Magazine article The Spectator

Party Nerves

Magazine article The Spectator

Party Nerves

Article excerpt

About six weeks ago I made a terrible mistake: I decided to give a party. This, admittedly, excited the Hungarians in the household. There weren't many parties under communism, it seemed. At least not for ordinary people. Heinekin asked me if there would be caviar. I said, `Are you joking?' `But goose liver, at least,' she insisted. `What, I cried, I'm not a millionaire. Cook your own goose.'

No wonder the communists didn't hold parties. What I had in mind was not a spectacle out of the Satyricon, but something simple. A simple drinks party. But these things are never simple. It is hard enough sending out invitations: you forget your friends' addresses and then run up a large telephone bill trying to find them out. Then I had to change the date because people said there was to be another party that night and no one would come to mine. So the invitations had to be written out again.

I must tell you that if you receive many replies to a drinks party invitation, you are fortunate. People don't seem to bother these days. I suppose they think that as it is not a sit-down dinner it doesn't really matter. I have been guilty of this myself. But never again - it does matter. You have to calculate how much food to give people and how many bottles of wine to buy, let alone cans of soft drinks. And how can you do that if you can only guess at the numbers coming?

Then there are those people who take it upon themselves to tell you what your party should be like. They regard you as a DJ to whom it is perfectly acceptable to put in a series of requests. These usually involve you in more expense. 'I hope you're getting a marquee,' said somebody. `No, I'm not a duke either.' `Don't be selfish. What if it rains?' I replied that if it rained they would all have to stay indoors. This seemed a reasonable response.

Suddenly there were demands for music. Would there be dancing? This I had not thought of. Drinking, yes, but dancing, no. But so badgered was I, that I was forced to hire a pianist and pay a vast amount of money for three burly men to move the piano from the top floor to the drawingroom.

Then people started ringing again asking what there would be to drink. `My wife only drinks apricot juice' or 'I can't drink white or red wine. Get some Scotch, but make it old.' Is this normal? Did people do this in the old days? When my parents gave cocktail parties I cannot recall any of this happening.

The day lurches nearer. I am filled with a creeping terror. What if there is a traffic accident and no one can get into our street? …

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