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The Not So Secret History – The Party

Flora Symington reflects on the chaos accompanying her recent house party in Cowley in the latest instalment of her column.

I’m beginning to think a fortnightly column simply isn’t enough to cover everything that goes on in this house of mine. To give you a brief summary, in the last two weeks we’ve: hosted a party, had a long-awaited near miss with the infamous sewage hole, unexpectedly put up an overnight guest, and bailed out our downstairs corridor after a flood. So buckle up, readers, it’s going to be a wild ride. 

Let’s start with what we might call the main event: the post-collections/housewarming/belated birthday party at the end of noughth week. After much discussion of exactly which cups we were going to allow people to drink from and how much light we wanted in the dancing room, we had the house and ourselves party-ready rather earlier than we were expecting. With an unforeseen half hour to spare, we responded in the only way that was reasonable, and decided elaborate drinks were in order. The spirits we had hidden moments before miraculously reappeared, and espresso martinis all round seemed like an appropriate choice. By the time we had succeeded in making them – a process which involved a lot of pouring of coffee from one receptacle to another, not to mention the shaking of brown sticky liquid in a container with a very precarious lid – we had successfully undone all our hard work cleaning the kitchen, and the guests were arriving. At least we had started as we meant to go on…

The party was an all-round success as far as I was concerned: a respectably high proportion of those who clicked ‘Going’ on the Facebook event actually came, and a respectably low proportion of these disgraced themselves. I don’t want to go into too many graphic details (readers of this column have heard more than enough about our plumbing system and what goes into it for the time being), but suffice it to say that the plastic bowl we served punch from at the start of the night was serving a different purpose by the end. The garden was (almost) fixed, so I spent most of the night out there, chatting and keeping half an eye on the box of gravel we’d put over the final exposed portion of the sewage pit. 

I’m going to take a risk here and tell a story which, if the relevant person ever reads this column, might cause some upset – but given the amount of alcohol consumed by the time this incident occurred, I think I’m probably safe. One unfortunate party-goer, walking just behind the only person all night with a strong enough stride to dislodge the box of gravel, ended up plunging her foot straight down the hole. I swooped in before she had sunk past the ankle, but not before someone behind had shrieked ‘she put her foot in the sewage!’

‘Sewage?!’, the poor girl shouted at me in distress.

 ‘Not sewage! Drainage.’, I replied soothingly, setting her on her feet again. 

‘Oh thank god!’, she said, stumbling off into the garden. 

Now, in my defence, what I said wasn’t actually a lie. Our waste does, technically, ‘drain’ into that trench in the garden. It’s just that the word sewage conjures a much more disturbing image to someone who has just put their foot in it. The damage had already been done, and her foot hadn’t actually touched anything except some dank underground earth – if I had been in this position, I would have liked to have been told anything that would have made me feel better in the moment. 

Incidentally, this very question had arisen in earlier household debates about how we should handle the sewage-pit-in-the-garden situation. The Poet, who suffers from a heavy conscience (at family dinner the other day we decided to label everyone with a complex – they got guilt), was in favour of a message on the Facebook event to warn all attendees of the potential danger, and the Classicist concurred. The Cook, favouring a more free-range approach, thought they should take their chances. I pointed out we could always sue the landlord if anyone did get injured.  The Thespian took the middle road and suggested a sign on the garden door which would warn people if they cared to look, but wouldn’t scare them off coming, with which we all agreed, at least in theory. But somehow none of us got round to putting it up. Anyway, Sewage Girl suffered nothing more than a brief moment of horror, which I quickly dismissed, so no harm done. 

The night was rounded off at a suitably ungodly hour, and only one party guest was left tucked up on the sofa in an unfit state in which to walk home. It’s a shame my brief doesn’t allow me to include pictures, or I would be regaling you all with a visual rundown of the night too, for there was – as one partygoer exquisitely put it on the Facebook the next day – ‘a scrumptious number of digi cams on the loose’. 

Coming down into the kitchen the next morning with the mysterious clarity that sometimes comes with the very first stage of a hangover, however, I found said guest had vanished. The plastic bowl we’d left him nursing lay washed up on the side, the blanket was folded neatly back onto the sofa. When later quizzed about his mythical departure, a mist seemed to descend over his eyes, as he explained that he’d been awoken by the rising sun, and began his journey home across the city in the dawn. It’s the most poetic way I’ve ever heard anyone describe a walk of shame, but oddly enough, I sympathised; I’ve rarely seen the dreaming spires look more beautiful than in the first light of a Sunday morning. 

Since that weekend we’ve all settled into a rather quieter routine, with lots of nights in drinking tea and cultivating a sourdough starter. The biggest drama of last week was the day of the horrific rain storm, which saw the Cook stealing the Classicist’s towel to mop up the water cascading in from under our back door. The subsequent email to the letting agent provoked a response which included  the exceedingly gratifying phrase ‘I’m so sorry to hear there’s been yet a further issue at the property’. ‘Yet a further issue’! Never in the history of student tenancies has such an admission of guilt been made by the owner to the tenant, and, sure enough, a drain was put in outside our back door the very next day. Perhaps the Poet has a point – it seems guilt is a potent force.

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