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Friday, 30 July 2010


Let it be known that any sentence beginning with an enthusiastic “Let’s …” plays host to an utterly idiotic idea which needs slaughtering right there and then. Kick it to the kerb and turn the TV up loud instead.
We’ll take – let’s take – the recent instance still raw in the flesh of the Milla household of “Let’s have a party.”
I suggested eagerly, E shuddered and went to lie down and I got busy with a list.
“You must be mad,” my mother said; a sentiment that’s come this way from that a few times now.

On the fridge was a yellowing invitation sent out by Mrs Efficient in November. Yes, November, to chime with the Christmas cards. Yes, the Christmas cards, in November. The mind boggles, an Escher unfolding of things which should not be. Still, this shiny rectangle is witness to the fact that even such grotesque planning can go tits up. Minutes after ripping open the envelope on that chilly day, long, long ago, came the breathy phone call. The venue (this was a party with a venue, and a ceillidh, and caterers, 3 things ours was going to go shy of) had double booked and the party had to be shunted on a week. Into July. I decided to forego invitations.

But just deciding who to have forced problems to bob to the surface. Friends aren’t that simple. It used to be that you knew people or didn’t know them. I have 200 names on my mobile phone but I scrolled through muttering, “no, no, maybe, no.”

To cull numbers further (the merry hostess admits) we ditched anyone long distance. They might want to stay. Can you imagine anything worse? Than friends staying? Sheets. Small talk over croissant served in the debris of day old dead brie and evil glasses sticky with the night before. All the hot water going. Besides they wouldn’t know anyone. It would be an unkindness.
We closed tired eyes to the notion of having anyone from school, to eager huddles discussing the 11+.
There was a quorum from the village beyond the ones we like whom we were obliged to have – and when you have X there’s always a Y and a Z too. So we set the party date in close sight and luckily lost a few to a wedding and some more to the summer holidays.

Around this time the weather started changing. The endless Enid Blyton summer got bored and the wind moved in.

I panicked, and thought, “Why don’t I...” (a close cousin of Let’s) “Why don’t I … make some bunting?” Within seconds, elderly knees were busy creaking up the attic ladder and years of dust and 7 bags of ancient fabric came crashing down with me a mere sneeze behind.
Do not be fooled. Bunting is not “a few triangles sewn together and put on a string.”
The West Wind woke up. The acceptances came flooding in. E said, “Have you thought about food?”

Bunting is, in fact, an hour’s ironing, a day’s cutting out and pinning – well, it is when suddenly you are a 101 triangles in through fabric choice paralysis … if I have just this and this … oh and this (calling for 202 backs and fronts). The kitchen disappeared under piles of material.

The North Wind thought, “Might as well …” and bashed at the newly planted borders and E said, “Where are we going to put all the drink?”

Bunting is several hours on the sewing machine cursing and kicking as the wretched thing prats about with self-important tension issues and needle snapping; anyone would think I should run to a service after 30 years of ownership.

E was not impressed. But what he failed to understand is that 80 people’s not that many people to feed, not really, not when the bunting was assuming a life of its own. Displacement activity he called it. Can you believe?

To keep the peace I had to make bad tempered forays into the kitchen to cook. We didn’t want anything approaching plates and knives and forks. Mouthfuls only, there was to be no post-party broaching of teetering piles, separating gummy plates, fags in the butter, fingering abandoned cutlery stiff with smeary somethings. So I chopped and whirred and 100 little mini quiches (mushroom duxelley stuff; asparagus and parmesan) emerged and baby toads in the hole and weeny pizza-ettes and tiny goats’ cheese and cranberry soufflés. The best bit was a pleasing hour in Lakeland resulting in a happy shopper bent double under 3-for-2 baking trays. A friend lent a fridge. Everyone needs a friend with a spare fridge.

And then the stringing.
The East Wind moved a little nearer.
I dyed the stringing tape bright zinging pink. Foolishly, I didn’t wear gloves. And then ironed the tape, all 150 feet of it, down the long skinny middle, edging mountains of cheese straws out of the greasy way. E fretted about the effect of the sun (ha!) on the beer. I pinned and pinned.

The day came, my shoulders ached through being hunched over the machine, my lobster hands throbbed through a bain marie incident and a run in with the iron, and I eyed the sky in pain and nervous defiance.

With six hours to go on the Saturday, we decided we needed an iPod player to play our ancient, but never used (couldn’t face learning how) iPod. We found a real bargain within ten minutes but it seemed a good idea to go and check out 3 other shops before returning to the first place; the only surprise being that there was actually one last one left, rather than missing it by dumb moments. How often is one treated to such serendipity?

Back home, the oil cloth flapped on the trestle table, the bunting strained and tugged at the guttering, the platters I’d thought were under the hob were actually inaccessibly behind the borrowed fridge.

The weather was behaving like a child at a wedding: OK, just about, sort of getting away with it, but pissing you off at the same time. 2 friends called, along the lines of, “Do you want to borrow a gazebo, it’s a bit dusty but …” I resisted, without screaming. It was all a massive strain on the patience just as the rain itself strained at the leash of the glowering clouds.

