Summer parties: my Sun Tel column

‘You must go to so many parties!’ people sometimes say to me, although admittedly they used to say it more when I worked for Tatler, and say it less now I spend my days writing at my kitchen table in leggings that are thinning in the crotch. Actually, I’m v bad when it comes to parties. No natural extrovert, I often spend the much of a party sweating, worrying about my eyeliner running down my face, worrying that I’m being boring, worrying that my sweat is coming through the armpits of my dress, hungry, worrying about how much sleep I’m going to get later that night and wondering when I can leave without it being rude. Thus this weekend’s Sun Tel column below…


I’m aware that what I’m about to say may come over a bit Marie Antoinette but here goes: oh, the absolute hell of the summer party. I’m sorry if you’ve come here looking for Leninist principles but I had to get that off my chest. We’re in the grip of summer party season and it’s exhausting. At least at a wedding you get to sit down eventually.

I’m not just talking about the glittery London parties; celebrity soups where everyone is busy Instagramming (#Serpentine) and giving themselves whiplash by trying to see who else they should be talking to. My mother threw a summer party in her Sussex garden last weekend which was only fractionally less exalted (no Ellie Goulding, although Beano the puppy was in attendance), but I didn’t stop sweating for three hours while I circulated with increasingly warm bottles of rosé and there are only so many times you can ask someone if they’re going anywhere nice for their holiday.

‘How jolly,’ you think when an invitation arrives, summoning up a Gatsby-esque vision of sunshine and champagne. But worry kicks in not long after that. What to wear? I’ve learnt to avoid colours that show up damp armpit patches after an embarrassing incident with a bright green dress from Cos a couple of years ago. And what to put on your feet? I gave myself a last-minute pedicure last week ahead of a party in London and thought I’d done an adequate job, only to look down later and wonder why my sandals were bursting with bleeding cocktail sausages.

I went to that party on my own which was another cause of angst. One wants to walk into these things looking confident and purposeful, an emperor striding into the Colosseum. I immediately went and stood in the corner with my phone, eyes scanning the room for a familiar head. Then you see someone you met once and fall on them gratefully, but get stuck in the torture of small talk while you try and swallow a drink with some sort of exotic herb floating in it. The weather has indeed been lovely and gosh, yes, isn’t that 15-year-old who beat Venus amazing?

‘Where are the canapes?’ you think. ‘Has there been a death in the kitchen?’ Then a tray comes along and you dive for the biggest but the person you’re talking to does that annoying thing of saying ‘Oh no no, not for me thank you,’ as if a thimble-sized mouthful of salmon is going to tip them into obesity. So then you’re not only trying to think about what to talk about next – can you face asking them what they think of Boris? Is the situation that desperate? – but you’re also worried about your breath. Or, worse, accidentally spitting on them. I went to a party once where the chap I was talking to managed to eject a globule of salmon on to my bare arm but we soldiered on with the conversation anyway, both aware and yet ignoring the fishy tidbit sliding its way down my bicep.

Finally one of you mumbles something about getting another drink and the cycle repeats. You keep checking the time. Oh God, it’s only 6.51pm. Has time every moved so slowly? In the history of parties, has anyone left before 7pm or is that simply too pathetic? You get back fuzzy and attack the bread bin. Such an odd way to spend a sunny summer evening when these days we all have perfectly good televisions at home.


Poor old Ivanka Trump. Twitter is still laughing at a clip of her trying to hold her own while awkwardly chatting to Christina Lagarde, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May (remember her?) at the G20 summit in Osaka. But haven’t we all been there? Haven’t we too suffered the agonies of being at, say, a summer drinks party and feeling we’re out of our depth while the other person challenges us for our opinion on the Northern Irish backstop? What Ivanka should have done is mumbled that she needed the loo and escaped there to gather her thoughts. Take it from one who’s spent quite a lot of time hiding in the bathroom at parties recently while removing borage from her teeth. Works every time.


I’m off to France today* so last week meant a spot of bikini shopping. Having been into the shops I can report that if you’re a dominatrix off to Ibiza for a week then you’re in luck. Loads of options for you – weird straps, metal buckles, strange shapes which reveal a flash of ‘underboob’ as seen on Love Island. (What is this about? At school we were all obsessed with ‘passing the pencil test’ but is a certain level of, ahem, droopiness now de rigeur?) Fewer options for everyone else. I feel sympathy towards the unlucky Glaswegian who went viral last week for pulling on her swimsuit the wrong way up. How is one supposed to tell these days when wearing a simple piece of elastic needs to be performance art. All I want is something cheap and cheerful which I can throw on and not mind when I cover it with Soltan. As Marie Antoinette almost certainly never said, is that asking too much?

(*I didn’t make it to France in the end since I was laid up on a hospital bed, about to have my appendix whipped out. I felt very sorry for myself on Sunday for a second, and then realised it was a good thing my appendix didn’t blow up in rural Provence because I could only have told the French doctors that I liked playing tennis or that the train station was straight ahead.)