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Party! November 1, 2009

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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The useful side-effect of the Russian having magnifying glasses surgically attached to his face to spot my shortcomings more easily is that he’s now brilliant at reading the small print on any threats that come in the post and all-roundly excellent at noticing the little things in life that might easily pass us surgically-unenhanced types by.

We trooped into the house from an outing to buy booze or food, or perhaps both. I shuddered as I walked past the newly-erected map of the house, showing who lives where with full names. “Darling, now they’ll all know we’re two men,” when I think the disguise the Russian had been using had had everyone convinced all along. But he showed no interest. He was already polishing his surgical enhancements and peering at a new note that had been put up by a neighbour.

There, in mousey handwriting, was an apology-cum-invitation for/to a party. A new neighbour, she explained. And the move coincided with her birthday, she explained. How couldn’t she have a party, she wrote, as if trying to convince herself it was a good idea. So she apologised in advance if there was going to be any noise and added that if any of us should like to attend her party, we were more than welcome. Please bring your own eye-glasses.

The Russian and I concluded in speed and silence that we would stay at home. We would tut as strains of Livin’ La Vida Loca reached our ears but resist calling the police just this once. Let the girl have some fun. Her birthday AND a new flat. Live and let live a little. But our trains of thought were interrupted by a clamour at the front door. The flash of cameras almost blinded us – the Russian’s magnifying glasses have their downsides too – and we were nearly flattened by a throng of men wearing corduroy and carrying clipboards.

“Guinness Book of Records,” they explained once we’d recovered our footing and hidden our surprise/disgust at the presence of other humans in our house.

“Are we down for ‘dullest house in the world for a record number of consecutive years’?” we inquired as one in different languages to the thankfully multilingual team.

“No, ‘speediest decision not to attend a party’,” replied one of the corduroy-wearing men as he pinned badges to our lapels and gave us each a plastic-bag’s worth of freebie Guinness paraphernalia. The Russian apologised for stabbing him in the face with the handles of his magnifying glasses and I suggested once more he have them sawn off. We smiled for the cameras and made our way up the stairs, chastened that we had been rewarded for our unwillingness to extend the hand of friendship to a newcomer in our midst.

The day of the party arrived. The Russian and I were redoubledly thrilled both at the thought of flagrantly missing an opportunity to make a social effort and out of curiosity at what a party in this house might sound like. I mean, it’s all very well hearing Ricky Martin a mile or so down the road but people have been known to call the police at a post-watershed sneeze up here. I made any excuse to venture into the communal bits of the house. Recycled coffee grains one by one. Quickly got a job delivering flyers for pizza parlours so I could spend time loitering by the post-box. Checked the electricity metre. Went to the cellar to see if any of the rat-poison had gone.


“Darling, the party’s very quiet, isn’t it?”

“She not write time on eenvityayshn. Maybe voz dyaytime party. Zey khev ze koffyee and ze kyake and go.”

Which could easily have been the case and the noise she was pre-apologising for might well have been the furious tinkling of forks on plates and coffee cups being replaced deafeningly on acoustic saucers.

The Russian and I got on with some communal silence. But curiosity got the better of me and I went for one last peek from behind the curtains, dislodging a fly we thought we’d made a deal with as I did so. The Russian and I looked at each other in panic.

Three seconds later the doorbell rang. The Russian slipped back into his disguise just in case it was the landlord double-checking. We checked our hair in the hallway mirror in case it was the photographer from the Guinness Book or Records back for one last stunning shot.

The neighbours had formed a human pyramid so that no-one’s view of the spectacle would be hindered. Every woman wore a hair-net. Every man wore a dressing-gown over pyjamas and held an unlit pipe. The Russian recoiled slightly to cancel out the effect of his magnifying glasses. The spokeswoman for the group, who explained this was unusually inconvenient because she was still sweeping up crumbs from the very successful party she’d just hosted – the neighbours concurred with nods – and that she hoped this wasn’t how it was always going to be, looked demonstratively at her watch.

It was 10pm.

She handed me a fly-swat and gave wordless instructions for the human pyramid to disassemble.