God have mercy. I’ve been trying to concentrate for hours to no avail. It's not the usual screaming from the street outside my window, or the text I have in front of me. It's just that tonight is December 12, 2012, and everybody is happy (screamingly so), that nothing has ended.
Shame really, for all the parties and the rivers of expensive champagne flowing all over city on this obsviously uneventful early morning.
Yes, you heard right: the night of the 12th had been advertised by clubs and night-life promoters as the last night of this world. Invitations to parties and events read something like 'if we are all going to kick the bucket tonight, let’s drink and eat and party to our hearts' content for one last time'. Quite a few followers and believers said yes. I said no.
Let me explain: I have nothing personal against partying. But it's not the same since the smoking ban in all enclosed spaces was enforced. Sterilised, baby-proofed gatherings are not exactly my scene. I always end up on terraces, balconies, or in the street, staying away from the entrance to stay legal, i.e. I am smoking under the rain which is magical if one is in a Κieslowski movie, but not so in those rare occasions that one is not, and then it's simply pneumonia you get not an Oscar nomination, plus your cigarette gets soaked and apart from deadly, that’s not cost effective at all.
Until someone invents smoking speakeasies, I refuse to go out.
Well, I am about to make an exception as it is the season of exceptions, lower prices and morals, unashamed luxury, and the rise of anxiety (among else) for the horizontally challenged. So, I decide to accept one of the many (2 and 1/2) invitations I received. Firstly, because the party is in a house (a four-floor mansion in Belgravia actually), and secondly, because it would be a chance to meet new, possibly useful and hopefully pleasant people.
The party is on Thursday night, December 13th, i.e. the day after the coming end of the world. That means that the host, a Napoleonic scholar/collector I met a few years ago, has an actual sense of humour, not to mention a strong belief that the Mayas had no clue about the end of the world, or any other end for that matter, because if they had, they would have predicted the end of their own culture and would have left in time (for Mykonos, where any self-respecting person goes when culture runs out).
Of course, there is a theme for the party: The Interwar Years 1918-1939, (perfect!) but With a Twist! (hmmm…).
I am well equipped in terms of tweed, both vintage and new, so no problem there. I put on my grey wool cap and around 9, here I am, ringing the bell, holding a bottle of gin and a 1936 edition of Oliver Twist (Volume 1).
The invitation said 7.45, so I am comfortably somewhere between rude (“he’s Greek, isn’t he?”) and fashionably late.
Introductions, gin & tonic, more introductions, pleasantries, gin, stepping on someone's foot, Oh there's X, how nice!, got to wee, upstairs bathroom, long queue, hmmm, downstairs bathroom, kitchen, glass of tap water, wow we are smoking everywhere, someone's playing jazz upstairs, what's this green cord, oups…damn, somewhere in the other end of the room a huge Christmas tree trembles, the piano music stops abruptly, piano and player entangled in a green mess, people giggle cautiously, I look at Ronald, everybody looks at him before deciding whether what happened is funny or tragic, Ronald doesn't give a damn, turns back to a Japanese girl dressed like a 1920s waiter, explaining why J.L.David offered his services to Napoleon, indifferent to the fact that Moriko does not speak French, she is not even one of his guests, the party is in full swing, more gin, someone has hastily put the tree back up behind the piano, more introductions, OK I'm bored, I need to sit somewhere, a door on my left, I look around, no one is looking, handle turning inside my palm…
Nice. An empty room. Just my luck. On the wall opposite the entrance another door, with a sign on it: "End of the World Shelter". It's unlocked. Aha, so Ronald did make provisions just in case the Mayas had not gotten their days wrong!
Nothing useful in there. A persian carpet covers the floor wall to wall. In the middle of the room, a French empire recamier chaise in white leather and trimmings of mink, and on top of it a bottle of Romanée Conti next to a crystal glass. Next to them, a silver frame with a picture: Ronald, Alison and their three kids, December 1985, their last Christmas before the divorce. Just before she took the kids with her back to Vancouver. Oh, yes, and a cigar resting unsmoked on a silver ashtray.