Time Out’s award winning columnist Michael Hodges has been at it again. This week’s thing not to do in London – No 138: have people round for dinner.
I’m Rod,’ said the man at the front door. ‘Rod?’ you replied. ‘Yes, Rod from Southampton.’
You were already a little unsure who was exactly who in the crowd in your front room, but you’d told people to bring friends tonight. This man must be one of them. ‘Come in,’ you said. ‘Everyone’s through there.’
That was an hour ago, when things were still civilised. The guests were mingling, praising your iPod selections, admiring your furniture, the pictures on your wall and the pair of ceramic drums you bought last year from that craftsman with the little workshop in Ibiza Old Town. There was no sign that your evening was about to descend into madness or that Rod from Southampton – a man you had never met and, as would become apparent, no one else in the house had met either – would be the dark force behind the fall.
There are rungs on the ladder of life that we must all climb if we want to consider ourselves adults; successfully entertaining guests in your own home is one of them. Somewhere between the moment you first have a sexual experience (with someone else, that is) and the moment you say to yourself ‘You know, I bet a Saga-operated cruise around the Norwegian fjords over the Christmas holiday period would be great fun’, there comes the moment when you first throw a proper dinner party.
And tonight that’s what you are doing. Not a dinner party where a spaghetti bolognese that’s mainly spaghetti is served up to penniless chancers who arrived with bottles of violent Romanian red in the hope of grabbing something better. You’ve aimed higher than that, gone up another rung. You have set the table, arranged the candles, hung bunting on the wall, spent the day with Jamie Oliver and a larg chicken in a steaming kitchen and, finally, filled a large glass bowl full of rum cocktail and pieces of fruit to get things going.
On reflection, it now occurs to you, it was a mistake to allow Rod from Southampton unlimited access to the large glass bowl full of rum cocktail and pieces of fruit. Until then, the nearest the evening had come to wildness was when sensible Natasha, who goes out with Colin, choked on a cashew. In the panic, Rod from Southampton had rushed to clear Natasha’s ‘air waves’, a procedure that Colin had clearly resented, but too late, it was a sign that Rod from Southampton was in the ascendant, and from then on things started to change.
Now your furniture, so recently admired, is being trampled over. Previously sane guests climb on to the sofa and sing, some dance on the table and others fall from chairs. Rod from Southampton is the
loudest singer, the wildest dancer and the most extravagant faller from chairs. A shiver of panic runs through your body: What if Rod from Southampton gets his hands on my ceramic hand drums? But before you can make sure they are out of reach, you see that sensible Natasha is attempting to throw up in the cupboard where you keep shoes and the vacuum cleaner.
Later, after you have removed the vomit from the workings of the Dyson, you look around the room that only a few hours ago promised so much. The bunting has fallen and the floor is littered with broken candles, discarded knives and empty bottles. At the end of the table, Natasha – exhausted by her repeated attempts to fill your shoes with sick – has fallen with force on to the cheese board. Fortunately, she landed on a soft veiny blue and not the pecorino, or she could have had an eye out.
And then you hear the distinctive ‘bop-bopbop… bop-bop… smash’ that can mean only one thing: Rod from Southampton has found the ceramic hand drums.
Open the door to more encounters of the socially undesirable kind.