Saturday, 5 February 2011

Posh Golf, Get-Togethers, And The Sheer Hell Known As Small Talk.

Why do I complain about having no social life? Why? Just be careful what you wish for, that's all I can say.

"Don't forget tonight's fancy dress," says Max, while we're eating breakfast.

"What?" I say. "Fancy dress? Since when?"

Honestly, sometimes I'm sure he's got me well-insured and is trying to kill me off - though I suppose he wouldn't have attempted the Heimlich Manoeuvre if that was really the case. (Note to self: watch paranoia levels.)

Anyway, once I've finished choking on my toast, Max explains that Celia, his colleague, has decided that tonight's "little get-together" is to be themed. For God's sake.

"So what's the theme, then?" I say. "It'd better be something simple, seeing as you've left it until now to tell me about it."

"Um, no," he says. "Which is sort of why I couldn't bring myself to tell you. It's 'posh golf'."

Posh golf? What the hell is that? I suspect I become slightly hysterical at this point but, once I've stopped hyperventilating, Max admits that he has no idea what the stupid theme means either. Then he says that he's just going to to wear his suit, on the grounds that that's as posh as he ever gets.

"Oh, and we have to bring a hamper of food, as well," he says. "So we can have an indoor picnic, apparently."

I look at him as if he has lost his mind, before tearing upstairs and rifling through my wardrobe, which turns out, as expected, to contain no golf-related clothing whatsoever.

When my search area widens to encompass Josh's room, I do find an old fedora hat - which Max decides to appropriate - but, unsurprisingly, there's nothing to indicate that teenage boys have any more of a plus-four fetish than do their parents.

Meanwhile, Max has discovered, after a visit to the loft, that we don't possess anything that could pass for a hamper, either - which I could have told him if he'd asked.

Preparations are thus not going well at all, but Max won't hear of it when I suggest we tell Celia that we've suddenly gone down with the Winter Vomiting bug, not even when I point out that then we could stay in and watch The Killing on BBC4 instead - which would be a lot more fun, as far as I'm concerned. He says we have no option but to go, as this sort of socialising is unofficially required as part of his job.

So, after I've had several nervous breakdowns and have done more than my fair share of swearing, we make our way to Celia's dressed as Coco Chanel and an unidentified gangster - who is carrying a picnic in a Tesco carrier bag and doesn't even have a gun. This last may be a good thing, given that my mood is best described as murderous.

"I think we've missed the golf bit out completely," I say, as the taxi turns into Celia's road, but Max just shrugs as if it's of no consequence, which may be because he already knows we won't be the only ones. I just wish he'd told me about his bloody premonition, before I turned myself into a pearl-clad dog's dinner.

Half the guests haven't bothered to dress up at all, and even the couple who've made the most effort have missed the mark, unless they know something about golfers that I don't. They've come as a cowboy and the owner of the best little whorehouse in Northwick.

"Nice reference to Tiger Woods," says Max, who is scarily good at small talk, and obviously knows more about both golf and men's leisure activities than I do.

"Mmm," I say.

This scintillating comment is about as good as my contribution to the conversation gets. God, chit-chat is boring. And who the hell are these people? I ask Max, who says they're mainly clients, or people who work for companies related to his.

"The Beales brothers seem fascinating conversationalists, all of a sudden," I say. "I'd even be happy to see Steve Ellington walk in."

"Shut up,"  says Max, sotto voce. "This is how the cream of Northwick society amuses itself. Go and have another cigarette if you can't stand it."

I do as he suggests, and don't think anyone notices that I spend the rest of the evening in Celia's back garden but, even so, I'm pretty relieved when there's a beep outside, and Max comes to the back door to tell me that our taxi is here.

I thank Celia, (though I don't think I'm as enthusiastic about her husband's plus-fours as she would have liked), and then I attempt to do some air-kissing. Max is very good at it, and gets round all the female guests at lightning speed, but I really shouldn't have moved in to kiss the woman from the Chicken Ranch while talking at the same time.

"For God's sake, Mol," says Max, as he bundles me into the taxi. "Are you choking again?"

"Feather boa," I say. "Inhaled. Be all right in a minute."

The driver asks if I'm going to be sick, and has to be reassured that I've only had three G&Ts.

"Bit of a poor night, was it, then?" he says.

"Yes," I say. "All posh golf, Pimms, and talking about nothing. How's yours been?"

Max says I never know when to ask questions and when not to - but, honestly, the poor, poor taxi driver. It turns out that he had an awful experience with some students a few weeks ago, when he was driving them home from a night-club.

They were really drunk and made him drive them miles out of Northwick, claiming that they lived in one of the satellite villages.

"Then I felt a gun in my back, and one of them said, 'Give us all your money, now,'" he says. "I thought I was a goner."

"Oh, my God," I say. "What on earth happened then?"

"The guy started laughing, and said it was a joke. That he'd only stuck his finger between my shoulder blades. 'For a laugh,' he said it was."

Now the driver sounds as if he's the one who's choking, so I wait without saying anything. Small talk's not appropriate in every situation, after all. Then he blows his nose, clears his throat and continues as if he hadn't even paused for breath:

"Except it wasn't funny, was it?" he says. "This is the first night I've worked since then and, to be honest, I'm not at all sure I can handle it any more. Not everyone behaves like you people, and the money's not so good that it feels worth the risk of trying to handle the ones who don't."

Max leaves a big tip, which we can't afford, but he doesn't say much when we let ourselves into the house. He just goes straight to bed, leaving me downstairs, sitting on the sofa and thinking. Hard.

Why did I find the taxi driver more interesting, and easier to relate to than any of Max's colleagues? And why can't I do bloody small talk any more? I am obviously drawn to misery, and doomed to stay a caseworker forever.


  1. Posh golf? What is that? Can you elaborate it more?

  2. Your guess is as good as mine. Or probably better...