There are various simple ways to survive the six-week explosion of embossed white-card invitations, exclusive ‘e-vites’ and the occasional last-minute phone call that many of us receive between November and the New Year. My best advice is to bin the invitations that celebrate the opening of a restaurant, shop or gallery.
In my experience these will be choc-a-bloc with people I don’t know among a sprinkling of paparazzos. Conserve your energies for those intimate gatherings where you are sure to see plenty of friends and no cameras. Once you’ve decided which venue you will honour with your presence, here are some survival tips: eat something before you leave — some soup, a hard-boiled egg, hummus on crackers; alcohol on an empty stomach is the quickest route to a hangover. If it’s a drinks party, don’t stay too long as you’re bound to get plastered.
If it’s a dinner party, arrive 45 minutes after the indicated time so that you don’t drink too much before dinner; that long cocktail hour, which too often becomes an hour and a half, can be fatal. And finally, be picky. Don’t be the person who goes to the opening of an envelope. The two golden rules of showbiz — always play hard to get and leave them wanting more — apply to everything in life!
As Spectator Life’s diarist, it’s my job to trawl London’s soirées with the task of unearthing titbits of gossip. The job presents unique challenges; none more testing than a free bar. Over the years, I’ve witnessed a socialite vomit in the street and a millionaire reduced to stashing glasses of fizz on his table just in case the bar stopped serving.
So how best to navigate through an endless stream of eggnog and mulled wine? To start with, if your party invite is mysteriously lost in the post, adopt the tried and tested gatecrasher technique of turning up to your event of choice an hour late clutching an empty champagne glass — simply walk in as if you had been there the entire time. Just fill the glass with caution once you are inside. Your position in the room is also key; where there is alcohol, canapés tend to follow.
Work out where the trays are coming from to ensure a constant stream of food to steady oneself throughout the evening. Then avoid the festive cocktails and stick to what you know. Champagne is a safe choice. What’s more, research suggests that drinking bubbly can reduce the chance of Alzheimer’s.
When trying to escape the party bore, pick an excuse that’s as close to the truth as possible: ‘So sorry — just seen a man with a tray of bellinis,’ or ‘Be right back: I love pigs in blankets!’ It took me decades to work out that only the most realistic line won’t hamper the rest of your night.
I gave up my one-time favourite — from the 1990s classic Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion — ‘I cut my foot before and my shoe is filling up with blood’ — because of the limping necessitated, and there’s only so many times you can use the old ‘I’m just going to run to the ladies’ tactic before people start to wonder whether you’re a) incontinent or b) Kate Moss.
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.