Georgette always enjoyed Christmas and was a generous giver of gifts to family and friends. Her favourite shopping destination for Christmas gifts was Fortnum and Mason, the famous department store that was literally across the road from her home in Albany. Fortnums, as it is affectionately called, is on Piccadilly in the heart of London and is famous for its magnificent food hall. Each Christmas Georgette would visit Fortnums and order sumptuous Christmas hampers for her brothers, her brother-in-law and his wife, her nephews, cousins, and several fortunate friends. The hampers were luxurious, filled to the brim with delicious goodies and often with a bottle of champagne to celebrate the season. For the lucky recipients those glorious hampers from Fortnum and Mason remained memorable long after the last morsel was eaten and the last drop drunk!
A chinchilla Christmas!
In a recent Weekly Post for the International Heyer Society I offered this delightfull letter from Georgette written a week after her Christmas celebration in 1970. As a Christmas gift to Heyer fans everywhere, I thought I’d share it with you on this special day.
Christmas 1970 proved a memorable celebration for Georgette and her family. Her only child, Richard, was now a successful barrister and married with two young stepsons, Dominic and Noel, and a son of his own, Nicholas. A week after Christmas Georgette couldn’t resist sharing a delightful Christmas story and wrote to her agent, Joyce Wiener, to tell her about their adventure with a chinchilla!
2 January 1971
[…] Christmas was enlivened by the introduction into the household of Richard’s present to his younger stepson, Noel, which was a baby chinchilla! A most entrancing little creature, which cast Noel into speechless ecstasies. It also provided Richard, Dominic, and me with a very nerve-racking hour, trying to catch it, and to put it into its hutch, what time Susie and her mother kept Noel occupied at the other end of the house! Richard and Dommy drove into Ledbury on Christmas Eve to collect it, and its hutch was placed, temporarily, in Richard’s study. Unfortunately, none of us three had realized the extraordinary agility of chinchillas! Richard cautiously opened its travelling-box, expecting it to go straight into the hutch, but instead of doing this it leapt over Richard’s hands, and defied capture for over an hour! My job was to guard the door against intruders, so that no one coming in should allow Sidney, the cat, to come in too! The poor little thing was quite unnerved by the unprecedented events of the day, of course. Its final refuge was behind the curtains which hang in front of Richard’s very heavy desk, whence it made Distressful Noises, what time Richard and Dominic lay on their tummies, trying to cajole it into emerging! It was Susie who finally caught it, and put it into its hutch, where it very soon settled down, and, with perfect sangfroid, took a raisin out of Richard’s fingers! When I left, it was rapidly developing into an enchanting pet, and Dominic, who is a good carpenter, was making two more hutches for it – one for travel, and the other for its London residence! I hope 1971 [and 50 years later, 2021] will be a better year for you, and will end with
Merry Christmas, happy Yule and a joyful festive season everyone!
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season and that 2021 is a better year for the world. Thank you for coming along with me on this Georgette Heyer journey. I’m looking forward to many more “Friday Heyer” posts in 2021 as well as many more Heyer moments, essays and articles from our new and fabulous International Heyer Society. If you haven’t joined, do take a look, as each week we offer a special post for members and every month there is a new edition of Nonpareil, our fabulous magazine full of wonderful essays and articles about Heyer, her writing and her world.
2021 is a special year for Heyer fans as it marks one hundred years since the publication of The Black Moth. Her first novel was published in September that year and we will be celebrating her achievement with a Heyer convention in Melbourne. We’ll announce the date as soon as Covid circumstances allow us to book the venue and we plan to Zoom the proceedings so that travel restrictions will not prevent anyone from joining us in marking this very special occasion.