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I've Been to a Marvellous Party

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‘Bloody artists! Bloody artists and their bloody ideas of freedom and self-expression!’

Harriet, engaged in pulling her pyjama jacket over her head, heard the front door crash open, and Eiluned’s outraged tones sounding over the departing taxi suddenly quelled in answer to a hissed Quiet! You’ll wake Harriet.

‘I’m awake anyway.’ She fastened her pyjama trousers and ambled out into the small sitting room. ‘What are you shouting about?’

‘So-called artists,’

‘And their so-called art. Thank heavens we’ve got that bottle of gin in - chuck me that lemon, Harriet, and I’ll do the honours.’

‘So,’ Sylvia put her drink on a plant stand and put her hands behind her head. ‘We were at the Gibbins’ and Nikolai Demidoff was talking about freedom of expression, and -

‘Nudity -’

‘And then someone started going on about post-lapsarian inhibition, and how the only free soul was in a free body -’

Harriet laughed. ‘I have a horrible feeling I can see where this is going.’

‘Dead right.’ Eiluned rang her glass against a chair leg and declaimed in clerical tones, ‘The sacred art of groping.’

‘I’m not sure who first proposed all the girls taking their shirts off -’

‘Laura’s always been a complete exhibitionist, and you know, nobody minds it in Laura because she does at least have some sense of where and when, but then people started joining in -’

‘All pretending to be polite, you know, I’m only asking, you don’t have to say yes, poor little prude -’

‘Bloody Marcus -’

‘Eiluned gave him a black eye, and then Jessica got terribly upset because of course she’s desperately in love with Bill and he was pawing practically everybody else -’

‘Then Bob got jealous, and it became apparent that he’d had rather too much to drink, and Nikolai tried to take him outside -’

‘And what do you know, he started shrieking about being assaulted -’

‘And then we finally made it to the door with Marjorie Phelps and bolted. Actually, I think Marjorie rather fancied staying to see what happened, but we had a feeling that it was getting rather noisy and the local bobby’s the inquisitive type, and she seemed to think it would be a bit shy-making in front of Mamma to be had up for a breach of the peace at a semi-nudist revel so she came along. Besides, no-one bags a taxi like Marjorie, for which we were very glad to have her.’

‘Harriet, I apologise. Here are we saying, Come out, forget it, reclaim the floor, and the parties we try to drag you to turn into orgies.’

‘It’s all right. I’m glad I wasn’t there, but it’s very entertaining hearing about it. I assumed Phil wasn’t there, by the way - it doesn’t quite sound like his thing.’

‘No, he wasn’t. Ryland Vaughan was, though. You’ve never seen someone leave a room so fast as he did when Laura started unfastening her corsets. He was positively green.’

‘But I must say,’ mused Sylvia, ‘I rather hope the neighbours do call the police. I don’t want to find that every time I go to a party that half the neighbourhood expects to put its collective hands down my dress in return for a drink. Not that I’ve got much to worry about, but they were all after Eiluned. I’m not sure about you, Harriet - a borderline case, perhaps.’

‘That might depend on what Phil’s told them.’

‘Harriet - ’

‘No, I‘m sorry. Give me another drink.’

‘Right-ho.’ Sylvia handed over a glass. ‘I think I’m going to paint them. I’ll have them all dreadfully serious and German about it, with medieval devils looking on and leering. For now, though - Eiluned, would you be a darling because Harriet’s dressed for bed and I can’t be bothered, and run and get some chips? I’m starving, and the blasted baker didn’t call so there’s nothing for toast.’

‘You’re a sloth and a slugabed.’

‘I know.’ She swung her feet up on to the table. ‘But at least I’m honest about my vices. And I really do fancy some chips.’