Summer party season is a major source of al fresco angst

Garden party
Raise a glass: but don’t assume there will be seats – or food Credit: Uwe Krejci/Digital Vision

I’m aware that what I’m about to say may come over a bit Marie Antoinette, but here goes: oh, the absolute hell of the summer party. I’m sorry if you’ve come here looking for Leninist principles, but I had to get that off my chest. We’re in the grip of summer party season and it’s exhausting. At least at a wedding you get to sit down eventually.

I’m not just talking about the glittery London parties; celebrity soups where everyone is busy Instagramming (#Serpentine) and giving themselves whiplash by trying to see who else they should be talking to.

My mother threw a summer party in her Sussex garden last weekend, which was only fractionally less exalted (no Ellie Goulding, although Beano the puppy was in attendance), but I didn’t stop sweating for three hours while I circulated with increasingly warm bottles of rosé, and there are only so many times you can ask someone if they’re going anywhere nice for their holiday.

“How jolly,” you think when an invitation arrives, summoning up a Gatsby-esque vision of sunshine and champagne. But worry kicks in not long after that.

What to wear? I’ve learnt to avoid colours that show up damp armpit patches after an embarrassing incident with a bright green dress from Cos a couple of years ago. And what to put on your feet? I gave myself a last-minute pedicure last week ahead of a party in London and thought I’d done an adequate job, only to look down later and wonder why my sandals were bursting with bleeding cocktail sausages.

I went to that party on my own, which was another cause of angst. One wants to walk into these things looking confident and purposeful, an emperor striding into the Colosseum. I immediately went and stood in the corner with my phone, eyes scanning the room for a familiar head. Then you see someone you met once and fall on them gratefully, but get stuck in the torture of small talk while you try to swallow a drink with some sort of exotic herb floating in it. The weather has indeed been lovely and gosh, yes, isn’t that 15-year-old who beat Venus amazing?

“Where are the canapés?” you think. “Has there been a death in the kitchen?” Then a tray comes along and you dive for the biggest, but the person you’re talking to does that annoying thing of saying: “Oh no, no… not for me, thank you,” as if a thimble-sized mouthful of salmon is going to tip them into obesity. So then you’re not only trying to think about what to talk about next – can you face asking them what they think of Boris? Is the situation that desperate? – but you’re also worried about your breath. Or, worse, accidentally spitting on them. I went to a party once where the chap I was talking to ejected a globule of salmon on to my bare arm, but we soldiered on with the conversation anyway, both aware and yet ignoring the fishy titbit sliding its way down my bicep.

Finally, one of you mumbles something about getting another drink, and the cycle repeats. You keep checking the time. Oh God! It’s only 6:51pm. Has time ever moved so slowly? In the history of parties, has anyone left before 7pm, or is that simply too pathetic?

You get back fuzzy and attack the bread bin. Such an odd way to spend a sunny summer evening when these days we all have perfectly good televisions at home.

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