Do you remember those money-strapped student nights? Lidl Vodka (fantastically named ‘Putinoff’), watery mixers, questionably stained carpets, decamping in the various ex-council houses around Camden?
Neither can I.
I enjoyed my fair share of house parties and budget nights during my undergraduate years but, being a London student, I had other resources at my fingertips. A beautiful friend and sloane ranger rip-off blazer and skirt combination could guarantee entry into Tonts, Bart’s and Tramp. A train-wreck succession of older partners (all of whom seemingly worked – nebulously – ‘in finance’) took me on heady excursions around established London eateries – Scott’s, Firehouse, Novikov, Hibiscus – and drinks in places where sticky floors could never haunt me – Searcys, Sushisamba, Aqua. I learnt from them about whole other worlds: a first champagne tasting do (Bollinger!); the sensuous curvature of Rodin; that Sibelius perhaps wasn’t the noisy hindrance I had so long consigned him to be. I gained the most from a remarkable friend who, with cherubic idealism and a self-assuredness that came straight from the Fourth Form Room, taught me to think less, criticise less and love more.
And so, I found myself, in the first year since graduation, sitting around a beautifully unvarnished mahogany table near Lennox Gardens, nursing a glass of Hundred Acre cab sauv and defending my analyst to a group of assorted yuppies. The evening had been comfortable – formulaic, even.
- Aperitif – Krug – hello. Haven’t seen you in yonks. How’s it going?
- Starter – Armand Rousseau – talks despairingly about the General Election just past. Consensual begrudging kudos to Corbyn. It is hard to be magnanimous when your party has just been bludgeoned on the head by a man who grew his beard in protest against Tony Blair.
- Main – Hundred Acre – moves on to relationships. We have amongst us neither married partners nor settled couples. Instead, a group of pedantic and slightly defensive late twenty to mid thirty year olds (and me, selflessly bringing down the group average as usual). There is a guy having an affair with his married best friend. Our host, who is programmed against monogamy and a relationship of equals, relates his recent string of unsatisfactory dates. Numerous attempts are made to try and link these to psychological shortcomings. Isn’t it odd that Freud always seems to appeal most to the bourgeoisie?
- Pudding – Yquem – the slightly racier side of earlier conversation.
And so forth. We got entirely pissed, loud and argumentative and divided the rest of the evening between Tonts and Ubers.
Fast forward a week later and I have the very great pleasure of listening to one of my flatmates, and her assorted same-aged work friends, throwing up spectacularly in the loo (much to the ire of the rest of the flat). The seduction of Putin(off) has felled many a stronger character.
I realise, with a not unpleasant jolt, that my such days are behind me. I have distanced myself more than I cared to realise and cheerily waved goodbye to all appropriate aged activity. I have leapt, it seems, straight into the realm of the dinner party. Civilised, mouthy, and without any irritating electronic beats until some bar, club or lounge is decided upon at an appropriate junction.
It suits me very well, more than I probably care to admit. I like going to a party and know that no-one’s going to be dressed in Nike and that all surfaces will be clean and I won’t have to start drinking budget white rum when whatever bottles I brought sadly run out. It’s the eternal snob in me, one which I’ve come to reluctantly embrace.
The question I’m trying to answer (and I’m only still awake because of the constant backtrack of vomit. Bathrooms are not known for being soundproof) is – what is it I am missing out on? My best guesses are:
- A sort of camaraderie unique to same-aged friends
- A devil-may-care vibe that simply cannot manifest when you’re trying to ardently defend Wagner
- General lack of pretension
- Cheaper companionship
Yet, I struggle to believe that such things really matter. It is a transient time anyway, and we glean different things from the cheerful limitation that is studenthood. I did my time and decided I wanted out. It’s just that I jumped a whole decade ahead.