Bringing Something to the Party

ShowgirlsEight years ago next week, I wrote my first blog on High Heels.  I was living in a studio flat in West London, depressed, profoundly lonely and recovering from the lacerations of a broken heart.   None of this was alluded to at the time.  I’d made a pact with myself never to do online confessionals and, as my chief philosophy was that parties were a panacea for all ills, I choose instead to write about one I’d recently attended.   It felt apt.  I was wearing high heels and the room was packed with reprobates.

I’d turned up in a hot pink wrap dress in the style of Diane Von Furstenberg, hoping to woo back my ex-boyfriend but instead attracted the unwanted – and fortunately harmless – attention of Rolf Harris who was there to play his wobble board for the irony-loving Shoreditch crowd.  In those days, this was merely embarrassing.

There’s been more than a few embarrassing party moments over the years.  Running full pelt after a taxi I thought still had my clutch bag on the back seat would probably be on the list.  At the time I was wearing a Gloria Swanson headdress, corset and floor length velvet cape and moved so fast the cape was horizontal.  People I’d never met before had applauded.  Later, one of our group had trumped me by being neatly sick into her empty high ball glass.  She’d placed it thoughtfully onto the (very ritzy) bar and retired graciously because it had been that kind of night.

Then there was the other kind of night with Jay the transvestite who owned his own London cab and taxied me about; him in rubber, me in sequins. He’d roll down the window onto a floodlit suburban garage forecourt and trill ‘Tranny Cabs!’ before stepping out, six foot five in heels, and striding into the shop to buy a can of Coke.  To me, this is still what courage looks like.

I’ve learnt a lot about human nature from going out.  It’s taught me things that I value like resilience, empathy and the ability to listen and entertain.  If I think about what’s changed most over the past eight years – apart from my career and owning my own home – it’s that now I go to less parties.  I still love going out, but I’ve found my tribe now and I know there’s not much that’s new under the sun.

Whilst we are no longer living in optimistic times, we don’t need to lose our mirth or take ourselves too seriously.  In fact, the more we hurtle towards hell in a handbag the more we should remember that sometimes it’s just about experiencing it.  I may not own diamonds but I could string these nights together and they’d all be like jewels.   Here is some advice and observations from years of dedication to the cause:

  • Be a contribution.  The best party piece I ever saw was a man diving into a swimming pool clutching two lit fireworks.  If you must have a party piece, it needs to be this good.
  • An arsenal of anecdotes is a bonus.  The man with the two lit fireworks told me the best one I’ve heard.  The day of his Dad’s funeral, he discovered two things.  The first was that his octogenarian father had had a twenty two year old Chinese mistress called Pinkie Chin and the second was he was now responsible for one million Chinese silk ties which were en-route to London with no particular forwarding address. ‘And Sarah Jane, I don’t know if you can envisage what a million ties look like….’
  • Parties are the greatest leveller.  They divide people into two camps – boring and not boring.  If it’s about how big your job is you’re in the wrong room.
  • Some of the most confident appearing people I’ve ever met are incapable of walking into a party alone.  Good to remember when someone is being overbearing or patronising.
  • Alpha females have no idea how to enjoy themselves.  Better be a Tango female.  Your only agenda is to dance and be merry.
  • There’s nothing more gratifying than looking expensive in cheap places.
  • Never go out hoping you might meet someone.  Go out thinking someone would be lucky to meet you.
  • The perfect party drink is a classic champagne cocktail.  Two will boost your allure, three will lower it.
  • Nothing attracts attention like a red dress.
  • When faced with a lack of gallantry ask yourself this simple question.  Would Elizabeth Taylor put up with this crap?
  • Wham’s I’m Your Man remains the greatest ever floor filler.
  • Don’t get cornered by strangers who want you to listen to their problems. This is a party, not a charity gig.
  • Being rude to people who are serving you is the height of bad manners.   The waiter is your friend and will bring you sustenance.
  • Foam has no place on food.
  • Overtly charming people who focus on you in an intense manner and pursue you like locusts are sociopaths.
  • Musicians are WAY more fun than actors.
  • If you need to resume the recovery position, Pretty Woman and a plate of Turkish eggs will get you through it.

 

I am thinking of perhaps retiring High Heels.  Although I imagine it will probably return like Liza Minelli on a come back tour…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Society

Image by Mario Testino

Ms High Heels, urban flâneur and attender of the opening of a fridge door, is back in the arena of the gainfully employed.  Monday morning saw me fully woded up for rush hour battle, ram raided by pushchairs and ears assaulted by the tinny sound of someone else’s R&B.   No really, I’ve missed that whole face squashed against the door thing whilst trying to locate the horoscopes in Metro.  What a smorgasbord of joy!  The lattes you can’t afford but can’t live without; the lunch break you don’t get; not enough time to dick around on Pinterest or read The Daily Mash.  But then that’s the trouble with working.  It does rather eat into one’s day.

