Sunday, 18 January 2015

Drinks Party

Saturday morning between eleven and one.
Neighbours, friends, acquaintances,
people like us,
people one knows.
There is wine. 'French only, I’m afraid', says the host.
'Chardonnay or claret'.
I opt for Chardonnay and set my glass down on a handy table.
Soft drinks for those who don’t want alcohol.
Especially in the morning.

The hostess offers nibbles.
Mini sausage rolls, vol-au-vents, cheesy bits, tiny squares of ham sandwiches,
crusts carefully removed.
'How have you been', we ask.
‘Haven’t seen you for ages’.
‘You’re looking well.’ Obligatory.
'Did you have a nice Christmas?’
We talk about computers and IT,
to show that we are by no means past it.

We are all of retirement age,
although some still work at their chosen profession.
Mostly part-time. ‘To keep my hand in’.
'A little extra cash for holidays and treats'.
One says ‘You know how I love 18th century walnut furniture.
I have my eye on a long-case clock. Very expensive, as you’d expect.’
‘Yes,’ I say.
My knowledge of the value of long-case clocks of any century
is limited.

Looking across the room you see someone you don’t recognise.
Could it be? It can’t be! Yes, it is. Michael.
Goodness, hasn’t he aged since last we met.
He felt my stare, we make eye contact.
He smiles. Ah, yes, a smile makes all the difference.

‘Are you planning a holiday’,
once a favourite opening gambit
as you make your way around the room, mingling.
A year or two ago the answer was ‘yes’;
details followed, a warm feeling of anticipation in the air.
There are fewer now who will undertake the rigours of travelling.
There is much rueful commiseration.
‘The furthest we get is the hour’s drive to the hospital for check-ups’.
‘What with appointments at surgeries, dentists, clinics there’s hardly time left
to get away for a few days.
One just about manages to see family’.
But we are computer-literate, we said so.
The world comes to us now, just a click away.

Legs aching, feeling faint from standing,
I make my way to Andrew, who’s been ill; he's sitting down.
Gratefully, I sink down next to him.
Andrew has no time for small talk.
‘How’s the writing going’, he asks.
I tell him I’ve given up.
He rouses himself, is concerned.
‘That’s bad’, he says, ‘you must continue’.
I make a plan to ask him to lunch.

Time’s up. The morning is over and we kiss our hosts good-bye.
Both cheeks.
On the way out I see Colin. A quick word, must have a quick word.

‘How are you,’ he says. ‘Are you well?’
I look back at the room.
‘Sometimes I could weep’, I say.


  1. You make me feel as though I were there. Wonderful. The ending is especially poignant. Do. Not. You. Dare. Stop. Writing.

  2. I hope that your writing is an integral to you as your skeleton. I love the snippets you share.

  3. Friko, your encounter reminded me of a movie DH and I recently watched about life and friends and getting older. It is a bit sad (sometimes more than a bit), but I think in order to survive, we have to let go of many of the things we enjoyed in our youth and embrace a different path now. It takes a conscious effort to do this... and we may not always do it well, but IMO it is *do-able*.

  4. It bothers me when people ask me if I'm going on vacation. I doubt they care. Small talk. I'm Andrew.

  5. Very much like being there. I feel like I just left this crowd behind. I'm still hungry though. ;)

  6. 'Nice' way to spend a Saturday morning - now and again (read as 'once a year').
    Time to get the Black Dog off your shoulder and send him on his way Friko

  7. Boy, oh boy, I was right there, starting to feel tired and wired and wondering why on earth I went to this party.
    (I'm a homebody.)

    Weep, yes!


  8. Oh, Friko. So well done. I could hear the murmur of background voice noise as I read! Andrew and his "no time for small talk" would have been such a welcome presence for me. He sounds like a wise man and you should pay attention to him.
    I can picture him saying, "You must continue." And, of course, you must. You know you must. The thoughts are there: they must come out.
    The whole thing feels very Brideshead Revisited to me. It could easily be expanded to a movie-length screenplay! Go for it, Woman!

  9. I like Andrew, and he's right (but nonetheless, please do as you please, you've earned the right). I seem to recall you have a LOT of fine theater coming up. That will certainly be food for the soul.

