Parties on the Cheap
An actor mate read my blog entry about budgeting click here and said that it was all very well, but he shares a house with eight other actors, what about parties?
So, here we are.
First, make it plain that you're either hosting a party or just providing the space. If you're hosting, you have to do more.
When I still liked more than four people I lived on the seventeenth floor of a Kennington high rise and had a fear of lifts. Oh, going off message here, will estate agents stop pointing to Cleaver Square as evidence for Kennington becoming gentrified of late? The square was at least already built when I was doing my paper round in ninety seventy nine, and might even be eighteenth century. Anyway, if I hosted a party while I was lift-phobic and living on the seventeenth floor, I had to take bags of shopping up to my flat in batches, leaving some hidden beneath the stairwell each time. Eight trips up and down for my flat-warming; which goes far to explain why I didn't have a television, my nan's kindly bequeathed complete Encyclopaedia Britannica or a door on the cleaning cupboard. And I quickly decided that for any future parties I would simply provide the space.
If you decide on hosting, however, Invite mainly single people. They won't drink to excess for fear of looking silly in front of a prospective pull. The males, specifically, will also have potential performance anxiety, so you can get away with serving low alcohol shit to them.
Have lots of snacks for your guests to bloat themselves on. No-one need know they're Value brands if you put them out in bowls. If you have no bowls, buy Value tin foil and make ethniceque bowls out of that. Little ties to help keep your foil bowl's shape are ideal. Take the laces out of your trainers for this. No, not the ones you're wearing. If - and I'm not judging - you have only one pair of trainers, then appear at the party in your socks and make sure guests know why.
If you're simply providing the space, you won't need to lay on booze, of course. Like everyone else, you'll have your own stash of beers cradled in the crook of your arm like a baby at the sitting up by itself stage. I would have a tray beneath my bed with gin, tonic and ice on it; a foil-wrapped, sliced lemon in my breast pocket. Sometimes, today, I recreate this in my studio flat in Thorpeness, coming in from the balcony to refill my glass from the doings beneath the sofa, listening to Opera Live from the Met and reading Mapp and Lucia. Until I crouch to root beneath the sofa that one time too many, find that I'm too pissed to get back up again, so stay there dribbling through sing-along high notes down the arm of my IKEA Ullvi Ransta Dark sofa bed.
When you're hosting, it's de rigeur to make a bowl of fruit punch. Half fill a bowl (or suitable sink) with ice cubes, then add a bottle of Value vodka, the juice of one lemon, a tin of ginger beer and a Value carton of apple juice. Serve it with a desert spoon and never the traditional ladle - on a budget there can be no profligacy.
The above was always Mad Petra Thorne's way of making punch. She had the flat above the pub in Aldeburgh over a few summers in the nineties. I remember once getting to a party up at Petra's after last orders, and there was Gerard - remember Gerard? Meet Gerard He was pointing wide-eyed at the punch and making a throat-cutting gesture.
He later explained that Petra had been topping up the punch at intervals with boiled down Starburst, Babycham and Tip-Ex. He offered me one of the miniatures he'd brought with him.
'The library have this brilliant thing just now, sweets,' he told me. 'Needing to get borrowing numbers up or something. They're either putting little specs signs on books saying: "Read me!"'; or decorating them with glitter-sprayed leaves, or - my full admiration to them - sellotaping these miniatures to the covers. I got so pissed last night I nearly started the Sophie Kinsella I'd taken out for the sixth time that day.'