Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

There’s nothing you can say at dinner parties, so best to get drunk

Two words are guaranteed to strike terror into normal, well adjusted human beings: dinner party.

The ghastly social occasions feature stilted conversations and citizens behaving in an odd manner, almost as if they were sitting on spikes. It’s most peculiar.

Usually, wine is drunk, but mostly in moderation, making for a dull evening all around, in which everyone behaves themselves and goes home. I’m writing this from hearsay, as I never attend dinner parties.

Generally, I reply to invitations saying that I shall be spending that particular evening immersed in earnest prayer, otherwise I’d love to come. “Indeed, I would have looked in for an hour but, as it happens, on that date, I also have an appointment at the clinic for sexually transmitted diseases.”

That covers most of the bases. Of course, I don’t actually have a sexually transmitted disease. But I attend the clinic frequently, as there’s a better chance of getting one there.

I should say that sexually transmitted disease is one of those fascinating topics that you’re not meant to bring up at the dinner party table. Indeed, according to a survey published by o2 this week, your sex life is the No. 1 taboo topic.

No. 2 is an infidelity, which sounds the same as No. 1, while No. 3 is the state of your finances and No. 4 is how much you earn, which sounds almost the same as No. 3.

The others, ranked by tutting opprobrium, are family planning (see No. 1), your relationship with your partner (ditto), the value of your house (see No. 3 again), politics, serious illness, and religion.

Despite these strictures, two in five respondents said they didn’t give a damn and would discuss anything. These would be the ones wiring into the wine.

A top expert on the subject ululated thus: “Where once we were considered reserved and uptight when it comes to topics of conversation, the nation [eh?] is now more open and ready to talk about things that would once perhaps have made previous generations blush.” Speak for yourself, mate. I remain proudly reserved and uptight, keeping my opinions to myself, other than through newspaper columns and drunken pronouncements in the street.

Actually, when I do meet people socially, one of the topics that always comes up is the need to overthrow the banks and imprison everyone in the financial sector. Another report this week shattered the myth of ‘free banking’, with current account customers charged as much as £900 a year in fines for getting overdrawn.

By a weird coincidence, as I’m writing this, my bank has informed me I’m being fined £50 for being £16 overdrawn for a few hours.

This happened to me before, and only last week the Financial Ombudsman threw out my complaint on the legalistic grounds that, if the bank specifies in microscopic print that this is what it’s going to do, there’s nothing can be done about it. Does that seem somewhat circular to you too?

In the case of my bank, it charges you £25 for being overdrawn and another £25 for the costs involved in charging you £25.

But this is not a fit subject for the dinner table, particularly with all the spittle emanating from my mouth.

Let us talk of sweeter subjects, of syphilis and property values, of God, condoms and boils in private places.

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