These rich, complex, dusky damask roses with their headily scented folds, draw me into a world of passion and glamour and their myriad petals seem to curl themselves around a whisper, an intrigue, a secret. These roses, this vase of burnished gold belong on a fantasy table laid for imaginary guests. And within moments my guest list is made up and I am sipping champagne with Gustave Flaubert’s Emma Bovary and Mikhail Bulgakov’s Margarita.
Elegant and opulent, these flowers exude a sense of luxury which would lift Emma Bovary above the bourgeois society she so detested, but would they appeal to the daring and passionate Margarita, the hostess of Satan’s Grand Ball in The Master and Margarita? For those of you unfamiliar with Bulgakov’s novel, the inspiration for the ball scene was a Spring Festival which Bulgakov attended at Spaso House, ( the residence of the U.S Ambassador to the Soviet Union), Moscow, in 1935. Hosted by Ambassador William Bullitt, an event was created which surpassed every other Embassy party in Moscow’s history.
The decorations included a forest of ten young birch trees in the chandelier room; a dining room table covered with Finnish tulips; a lawn made of chicory grown on wet felt; an aviary made from fishnet filled with pheasants, parakeets and one hundred zebra finches, on loan from the Moscow Zoo; and a menagerie of several mountain goats, a dozen white roosters and a baby bear. The festival lasted until the early hours of the morning. The bear became drunk on champagne and in the early morning hours the zebra finches escaped from the aviary and perched below the ceilings around the house.
With guests with such creative and literary associations, my imaginary dinner could well be one of the most exciting evenings I have ever had! Excuse me whilst I top up the champagne coupes and hand around the canapés!