A glit­ter­ing Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion

Woman & Home - - Royal Highlights -

Nov­el­ist Bar­bara Tay­lor Brad­ford OBE, 85, lives in New York with her hus­band of more than 50 years, tele­vi­sion pro­ducer Robert Brad­ford. Her 1979 novel, A Wo­man of Sub­stance, ranks as one of the top 10 best­selling nov­els of all time, and her lat­est novel, Mas­ter of His Fate, is out on 29 No­vem­ber.

bob and I were mar­ried on Christ­mas Eve in 1963, so our wed­ding an­niver­sary has al­ways co­in­cided with Christ­mas. and in 1998, after 35 years of mar­riage, I wanted to throw a party – it felt like the right time to cel­e­brate.

there was an­other rea­son too. bob had never had par­ties as a child. He’d had to stand on his own two feet from a very young age, and there was no one to give one for him, re­ally. His fa­ther died when he was young and he was sep­a­rated from his mother dur­ing the War. she died be­fore they could be re­united. It took me years to learn these things about his child­hood. bob’s a very pri­vate per­son – I think be­ing on your own in wartime would do that to you.

life is hard, but if you know there’s a sad­ness, you can al­le­vi­ate that a lit­tle bit by do­ing some­thing spe­cial.

so that year I wanted to make sure bob fi­nally had a lav­ish cel­e­bra­tion that we’d both al­ways re­mem­ber – not just for our an­niver­sary, but to make up for all the par­ties he’d never had when he was a boy.

as Christ­mas Eve is a busy time for every­one, I in­vited our guest list of around 150 peo­ple for 10 De­cem­ber in­stead. they all ac­cepted. I knew that the Dou­bles Club, in the Man­hat­tan’s sherry-Nether­land Ho­tel, was al­ways lav­ishly dec­o­rated ev­ery Christ­mas by the owner, Wendy, and so we hired the club for the evening. there were large Christ­mas trees, and lots of smaller ones, plus the ceil­ing was drip­ping with glit­ter­ing dec­o­ra­tions, fir branches, baubles and big red bows.

bob in­vited samy Goz – a jazz mu­si­cian we’d seen to­gether in a restau­rant in

Paris – and his trio to play. He sent them plane tick­ets, mak­ing sure they would be in New york sev­eral days be­fore the party. samy rang bob just be­fore fly­ing out, telling him he’d have to hire the in­stru­ments as he couldn’t bring drums or equip­ment on the plane. “thank

“I wanted to make up for the par­ties he never had as a child”

God he told us in time,” I thought, and luck­ily, I was able to call upon a con­duc­tor friend of mine for help.

Not one of our guests can­celled. Every­one ar­rived in their fine feath­ers, all dressed up and glit­ter­ing in lovely jew­ellery. the party was black tie, and all very fancy. I wore a vel­vet bal­main dress with a boat neck­line and long sleeves, a strand of emer­alds, an emer­ald bracelet and emer­ald ear­rings – all gifts from bob over the years.

on ar­rival at the party, guests were im­me­di­ately wel­comed by three Mari­achis wear­ing vel­vet suits and som­breros, play­ing mara­cas and strum­ming gui­tars. Waiters were float­ing around of­fer­ing glasses of Cham­pagne and hors d’oeu­vres.

among the guests were Christo­pher Plum­mer, who starred in The Sound of Mu­sic, and his wife Elaine, ac­tor ben Gaz­zara and Ed­wina sandys, who is Win­ston Churchill’s grand­daugh­ter.

Dur­ing din­ner, guests took their seats at the round tables and there were a few speeches. bob said a cou­ple of words thank­ing our guests for com­ing, and then I stood up to speak. I turned a bit se­ri­ous and, de­spite the room be­ing full of guests, I spoke di­rectly to him. I said, “It’s been a won­der­ful 37 years know­ing you, and I want you to know that this very lav­ish party is to make up for all of those par­ties that you never had as a child.” I think he was very touched. Every­one danced un­til two in the morn­ing, and friends still say to me now that it was the best party they’ve ever been to. It re­ally was the most spec­tac­u­lar bash I’ve ever hosted – and a Christ­mas I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber. ✢ Mas­ter of His Fate (HarperCollins, £16.99), is out on 29 No­vem­ber.

Bar­bara and Robert cel­e­brat­ing their 35th wed­ding an­niver­sary

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