Being of 100 per cent redneck blood royale, ‘dinner party’ has always been one of those phrases that makes me want to vomit up jellied eels into a string vest and wear it on my head as I paddle in the briny at Southend-on-Sea. So, to counter this, the more the merrier is my motto, especially for festive dinners. My idea of heaven is a big table — or tables — in a warm watering hole, shimmering with the laughter of friends and the glugging of wine, and me picking up the bill.
It’s probably fair to say I’m extravagant — stinginess strikes me as the halitosis of the soul. When ordering bottles of wine, I like to do it the way my mum did when making a pot of tea — one teaspoonful for each person, and an extra one for the pot, or in my case the table. I encourage my friends to fill their boots freely, but food is not especially interesting for me at these events — it’s the boozing, the talking, the flirting and the occasional brawling that pleases me so.
As we approach the festive season, it occurs to me once more that I am not, to put it mildly, a domestic animal — my best Christmases have been spent in hotels and my most memorable Yuletide repasts cooked by professionals.
But my most unforgettable festive dinner party occurred on a plane — and I think offers a good model for how to approach all events during these glittering weeks, no matter what the location. During a flight with a few friends just before Christmas, the stewardess came to us with the trolley full of food. Instead of taking the silly little tray of food, I ordered a bottle of champagne, two of those little bottles of red wine, three double vodkas and a giant Toblerone. As we were sitting all together, she naturally assumed that I was ordering for all of us. But then I slapped down my card and smiled, charmingly, ‘And whatever the other ladies want, please…’ Christmas is no time to be a scrooge.
Plan ahead: Boot camp in November. Be prepared for vodka searches and beatings but losing a few pounds before mid-November will set you in surplus.
Before party: Do what my mother told me — drink a glass of milk to line your tum (yucky but can save on foolish behaviour after six proseccos).
Prep: Wear frosted eyeshadow and lots of sparkle on décolletage — the more you can resemble a Christmas tree, the more you can be seen to have made the effort. (Caution: bling quota to respect postcode).
Demeanour: Ask other people how many brothers and sisters they have. You are now sparkly and interested in other people — people love guests like you and you will get a call back.
Control: Decline the canapés but gesture for the guests to whom you are talking to eat them instead — let them smell of the fish paste and not you.
Stamina: Cancel all morning appointments for December. Don’t ruminate on what happened the night before even if you find strange business cards in your clutch bag with House of Commons logo.