I have just spent a few days away in Sweden. It was my birthday (41 Arrgghhhhh) and the husband and I were invited to join my Swedish friend of 20 years, visiting her family in a small town 30 minutes outside of Stockholm. We arrived, collected our bags and were met at the airport by Uncle, driven to the family’s warm and cosy home, were greeted with a hug from Auntie, bread, cheese, a crazy array of fish pastes in tubes and an incredibly strong cold beer, the average strength is 5.5-6 %… !!!.. After a feed we were shown to our room (their bedroom) where Auntie had placed neatly folded bath towels at the foot of the bed for our morning showers.
We awoke to the smell of fresh coffee, and on the kitchen table was yet another delicious spread. This continued for 3 days, amazing meal after amazing meal, a constant supply of beer or wine or coffee, trips organized to the lakes, ice fishing, a concert in town, all topped off by a Swedish princess birthday cake with candles and being sung 3 different Swedish birthday songs by the whole family, we genuinely couldn’t of been made more welcome, or at home. We are already booking our Swedish summer-time trip, look out The Andersson’s… we are moving in!!!
I, to the contrary, have never been a very good host, I blame it on being an only child with a very small family who weren’t known for throwing parties. We were more of a, “Fancy a cuppa and an episode of Bergerac in front of the Telly?”, kind of family. I’m in awe of people who seem to remain cool, calm and collected whilst making sure guests are comfy, warm enough, cool enough, have a constantly refilled drink, are not hungry and above all, having the most amazing time ever!!..
Sadly, my favourite part of hosting any kind of gathering is the preparation. The cleaning and tidying, shopping for drinks and goodies, the laying of a perfect table, the placement of scented candles and fluffy cushions and the stuffing of the under-stair cupboard with anything that doesn’t aid the ambiance. For this I am in my element, “Oh God I really need to get out”, but “Oh Yeah”, I don’t really like doing that anymore either!!
We all have the friends, you know the ones, who host the most delectable dinner parties, lavish luncheons and an afternoon tea to rival the Ritz, all whilst making their guests feel at home, comfortable and relaxed.. In contrast, I will be stressing as soon as the guests arrive, will undoubtedly forget to offer drinks, the dog will lick the beautifully displayed nibbles on the coffee table. If I’m cooking then the smoke alarm will go off, repeatedly. That will then trigger a hot flush, which invariably will hang about making me a vivid shade of cerise and obviously sweaty until I’m at least 2 glasses of wine in, only to be replaced with alcohol flush, (a much preferable type of flush mind you). As all this is going on, the cat will be quietly helping himself to our freshly plated up prawn cocktails!!!.. As I get older, and supposedly wiser, lessons are learnt, “Who wants what from The Ancient Raj?… they deliver”.
Christmas just gone was a prime example. I normally shy away from the large scale hosting events, not only am I a nightmare to be around, but we have a small (but perfectly formed) home, this year however circumstances dictated that we do the hosting and I’d decided that I was finally going to enjoy it this time, no dramas, a smooth, elegant yet relaxed family soirée.
After a full on barney about mashed potato with the husband, a last minute panic rush to the supermarket for a tub of double cream and a Christmas lighting failure, the guests arrived, laden with gifts and booze. So far so good, everyone has a drink, the less steady on their feet are seated, the smokers are smoking in the designated area, the dog has calmed to a milder level of hysteria and the cat is being successfully fended off the fish balls… and breathe!!!!
I was in the kitchen clearing up after Jamie Oliver (Hubby) when I hear a commotion, a cry of “Noooooo!!”… and my husbands dulcet tones, “Fuck, fuck, fuck”… I rushed in to the front room to find said husband covered from the crotch down with lemonade, he was standing in the middle of the room looking bemused and smelling a bit burnt. Apparently my Christmassy, rustic candle display around the fireplace was a little excessive and may not pass health and safety regulations this year, and whilst leaning over some of our lovely guests to change the record his trouser leg caught fire. Just as my Mother-in-Law was about to chuck her Christmas pudding flavoured vodka over her youngest son in an ill fated but well meaning attempt at putting out the flames, another family member stepped in and doused the whole situation in lemonade…!!!
So, 2 broken glasses and 1 broken bowl, an incredibly sticky floor, 1 sick cat, and 1 ruined pair of jeans later, I finally retire from hosting… I think somethings are better left to the experts, safer all round 😉