Nothing beats a good old middle-class drinks party; gallons of cheap red balanced by plate upon plate of stodgy food.
The only caterpillar in the salad, for me, is my woeful memory – and that applies to both faces and names. This, dear reader, can be stupendously awkward when one draws a blank on seeing an apparently long lost friend, especially when said person is delighted to see me and uses my name.
Believe me, the excuse of “well I was probably tight” wears pretty thin remarkably quickly.
I reached my drinks party nadir a few years ago when I was chatting to a garrulous gent called Johnny, who was clad in linen from head to toe. We had never met – this much was obvious thankfully – and we swapped names harmlessly.
Two bottles of claret later, a blonde girl bounded up to us and Johnny merrily introduced me to her as his girlfriend. I offered platitudes and a glass of wine, with the addition of: “really lovely to meet you.”
Instead of having to decide on whether to kiss this stranger on the cheek or shake her hand, I was met by an icy glare.
“Are you fucking kidding? I have met you about ten times,” she stated.
I mumbled and bumbled; or more accurately bungled through the situation. All of a sudden another girl from stage left said: “well you surely know my name don’t you?”
Neither the names nor the faces of these ladies rang a bell. I could not even find half a lie to create; my face turned the colour of my wine and I looked for a friendly face but recognised none!
I have, however, come across a way of remedying the issue. Moreover, it comes from an unusual professor.
Despite being a perpetual embarrassment, my old chum Bob Dawson is a social wizard. It is he, my dear reader, who is the chap that has saved me from social catastrophe.
Dawson, who is usually found slumped in the corner of Stringfellows with his tie dipped in his wine babbling incomprehensibly, is an expert bluffer. Aside from leopard-skin-walled strip clubs Dawson’s natural habitat is a dinner party or a drinks soirée.
Usually late, his entry is invariably dramatic. A booming voice like an orchard of plums startles even the most placid housewife, who is up to her eyeballs in painkillers and gin. Activity surrounds him and Dawson, like a young Boris Johnson, stomps about working the room with his balloon-like red face grinning sweetly from ear to ear.
He, of course, makes a bee-line for the drinks: snarling at the fizz and beer, he reunites himself with his French mistress in red. Bob mumbles seductively at his glass of red and looks at in a manner that should be reserved for the boudoir; he surveys the lie of the land begins to bark eloquently at friends alike.
“Marvellous” and “splendid, I thought,” are repeated purposefully.
Within an hour and a half, red wine dribbles from his purple lips, his blonde locks become unkempt like a sad lion’s mane. His once dazzling cobalt eyes are almost closed and look as if they have gone 12 rounds with an angry Lennox Lewis.
His long-suffering spouse packs him off home and he’ll be ready for bacon in the morning. However, between a triumphant beginning and ignominious ending Dawson has developed a wonderful skill.
When posed with a face and name that draw an almighty blank the old bean just says: “Good to see you.”
There must be no quizzical inflection or rising of his voice at the end, nor must there be a sense of over familiarity. Needless to say, a strong positive handshake is integral.
What’s more by beginning with the word “good” you are creating a wholly positive atmosphere. So much so that if the recipient hasn’t previously met you he just thinks that you are chirpy, good egg.
It is a win win situation that leaves everybody with smiles on their faces, unless of course you are the aforementioned put-upon Mrs.Dawson.
With this trick up the sleeve, one can walk around God’s Green in a wonderful bubble of happy ignorance throwing out “good to see you” to all and sundry; from the wife to the paperboy. But, what of dear old Bob? Still alive and usually the last to leave the bar talking merrily to himself at the top his lungs. And, as one leaves this prince of vin rouge when midnight draws, it is indeed appropriate to say “good to see you”.