Monday, 19 July 2010


My husband, who is a pianist, was asked to accompany a friend who sings... let's call him Ned (which is not his real name). The occasion was a 'Great Gatsby' party given by some old friends of Ned's, at their house about 160 miles away. We said we could go, and duly received an invitation. We spent some time and some money preparing - rehearsals for the songs, getting our costumes sorted, including (for me) a head-feather thing and some period shoes, etc. (about £35 I wouldn't otherwise have paid out). We booked into an hotel nearby (although Ned and his wife were invited to stay at the host's house as she is disabled. Fair enough). Nothing was said about expenses - it was all going to be a jolly jape.

It took about 3 hours to drive there, plus 50 minutes queueing to get through the Dartford tunnel. It seemed like a terrible waste of a lovely day - but we were headed for adventure. We arrived at the house, which is delightful - picturesque, rather grand, with lovely gardens, a lake, courtyard, swimming pool, groves of trees, lawns, terraces, etc. and inside, room after room with polished floors, chandeliers, antique furniture, Agas, multiple sofas, etc.

We were met by the hostess who looked us up and down and coolly told us we had to move the car, no-one but no-one was to park inside the grounds, despite the fact we had the keyboard, music stand, cables and amplifier to unload. No introductions, no welcome, no drinks, just very tart directions about where to set up - she was clearly very much in control of every little detail. Ned and my h eventually got everything arranged, moved the car, and after a while started to play.

Everyone was wearing marvellous costumes, and they had all clearly gone to a lot of trouble. There were one or two gangsters, a sheikh, Biggles, someone in plus-fours, lots of very pretty girls and older ladies, all looking gorgeous. It was noticeable that there were quite a few 'Sir this' or 'Lord and Lady that' dotted around too. I later found out, Ned told my h while they were doing the car-parking thing that our hostess (being lowborn but married to a high official of the state) is only interested in grandees and will not have middle-class people in her house. No wonder she appeared to treat us like riff-raff.

I met one very interesting lady, an editor, who - yes, does have a title, but I pretended not to notice.

Eventually dinner was called, via a gong.... We lined up along a table in one of the courtyards to take salads from a buffet on paper plates - and then queued again for the main part of the meal which (very amusingly, I suppose she thought) was one hot dog each in a white bridge roll. There were some burgers too, but the stall had run out of those. The sauce was 'red' or 'brown' or 'yellow', and you could have grated cheese or onions from a packet scattered on your dog. It tasted pretty vile. I gave mine to the dog. Pudding was scones and cream, or meringues, with strawberries, or you could have flapjacks or brownies. All very nice, but sweet sweet sweet and very odd, I thought.

When we finally left about 11 o'clock, there was no goodbye or thank you.

I am thinking of sending a bill for 320 miles + hotel costs, but it might bounce back badly for Ned and his wife.

Despite being at a very pretty party, which was like being on a film set for Agatha Christie, I found the hostess' behaviour really quite cruel and silly. Great wealth, titles and power do not make you into a good or kind person. You can be rude in comfort I suppose, that is the only consolation. However, I think having a flapper party is a great idea, especially as I now have some feathers.