As told by Sylvia Thorne.
"A rather unusual birthday present arrived three months ago, and not one I would have chosen. I live on Sanday and enjoy the rural quiet, you see. However I am recovering from breast cancer and my husband thought a very special celebration was called for. He announced he had won, in a ballot, the opportunity to purchase a pair of the coveted tickets to the Trinity May Ball on June 19th at his old college in Cambridge. My heart sank, how were we going to get there? What was the cost of all this and what were we going to wear (the tickets advised ‘white tie’)?
"Well, Rod thought his old, very old dinner suit could come out of mothballs for the occasion, but I put my foot down, flares, frilly shirt, and after 50 years lying in a trunk it certainly wouldn't fit him. Our son offered his highland dress, great, problem solved, a bit tight but a few weeks of jogging around the roads of Sanday and some serious dieting would sort that.
"What about me? The internet came into its own, except it didn’t. Dresses began arriving with Norma, our post lady. I didn't like any of them, and my favourite colour for such a garment, cerise pink, doesn’t seem to be in fashion this year. I won't tell you the cost of this expedition so far, before even buying a dress, but I was hoping not to have to go into three figures for this outfit that I would only wear the once. That would be ridiculous, I could think of a dozen better ways to spend that sort of money. A visit into Kirkwall’s dress shops didn't help at all, and why should they? Summer balls, Orkney, no I don't think so. Back in the sixties long dresses were in fashion, it was quite normal to run one up on the sewing machine, I’d done it then so I could do it again, it seemed to be my only option.
"And then I found myself in Kirkwall again, and I always pop into CLAN to view the bargains. Ball dresses were the last thing on my mind, I was thinking more of grand children and the great array of books, toys and useful clothes that grannies need to have put by when the little dears come for a visit. As I made my way through to the back of the shop something bright, cerise pink caught my eye, hanging up on the wall of the arch. The very dress of my dreams! In a size that would, given a stitch here and there, fit. A beautiful creation in silk, still with the labels in it too. Nearly speechless with relief and delight I handed over my £20 and couldn't wait to get home to try it on again.
"We went to the ball, and despite all my misgivings it was an amazing experience and a very memorable birthday present indeed. I think we must have been the oldest couple there, it was great to watch the youngsters in all their glory. We partied till the end at six o’clock in the morning (which was when Rod snapped this photo of me). The revelling was still in full swing when I felt a touch in my arm, it was one of the student party-goers with her friends
”We hope you don’t mind, but are you a couple?” … “Ye-es” … “We have been watching you and had to tell you how lovely you look.”
"So,once again, thank you CLAN."