Sobriety has never interfered with my sociability. To compensate for the loneliness of writing and rural isolation, I invite friends around for meals and go out to suppers and picnics with alarming frequency.
Crawled out of my sick bed early yesterday evening and went off to have supper with a chef friend at a refurbished Cape Dutch restaurant managed by theatrical types who fancy themselves as restaurateurs. We were both underwhelmed by the food, dabs of smoked salmon with sour cream and a frond of dill, followed by dull pork neck casseroled and dryish chicken breasts with mushrooms. Unimaginative and not the right menu for a hot evening — we sat out overlooking the garden with new rosebushes ( a waste of water) and lanterns hung to attract moths rather than shed light. I hate trying to find food on my plate by forking around hopefully in the dark with my thumb as a marker. But the conversation with N was good, and we shared anecdotes about our travels, favourite restaurants, his getting over the death of his gay partner after 22 years together, going on in the world alone. People are often so much braver than they themselves suspect.
Came home and had my hot milk, read the 12×12 on Step 7, fell asleep as if charmed (sadly, conference-approved AA literature has that effect on me) and woke fully restored to rude health. Now I am off to eat shortbread with an elderly friend who staged Ionesco in Budapest in the 1960s, then have lunch under a pergola in the garden with an artist who designs her garden to resemble Monet’s Impressionist paintings, and out tonight to celebrate the 60th birthday of a farmer, kindhearted and deaf. His svelte blonde wife has taken to bellowing at everyone like a vexed fishwife. She does however cook like a angel: phyllo pastry baskets of asparagus souffle, bitter and refreshing mesclun salads, subtle beef rounds with pickled walnuts, desserts that are all syllabub and honeycomb. And another great deep verandah overlooking a starlit valley of vines and poplars.
And from now until New Year there will be parties in swept barns and huge living rooms with high ceilings of yellowwood, under marquees on lawns, and around kitchen tables with nuts and fruit set out glowing in lamplight. I feel quite dizzy with pleasure. Una is even more sociable than I am and plans to attend several parties in the course of a single evening. She will also be working right through Christmas, nursing those unable to get into local hospitals or reach clinics on foot . Her co-workers and patients and visiting family fill our house and sit eating rusks and refilling endless pots of tea in the kitchen, with puppies passed around from lap to lap.
Sometimes I wake at night and hear neighbours singing around the piano or accordion, singing tunes that pre-date the First World War. Older people reliving their own childish memories when they played underfoot of the grown-ups making their own amusements in the days before television or even the radio. And the small toddlers with them now will remember a long-vanished world when they themelves grow up and move to cities and tire of the perils and pleasures of Internet technology. What endures is simple and human community, not readymade entertainment.