The Captain’s Table

12 Mar

Just five days before the annual Summer Ball at HMAS Watson, James and I discover we can get tickets. This is partly down to poor planning by us and partly down to the fact James was flying to the USA a few weeks a go with just a day’s notice and so fancy fun and frolics were not at the forefront of our minds, more, panic, pack and apologise.

We have the tickets though and are good to go – that is James is, as he just has to iron a uniform. I suddenly realise I have three days to find myself an evening dress (there is a fantasy fancy dress option, which is very open to interpretation, but about the only fantastical thing in my wardrobe is a pair of laddered tights, which I don’t think will cut it.)

Cue a dash to the nearest department store where, unless I want to look like Camilla Parker-Bowles, there is little option; a quick browse on line (too long to post and a bit of a risk) and a search for evening dress shops in the city, whose offerings could leave me looking like an 80’s bridesmaid or a day-glo fire hazard (don’t go standing near any naked flames in those get-ups.) This leaves one guaranteed but pricey option: Double Bay (locally known as Double Pay.) The suburb of tree lined avenues, designer stores and independent boutiques is a lovely place to shop, sorry, window shop. Actually purchasing anything and suddenly seeing the decimal point on your balance hop to the left, takes the joy out of it somewhat. Anyway, there I go, and I am encouraged by the number of stores with long, elegant dresses in their windows. The first has a sale on so I am hopeful, until I realise that the $400 price tag is the marked-down price. The second offers up two possibilities. I am told the one I like best is the cheapest by two hundred dollars (hurrah!) I am told the more expensive one is $1,200 (boo!) On to the third shop and I am feeling a little deflated and it is approaching closing time. The owner is very friendly and asks if I have a budget… I am honest and know she is going to laugh in my face. Instead she suggests a dress, which on first appearances I think is a bit too ‘blingy’ for my liking but she insists I try it and actually it isn’t so bad. I am in one of the most expensive suburbs of one of the most expensive cities in the world and wearing a dress, whose price tag isn’t sending me into cardiac arrest. This is a positive. I need the dress in two days so, in the words of the reality bridal show, I say ‘yes to the dress’.

There is one hitch, it is still too big and there are no smaller sizes. Apparently this is no problem. The owner makes a call to the tailor ‘down the road’ and in two minutes he’s in the shop waving his chalk around my dress like an epileptic flamenco dancer. “It’ll be ready tomorrow,” he says and on Saturday morning the owner is there with my dress. She is my fairy Godmother right now and I am having my Cinderella moment: “you can go to the ball.”


We also have friends who are going and with a bit of luck, and knowing the right people, we have managed to get seats at their table (James being Social Secretary of the Wardroom does have its benefits.) The four of us head to the base and join the mix of traditionally-dressed with those in fancy dress. The Mario Brothers, a Yellow Brick Road and a wizard walk past us and nobody blinks an eye.

Mad hatters, white rabbits and the Queen of Hearts are not usually what you associate with an Officer’s Wardroom but HMAS Watson was transformed into a fantasy land of toadstools, playing cards and balloons – lots of balloons. They had done a fantastic job of decorating in an Alice in Wonderland style and it was a lovely evening to watch the sunset over the harbour as well.


Our friends were a Colonel and his wife and being a Royal Marine Colonel he knows lots of similar ranked Naval Officers. So it was we were seated at our table and I am greeted by a vision of gold stripes: the Captain’s table quite literally. I am sandwiched between two such Captains, each with so many decorations and medals, there’s enough ‘bling’ round this table, that my dress merely fades into the background.


All in all it was a brilliant night. There were prawns bigger than my arm, beef wellington, chocolate cake, champagne, wine, dancing and by the end of the night too many whiskies and one slightly slurring James. Despite being outranked a bit on the table, we all got on well and by the time you’re a Captain, you clearly have mastered the art of drinking inordinate amounts of wine without feeling any effects. By the end of the night I am soon getting told what will be expected of me as James climbs the ranks (I think I downed my champagne at that point.) If James wants more gold on those epaulettes, it seems I am going to have to pay a few more trips to Double Bay for dresses…


Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: