I probably should explain that B.A. and I don't always go to the same parties. For example, he is not coming to the Polish Scottish Heritage Festival dance on Saturday night, even though it is called the "Swinging Allies 1940s Dance Party." Guests are supposed to wear 1940s clothing. How much cooler could a party BE? And I am quite sure I will be able to use my wing-woman skills get again, if only because my companion for the evening will be Casimir the Fox Fur Stole. Everyone will want to meet Casimir.
1940 was the best time to be a Single Catholic girl in Edinburgh in the post-Reformation history of Scotland because overnight 30.000 Polish soldiers turned up. Can you imagine having only Michael this and Patrick that to choose from (actually, I'm sure you can, especially if you are a trad) and then suddenly your parish church is packed to bursting with handsome foreigners in uniform paying as much attention to the women as to the solemn gestures of the parish priest? You, the Single Catholic Girl in Edinburgh, have the advantage over all your Presbyterian and Pixie neighbours for the first time in your life, for you get first pick of the invading, er, liberating, er, helpful Polish army.
This thought was floating through my head when, having secured one female friend to join me at the Swinging Allies 1940s Dance Party", I tried to convince another. "Swing dancing," I said. "1940s outfits. Homesick Polish soldiers!"
Actually, I didn't get that carried away. For one thing, this was after a Requiem Mass and the Schola was in earshot. And for another, although there may be homesick Polish soldiers there, they will have been from among those who turned up in 1940, and therefore too old to swing dance. (I suppose if asked to tango by a 90 year old Polish veteran, it would be very impolite to refuse, but regarding swing, it would probably be kinder, yes?) Presumably, though, there may be some cute new Poles. I tried to beam the message "Cute new Poles" to her with with thought waves while she wailed some nonsense about deadlines. Swing dancing! 1940s outfits! Homesick Polish pretend soldiers!
Today I went shopping for 1940s gear. Obviously I am taking this party very seriously. I have already booked an appointment to get 1940s hair, strongly regretting that my mother isn't here to set my hair in curlers for free. Benedict Ambrose drew the line at my plan to paint my legs with self-tan and have him draw a line up the backs (too ruinous to the sofa, he feared), so I bought seamed stockings. I MAY have a dress already but I am not SURE. (You know how it is.) I saw a brown dress, clearly 1940s, in a vintage shop that I really liked, but it was 32 quid, and I never pay more than 15 for a garment if I can possible help it.
While travelling about trying to find an outfit while spending as little money as possible, I came across this passage in The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War. It is the first cheerful story in 221 pages, so I will share it with you.:
When the battle of Britain officially ended on 31 October 1940, the Poles were acknowledged as having made a contribution that belied their small numbers. They lost 33 pilots but 34 had become aces - men who had scored five or more kills. 303 Squadron had downed three times the RAF average. The Poles received enormous publicity and gratitude for their daring deeds in the sky. After visiting a Polish squadron in in August 1940, the king was heard to remark: "One cannot help feeling that if all our Allies had been Poles, the course of the war, up until now, would have been very different." The head of Fighter Command, Sir Hugh Dowding, told Churchill, "the Poles in our Fighter Squadrons were very dashing but totally undisciplined." Churchill in response said, "one Pole was worth three Frenchmen, Gort and Dowding said nearer ten!" Having a Polish fighter pilot on one's arm became the height of fashion for young women in Britain in the summer of 1940, and jealous RAF piots sometimes adopted phoney Polish accents to attract girls. The headmistress of a girls' school ended her speech to the school leavers with the warning: "And remember, keep away from gin and Polish airmen."
--Halik Kochanski, The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War (London: Penguin, 2013), 221.
Gin! Polish pretend airmen---for my friends! And now I shall decide if I want to look more like Ginger Rogers or Veronica Lake. The thing about long hair is that Victory Rolls may be difficult. When I proposed the idea to a chap at the local (and cheaper) shop, he all but threw me out. "Ooh nae, hen, ah couldnae dae it, ah couldnae, not with yoor lang hairrr. Try next doooor. She's verra guid."