Yes, the nights are drawing in and I am reminded of my encounter with a Suttonford grande dame who had experienced the days of the Raj first hand.  She measured out her widowhood in coffee spoons and cigarettes at the precursor to Costamuchamullah, ie/ The Peal o’ Bells. 

One lunchtime – (cloth: on; dinner:cloth off)- she sat in a cloud of smoke, like mist rising from the Ganges, and I admired her leopard skin coat.  She minimally acknowledged my obeisance.

A few evenings later, she was leaving a drinks party which was in the very house that Clammie has coveted recently.  By way of something to say, I asked her where her fur coat was, as she was being solicitously wrapped in a stole by a favoured minion who was to see her safely across the road.  She gave me a withering look and corrected my social solecism, resulting in this poem:

He placed the mink stole round her neck –

not the fur coat she’d worn on deck.

She saw my look and then observed

the riposte which I had deserved:

“You don’t wear leopard after dark!”

“Never? Not even for a lark?”

“Precisely. It’s not the done thing.”

“What about ocelot?”

“Too bling.

It’s like cloth for luncheon, but NOT

for dinner? One just never ought.”

“Is there any jurisdiction

on camel? Is there restriction

on beaver lamb, cashmere, fox-fur? –

shibboleths on which They concur? –

a consensus aimed at non-U?”

“The proles took to fake kangaroo.

In crepuscular hours of dusk,

outrageously they sported musk

and, as far as Guatemala,

riff-raff lounged in capybara.

Minxes out in the Sahara

had bikinis of impala.

One can pose as La Giocanda

in a thong of rare red panda,

but animal right protesters

wanted bobbies to arrest us.

They showed chagrin; I owned shagreen:

clutch purses, belts in wolverine,

tortoiseshell compacts – what’s the fuss?

Darling, they’re just not one of us.

In Sikkim some said, “That’s Betty.

She’s the one who’s wearing yeti”

I would sip a margarita,

naked, on a rug of cheetah.

(I was pretty well devoured

by a rampant Noel Coward.)

He quipped, ‘Little looks much snazzier

Than zebra pants and brassiere.’

In the mountains of Bhutan,

my tippet was orang-utan

and my favourite windcheater

was two hides of tanned anteater.

(At altitude on Everest,

one needs an extra tiger vest.)

At a barbeque in Goa,

I singed my flamingo boa.

To meet the Queen, I wore a hat

and had it trimmed with a fruit bat.

There was a tiny rigmarole

when footmen took my corgi stole.

She said archly, ‘Is that dodo?’

I looked at my heel: ‘Ma’am, no, no.

I’m sure your carpets are quite clean.’

She glared: ‘Your headgear’s what we mean.

Though denied my decoration,

I still caused a huge sensation.

I’m a seasoned old globetrotter.

I wear stoat and I wear otter,

I wore porpoise, whale and shark –

But NEVER leopard after dark.”