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The Moth and the Lamp by Cesar Santos
Nature’s Wingèd Beauties
I’ve never enjoyed fancy dress parties. The best I can come up with is wrapping myself in a sheet and saying I’m a Roman. I know, inspired . . . Anyway, when the invitation dropped through the door and the theme was Nature’s Wingèd Beauties I knew I had to make a determined effort. There was no possibility of declining the invitation – it was the annual company shindig and my attendance was expected. I knew most of the people who would be there apart from the all-important and influential guest of honour and his glamorous and illustrious wife.
Accordingly, I made an appointment with the director of one of the largest costumiers in the UK, explaining what I required. Having been persuaded into hiring an outfit I would never have considered in a million years, I drove home hoping that the evening of the costume ball would be warm otherwise my wings would be fluttering all night from cold.
My husband reacted with gratifying appreciation when I twirled in front of him, so much that we were almost late. (By the way, he was dressed as a magpie and the long tail caused him some difficulties getting in and out of the cab. In the ballroom he cut a swathe through the company as he turned to greet friends and colleagues.)
I began to wish I’d stuck with my original choice of the blue tit outfit. It would have been warmer and certainly less revealing. Nevertheless, the skimpy moth costume was flattering and I was receiving a lot of attention. My husband’s chest was swelling with pride as he strutted beside me and I must say we made a striking couple – he, so tall and broad, resplendent in black and white with iridescent sheen, me so slight and fine-boned, in soft pastel shades.
A fanfare announced the arrival of the special guest and his consort and the assembled crowd turned as one to the grand entrance. I craned my neck to catch a glimpse. I saw a large man in black and white – a penguin, maybe, I hoped, or a puffin – and next to him a small woman in pastel colours. As they advanced into the room I realised with alarm that they were sporting the same costumes as my husband and me. Swiftly I drew my wings over my shoulders and wrapped them around myself, hoping I might pass as a cocoon. Simultaneously my husband pulled his tail over his arm. He told me later he wanted to give the impression of a crow gathering sticks for its nest. We were not convincing but the VIPs laughed and congratulated us on both our impeccable taste and our quick thinking. What could we do but smile and nod our heads in agreement?
Perhaps we would have been better advised to dress in our usual fancy dress garb. In white sheets from head to toe I could have been a White Satin moth and my husband a Snowy Owl. Were they around in Roman times?