Castle Pillock 13
I remember the beginning. And the end. It’s the middle bit I’m not too sure about.
The last time I had a party for myself was my twenty-first, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I could wear high heels. Since then the walls of assorted Castles Pillock have rung with merriment for partners, offspring, friends who had nowhere else to go for New Year, and on one occasion a next door neighbour who had thirty people coming and burst pipes. I hadn’t been invited originally but what the hell, life’s too short for a grudge. Now I’m old, and rotund, and don’t suffer fools to any extent at all, I don’t really see myself as party material. I wriggled out of a proper retirement ‘do’ when I left work, instead just going to a favourite bar/restaurant with a few chums. Where, apparently, at some point in the evening, when I was well fed and mellow, I promised to have a party.
Or give a party. Or throw a party. Interesting terminology. Who exactly is having, or being given, the treat here? The ones who just turn up, eat all the food, drink all the drink, vomit on the staircase and stagger into the night singing ‘Fairytale of New York’ in July, or the stupid bugger who buys all the food and drink, scrubs the staircase, and says ‘So lovely to see you, so glad you could come, really mustn’t leave it so long next time, yes that is the front door, it is.’ Throwing a party, a very long distance, seems by far the best option.
But I am a spineless creature who craves approval, so I agreed to keep my promise and have/give/hurl a party. Not a retirement party, though. I’m not keen on the term ‘retirement’. The whole point of leaving work is to have more time to engage with the world, see people you want to see, do things you want to do. I don’t feel like I’ve retired from life. I feel like I’ve come out of hibernation.
The Princess was sceptical. ‘You can’t have a coming-out-of-hibernation party.’
‘Can if I want to.’
‘You want me to book the room at the pub, where I work, for my mother’s coming-out-of-hibernation party?’
‘Yes please. My staircase scrubbing days are over. Book me the standard buffet, with veggie options, however many bottles of Prosecco are required for one ‘cheers, thanks for coming, I love you all’ toast, and tell your bloody brother to answer his phone because he’s the entertainment on the night.’
The entertainment on the night eventually got round to Messaging me.
‘Hello mother. Lost phone in the woods. You’re having a party?’
‘You need to set up a Facebook event,’ said the Princess.
‘No I don’t.’
‘That’s how you do it now. You set up a Facebook event.’
‘But what about the people who aren’t on Facebook?’
The Princess frowned, the cogs whirred for a moment, and then she shook her head. ‘What?’
We compromised. Emails to the people still at work, Messages to the people not at work but on Facebook, texts to the people not at work and not on Facebook, calls to the landlines of the people not at work, not on Facebook, and with no mobile, and an actual paper letter to the person who doesn’t like the twenty-first century.
‘Last time I had a party for myself I sent out printed invitations.’
‘Ssssh! Someone might hear you.’
The entertainment on the night phoned two days before the party.
‘You got a new phone, then? Or did the bears give it back?’
‘Never mind. Are you sorted for Saturday?’
‘Um – this Saturday? I thought it was – ‘
‘No, you didn’t. You thought it was this Saturday. Otherwise, for you there are no more Saturdays.’
At half past three on the Saturday afternoon I was wallowing underneath a blanket of bubble bath, thinking of ways I could get out of going to my own party.
I used to think I was uniquely odd in having a complete nervous collapse before going to any social function, including ones with good friends whose company I enjoy. Now I know that I am far from alone. I do know people who enjoy everything about parties, from the planning to the preparation to the event itself. I know people who enjoy the prospect of their own parties but not other people’s, and vice versa. I know people whose excitement is replaced by ennui the moment the first guest walks through the door. And I know lots of people like me, who wake up on the morning of any party thinking, ‘Why the hell did I say I’d go? They only invited me out of politeness. No-one will miss me if I don’t go. I could text and say the cat’s died. Oh God, if I do that the cat will die. Why did I say I’d go?’ And so on, until I’m on the party doorstep, and the door opens, and I start really enjoying myself. Still go through the same rigmarole next time, though.
So there I was in the bath, contemplating escape routes. After all, the room was booked, the buffet was booked, the entertainment was booked, most of them know each other, they could have a perfectly good time without me. They won’t come, anyway. I know they’ve said they’ll come, but they won’t. It’ll be just me and the kids, a pub buffet and several bottles of Prosecco.
Could be worse.
OK. I’ll do the hair and make-up thing and see how I feel.
Why the hell did I decide to wear pink? I never wear pink. I wear black and navy and the odd bit of dark green. I’m discreet. Tasteful. I’ve got too many years and far too many spare tyres for pink.
But I had seen myself coming and deliberately left the black and the navy going-out trousers and tops unwashed at the bottom of the basket. I don’t have much of a wardrobe, so it was pink or jeans and a check shirt.
Well. It wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t all pink. And you can’t come out of hibernation in navy blue.
‘You look nice,’ said the entertainment on the night, when he got there ten minutes after the first guest.
Sometimes the pain of childbirth actually does seem worthwhile.
It went all right in the end. Almost all of them came. I had a couple of last minute texts, but that was fine because I have every sympathy for the ones whose mental struggle finally came down on the side of a night in with an old episode of Lewis. The entertainment on the night did his stuff; he does this for a living much of the time and, I have to say, he knows how to read a room and get them all up dancing. He and his guitar got a couple of bookings out of it. The Princess floated round the room like a vision in a jump-suit and laughed merrily at both the first and the twentieth time she heard the same ‘your mother at work’ anecdote. I more or less remembered my Prosecco speech, after which I remember nothing at all before sitting around a table with the Princess, the entertainment on the night and his girlfriend (yes, I know, if she’ll endure his mother’s coming-out-of-hibernation party it must be serious) and two of the Final Three Guests, who seemed to have completely forgotten they had homes to go to. They were also giving a lift to the third, last seen twenty minutes previously taking the wrong turn for the loo.
‘Yoush should wear more pink,’ announced the one who, thankfully, wasn’t the designated driver. ‘Shuits you. Princess, hash anyone evva tol’ you ‘bout the time your mum – ‘
‘Oh look!’ cried the Princess. ‘Here’s the other one!’
The following morning I found I’d been invited to a party next Saturday, via a Facebook event. I ticked Going.
God knows why.
Wonder what I’d look like in mauve?