Boozing, flirting and a little brawling is the best way to enjoy the festive season

Julie Burchill and Helen Lederer offer tips on how to survive the party circuit this Christmas

Julie Burchill

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.

Helen Lederer with Jennifer Saunders

Helen Lederer with Jennifer Saunders

Helen Lederer

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.