A Little Soiree
Attendance is mandatory – if only to get my money’s worth. There’s a group of us – 14 or so, give or take the odd errant partner here and there, and one or two babies – who were all at college together. Everyone takes turns to host dinners, bbqs, drinks, birthday bashes, anniversary dos and New Year knees ups. But not Peter and Liz. They’re first at the buffet table when they’re round at everyone else’s houses, heavy-handed with the fondue and profligate with the snacks – I once saw them scoff a whole cheese and pineapple hedgehog between them.
Every other year they magnanimously invite us all round to watch the Oxford and Cambridge boat race from the tiny balcony at their flat in Putney. We all have to squeeze into their tiny lounge along with a bunch of other friends they’ve invited and then bun-fight for a look over the balcony. “A bloody disgrace!” my husband hissed in my ear last time, as we stood on their front doorstep by the intercom, clutching a box of Matchmakers.
It’s true: none of us get our value for money from these folk. And the boat race shindig is simply an open day for Peter’s collection of gadgets which we all have to coo over. I’ll gloss over the year we had to participate in his Rubik’s cube tournament and go straight to the debacle of the electric carving knife showcase. Big piece of gammon – that was the extent of the food on offer, a slice of blubbery pink meat and a pineapple ring – that he plonked on the table, just as Cambridge had started to edge ahead. He revved up the electric carving knife – it wasn’t the first one we’d seen, we’re not that behind – and launched at the gammon like a psychopath. Bits of pink meat sprayed off in all directions, but he wasn’t daunted. It took him a full minute to saw through one slice – and by that time half the joint had been ricocheted off the walls – but by God he was proud of himself. “Worth every penny,” he congratulated himself, patting the piece of crap fondly.
The carving knife was just a warm up though. Over the course of the evening, he unveiled a home music system, an electric tin-opener (“the future has arrived!”) and a video recorder – not so special, you might think, but this was a state of the art job, complete with a remote control which connected to the recorder by means of a 4 metre long lead that nearly sent Liz flying when she came in with the macaroons.