I’m not a great party goer, even less a party giver but there have been times when I’ve filled the latter role and it’s turned out rather well. They’re an eclectic mix and evoke multiple memories. It’s amazing what you remember when you set your mind to it. Sadly the photographic record is somewhat limited and even where there are photos they’re not as good as they might be.
1955 or thereabouts: my 8th birthday party
The parties of my childhood weren’t really ‘my’ parties because I didn’t organise them. I had a say on the invite list but the events themselves were organised and managed by my parents. In the 1950s of course there was none of the extravagance that characterises similar parties today so the excitement came from supervised play and a tea. The tea would have been the high point and there was always jelly and blancmange, cupcakes and chocolate biscuits, a birthday cake, and pop. The birthday cake would be adorned with candles, I guess they still are, and the pop would have been fizzy and of the time, I remember Tizer, with no colas but the strangely formulated dandelion and burdock.
The picture above was of one of my parties in those days. I can remember the boys who attended and although we’ve all gone our separate ways I still have contact with and meet the two Davids, Hall and Norbury.
from the left in the photo. Back row: JDJ, not known, Ronnie Brown; front row: David Hall, David Norbury, Graham Bullman. I guess there was another in the back row that the photographer missed.
1969 the end of my undergraduate days party
I enjoyed my university days and the parties which went with it. It was the time when you turned 21 and we all had parties to celebrate the event. Mine was cohosted with several others, it was a black tie job and held at the Dorothy Ballroom in Cambridge. But I was one of a gang of four which hosted a much better and more laid back event after our final exams, but before the results, in 1969.
The other three along with me were Peter Doyle, Ed Libbey and Nick Thompson. I still meet Peter and Ed but Nick’s gone off radar and I haven’t seen him since the four of us met in London in the early 80s.
We held the party in the Churchill pavilion and for some reason branded it as a ‘referendum’ and the invite was in French. It was informal and of the ‘bring a bottle variety’. It was in the early days of disco so we had a ‘professionally’ run disco and arranged for Lance and Audrey from the Churchill bar staff to run that side of the event. That was to prove an inspired decision when we ran out of fizzy wine late in the night and Lance could go and raid the college’s cellars for us.
1976 the leaving Indonesia party
My two years in Indonesia were to some extent my coming of age. It was a period of freedom, relatively generous remuneration and the possibilities afforded by an expat lifestyle. It was characterised by a combination of pretty hard work with a some pretty serious play.
I left the country in August of 1976 at the same time as my good buddy Phil Judd. He was a Kiwi and married Nariko and they eventually ended up running a cycle import business in New Zealand. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to track him down and I fear that he’s already died. That’s Phil in the centre of the photo with the tankard.
Phil and I organised a joint leaving party: Jenkins and Judd, the Last Farewell (remember the Roger Whitaker song of the era). We held it at the Tamarind, a very pleasant small restaurant/bar in Menteng and somehow got it sponsored by the local Guinness company. We served black velvet as the standard drink, started mid afternoon and continued until late at night.
It was sadly a typical expat party with very few Indonesian males although there were lots Indonesia women who were the girl friends of the expat single men like me. However it was otherwise very mixed with the football and ruby playing fraternity on the one hand and more ‘mature’ members of the oil patch on the other. This is the first party which is well recorded in terms of photos and they speak volumes about the spirit of the event.
1986: Swiss national day party
The Swiss national day is the first of August and it’s a day for parties in the evening with lots of fireworks, no matter that the next day is a working day. The best firework displays were and probably still are run by the Gemeinde but there were also many street parties and there was one for Speerstrasse. We lived in an end terrace and had the biggest garden so we got fingered to host the party one year.
This was a party that did not need organising. You just issued the invites and then let it happen. People brought lots of food and drink and fireworks, and tables and chairs and barbeque equipment. Cooking was a DIY job and as long as the drinks remained cool everybody would be happy. And there were always a couple of blokes who’d take charge of the fireworks.
We started in the daylight, it was a summer’s evening of course, then someone would know when would be the right time to start cooking and then to begin lighting the fireworks. Then people drifted away leaving just a hard core of locals to clear up the mess, this was Switzerland after all, and finish off what was left of the booze.
It was a very mixed party, whole families would come, and because it was taking place at our house we got to invite our own guest list in addition to everyone in the neighbourhood. That meant to some extent that it was a tribal event with our largely Swiss neighbours on the one hand and our friends from the Dow Chemical community on the other.
2007 my 60th birthday party
Juni decided that we should have a party for my 60th and for this one we did it properly. Firstly given the vagaries of British weather we hired an enormous awning to cover a large part of our back garden. Then we hired a jazz band to play music, arranged for David Robinson, our local butcher, to put on a hog roast to complement the caterers who laid on a buffet, and got a photographer to record the event.
It was a big and very civilised event (see the photo above) and it didn’t rain but the awning probably kept us a little warmer through the evening.
There was a very mixed guest list with people drawn from multiple tribes. There were the neighbours of course, if you’re going to make a noise invite the neighbours, there was the County Council Lib Dem group, I had just been elected leader, and there were my work colleagues from Qi3. Plus a bunch of friends both recent and from the past including John Rickards, from my school days and Ed Libbey, Julian Filochoski and Dudley Williams from my Churchill time. Plus of course Clare and Charles, the former with Alex who’s now her husband.
There have been other parties of course. There was my leaving party in Hong Kong where a photo taken of an adjacent table almost sparked a fight, there was my 40th in Switzerland, and my 50th at Pease Way when it was so cold we huddled around the gas boiler event to keep warm. All great memories and I’m glad that I’ve got the photos from the more recent ones.