throughout the heart and is without doubt the main accord, a definite resinous pine becomes apparent and then yields somewhat to vetiver.
There is a distant spiciness and a definite element of powder, but these seem medicinal, belonging far more to the locker room than the beauty parlour.
The dry down is more a three set match than five and seems to end quite decisively in a tie break that takes one almost by surprise.
All in all Aliage is a miraculously summoned up ray of sharp sunshine available on any day.
In the midst of foul weather we should all be truly grateful that such things exist.
This is without doubt a game suitable for mixed doubles.
Aliage has recently regained its missing ‘l’ and once again become ‘Alliage’.
Sadly in so doing it seems to have lost much of its vigour and derring-do.
Catch the old magic where and while you can.
The Perfumed Dandy.