When I retired two years ago I joined the Red Hat society in order to meet new people and to be within a group to go on trips etc.
I had been impressed by the sight of the Raging Grannies in Victoria, BC, all dressed up in their finery and having a good time, and it turned out that my neighbour Lynn and another good friend of mine were already members of a similar group, and recommended the Red Hats to me.
We meet monthly at a garden centre cafe and I’ve joined the book group and quiz team. We’ve visited the Globe theatre, the National Memorial Arboretum and been out for meals and to the theatre.
Then the annual convention came up. It was held in Blackpool, a place I’d never been, and Lynn and I decided we needed a trip away so we booked a sea view room.
Five of us went from our local group, or chapter, one of whom was our ‘Queen’.
Now, I’m a plain and simple person who doesn’t go in for frills and embellishments on clothes, but I’m all for a bit of fun.
The title of the convention was ‘Illuminating Blackpool’ so sparkles and lights on costumes and hats were encouraged. I did wear some sequins and sparkle but some of the ladies’ costumes were beautifully flamboyant; they’d put so much thought into their get-ups.
Our hotel , The Imperial, was a very good one, as was our room.
We were well fed and we had dancing on the first two nights; those ladies had some moves!
Our transport was two vintage trams, but we weren’t far from the North pier and the Tower so Lynn and I walked along the prom on the times when it wasn’t raining.
En masse we caused quite a spectacle.
We had afternoon tea at the Tower ballroom, which was a mixed experience. We were squashed onto our reserved tables, unable to sit at adjacent vacant ones though they remained empty. I sat with some Bristol ladies; one of the joys of the convention was chatting to others from different parts of the country. The tea was cold by the time I was seated with them. I ate two sandwiches and a scone with jam, but something upset my tummy which made me feel unwell for the rest of the day. I did manage a dance with Lynn though; one she knew the steps to so I could soon catch on.
So I’ve danced at the Tower Ballroom!
Leaving the ballroom, it was warm and sunny and we spent some time reading the Comedy Carpet opposite the Tower. Such a fascinating piece of art that had us chuckling in recognition. At last I found a Victoria Wood sketch, my favourite comedian.
The gala dinner that night was spectacular, the room done up as for a wedding reception. Each chapter had their photo taken in a room which contained a framed photo of the Beatles (minus George) taken in that very room in July 1964.
Lynn and I swam in the hotel pool the next morning, Lynn trying a jacuzzi for the first time!
We had lunch in Harry Ramsden’s with our MK group celebrating our Queen Mary’s birthday. Delicious food but very filling.
That evening we went to a nightclub, Viva Blackpool for dinner, which we couldn’t do justice to as we were still full of fish and chips. The entertainment there was disappointing. The comic will never be featured on the aforementioned carpet. The Jersey Boys tribute was very loud, the lights were dazzling, and the ‘Frankie Valli’ was so off key a few times he had us squinting.
Lynn and I enjoyed walking back to the hotel rather than getting the tram, looking at the illuminations. There were even lights on the sea and the sky.
Before we left, one of the ladies who organised the convention read out her own poem which sums up the Red Hat ethos.
With her permission I reproduce it here:
Something strange can happen when you reach the age of fifty
You think that you’re still young at heart, you still feel rather nifty
But something has descended down upon your pretty head
And you find that you don’t like it, that much can be said.
It’s a cloak you cannot see and it makes you quite invisible
To all around, you’ve disappeared, no longer a desirable
When you were young, the boys would call and whistle from the scaffold
But it’s deadly silent now as you walk by when you are seen as “old”.
No-one opens doors or gives their seat up on the bus
You wonder if you’re really here or just a cloud of dust
No-one lends a hand as you struggle with your shopping
They strut right by, phones stuck in ears, it really is quite shocking.
Well, I know a little secret that will save you from obscurity
It never fails with certain ladies of let’s say, “maturity”
Dress yourself in purple, put a hat on your head
Add a pair of snazzy shoes and handbag, all in red
Get yourself together with some friends all dressed alike
And venture out , heads held high , it’s quite a powerful sight
You soon find people stopping in their tracks just to admire
This vision of such loveliness, you’ll find that you inspire.
They say “you all look wonderful” “you’ve brightened up our day”
“What is it that you represent, why do you dress this way?”
And youngsters stop, take out those wires that were plugged in their ears
And come to have a chat with these quite glamorous old dears.
You cross the road and find that you have caused a traffic jam
As people crane from car windows to witness all this glam
And tourists click their cameras and ask you all to pose
They want to wear your hat all trimmed with flowers and red bows.
It really is incredible to think you will be found
On a Japanese tourists Facebook page that’s seen the world around
No longer deemed invisible you are now a true celebrity
Bringing joy to people’s faces, a red and purple effigy.
So dump that beige old cardy that you used to hide behind
As you shuffled around Sainsbury’s with your trolley full of wine
Break open a bottle and celebrate your beauty
After all, it’s only keeping up your new found Red Hat duty.
The cloak of invisibility can stay with Harry Potter
Who can hide inside from Voldermort , who was an evil rotter
Our secret is quite simple and it’s sure easy enough
Red Hat ladies do not hide, they go out and strut their stuff.
© Amanda Lawrence – Queen Minx 2015