Tuesday, 16 February 2010

What I Really Think About Pre-Lunch Drinks Parties

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.


  1. Great story. After going through too many similar experiences, I decided it was best to always eat first. It takes the edge off the hunger and saves doing that balancing act you so perfectly, and humorously, described.

  2. I was reminded of the many cocktail parties that I attended during conferences in strange cities. You described it perfectly except they were pre-dinner which at least made me feel less guilty having alcohol. But standing, talking, drinking and nibbling is a feat for magicians or gymnasts. Very delightful post.

  3. My but you are avant-garde in England - 'pre-lunch' drinks!! Loved your witty description of twisting yourself in contortions to manage glass, plate, napkin, conversation, floating, nibbling, spitting, deciphering meaning, shouting, inebriation ....

  4. Laughed my head off at this post. And at your reply to my Valentine's column on my blog.

    I totally agree with you on the empty stomach malarkey. Although I am teetotal now, there was a time when I liked having a cold beer with my food. If I hadn't had anything to eat before, I would turn down any alcoholic drink because I knew what the consequences would be.

    As for the love kiss, spot-on. I do remember my knees giving up after and trying to conceal the feeling. :-)

    Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  5. I recommend, prior to party going , partaking in a large glass of milk or a fried egg sandwich to save your head and stomach from the inevitable assault of what is undoubtedly mediocre wine. Well if the only identity is red or white and not a bourdeaux or beaujolis or chablis or medoc then chances are your host probbly doesnt care or doesnt know what it is other than its colour chances are its not a grand cruz!

  6. Did I ever get a good laugh out of that. I have never been to a prelunch drinking party, a brunch maybe but no alcohol offered. You should write for your comedy theater, that would make a great skit.

  7. Yikes! I've never been invited to a pre-lunch drinks party, but then we are perhaps a little less civilized over here than those of you over there.
    Drink + Food= Good Time
    Drink + Empty Tummy = Potential for disaster
    I'm glad you averted anything untoward, aside from the odd crumb or spray!

  8. Too funny! Perhaps you should proposition the vicar . . .

  9. I join the prior commenters in praise of this post. Yes, pre-lunch drinking is an odd custom. I would definitely follow others' advice and have some late breakfast to prepare for such fun. Your writing captures the entire situation perfectly.

    Thank you also for posting the onion valentine poem. I had not read it in a while, and it was great to see it again.

    And...those horizontal landscape pictures in the prior post are so magnificent. Walking in such countryside must be marvelous.


  10. Still chuckling here too! Wonderful mental pictures - a bit "Hilda Baker" is how I saw it!!

  11. I really try to avoid these now, and also the London habit of the post work drinks which linger on for ages without anyone eating anything. I like a glass of wine (or three) but I need food with it although even wine with food makes me seriously sleepy at lunchtime. In the evening I will linger over wine and dinner as long as you please. Must be something to do with biorhythms.
    I would endorse the idea of the fried egg sandwich if you really have to imbibe, or a late breakfast or porridge and toast soaks it up nicely too, like wall paper paste.

  12. Ah, the troubles we endure to have some fun.

  13. You're right! You get offered a pint or two of wine and then the smallest cracker in the world with the smallest gherkin in the world perched on top of it. That's like a very very small fish in a very very big pond.

  14. Holy cow, Friko, aperitifs before lunch?? I thought this was only a French habit!
    As for the socializing aspect of these little get-togethers, I could do without it. give me a leisurely sit-down dinner with a maximum of 8 people and I'm happy. Standing round trying to balance drinks and nibbles (now you know why I had to give up cigarettes..) while being clever and witty is beyond me most of the time. Plus the conversation generally swirls around my ribcage level and I have to bend down to get into it.
    Do the Brits do brunch as an invitational thing?

  15. Bruce Coltin - perfectly good advice, thank you.

    Tabor - I would think that cocktails are even harder to cope with, you need yet another hand to hold the swizzle stick or the olive.

    Bonnie - Life can be so hard........

    A Cuban - A teetotal Latin Lover? You obviously don't need alcohol to help things along nicely. Glad you know what I meant by the "trembling knees". I remember them well.

    her at home - At one at least of these parties the wine was excellent, the host can absolutely be relied upon to serve a decent drop, so it's really very sad that I daren't indulge. Fried egg sandwich? hmm, glass of milk? Not sure about either but some food, definitely. They used to say a spoonful of olive oil would line the stomach nicely too, or recommend eating sardines in oil beforehand.