Was fast all hummus and olive’d out and headachey from eyeing the sky with such grave concern. It mocked me with sudden gusts of wind and flurries of clouds but no actual wet stuff. “Four hours,” said E shunting crap off a sideboard and into an open drawer.

We set off for Tesco for the glasses (free hire!) with misplaced confidence, a sign the rain took to prompt gently the windscreen wipers into play. In the queue, a troublesome neighbour, a duty invite, who mercifully couldn’t come – interminable unnecessary explanation involving a lesbian niece – sidled up to me, “What are you going to do if it rains, Milla?” he wheedled, a delighted smile playing at the corner of his mouth.

Fuck off you old fuck, I thought, “Nothing,” I said, desperate for a random, aerial source of intravenous gin, that and a sledgehammer.

A party gains its own impetus. Plates were dropped off. Mini everything, Hunca Munca but yumtastic, no shards of plaster. My chums came up trumps. A dozen or so of them came bearing offerings. I started to worry that there was going to be far too much food and foresaw myself flung face first in a bowl of salsa sucking desperately to show that it was wanted.
The dog walkers en masse revealed a worrying inclination to bosomy puddings – delicious tiny meringues with splodges of raspberry atop wobbles of cream a favourite. There were dips and canapés and fudge and focaccio, and spicy popcorn. Mrs Very Rich got the gold star for lending magazine-esque levels of goodies: glass bottles with flip lids for water, pails for pinks, baskets lined in Glass towels for casual loveliness and staggering in laden with Michelin standard lovelies and champers and a present. Ditch fridge owning friends; everyone needs a Mrs Very Rich as their friend.

The sun edged out of hiding and the wind buggered off.

Shame was that guests had to come along and ruin it all, really. The pleasure, such as it was, I now realised, had lain in the planning and the anticipation and to be stilled in aspic in a moment of never quite arriving would be a pleasant state of affairs.

At ten to 8 I rushed upstairs and donned some odd thing I’d bought in an All Saints sale at Gatwick airport at 6 in the morning in January and spent all night shedding tiny sequins, and E wore his running shorts and dinner jacket. He has good legs. Strong men carried out the good-looking but crap sofa and everyone arrived at once bringing on an attack of quite extraordinary nerves. A glass of wine did nothing to quell the anxiety and I thought, what a shame. Were I to go to a party and see this lot I would be thrilled but, somehow, in my own house it did nothing but occasion extreme dread.

What’s to say? It went really well. Apparently. Good noise levels. Packed.
No spats, no sulks, no sobs and no-one threw up in a plant pot. Making it sound rather dull really; all I can offer in the disaster stakes is a woman (wearing white) a victim of a mobile glass of red wine.
I started enjoying it at about 1 in the morning.
The food was snaffled up and pronounced delicious; there was a long session of shame at the bottle bank next day. The thank yous have been touching. Lots of nice people brought presents.

But, say it slowly, and clearly, and loudly: Never Again. Ever. Let’s Just Not.


Anonymous said...

Oh Milla, I have a cold, am very tired and feeling rather sorry for myself. However, you have made me laugh with your dipped hands and bunting folly.


Milla said...

you are such a bad girl. Go and crash a car.

nuttycow said...

You had a party and I wasn't invited? *sob*

Glad you had fun - sounds wonderful. Not sure about E getting his legs out though!

Fennie said...

But they're like children, aren't they, parties? The blind panic before, the desperation in thinking up all manner of wheezes the sheer volume of willpower needed to put Murphy's law on hold. And then the rushing around, filling glasses, food music, fetching this and fixing that so that you never sit down, never get time to enjoy a drink. But as soon as they're over you realise you enjoy the approbation. And when that wears off you've forgotten the pain and we start again. Bet your parties are the best parties, bunting and all.

Frances said...

Milla, your party must have been great fun for all! Of course, all that came before it was exhausting.

Making the miles of bunting was inspired, since that time with your unserviced machine gave the other side of your brillian mind a chance to percolate.

Pretty grand of your pals to bring such contributions with them, and best of all, the weather gods brought dry sky.

So...when might you be hosting the next soiree? xo

Edward said...

I know I'm biased, but I'm also sober (thanks to the anti-biotics) and I have to say that I can't remember laughing so much at another of your blogs. I love the way you pace the denoument, the choice of words (fuck off you old fuck!) but the piece de resistance (can't be arsed with accents - ok, I can, the pièce de résistance) was "lobster hands throbbed through a bain marie incident and a run in with the iron". Pure, unalloyed, comedy gold.

The Contented? Maybe said...

I once played a game called "yes let's" in which everyone has to take it in turns saying "let's [insert something you feel like doing}" and the rest of the group has to go along with it with an enthusiastic "yes let's".
"Let's jump up and down", one of us shouted, and so we did. "Let's laugh" and we laughed - first falsely and then genuinely. "Let's hug", there came the embraces. "Let's sing" and a malformed impromptu choir ensued.
It was silly but also rather lovely. And so I say, "Let's let 'let' in" - she'll be worth the effort (as your wonderfully described party well proves).

elizabethm said...

