What makes a social 'animal'?

6 May 2019

A recent blog was on 'social hibernation'. Moodscopers have written often that any social event, giving or receiving, makes them anxious. I've never done anything, entertaining or appearing in a public event, without a 'frisson'. I would not call it anxiety, but the adrenalin rush (I am sure performers here would agree) which gets you going. If you are so sure of yourself that you do not need it you probably have no 'leavening' of what you are aiming to do.

I am just embarking on about the most ambitious project of my life (except, perhaps, starting university at 50, that was terrifying). This is my 'Talking Shop', or a pretentious 'Salon' in French. People keep popping their heads round the door, and approve of what I am up to. But will they come? Tell others? Help out sometimes? I have been told that 'I know how to receive'. Totally puzzled, what do they mean?

I had no social training, where did it come from? I dealt with my father's customers from about 13 years old. It was an exotic business, foreign birds, I cared for them and caught them. The customers knew Daddy was charismatic, terrific at his job, and treated his daughter like a slave. They were always very nice to me – so I was not scared of dealing with the 'public'.

Daddy took me to a very important dinner – a Duke, American dignitaries, terrifying number of knives and forks. It was not long after the war. I looked with alarm at the hors d'oeuvre plate. One of Daddy's nicest customers was next to me, he comforted me by saying he was leaving the anchovies and olives too.

The 'upper' classes had it easy. Nanny knocked the first manners into the kids, then good schools, and being 'finished' so, although many were probably quaking, they knew the rules of social occasions.

Then you had 'At Homes', Madame X receives on Tuesdays between 2 and 4 p.m, and you did NOT overstay your welcome. If anybody watched 'Cranford' visiting hours were firmly stated and only a disaster could disturb them. The men handed tea cups and bread and butter. Maids hovered.

I look back at photos, of parties in my garden, over 100 people – they all knew each other, and fell on somebody they had not seen for ages. Being English in French society, I had no pre-conceived ideas, the char at the hospital, my neighbour, talked to the Director, whom we met at cocktail parties – they would probably never have met. Until we had a lovely conservatory, I was always nervy about the weather.

The mayor when we came here, a charming Jew, was totally pragmatic when I said I worried about rain. 'Don't worry, we'll just budge up'. He would have moved into any part of the house and continued talking. So, I have no 'recipe' for receiving people at all, they just come. Plenty of food, drink, nice atmosphere and let them get on with it. Anybody got a format?

The Gardener

A Moodscope member.

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