    QMM - thanks QMM; I hope you've been to drinks parties later in the day though. What else is the point of living in Bourbon land?

    Pondside - what, you too? whatever is the matter with the colonies?

    Vicki Lane - if you knew what he's like you wouldn't recommend that.

    Frances - thank you - So you know Carol Ann Duffy? Not many people do, even in the UK. She's become better known since she's been PL. - Yes, this is a lovely county, but still too far away from civilisation for my liking.

    Twiglet - oh, how could you! Hilda Baker indeed. I shall be forced to invite you if I ever do such a 'do'.

    elizabethm - couldn't agree more. Give me a civilised dinner party, even just for two, and I'm happy. Even I can drink more than one glass then.

    Dan Gurney - Silly us - but having fun it probably isn't entirely, more a very easy way of entertaining.

    Fran Hill - swimming round and round, much like my head if I succumbed to the hosts well-meant encouragement to 'drink up and have another'.

    Deborah - another colonial who doesn't know about pre-lunch parties in the UK. I've said it before and it bears repeating, a civilised dinner party with good food, good wine and good conversation is a great pleasure. I enjoy giving them and being invited to one.
    Brunch is not so common here, if at all, then in summer, outdoors; proper lunch parties, where the food is less elaborate and rich than at a dinner party, are becoming very fashionable among the older people.

  16. I'll have to join the other colony members in saying pre-lunch drink parties are not common here.
    And like you, drinking even a bit of wine without food is likely to have me leaning against a wall for support.

    This quotation attributed to Dorothy Parker always amuses me...and cautions one against too much drink!

    I'd like to have a martini
    Two at the very most
    Three and I'm under the table
    Four and I'm under the host

  17. Elizabethm - I can't comment on your blog, there's something wrong.

    Lorrie - My copy of DP's writings, sayings and verse is well-thumbed, showing how greatly I love her. Don't worry too much about the colonial bit, you'll either catch up eventually, (ha), or, given the choice, you might not bother.

  18. Friko, that was very well-written and entertaining! Too funny! It seems this kind of party could ruin your day! What's worse, however, is the brunch: with champagne, bloody Marys, mimosas, etc. That day is totally lost. Love, me

  19. That was hilarious and it sounds as though you held up your end of the social whirl admirably. Lunchtime drinkies = afternoon naps for me.

  20. You speak for legions! (and for me :)

    Aloha, Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  21. My motto is: Drink at lunch, lose a day. Not that that always stops me. After all, what's a day?

  22. This was good!
    "far to go", ya, what did he mean..bathroom or parking lot perhaps? ha. Haven't been to a pre-lunch but this was a perfect discription! Don't drink wine much these days, but to think I had to have one or two before my meal! Still enjoy having a glass now an then but I have to be careful I don't belt it down! ha ha

  23. Glad to hear that you made it home ok!!

  24. Everyone thinks I'm drunk now the way I stagger around, even though I'm cold sober. If I had a glass of wine on an empty stomach I would fall down again for sure.

    You story is hilarious. I laughed my sides off.

  25. what i hate is office parties. There's always this big pressure to attend and so you end up going along and hanging about all evening with people you wouldnt wee on if they were on fire, or not go and everyone hates you forever

    these days i dont go and just put up with the stupid comments. its less painful in the end

  26. Margaret - Blimey, at least at our parties there's only wine on offer.

    English Rider - Me too, if only the dog would let me. By the time I've walked him, naptime is over.

    Cloudia - I thought I might. It seems the no-morning-drinks rule goes for most.

    20th Century Woman - I don't have enough of them left to doze them away.

    Kilauea Poetry - Sad, isn't it, it's another pleasure which diminishes as the years go by.

    Annie - well, there's always the wheelbarrow.

    Darlene - In that case, you might as well have a drink or two, ....hung for a sheep as a lamb .....

    Argent - another one! Are there no boozers in blogland?

    Hungry Pixie - Luckily, I'm free of those, nowadays; there's almost as much pressure in village social circles.


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