Party Pete’s’ the name and keeping people happy is “My raison du jour”: a joke here, drink there; you get the picture. Anyway, to cut a long story short, my friend Eric, a master chef who knows his onions from his shallots, was asked to cook for an event starring some Cabinet Minister. Eric wangled me a ticket so I could share the moment with him: can’t be bad.
Come the night and Eric’s done his cooking and is going for the traditional wander round the room soaking up praise and feeling the love. I go with him, an unexplained presence, but as a friend of Eric’s people let it go. The cabinet minister with his mate: some Earl with the remains of an estate in Devon and a debt or two, if the gossip columns are right, walks up to congratulate Eric on his food.
You know these really successful blokes: he was about my age but unlike me had made a decent pile, got the knighthood, country house and a wife who spoke more than one language, and that understated smug look about him which says “I don’t have to boast about my success because I know you are going to praise and fawn over me anyway.”
Putting my hand up here, if unsteadily I admit, I’d slide outside a glass or three of wine and the need to speak wisdoms in famous company was almost overpowering. You know; make some telling remark or utter that killer phrase which makes these top-table types look at you and say, “This talent should be walking along the corridors of power by my side?”
I decided to take the “Man to man” approach and throw one of my life tips across the bows of his eminence, the cabinet minister and humble lord of all he surveys. As he drew level with me, wife in tow, I leaned in towards him, confidential like, and suggested with a face like that, his wife could do with wearing her dress with a lower neckline if she was to grab the attention of any passing notables. I winked at him then to demonstrate my insight was strictly between him and me and spoken in my capacity as a fellow celebrant in the hall of greatness. Eric stopped and looked at me, and seemed less happy than normal and the cabinet minister’s face was going red although the earl, bless him, started wheezing with laughter until he stifled it with his handkerchief.
“And who are you sir. WHO ARE YOU??” boomed the Cabinet minister in a tone of voice which suggested no social invitations would be forthcoming from certain government departments. “Just trying to be helpful” I said, “It’s the little things isn’t it, or it certainly they are in your wife’s case” I added, chuckling in my best conspiratorial manner, before some security man grabbed me by the arm and propelled me towards the exit. As I left I heard his wife ask “Who is that vile man?”
It was some days before I saw Eric again, and his manner was warmer than I expected. He said, “When the Minister moved on, the Earl came back and invited me down to cook at his place, and said, “Make sure you bring that rude fellow with you.” They may have locked the main entrance but perhaps I’ve discovered the side door into Greatness Villas: only time will tell.