  10. Liked reading about your outing
    A thing of the past at this time
    but then in the past
    always wished I was home.
    Strange I may be
    but happy..

  11. You captured a few things most people leave out: the irritation that is also the opportunity.

  12. I do not got to small talk get togethers, because I seem to be always the new one whenever these are held. You do have some strong supporters it seems.

  13. it doesn't look to me like you've given up writing. I may be retiring somewhat but not by choice particularly. just don't have the desire to get out and do the cold calls and marketing and sales visits to keep a big stable of clients. as busy as we were for the past two years, we are that not busy. at least with paying work.

  14. Oh Friko. Of course you will not stop wriitng.

    Yes, it was good to hear what Andrew said, but has he any idea of what you are writing? Would he read a sample. Does he write himself? What sort of reader is he.

    Backing off now. Probably just wishing that I has also had shown up after been invited to such a gathering. Some of my daily conversations at my workplace will never be repeated. In the written form anyway.

    I will stop before this incipient rant gets into the next gear.


  15. Eleven to one o'clock...what a time to gather over drinks and tidbits when any sensible person would be offering a proper lunch.
    The optimistic miserliness of the English middle class never ceases to astonish me...and a false economy at that...give them a proper meal and the drink consumption will be drastically reduced.

    In the time it takes to make puff pastry whiff whaffs you can make a decent four course lunch with the advantage that the elderly can rest their legs the better to use their tongues.

    And of course you should carry on writing.

  16. Social life is exhausting. solitude is ageless.

    ALOHA from Honolulu

  17. ... kisses on da cheek ... left ... right ... and left ... always ... let's do that again sometime soon ... smiles ... a smile has prevented many a suicide ... and if I hit my fridge just at the right time, it stops making that "wha wha wha" noise ... happy retirement, Friko ... Love, cat.

  18. Hello,

    You capture so perfectly here the fear that we have that as one ages the world gradually closes in around one. Whatever we do, we feel that we must guard against this. And, yet, as you say, between all the health related and family related demands upon one's time, there are ever smaller windows of opportunity to escape.

    But, escape one must, we feel. The world is so full of amazing treasures and people are sources of endless intrigue and amusement. And the young, always so casual and exhausting, really must be kept in one's social circle if one is to stay truly alive.

    Perhaps your drinks party host could give Hungarian wine a try one day. Great quality, affordable and something a little bit different!

  19. Goodness. Suffocation and ennui all in one two-hour chunk. Honestly, Friko, I was right back in the 1950s socializing of my parents, except it never would have been at midday, and it certainly wouldn't have involved wine at midday. Night? That was something else. I did once get involved in a post-worship sherry hour at St. Thomas Episcopal in New York. It was an experience not unlike what you portray here.

    But truly -- those tiny, crustless sandwiches and tiny sausage bits? A perfect metaphor for a nibbled life, taken almost thoughtlessly and without savor. I've never before read a piece that so reeks of Prufrock -- well done!

  20. I think a lunch round the table would have been more relaxing - during those hours, that's how we do it anyway. I think you've written this post brilliantly - for - you have made me feel like I was there.

  21. My dear Friko -- you haven't stopped writing, not for a second. You have merely switched platforms and don't you even think about it otherwise! (Sometimes we all need a good talking to!) This is truly brilliant. I have never read a poem (or is it an essay in the shape of a poem) that so incisively, so startlingly, captures the essence of the cocktail party, no matter the time of day. This piece is so strong that because of your words describing what IS there, I can see things that are not in your words -- the room itself, the clothes the guests are wearing. I can hear the din of conversation in the background, occasionally punctuated by a laugh or hearty guffaw. The wry observations of how time and age has changed the conversation -- or the answers to the same questions. These events can be so taxing. Your final line -- "I could weep" -- how that summarizes so many events I have attended and left, emotionally exhausted and with an odd sadness. No, your writing is as sharp as ever. Yes, it is.

  22. I wonder if Michael would have been taken aback when I called him Andrew. "The poor old thing's lost it," he'd think, but not say, because he would love me.

