A lot of it is a matter of logistics - you go to an awards ceremony like the Arthur C.Clarke do, and afterwards a bunch of people are going to a restaurant and you tag along because many of them are your friends and some of them are people you rarely get to talk to. You know there is a party near home that you promised you would look in at, and you know that travelling across London in the course of a Sunday evening is a long journey. And you know that the Polish restaurant takes forever to serve food, not least because they always mess up some of the orders.
They bring the vegetarian platter for the vegetarian who is lactose intolerant, only they forgot not to put cream sauce on his potato pancakes. They don't bring the mixed cabbage salads. And they insist on putting both tables on the same bill in spite of the fact that one table had a lot to drink and the other did not. I love that restaurant, so handy for the museums and concerts, and yet it is also true that somehow every night is amateur night and some nights one is not in the mood. So everything takes longer than you meant it to and even leaving an estimate for your share of the bill you don't get out of the place until gone eleven. You have had a lot of good conversation and yet you are worrying about letting other people down.
The journey is as nightmarish as you imagined - Saturday night in the West End is full of people who think it amusing to jump in front of buses as a demonstration of machismo, or something. Your bus moves by fits and starts and you feel positively seasick. You ring the party and it is clear from the noise that it is still going on, and so you don't just head for home as a part of you wants to, a part that says, oh god, the few people left will all be drunk and obnoxious and then you will have to either walk home down not especially safe streets or get a taxi which will take forever to come and cost the earth to take you not really very far. On top of the taxi you are going to take to get there in the first place because streets are not safer at midnight than at two in the morning. You get as far as Essex Road, Islington, and then you get out near the minicab office and hail a passing taxi before having even to think about waiting for a minicab.
In the end, it was still a good party. Mary is sixty, but she and her friends were being the cool kids who dance well to Motown that they have been since their teens and will probably be until they drop. Sometimes you don't feel like dancing yourself, but it is a pleasure to watch other people doing it. You said hi to a few friends and had a long conversation with a couple of people you know across crowded rooms and now know to talk to - and not drinking is less of an issue than you thought it would be. You are not the only person aged out of booze.
And you even get a lift home and walk to a car through the crisp air of early morning.
The next day, of course, you are too wiped to do anything much, but that is the price of good times.