Yesterday I gave a birthday lunch for myself and 12 guests at the Hotel Du Vin Brighton. 13 is an unlucky number so one guest an actress bought her along her teddy to make it 14. Hosting any party involves stress: will the guests arrive on time, will they get on, will the food and wine be satisfactory, have I got the seating plan right ? I like to follow my mother’s dictum – a notable hostess – that if you pay careful enough attention to these you will be rewarded with a successful occasion even if that is at the expense of your own enjoyment.
I remember giving a party years ago with a friend at his house. We must have been 18. A school friend who drove gave me a lift to my house to collect some records. He said I was firing aggressive questions at him though I was unaware of this. I was in my own zone. Nothing had changed in 43 years as yesterday I was also not my normal ebullient self initially as the inevitably apologetic texts of delay and lateness arrived, and annoyed that the hotel did not provide a private area as requested but a space into which young children from a neighbouring party encroached. However I was equally mindful that my mother would always give every guest the warmest of welcomes , they are also nervous on arrival and need to be greeted warmly and introduced to other guests.
At the lunch in a private room, conversation was never a issue. I found one between former football manager who enjoys the theatre and is an angel (backer of new productions) and the actress of especial interest. He was saying that the show must go own was a attitude that did not always exist in football where recovery from injury can be self-indulgent. This is ironic as footballer may well regard an actor as precious. In both cases audiences can be a determinator of performance.
I gave a little speech of thanks which though seemingly off the cuff, I had worked on for some time. Then my godson Jamie who sat patiently at the top of the table well behaved as ever stood proudly on his chair to make a toast.
Polly, who could not be present as she was running in a marathon, sent me a card with the words you will enjoy good food surrounded by good friends. This happened and at the end of the birthday I could not wish for more.