So we emerge from lockdown and I expect with mixed emotions depending on our circumstances and outlook. Good riddance for many people but for not for all. For some people, it has been a truly wonderful experience. So convenient for those of us relieved of some burdensome duties like visiting our elderly relatives. And let’s not forget the work shy of course. Those ‘workers’ who have so fully embraced lockdown and especially so in the light of this new magical word; furlough, whereby we stay at home, keep our jobs and still get paid.
Dear Lord, thank you. Amen.
No such schemes for people in my game but this is not to say I haven’t enjoyed some lockdown upsides. Nikki and I have revelled in the easing of any entertaining duties. No dinner parties to attend and reciprocate. A dinner party debt can only be settled in kind and unfortunately not by dispatching a pizza complete with garlic bread and a bottle of sugar.
But this week we did head out again. A kind invitation from some particularly chic friends. He an architect and she a creative director of one of the glossies. And joining us to make up the six (and remain within the law m’lud) is a famous fashion designer and his cool wife.
Arrival time is 7.30pm, so naturally Team Holland arrive at precisely 7.30 for what will be a dinner party masterclass and highlights just where we have been going wrong these past thirty years.
We are the first to arrive. Our designer friend who has made suits for Bond, Cumberbatch and royalty is nowhere to be seen.
Their house is immaculate. They must be exhausted from all the cleaning and clearing and yet they don’t appear so.
He is on cocktail duty, preparing a drink which involves three individual spirits, lemon rind and crushed salt. He has ice to hand and a zester.
When we entertain, we provide ready-made drinks only: wine, beer or fizzy water. We are making dinner, not drinks. And once dispensed, it is preferable if our guests could imbibe elsewhere. We have rooms other than the kitchen and we appreciate being left alone, to flap and wish the time away.
Drinks in hand we are led in to their spacious and cool lounge. The place is absolutely spotless. Maybe they are selling the gaff and this evening is an elaborate sales viewing? If so, then they have me confused with another much more successful comedian/author/blogger.
Quickly I am on to my second beer and I’m rapidly filling up on nibbles. Roast artichokes, who knew? Still no sign of the designer though – fashionably late? I remark how comfortable my swivel leather chair is and he tells who designed it. I don’t recall the name but it’s not John Lewis. Our PM’s fiancé would approve.
At 8.15 and finally we are six. I note the famous designer is wearing a scarf, a garment I rarely wear and never indoors.
On to Champagne now and my thirst is up. Everyone is good company and the evening has a convivial rhythm. He controls his stereo with his iphone. Re my phone, recently I had to ask my youngest son to turn its blasted torch off.
9.30 and still no sign of food. Proper food I mean, you know, stuff requiring cutlery.
Finally we sit down to eat at 9.45 – by which I’m already full on nibbles and pissed. It is over two hours since we arrived which sounds ridiculous and yet somehow it all works brilliantly. And so different from a Holland dinner party.
These people entertain.
We just feed.
If we set an arrival time for 7.30 at the Holland’s house – then I am expecting people to be seated and chowing-down by say, 7.45 at the latest. As soon as the doorbell goes, I start the clock. The garlic bread is already on. We receive coats, jackets and most usually various bottles of wine. And usually some dolt brings flowers as well, like we haven’t got enough to do already. Now I need to find a vase and where are the fucking scissors?
Not so for these cool cats. These people are immune to time.
And of course, the food is spectacular and seemingly rustled from nowhere. Slow roasted lamb (who does lamb? Too risky, surely). Cauliflower cheese, miniature roasted potatoes and completed with a cold pea, mint and broccoli salad. It’s delicious, plentiful and I consume about half my body weight. And then a beautiful dessert emerges – homemade naturally.
Who buys ready-made desserts these days? Er… that will be us. And those tubs of custard (Madagascan, obviously).
Well past 1am and almost unable to see, I am chasing lumps of cheese about my plate with a water biscuit when our cab duly arrives.
We stagger to the door promising that it is back to our place next time.
Which is why I am hoping the Indian variant induces another longer and even more stringent lockdown. Because grim though this will be, the prospect of entertaining these cool cats is worse.