It was the sort of smart literary party which mostly does not exist any more and to which I only occasionally get invited, which means that, when I do, I go, because damn it, I am an eminent reviewer and lots of these successful writers and publishers are as vaguely afraid of me as I am of them. Besides, this particular party was for a new novel by my friend Shena, whom I have know for about twenty years and who has no side at all. We have looked after each other in emotional crises and got drunk together - in the days when I drank. And she is lovely - someone who was cute - I am told - in her teens and is still cute in middle age. She is also probably the best living British short story writer, but I may be biased.
I sometimes forget how many of these people I have back-story with. There was an editor who didn't speak to me for years because a review of mine got him into political trouble with his boss and an author who didn't speak to me for ages over a review I thought of as positive, but had minor criticisms. There was my neighbour Mary with whom I share taxis home from these things and my friends Paul and Jeremy who are brilliant and camp and scabrous. There was Georgie, whom I muddled with another friend I haven't seen for years, but in whose eyes I managed to redeem myself with funny stories about the Poet Laureate, and Caro who told me that I should try and sell the memoirs far further up the market than I have tried to so far and failed because the bits of anecdote I told her made her laugh - and she is a tough house.
There were canapes and Shena's charming family and a lot of people getting falling-over drunk in a posh way and there was at least one fit of hysterics but I did not know what it was about. Afterwards, I got a cab home with Mary and Paul and Jeremy and spent most of the journey being nervy and quiet because they are all aggressive and were all pretending to take offense at what the others said and every so often having a go at me.
'Roz is being quiet', they chorused. 'Makes a change!'
And my knees hurt from yesterday - religion involves too much kneeling, but it is all about family. Literary life of the sort I was doing tonight is, I guess, one of my families, but I would no more want to be there all the time than I would want to do the whole blood relatives thing all the time. But smart bitchy parties are part of who I am - part of the fantasy life I had as a provincial teenager and got to live out and mostly enjoy.