After a brief sabbatical, I am now back in the saddle and am delighted to report I will be organising a Hollywood Glamour Fundraising Gala at a certain Art Deco hotel in Mayfair.   A movie star and his supermodel girlfriend once famously bathed in champagne here and, although I won’t be divulging any details about the event itself, this one might even be gracing the pages of that most baffling of publications, Tatler.

Now I don’t know about you, readers, but I’ve never really got Tatler.   As someone who couldn’t give a fig about social statements, Bystander is as bewildering to me as trigonometry, but my god isn’t it a hoot watching posh people party?   Counting the chins of Fizzy Daventry-Farquar as she arm wrestles Julian Fellowes to the last canapé; seeing the Duke of York holding his gut in whilst his Social X-ray companion grips him with her tawny claw.  Then there are the playful husband and wife shots out there on the dance floor.  It says we’re young, we’re rich and we’ll go anywhere for a wiggle to Abba and a free Jo Malone scented candle; absolute tarts for it.

The best thing about Tatler is of course, The List.  A Who’s Who of crowned heads, rock star offspring and the odd exotic thrown in, these people really know their way round an artichoke.  You can even do a search for someone to see how they rank.  A sort of googling for toffs, if you will, with added opportunities to bolster their position by tweeting their illuminating profiles.  Who knew Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Angela Vanessa Geldof loved a fish finger sandwich?  Or that Prince Harry’s latest squeeze was fazed by nothing and liked smiling (indispensable attributes when half the planet has seen your boyfriend wearing nothing but a friendship bracelet and a Las Vegas hooker)  And as for Bryan Ferry, well……he appears to have an awful lot of children out on the town right now.

Tatler helpfully supplies their time-pressed readers with visual motifs to indicate, at a glance, if each entrant is among other things, minted (wallet), shaggable (lipstick), marriage material (wedding band) or more connected than Jay Gatsby (address book). This is the one stop shop for the social bounty hunter with an array of well-thumbed guides offering you a million and one ways to spend ‘your hard-won after-tax income’ (do feel free to place your fingers delicately down your throat at this juncture).  Because once you’ve dropped your kids off for someone else to bring up (Schools Guide), you can get your chakras rebalanced (Spa Guide) and hubby can practice shooting small birds in a pair of plus fours (Hunting and Fishing Guide).  Kick off your 2013 with the lowdown on nipular protocol, as Tatler asks:  Are Nipples the New Cleavage?

This is the gift that just keeps on giving…..

Life Begins

Image by Helmut Newton. Now this is totally undignified.

Next year marks a momentous event here in the HH&R social calendar.  Ms High Heels turns forty.  I know, I know, it hardly seems possible.  All that Clarins and bathing in asses’ milk and still nothing can save me from being elevated into the senior circle of the Girl About Town blogger.  What happens in this strange land?  What do its natives do for kicks?  Do they hit the West End in a great gaggle, wearing spangly boob tubes and braying for young blood?  Do they stay home and get involved with knitted goods?  Or worse, do they find that it’s all been pithily said before and probably by them?

Not being the possessor of a Sky TV package, I haven’t sampled the joys of Girls yet, but already I’m liking the format.  The truth is your twenties are crap and bewildering and then they lead onto your thirties, which is when things get really strange.  Here, you enter the world of target-led achievement.  It sneaks up on you like creeping fog, but by the time you’re thirty five, you’re right in the quagmire.  Promotion, property, pregnancy, maybe a proposal; if you’re not participating then, well….aren’t you just a little bit pitiful?  And is it your imagination, or are some people becoming just a little bit patronising, not to mention personal?

You know you’re in your thirties when the body you inhabit, the thing that blithely carries you about from day to day protecting you from harm and processing hangovers, becomes a subject of open discussion at dinner parties.  The night the first woman (and it’s nearly always a woman) questions its functionality by leaning across a table and loudly uttering the words:  So, do you want to have children?, this is the point at which you truly enter the decade.

But that’s not the only thing that starts becoming invasive.  Next thing you know people are posting up pictures of their uterus on Facebook for your viewing pleasure.   Now this is new, you think.   I’ve never even seen between her toes before and now I’m staring right inside her most private internal organ, as are 378 of her closest friends.  To weird you out even more, you’re actually expected to comment on it like some Peeping Tom in a Gyno ward.  You’re happy for her of course, but what do you say that’s original and fun?  Nice looking kidney bean, but I take it Tanqueray’s off the menu?

For my younger subscribers yet to reach this landmark event, believe me when I tell you it is merely the beginning.   Avatars morph into gurning babies like their true owners have all but disappeared, the photographic gallery entitled ‘Fifty Shades of my Toddler’ starts appearing with alarming regularity, showing the child in every conceivable waking and sleeping mode and alternated thrice weekly for you to endlessly validate with a little thumbs up.  This, readers, is what you’re supposed to be doing now.  Only you’re not sure you really want to, and if you’re too strident about it, you might get accused of being a loveless Miss Hannigan, drinking moonshine from a tin bath in the afternoons and selling off orphans to the highest bidder.

