HH (Handsome Husband) announced some time ago that we had been invited to the annual PartyFest hosted by dear friends whose company is rare given the distance between our homes; given our joint commitments we struggled to make a decision.
I confess however, to some reticence; sleeping in Eric, our darling but ancient VW Camper and dressing up in garb other than my normal wear isn’t really my thing … and this one presented a Gold theme. Hmm. And Hmmmm again.
Last week was (another) tough one and by Friday I was shouty, tearful, belligerent and utterly fed up, so when our Hostess called to check our attendance, I capitulated: It’s not Hackney … and I just have to get out of here! I cried and despite our last-minute acceptance of a kind invitation, we were welcomed with open arms into an event that was JoyFest pure and simple.
Eric chugged gently towards Coventry arriving at our deep-country destination early afternoon; we set ourselves down amongst fellow glampers and venturing to the house found a rich landscape that stretched as far as the eye could see taking in myriad fields, trees, sheep and a beautiful lake. Hosts and old friends of HH welcomed us into the fold, drinks were served and gentle music lapped around us as we relaxed into our new surroundings. After a delicious lunch I retreated into Eric for a deep two-hours sleep until murmurings of music beyond woke me and I prepared for the evening’s shenanigans.
Despite the last-minute decision to attend, HH had overnight attended to the dress code: T-Shirts bore large gold hearts and our sprayed trainers shone brightly … we were ready.
Those with more time to prepare had gone all-out; sparkling cloaks, crazy headgear and sequined skirts, slacks and frocks abounded together with lighted headgear and more; within these outré outfits were some of the most interesting, kind and friendly folk with whom I am now happily acquainted.
Our first conversation with a young newlywed couple was joyful; these two were clearly made for each other, sparkling with love and life. Conversation number two evolved with a gentleman who opened with a tale of his first visit to the Torture Garden where, having been advised to wear ‘uniform’ he dressed as a butler. A German lady announced that he might make a splendid slave and ordered him to find a leash and collar, which were duly attached to him.
Hmm, as I considered revised expectation … I didn’t know it was this kind of a party …. Gentle reader, it was not and my as new friend moved on to other more salubrious tales of here and there I found him to be engaging and funny.
Things rolled along beautifully; this set of HH’s friends I have met only a few times given they are spread across the country and it was good to get to know them better. Everyone was camping one way or another and whilst my past experiences of muddy fields and filthy loos turned me off the whole festival experience, this was a Whole Different Thing, civilised, organised and just fine by me.
The night progressed, we danced, we chatted; a Veterinary Surgeon and his Primatologist wife were bedecked in spangles, sequins and silk, she with an impressive gold feathered headdress. These two were super-fun and we spoke extensively over the course of the night, our conversations punctuated with the meeting of minds of others, all interesting to a fault. A key party player was affable and charming Dr D; in golden military jacket he cut a fine figure and seemed to be everywhere all at once.
Deciding that this time I would mind my intake, I added a full glass of water to a shot of whisky declaring to an interested party that over the course of a night water can be so effing dull … the upshot of this diluted cocktail imbibed throughout is … no hangover.
As I weaved my way back and forth to Eric to top up my whisky-water, I witnessed much and many goings on; the most compelling was the vision through opaque canvas of a lighted headdress moving up and down in an interestingly slow, measured way … so tempted was I to see who emerged it took a will of iron to move along and allow those inside their privacy. Thereon, I studied everyone with such headgear wondering … was it you? Who were you with?
Another amusing episode as I occupied the most hygienic Portaloo ever, was a ruckus coming from two doors down – it sounded busy in there and as I emerged from mine, five people tipped out of another tiny cubicle … I mean, crikey, five? They were in jolly good spirits, amused by something I wish I knew more about.
As the night wore on and a chill pierced the air, the gathering slowly ebbed and flowed into The Barn where DJs blasted great tunes across the dancefloor, a beautifully organised bar served cocktails to the increasingly lively and very happy guests. Outside a fire was lit, encircled by folk perched on tree stumps whilst murmured conversations filtered from one to another, a beautiful girl almost melted into the tree against which she leant, staring sleepily into the flames.
Mum and Dad PartyFest were present throughout; this being their home they have hosted the party for many years, now handing the baton to the next generation, hence our presence there. These two were equally bedecked in fabulous gear, she in sequined loon pants and he in a flowing golden gown they were the life and soul partying late into the night, celebrating 50 years of marriage.
It was also an event of more general celebration; to a Birthday Guest was presented an opulent and beautifully decorated cake commissioned from a Bake-Off contestant and the recent history of which I was told had to be kept from her, for it had fallen not once but twice. Perfectly reconstructed, set on a gently spinning platter and bedecked with sparklers, the confection seemed no worse for its adventures.
Sometime before the sun set, a party photo was organised with around 100 golden guests gleefully responding to the patient photographer. An interesting piece of social commentary would be to see this image taken again with everyone in their civvies and workwear for, given the sheer variety of professions, skills and careers of those present it would be another Whole Different Thing.
As we alternated between Barn and Fire, the sun set and a full Strawberry Moon rose into the night sky, a thing of great beauty. The fall of darkness meant HH could embark on a spot of fire-spinning, which preceded a fabulous firework display, both sparkly performances eliciting Ooohs and Ahhhs from those present. There followed a gracious delivery of thanks from Next Generation Host to her predecessors – very moving and absolutely right.
For HH and me, the night drew to a close and in the early hours we slipped away to Eric, donning layers and layers of protection from the very chill air, sinking into our soft feather pillows and under a big fluffy duvet drifted into peaceful slumber.
The morning arrived clear, sunny and very warm; a Burrito Breakfast* was the best I have had in years, enhanced by the company of The Sussex Two, whose own bash we attended last year.
Breakfast and goodbyes over, we embarked on our return journey with happy hearts and despite the lack of hangover by the time we arrived back I craved something more to pop me back into shape. Within half an hour Gigi’s Reboot Salad* was on our plates providing the energy and impetus for this blog, which I write to confess my original reticence and how very misplaced it really was.
To the lovely man who shared his menthol filters with me, thank you.
To Blue and co-DJs who spun the most excellent tunes, thank you.
To those who cooked, served and ameliorated everything, thank you.
To the fine and lovely folk who made me feel so welcome, thank you.
Most of all, to our Hosts of generations both, thank you.
© Giovanna Forte 2023
Below: This Is Not Hackney