To paraphrase Wendy Cope, ‘bloody parties are like bloody buses, you wait forever and then three come along at once’. There’s been one on each of the last three Sundays. Drinks parties, not buses, silly.
Much though I’d hate not being invited, pre-lunch drinks parties are not a good idea, as far as I am concerned.
For one thing, I like to mix my alcohol with food. My capacity is limited at the best of times. Besides, by 12 o’clock I am usually faint with hunger, so drinking on an empty stomach is bound to cause problems. Even the most generous hostess is not going to provide more than prettily arranged, colourful bits of airy nonsense, dainty appetizers, otherwise known as an outbreak of nibbles, not substantial enough to fill the holes in my teeth, much less the chasm in my stomach.
“Red or white”, the host calls out gaily. “There’s also some juice here somewhere”.
As I am not pregnant, ill or teetotal, wine it is. “You’ll be fine, a glass won’t hurt you. Luckily, you won’t have far to go”, he says. Whatever does he mean by ‘far to go’? Until I fall over? Start dancing on the table? Proposition the vicar? It’s always the host who pours the drinks and little does he know how wine, in the morning, on an empty stomach, affects my judgment. A distance of no more than 50 m can become a frightening obstacle course; add a hill, a few parked cars, a gate or two, a muddy track, a cattle grid, all readily available in Valley’s End, and perfectly easy to negotiate when I am sober, when I’m even slightly inebriated you’d best take me home in a wheelbarrow.
However, for the moment I am still a party-guest, sparkling and witty and sophisticated, engaging in gay and lively banter.
Well, what else would I tell you?
That I am standing in a crush of people, balancing a glass in one hand and the nibbles plate plus napkin in the other, straining to understand what my current partner is saying and shouting a reply back; hoping that I’ve understood his side of the conversation and that my reply has made sense to him and I won’t have to repeat it; it really wasn’t interesting in the first place and repeating it would make that so pitifully obvious and an ass of me.
Eating, drinking and shouting all at the same time can play havoc with one’s social graces, spitting crumbs and droplets of wine are not unusual and a furtive wipe with the napkin to mop up dribbles on the chin, trying not to pour the contents of your glass down your front, while laughing gaily at what you think was a joke you didn’t quite catch are part of the ritual. As is playing musical chairs, a graceful waltz from group to group, partner to partner, each time picking up on the last sentence of the pre-you conversation and adding the perfect follow-on.
But even the nicest party has to come to an end. Once the exodus has started, everybody else leaves very quickly and after many more shouted good-byes, see you soon, we all go our separate ways.
“Lovely party”, we say, “wasn’t it nice to see old Jack again” and "poor Fiona isn’t looking too good, do you think she misses him?” I’ve probably managed to make my one glass of wine last and the usual post-party headache is bearable.
At least I won’t be drunk in charge of the dog, who is at home, waiting to be taken for his morning walk. Lunch will have to wait. Alas.