Please don’t be offended, parents.  Your children are adorable and it’s not that I don’t like them.  It’s just I like clothes and holidays and going out more.  Which brings me back to my original point.  What does the forty something Girl About Town blogger do without appearing undignified?

The answer is exactly what the thirty something one does only SO much better.   Plus she can afford to drink in better bars (allegedly).

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Ms High Heels will be soon scouring the metropolis seeking a suitable venue for her 40th birthday party in March.  If anyone has any suggestions please email here xx

Get the Party Started

Ah, autumn! Season of woolly tights and canapés! Actually, scrap that first part because I wouldn’t be seen dead, but give me a ballotine of pancetta wrapped guinea fowl, wild mushrooms and truffle oil and I’m in heaven.

Welcome to the time of year when you find yourself pummelled into submission by a variety of openings and happenings you feel you have to attend for Fear of Missing Out.  Hold on tight because FOMO, to use the acronym, will be the thing that propels you along a funnel of activity until you reach the screaming point that is Christmas.  By which time if you see another chocolate covered strawberry you will be forced to set light to your boob tube and retreat to a cave until the January sales.

How I’ve missed it all.

In honour of the upcoming festivities, I have put together the High Heels Guide to surviving the Canapé Season without flinging yourself off a food station. The basic principles may also be applied to Am Dram First Night Parties and anywhere small bits of food are served on trays.

West End Press Nights

The Venue: Waldorf Astoria, Adam Street Club

The Crowd: Actors, Producers, Downtrodden Assistants, Twirlies

The Canapés: You’re joking, right?

The Conversation: who’s got some telly, who’s got Harvey Weinstein’s skiing lodge for Christmas, how many times they’ve cried at work this week, the new pole dancing instructor’s abs at Pineapple.

Oh, what a strange and complex animal this is!  The dynamics going on at this party can keep you entertained for hours.  We have insecure, neurotic people, overworked, on-the-edge people and monstrously competitive people all in one room!  I would say crack open the bubbly, but as this is theatre the budget does only stretch to Chenin Blanc. Likewise, head to the nearest take-away outlet to stock up on carbs post show.  You will not be fed.

The most important thing to remember as your eyes scan the Palm Court for amusement is that the room is full of rival producers and they all despise each other.  They don’t want a party.  What they really, really want is a photo in the Standard of Robert Pattinson clutching a souvenir brochure of their show and proclaiming it theatrical dynamite.  Sadly, what they got was Vanessa Feltz and Lorraine Pascale looking rained out on the Whatsonstage red carpet. Lean back against the opulent pillars and breathe in the resentment.

Now you’ve got the lay of the land, you need to befriend the staff.  And I don’t mean the production staff.  They are also being starved and told they can’t drink much, so are no use to man nor beast. No, you must make a beeline for anyone in a black pinny and charm their socks off.  They are almost certainly looking for an entrée into this strange, dark world and who knows?  A promise to put a word in the right ear might even result in the magical appearance of a bottle of prosecco.  Once you have this, you are king.

The Blockbuster Exhibition Opening

The Venue: V&A, Tate, NPG

The Crowd: Fashionistas, Cultural Movers and Shakers, People who’ve slept with Vivienne Westwood

The Canapés: Foie Gras Parfait & Peach Wine Jelly in shot glasses, Lobster and Artichoke Hearts served on an antique mirrored tile strewn with rose petals and a night light.

The Conversation: The dismantling of DCMS, Tracey Emin’s knickers, certainly NOT the exhibition.

Now we’re talking.  Proper cocktails, proper nosh and some excellent lighting.  Loiter by the door of the kitchens to ensure you get first pick of the spoils.  It is 6.45 pm and you are on your third Jamaican Mule.  Unless you soak this up with a seared scallop and some quails’ eggs, it’s all going to get a bit TV Soap Awards.   No matter how hungry you are, please do NOT double dip.  Swine flu and gingivitis still stalk this world and just because this is the V&A, you are not immune.

Do not get involved in any conversation that hovers more than two degrees above shallow.  Before you know it you will be cornered by someone intent on boring you senseless about Arts Council cuts until you have turned into a pillar of salt grasping a clutch bag.  If you do get trapped, try not to recoil in horror at their champagne breath.  The only way to build immunity to these noxious fumes is to swap to said champagne and drink plenty of it.  The science behind this alludes me but trust me, it works.

Finally – and this is a very important part of the masterclass – never let anyone know the balls of your feet are burning like a volcano.   You bought the shoes, now commit to them.  And don’t even think about Scholls Party Feet.  They don’t work and they’ll only slip out like miniature panty liners on some hallowed, marble floor which is not the talking point you are looking for.

No, readers, it is resilience that is required here.  So, as those invitations start rolling in over the coming weeks, get your stamina on, gargle with some Berocca and embrace the madness. There’s only seventy four quaffing days until Christmas.