If auld acquaintance be forgot, here's why

By Paul Lester, January 26, 2012
Imagine New Year's eve with The Only Way is Essex

Imagine New Year's eve with The Only Way is Essex

The new Year's eve just gone was a significant one for me - it was my first without my three children since 2006 (my ex-wife was looking after them). This meant I could go out and get plastered and stay up till the early hours without fear of setting a bad example to minors.

Problem was, I didn't want to pay exorbitant holiday prices for a cab, so I decided to go wild and drive to a friend's in Barnet, where I would spend the evening with people I've known since the '60s.

It wasn't quite as tame as that sounds, because said friend was celebrating a significant birthday and he intended to do so in style. And by "in style" I mean "inebriated": there was more drink at his house than at most pubs. Not just beer and wine, either, but spirits and cocktails, the latter concocted by a team of professionals sporting dicky bows and dress shirts.

Yup, this was a posh do - we're talking High Barnet, not its poor relations New or (God forbid) East. You may be surprised to learn that my social circle doesn't entirely comprise impoverished freelance music journalists trying to eke a living interviewing members of obscure indie bands. Some of my friends have successful careers where they earn proper amounts of money, the sort that enable you to buy big houses in the suburbs and throw parties where the kitchen is substantial enough to contain paid staff and enough Jews to make a dozen minyans.

If you didn't know better, you'd swear, sneaking a glance at the smartly dressed lapsed soul boys and immaculately tanned, made-up and designer-clad women, that you'd stepped onto the set of a Jewish version of The Only Way Is Essex - a reality TV show about the trials and tribulations of north-west London's moneyed classes that they could conceivably title Have We Got Jews For You, or (considering some of the things they've seen and done) Herts Of Darkness.

Things got pretty dark on New Year's eve, or at least, dark with a hint of comedy, possibly because most of the assembled were, well before midnight, steaming drunk. Those bottles of spirits got polished off faster than you can say "pass the Courvoisier".

Of course, having to drive home meant I remained stone-cold sober, and that in turn meant that any chit-chat was always going to be a little comical and involve no small degree of confusion due to slurring - theirs, not mine. The fact that said banter took place against a background of deafening funk hits from the early '80s merely added to the bewilderment. My attempt to explain to the wife of a good friend that I'd just done an interview with British rapper Wretch 32, who has had two number one singles and a top five album, was particularly painful.

"Who?" she yelled in my ear to the strains, appropriately, of Luther Vandross's Never Too Much. It was like something out of a bad sitcom. "Wretched Doo? Ratchet Screw?" She really was quite puzzled - I had discussions with my late grandmother that demonstrated a keener awareness of the pop scene than this.

On January 1, following Jewish protocol to the letter - you always do the next-day thank you after a meal or party -- I posted a message on the birthday boy's Facebook page, where I joked that not drinking the night before made some of my encounters a tad less enjoyable than they might have been under the influence. I also made the mistake of singling out one of his relations that "my conversations with X would have been more bearable had I been out of my gourd". Approximately 11 seconds later I got a text from X.

"Thanks for that, you…!" it read, using an expletive not fit for a family newspaper. Immediately I sent a text back, apologising, and explaining that it was meant to be funny. His response was to command me to go forth and multiply, but not in those words.

So that's two theories about Jewish people disproved - that we don't drink, and that we have a sense of humour.

I think, on reflection, that I'll stay in with the children next year.

Last updated: 11:37am, January 26 2012