  23. You are writing (with touching clarity) because it is in your blood. If you didn't have such a big, empathetic heart and attentive eye these little nuances would pass by unnoticed. BTW--wine, itself, can cause people to feel like weeping...especially when they are drained and sore from standing about engaging in polite chit-chat for hours. ;)
    *love and hugs*

  24. Even though the talk is small and there is some melancholy about the changes we see, the party must still go on to keep us interested in life. Each day is precious, each day should be lived.

    This post was beautifully written, Friko. You must never stop writing.

  25. You have a perfect eye and ear that captures so well the 'je ne sais quoi' of who we are -- and aren't any more. Somehow you evoke that which is sad and funny about our all too human condition. It is a rare talent, Friko and one I hope you will keep indulging...

  26. Don't give up writing. I read every word. Thanks Friko.

  27. Oh.
    Never mind.
    It was Andrew.
    Never mind me.
    I'm just over here in the corner muttering to myself...

  28. Write you must.

    I know of no one able to capture vignettes like this like you. There is so much here about human interaction. Sometimes, it is so surface it drains us. Then a short connection cause us to brim over with emotion.

    Maybe it was the wine in the morning...

  29. There's no way you could stop writing.
    On the other hand, it's time to get outside, rain or sunshine and put your face to the sun. I can picture your cosy house and beautiful conservatory and fear that you might be tempted to stay home, pulling the blinds down and keeping too much to yourself. The drinks party doesn't sound like something to inspire you at all. Go to the next town and meet some people like yourself - they are out there, you know. Not everyone is waiting for the grave as some of these dears seem to be. This piece has something about it that reminds me of Jane Gardam - but with a Friko twist.

  30. I ditto what "The Broad" said!!!!

  31. Gerade gerate ich sehr in Versuchung, dir einen Kommentar abzugeben. Aber werde ich nicht tun. Sende dir nur ganz warme und helle Sonnenstrahlen die dein Herz berühren sollen.

  32. Beautifully-written slice of melancholy.

  33. Beautifully-written slice of melancholy.

  34. This is painfully beautiful, Friko. As I have said before, you have a way with word and you wrap them up in such intense emotions.

    I'm not a party person. Never have been. I love small, intimate gatherings - and ones where one can sit down.

  35. As long as you're posting vignettes like this, you haven't given up writing. THIS is writing.

    I was there with you, staring at that expensive clock, strung between half-enjoying myself and half-wishing I were back at home (as I am at any holiday gathering).

    This is terrific.

  36. Beautifully observed and written as always, Friko. You are a born writer and it shows in every line. The very thought of standing around consuming wine and nibbles in the late morning exhausts me. The Fly is right - give me a nice, relaxed lunch party every time.

  37. I, too, commiserate. How well written this piece is Friko, I was there with you. I find travelling stressful now. The edge of anticipation no longer exists. I travel alone which adds to my nervousness of THINGS GOING WRONG. Which they have in the past. I just got back from Ireland. Heathrow is a disaster zone of endless walks, I timed one at 40 minutes. Within the same terminal.

  38. You make me long to write every bit as well as you.

  39. I liked the poem ( the translation was not very good)
    It's musical I think. I love Chardonnay as well.

  40. Your writing is exquisite and in the moment, Friko. I always feel as though I'm experiencing the scene with you. I am kind of done with cocktail parties. I like to meet friends for dinner or lunch and catch up on news. I'm not good with small talk. As you point out, as we get older, illness seems to take center stage. I try my best not to get involved in discussions of it!

  41. i know this is very good writing because i know i will remember this crafted scene. that ending wants to make me weep except i haven't reached acceptance of lessened gallivants and increased talk of bodily functions. i know i'm there but i haven't reached there yet.

    it's a pleasure to read your poem


  42. No, you haven't stopped writing. This is beautiful writing.

  43. I've noticed that a lot, too, that when I meet with people I haven't seen in a long time a lot of them feel the need to complain about what's bad or impossible...few people are interested in a really good conversation. Is the internet to blame here partly?
    I love you writing! Thank you for sharing this. I hope you are doing well!


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