I am in awe of your bunting commitment - you could be pipany herself! It all sounds wonderful, especially Edward's legs. I am always torn about distant people. Some of my favourite people are distant and I love having people to stay but combining it with a party is hard work as I get a bit carried away at parties and need my head holding in the morning, occasionally. We have some wonderful distant friends who are lovely and funny and cook and sort your kitchen out when your back is turned, but they are a bit special.
Now I must contain the urge (no kitchen, remember Lizzy, no kitchen) to say to Ian "Let's have a party".

Expat mum said...

Ooh, I love the bunting idea. I have so much fabric I could open a shop. And my sewing machine's actually out at the moment. Hmmm...

Pondside said...

Is the bunting intact? Please just pack it up and send it over here - save me making it for the next party, because after reading this I just have to have bunting.

mountainear said...

Sounds like a fantastic do - just what was needed to put some sparkle into this dreary summer.

I hope your guests had the good manners to notice the bunting.

Milla said...

I know, and I do rather wonder if Pipany knows there's a challenger for her throne? albeit a bad-tempered one with bright pink hands.
thank you for your comments!

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Bet it was a fab party and would have loved to be a 'fly on the wall'!!! Lesley

Friko said...

Oh, how well I know it.
Down to the moment when you realise that you won't have time to enjoy your own party and you wish they'd all just go home again.

And, of course, you'll never do it again, certainly not until the next time.

In this end-of-the-world hole, we ALWAYS take a platter of food to parties. Puddings arrive in quantities. What is it with puddings?

Rachael (Tales from the Village) said...

Oh, bloody parties. We had a welcome-to-the-country housewarming when we moved here, complete with bunting (bought - my sewing machine is even more temperamental than yours), bouncy castle, and about three weeks of preparation.

'Ooh, this is wonderful, you should make it an annual event' trilled all our friends, as they lay about in the sunshine scoffing and drinking. We've been here six years, and it's never been repeated.


Oh, Milla, underneath all that 'fuck off you old fuck'-ness lies a domestic goddess of Martha Stewart-esque proportions (ok, perhaps without the criminal record...) I am in awe of your capableness, and that bunting.... (tell me, did you hem all those triangles? Oh please don't say yes, otherwise I will just have to go outside and shoot myself at my utter incompetence).

And there was I, chest swelling with pride that at least I am in possession of a spare fridge, so might - just might - one day get invited to a party with that much bunting... And then you have to go and spoil it all with mention of Mrs Very Rich.

Tip top blog by the way! xxx

Milla said...

hello, chums, old and new. Thank you for nice words.
Thank you Lesley - I'll never know since was frazzled hostess. Lot of dopey flies lurking at the mo, yuk. Please say you're not one of them? Come as you are, I don't bite!
Yes Friko, not a pudding person myself (thank God!) - perhaps they're easier? colder?
Yes, Rachael, someone did, in their thank you, actually say, "... It was so beautifully organised, all the food was wonderful and `could you celebrate your anniversary every year please? If we all chip in?" Can you believe??
While unpleasantly lapping up the praise, I can't but think Is She Mad??? (I am turning into my mother!)
LBD, sorry, hemmed, trimmed off with zigzag scissors to maximum point, turned inside outy, blah blah. come visiting (with the fridge) anytime!
And as for the Martha Stewart bit, well, I was done for speeding last week. Could we be twins?

CAMILLA said...

Milla your party did sound good fun, even though many hours of bunting beforehand. Spied some in vintagy shop here a while back, just had to have some but not cheapy, a few yards and over a fiver, but I want lots, moi no good with Singer machiney thing.

Yep, can identify with woman in white..... last time at wedding party I attended, drunk as a lord, bye bye folks great party, then.... splat, tripped up on ploody tent peg, new white jacket too, more embarrased than anything.

So when are you going to 'let's have another party'.!

Fabby blog Milla..!


A Cuban In London said...

I came via The Guardian. Your hubby's just given you a leg-up in terms of promotion. And what and who do I find? Well, I find a very amusing blog, right up my street (I'll be blogrolling you, if you don't mind). And I also find Friko, one of my ertswhile cyber-friends.

Great post. Long live bunting! By the way, in Cuba, we got there first. No road could be bunting-less for a revolutionary parade. :-)

Have a good week.

Anonymous said...


Fanastic work, I also arrived via The Guardian, delighted to find a genuinely hilarious and original blog!

I'll be stalking it on a regular basis ;)

Anonymous said...

Re: the puddings - maybe it's because when the household is small and the pudding recipe is large, it's too much pudding for home. Better to make a pudding you like for a party, get a taste and not be tempted to eat the rest.

Miriam said...

Came here from the link your husband posted on the guardian comments. I took it upon myself to make double sided summer / Christmas bunting for my sister's birthday present. It was utterly all-consuming in terms of time and energy, because once I'd started it and realised I would have been better off making 2 entirely separate strings, one for Christmas and one for summer, i had gone beyond an acceptable point of no return.