2 MAY 1987, Page 41

Low life

Party politics

Jeffrey Bernard

Who the hell invented the wine-and- cheese party? It has to be one of the most ghastly functions devised by man since the stag party. It was probably thought up shortly after the war by a Hampstead poet with a subscription to the New Statesman. People involved with the Arts Council are in their element at these dos but my idea of a fun evening does not include nibbling bits of rubber cheese, sipping Hirondelle and discussing Mary Wollstonecraft crushed eye to eye with Margaret Drabble or one of the many clones of Claire Tomalin that are to be seen everywhere these days. An invitation to a poetry reading came with the post today and on it there were the ominous words 'wine will be served'. Why not draught Bass or Amer Picon? You give a party, you give people what they want.

As for poetry readings I prefer to read the stuff to myself and alone and vodka will be served. What the Poetry Society should be doing is giving a drink-to-me-only-with- thine-eyes party and count me out. Funny people poets. And there is another awful party which is the one where somebody walks up to you and says, 'And what do you do?' A pox on parties. Invariably there is an editor at the parties I go to who says, `We'd love you to write a piece for us,' and then you never hear from them again. Editors of women's magazines are particu- larly hot at that and 'We must have lunch'. No wonder I'm so skinny.

But I have had some quite good parties sitting here at my desk by myself. After a while Great Portland Street is in soft focus which is a good thing and then I walk over to the mirror and say, 'I'm going away next week for a few days but we'll be in touch when I get back."Oh, where are you going?' I'm going to the Coach and Horses."Well, I hope the weather's good.' Now an odd thing happened after one of these solo parties recently. I had to tele- phone a friend and ask him, 'Is it today or is it yesterday?' The thing is the longer the days get, the more difficult it is to know whether it is morning or evening. It is as awkward as trying to find out just which town you are in without sounding com- pletely mad. I went to a party years ago one night in Hyde Park Square and woke up in Cowes. It seemed quite a nice place just for a day and not as alarming as the time I woke up sharing a bed with a charwoman and the jockey, Barry Brogan, in a hotel in Huntingdon.

I suppose if a party is really good then it is filed away into a remote and vacant brain cell. I should have thought that they would have all been taken up with trivia by now like what won the Derby in 1936 and that Barbara in Islington in 1951 had a green angora sweater. In fact my brain is like an

old Boots Lending Library. But I have suddenly remembered who can give good parties. Racing people. The two parties Dick Hem gave on his lawn after Troy and Henbit won their Derbys were wonderful and Peter Walwyn's annual thrashes on Lurcher Show days were never to be forgotten but strangely mostly are. The gargantuan spreads attended by about 200 people he described as 'nice when a few friends pop in for a drink'.

Anyway, I am going to a racing party today in Newmarket which precedes the running of the 2,000 Guineas. The last time I went to one of Charles St George's lunch parties we never even made the racecourse and a good thing too. Newmarket may seem a long way to go for a drink but the man has style and there are some very interesting 'faces' there. They think the Prix Goncourt is a French race for two- year-olds. It makes a wonderful change from literary wine and cheese.