Dos and don’ts of being a host

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Tomorrow Tuesday, 24 July is a very important day for me because I have invited all and sundry to come along to our allotment to celebrate ostensibly the arrival of two sets of tables given by a client but actually it is an excuse to have a few glasses of wine and exchange gossip.

I have been reflecting on my thought process is and looking at any warranties or concerns or panic. The first thing that comes to mind is that the human being in general is a robust character and will make the best of anything that is presented especially the Brits who have a forgiving nature and do not demand that everything is perfect. This make do and mend mentality is much more prevalent in country areas.

To summarize, not everything needs to be perfect. If you are serving food and the soup is a bit too salty DO NOT apologize for it. If they don’t like your food they can go down the road to a takeaway.  If there are moments of silence when the conversation flags, it will soon start up again. Nature abhors a vacuum.

People who come to this particular event are well known and keen to come, and do so voluntarily. If the party consisted of complete strangers I would have a different attitude to tomorrow’s events where most people  will have something in common and will know most of the other people there. This gets the event off to a flying start so if the host does their job properly the event should look after itself. A few introductions are necessary at the start then off it goes. A bit like lighting a fire really.

It is a great mistake not to delegate and try and do everything yourself. It is another mistake to work yourself into a frenzy by leaving everything until the last moment so you arrive at your own party so to speak in an exhausted state meaning that you have very little energy and focus to give to other people apart from going into robotic mode. Today Monday I shall do everything I possibly can except buying perishable items. I have written to everyone telling them that we will supply good quality wine and cordials and they are expected to bring finger buffet type food. In my first communication with my allotmenteers I did not mention this and people were thus confused so I wrote a letter to everybody this  morning spelling out the terms and conditions. There is nothing worse than arriving at a party or social event to find that everyone else is in fancy dress except you or dressed in a certain degree of formality except you  or expecting you to bring food when you were not told. It is an informal contract to provide services, there is no other way of putting it.

What are the best and worst case scenarios? It is all too easy to imagine the worst, for example torrential rain, or nobody turning out. If that is the case then very little harm is done except to your own ego; some unused food and drink needs to be put in the fridge for a future time, and in the end nothing is wasted.

The best case scenario is everyone having a good time, people meeting others by serendipity and exchanging useful information. English people have this slight standoffishness but if there is something in common, like an interest in gardening, there is very little to in giving them from talking 19 to the dozen. Talking about the weather is the great fallback when English people are concerned.

Yesterday we went along to a sports club with an invitation to take part in a game of Boules (french). The organizer made the mistake of putting the time from 11 AM to 5 PM so no one really knew when to turn up. If there had made a much smaller window, for example two hours, everyone would have shown up near the starting time but as it was the event fizzled after about an hour because people drifted off to lunch or did not turn up in the first place. For such team games, you need a certain minimum number of people for example eight.

In general I make the same recommendations as if I was going anywhere. Make your planning and buy your items the day before and don’t leave anything until the last moment because if you do you can be sure that something unexpected will pop up reducing you to a frazzle.

What to do with people who say they will come and don’t. There is no point in interrogating them because they will come up with an excuse which probably bears very little relationship to the truth. For example, if a person didn’t feel like coming they will tell you that they had a headache or something like that. When people say that something ‘cropped up’ it is normally a lie. Failing to turn up is an unforgivable sin with something like a dinner party even if you phone up an hour before with an excuse whatever it is. Both the telephone call or and the receiver will know perfectly well it is just an excuse. If someone failed to turn up at a dinner party then I would not invite them again because they could have apologized by text message or by telephone. There is no excuse.

I’m not impressed by people who said they “tried” to call. What do you mean ‘try’? Do you mean the phone failed technically? Do you mean you could not lift up the phone because it was too heavy? No, do not lie to your self. You did not esteem the people enough to summon up the good manners to say that you cannot come.

With larger parties, especially when you don’t know the person very well, not turning out is just about acceptable but the more you know people the more you are obligated to make some sort of response if you cannot appear.

So here am I sitting here on a glorious sunny morning, thinking about the 41°C that people in Japan are suffering and being grateful that it is not hotter. I’ve already been to the supermarket to buy the plastic cups and plates and some drink and will complete the process tomorrow. I thought of putting lots of ice in the fridge but I see that at my local branch of Sainsbury’s you can buy a huge bag of ice for 1 pound so I shall take that along, put it in a bucket, and keep the wine cool.

 

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