Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Borrowed Time

I've blogged before I'm sure about German parties, and the 'programme' of entertainment that is usually involved. I can only recount what I've heard from my friends, who've had the misfortune to have to sit through powerpoint displays, teenage son's guitar recitals, family games etc. at various weddings, anniversary and birthday parties.

Each time we get invited to a party I gird myself in preparation for the possibility of an interminably dull evening, but have so far escaped, scot free.

At the beginning of this summer we had a 100th birthday party invite (a couple both turned 50) and I was fully expecting entertainment. But no, cocktails & canapés, then dinner and then a disco - perfect, I danced till my feet hurt (and then had to walk home.) Apparently Ludger (the male half who'd turned 50) detests the formality of a programme and refused to countenance one.

The next party was my neighbour (a mere 40 this one) and I was positive there would be at the very least games or a show or something because this is a couple, who although 'young', love everything that is German Karneval, every year their group of friends (who they will have known since forever) gather in autumn to organise what their costume theme for the upcoming February should be and then they get on with the making of said costumes*. We turned up at the venue, the vaulted, whitewashed cellars under the old station and I thought we were going to get a full on presentation, there was a laptop computer on a table at one end of the room, but no projection screen. It turned out that the laptop belonged to the DJ, so we had another party with canapés and prosecco and then a buffet and dancing. Excellent. When later quizzed as to why there had been no 'entertainment' Katja confessed that although they enjoy the whole Karneval thing, they do it for the social aspect and not for the tradition.

Two weeks ago we had a retirement party (I must be getting old!) and again I expected full on entertainment as the guy is traditional Deutsch, does Karneval every year and is a season ticket holder for his local Schalke football team, plus he's retiring and therefore of an older generation. It was a blisteringly hot day and evening, we stood outside on the terrace/balcony of one of the local upmarket restaurants here, drinking prosecco** eaLinkting weird*** canapés before being ushered inside for a 3 course dinner and wine, wine and more wine but not the hint of a presentation.

Last weekend was another 50th, this one was in the "Unperfekthouse" in the centre of town. A more bonkers building you couldn't dream of. It's a 3 or 4 storey building opposite the main shopping mall that seems to have a student bar/diner on the ground floor, an auditorium, and then rooms everywhere for painting/skulpting/potting/dancing/music/yoga...you can even rent rooms in order to stay over so you don't have to drive home. It's kind of commune meets art college, bizarre. Our friend Thomas had taken over a bar area and large room at the top with access to the roof terrace which would have been fantastic if the weather hadn't turned against him, there were palm trees (ok, so they weren't real and yes they did light up, or at least 2 out of 3 did) shaded seating, beach style showers and a paddling pool. The music had been put into the hands of the 14 year old son, which could have been distasterous as Thomas likes jazz but Timo likes reggae and alternative metal, but I think Thomas had had the forethought to lockdown the system so that Timo had little to do other than look cool with his mates behind the music desk. And yet again no programme, we had a short and to the point speech thanking us for being there and then it was a rush to the heaving buffet tables.

So I'm feeling pretty smug, four parties out of four and at every one the emphasis was on eating, drinking and having fun, my only complaint would be that Germans just don't know how to dress up for a party, to most English girls a party invite is an excuse to go shopping for something pretty and sparkly****, but here they sling on some ratty jeans with a black shirt and butt ugly shoes and think they're dressed.

* I'm not talking pirates and princesses here, we're talking serious costumes, so far I've seen them leaving the house dressed as toadstools, bumble bees and bears.
** Funny isn't it, that although the Germans produce some very fine sparkling wine of their own (Sekt) they mostly choose to drink Italian.
*** Isn't that odd? I always though "I before E, except after C" was an unbreakable grammar rule, loving the fact that it's weird!
**** OK, so maybe the sparkly is just me, I will admit to magpie-like tendencies, I am drawn like a magnet to anything with sequins.

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