‘The same procedure as every year’ – Happy New Year!

As every year I will celebrate New Year’s Eve with the probably four funniest dead people, a butler and an elderly upper-class English lady. Doesn’t sound like me and ever so slightly weird? Maybe…

The table in a country house is lavishly set for a dinner party. It is the 90th birthday of Miss Sophie (as many women she doesn’t like to reveal her real age and has been celebrating her 90th birthday for over 50 years now) and she has invited her 4 best male friends: Mr Pommeroy, Mr Winterbottom, Sir Toby, and Admiral von Schneider. Unfortunately the chairs are empty, Miss Sophie has outlived her friends long ago. James is the stereotype of an English butler, looking immaculate in his black tie and tails, but even he isn’t the youngest any more and a bit unsteady on his feet. Getting drunk doesn’t help this fact. And drink he does. A lot. Because Miss Sophie, all dressed up for the occasion, insists that (besides serving her) he fills and drinks down the glasses of the absent guests while impersonating them. Admiral van Schneider clicks his heels and shouts “Skål” each time he downs a drink; the bluff Englishman Sir Toby shouts “Cheerio” and Sir Winterbottom will “kill that cat” when he mistakenly drinks the water from a cup with flowers instead of the alcohol.

And so James struggles through four courses with different drinks, tripping over a tiger-skin rug on his ways between the sideboard and the dinner table and asking his ladyship each time “The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?” while she relentlessly replies “The same procedure as every year, James.”

Basically this applies to most Germans because watching ‘Dinner for One’ on TV is a cult, a ritual and the quintessence of a German New Year’s Eve. When the curtain rises on the stage scene and we watch Freddie Frinton and May Warden perform the British comedy in English in this black and white live recording of 1963 (or newer remakes and variations in colour or different dialects), we know there are only a couple of hours left in this old year before we celebrate the arrival of a new one with loads of sparkling wine and fireworks.

I wish you all a very happy New Year and Guten Rutsch! And if you are a bit curious and would like to meet Miss Sophie and her friends, here is the sketch for you. Even though the short introduction is in German, keep watching, the performance itself is in English.

I was just made aware that the video doesn’t show in Firefox so you might want to use Safari or click on the shield symbol next to the web address at the top and disable the protection for now.

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