Have you ever wanted to escape from wherever you were sitting and bury yourself in the sand? If you have, well, you might, just like me, have had to attend a few formal British dinners.
I hate to generalise, but I have to say that it can be a dreadful experience. It might be a charity dinner or a so-called informal dinner at someone’s house, (don’t kid yourself, the informal dinner will turn our to be very formal). I learned that the first rule is to smile and shut up. You are here to flatter the hosts or organisers anyway. This means that you can’t talk about yourself at all. If you do, it will be considered impolite. At one of such dinners, I was immediately on my back foot when I was told “Oh, what a nice dress, I thought that short cuts were not appropriate after 40 but I was clearly wrong”. Smile. Don’t say anything. Thank whoever made such a comment. Don’t even mention that you are not 40 yet. It is simply not worth it. Lovely start. How do I get out?
I suddenly remembered my doctor telling me to squeeze my tummy after my children’s birth, in order to get back in shape. I decided to put his advice into practice immediately, even if my younger daughter is 7 now. As you can’t really talk when you suck your tummy in, it is a win-win situation.
I tried hard to find a subject that would break the ice. On one occasion, my mistake was to talk about kids. You see, our hosts used to have kids, but they were all grown-up now and had been to a leading boarding school aged 8 anyway. They were basically shipped there and never returned. It didn’t give us much to talk about. But, come on, said the lady who was hosting the event, pets are so much more rewarding than kids anyway. I couldn’t believe my ears. But I hadn’t started drinking yet, so surely I had heard her correctly.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against pets and I grew up in the French countryside, surrounded by cats and dogs. But, to me, the order of priority is:
Well, it turned out that I was wrong again. Silly old me.
The right order of priority, for the evening, was:
Right. It is just a dinner, no need to voice my indignation.
To add insult to injury, I then had to endure all the details of their beloved cat’s illness (her name was Izzy, and she was 15), and how in the end they decided to put her down because the poor darling was suffering too much. It must have been a terrible for them, I said. I swear that I saw a tear in the corner of my host’s eye. “It was hard”, she said, “and Walter and I are still very upset”. We still don’t know whether we will replace her. The whole monologue had lasted 6 minutes and 35 seconds according to the kitchen clock. And the cheap wine wouldn’t really distract me anyway.
The funny thing was that, when I had mentioned that my grandmother had passed away earlier in the year, she had quickly changed subject and said “Oh, these things happen”. They do indeed. Come on, there must be some white wine somewhere.
I hoped that a white knight in shining armour would rescue me but my husband was discussing gardening with the husband. No end in sight for both of us.
I spend the whole evening smiling and nodding while trying to get a flatter tummy. To make matters even worse, I didn’t really enjoy the food. To be fair, the steak and kidney pie was really heavy.
I now need to send a Thank you card for the privilege of having spent such a lovely evening. I am not sure what I will write.
On the bright side, apparently they said we were great company. Maybe they were just testing us?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London