We went out for the evening on Saturday - I can't think of the last time that happened.
We went for a slap-up meal at the weekend, to celebrate the DH's birthday - but, Lord how things have changed. We nearly cancelled it because we're just not used to going out at night any more. How weird is that?
When we lived in London, I was 'out' a lot in the evenings, because although the DH worked from home, I worked in town - mainly in areas like Soho - and didn't finish work till late. Add to that all the PR functions one attended, or evening press do's, or drinks after work, and 'after-work' clothes constituted quite a big slice of my wardrobe. Carrying in an evening dress in a bag was something I seemed to do on a regular basis.
But getting changed to go out this Saturday night felt incredibly alien. So alien, in fact, that we only confessed to each other in the car that we'd both had the same thought about cancelling before setting out. The total blackness of the countryside - no house lights from the shuttered houses, and no street lights - is something I'd almost forgotten, as we ploughed 40 minutes to the chateau where we were dining.
OK, admittedly, some of this is that we, like the French, now have our main meal at lunchtime, so we're just not used to going out to restaurants in the evening any more. We lunch out about once a week, but these days, our evening meal is more likely to be cheese and crackers or a cup of soup. And round here, there is a little else to do.
The DH has never liked going out anyway (nor having people over either, being a solitary man), and most of my evenings here involve having the girls over for girls nights in (nobody else holds GNIs, so I don't get to go anywhere else), the new book club meeting, or meeting my friend E for swimming, which is over before 7.00pm. The vibrant social life we once had in the evenings has died a death in the recession, when nobody has the money to have friends over any more (not to mention all the Brits who've gone back, or split up, or died), and it's not as if there's anything much else here in the boonies, in the way of pubs, theatre or cinema etc. The occasional English-language movie would entail a 100km round trip to Tinchebray.
The yoga class I used to do got cancelled, and I can't afford to do both chi kung and swimming, so that's out. Our French teacher ran off with a British friend, so no more lessons. And the local camera club and patchwork classes we tried proved less than sparkling. No wonder all we do these days is work, eat, crash out for an hour in front of the telly and head for bed at 10.00 like boring old farts. That is what I call a rut.
So, having decided to go out, what to wear? Last time we went for a posh meal, for my birthday in the spring, we did it as a lunch, so I wore a silver 1960s sheath dress and a grey cashmere cardi - the kind of casual/dressed up look advocated by Inès de la Fressange, which works brilliantly, I must admit. But for Saturday night, I took the chance to go the whole hog - crimson velvet dress, floral silk velvet 1920s jacket, a fringed and beaded wrap I made from black silk fabric, and a magenta velvet 1950s coat. Top that with a gold 1960s box bag and green suede stiletto boots, and I was by far the dressiest person in the room (the local French don't dress up at all, as far as I can see - not for restaurants, funerals or anything else: all people ever wear is teeshirts and jeans).
It's nice sometimes to frock up, but the problem round this neck of the woods is that you never know what the temperature will be. The parking area was gravelled and very dark, which made me glad I hadn't bothered cleaning my boots, as they got caked in mud anyway. And the restaurant - all Louis Quinze furniture and mirrors - was pretty nippy, too, so I had to wear my voluminous wrap for the latter part of the evening. Luckily, no-one could see the massive thick mohair socks inside the boots.
I do notice the lack of warm evening wear or evening wear with sleeves. In the 1940s, sleeved evening wear was very common - presumably because fuel was rationed. But since then, I think it's generally assumed that venues will be warm or hot, so bare flesh and sleeveless is the name of the game. Well, not round here, it isn't, and I shall be lining my next wrap with some wool challis for an extra layer of warmth. And wearing it over a sparkly cardi.
That's if we ever go out in the evening again, which at the moment, I must admit, is looking pretty unlikely. It must be three years since our last 'proper' evening meal out, but the DH was so unsettled by this one, and by our 1.00am finish, that he was poleaxed most of Sunday, as I was I - though the stiff kir royale, half a bottle of Medoc and free champagne might have had something to do with that.
If the economy doesn't improve soon - and I see some commentators think this crappy situation is going to go on till 2020 - my evening clothes are going to be truly consigned to something I 'used to wear', along with my business suits and court shoes. Which I guess is the end of one more scene in life's rich pageant.