Wednesday 15 December 2010

Brontë Christmas lunch and entertainment 2010

45 members gathered for the group's Christmas lunch on Saturday 11 December, seven of whom had travelled from the Netherlands to join us, with journeys of over three hours each way in some cases. We were lucky with the weather, since the lunch fell between two cold spells, just over the heavy snow that had been making for difficult travelling conditions and with more snow threatened soon.

There was plenty of good cheer, good conversation, and excellent entertainment from several of our talented members who had volunteered to amuse us over our desserts and coffee.

Until today we had known Franklin as the creator of visionary drawings inspired by the Brontës. He now acquainted us with another of his talents by singing 1960s and 70s songs for us (no Brontë link here, but very enjoyable!), accompanying himself on the guitar. Valerie Sculfor, Sally Batten and Sherry Vosburgh sang carols and songs from musicals.

Franklin and his guitar, and singers Valerie, Sally and Sherry

We had first-rate literary entertainment, too, and this was all Brontë-related. Sheila Fordham, who has been known to write poems for group occasions in the past, often drafted on the train journey in to work, didn’t let us down this time and read us a prose poem, a humorous reflection on the life of Branwell Brontë.

Sheila entertains us with her tribute to Branwell

In similarly satirical and light-hearted vein we got fun out of the whole Brontë family (or rather the popular stereotypes of them) in the sketch Christmas Dinner at Haworth Parsonage which appeared in Punch magazine in the 1930s. Richard Fletcher played an irascible Patrick Brontë, Sally Batten an embittered Charlotte brooding about Brussels (whereas Patrick is more interested in the Brussels sprouts), Sheila Fordham a lachrymose Anne and Valerie Sculfor a formidable Emily squabbling with a Branwell somewhat the worse for drink (Liviu Danubiu) over the authorship of a well-known poem.

Tracie Ryan, who directs and acts in the Brussels Shakespeare Society, also took us into the Parsonage with her performance of a Victoria Wood sketch, The guide in Haworth Parsonage.

Valerie, Sally, Sheila, Richard and Liviu performing the sketch Christmas Dinner at Haworth Parsonage

Tracie performing her Victoria Wood sketch

Eric Ruijssenaars, taking leave of us for a year, told us about the scholarship he has been granted by the New Netherland Institute in Albany, US, to do a research project involving 17th C Dutch colonial archives. While in the US Eric will also make contact with the Brontë Society there and talk to its New York section and will also address the annual meeting of all the American sections of the Society. The subject of his talk will of course be Brussels Brontë research and our group!

We gave Eric a going-away present prepared by Selina Busch and ended with a raffle with gifts also prepared by Selina. In her role as Father Christmas, Selina came from the Netherlands bearing Christmas cards as well as gifts for everyone present.
Eric telling us about his scholarship to do research in the US and receiving his going-away present from Selina and Helen

If Branwell Brontë, that lover of good cheer, had been present at our revels surely he would have enjoyed himself and forgiven some good-humoured fun at his expense. I think even his more retiring sisters, had they been flies on the wall, would have been pleased to see so many of us gathered in Brussels to celebrate Christmas in their honour.

Helen MacEwan
Thanks to Peter Cavanagh for the photos

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