If you’ve got it, flaunt it
The nation’s chimneypieces have become duller places in this age of the email invitation. On the rare occasions I do receive an actual stiff white card, I always flaunt it among the ageing postcards. At the moment, I have the sum total of one of these invitations and I like to gaze at it. On the morning after the party, I’ll be reluctant to take it down, although I know it’s uncool (and perhaps even unlucky) to keep an invitation on display after the event has happened.
Smart white cards brighten a room’s mood as much as fresh flowers. They a) reassure us that people still love us and b) if we’re honest, quietly show off our desirability to friends. They’re concrete proof that there’s going to be a party and we’ve been invited—or that we haven’t. I’ve gazed wistfully at friends’ invitations to weddings in the Cotswolds or to glamorous book launches and felt desolate.
Paperless post means that this aspect of social one-upmanship is dying. Some might say good riddance to a paper-wasting system that causes a plummeting of self-esteem among the have-nots and self-satisfied cliqueyness among the haves, but I find email invitations rather underwhelming. As the day of the party approaches, I can never remember exactly where or when it is and have to search back through my inbox. If the sender was a grand person’s secretary, I don’t know their name and can’t find it.
A party, in my experience, is somehow less good if it hasn’t been heralded by a proper invitation. emails carry a sense of mass-production: 300 invited at the press of a button. With a card, you know that someone has written your name and address and, for 10 seconds, you (and only you) must have been in that person’s mind. I’m more likely to give my best to that party: turning up on time, dressing well, making an effort to talk to strangers and sending a handwritten thank-you letter afterwards.
‘A party is somehow less good if it hasn’t been heralded by a proper card invitation
I’m writing this at a cafe table in the main square in Avignon, place of my dreams. My parents bought a small flat here in 1969, which they recently passed on to me, so now I lie awake in January worrying that the pipes have burst. Ridiculous, isn’t it, how, as property owners, we brace ourselves for the worst of the worst?
As the eurostar sped south yesterday, I was ready for the flat to be ankle-deep in water with great brown growths of upsidedown fungi protruding from the ceilings—if the whole thing hadn’t been ransacked and trashed by burglars first. however, there the dear little flat was, intact and as pretty as ever, the only horror being a dead pigeon caught between a window and a shutter. My sister and brother-in-law were with me and we put on the Marigolds and got to work with the dusting and washing of china.
It’s such a different experience from arriving in a foreign country and going straight to a hotel where everything is clean and ready, but I liked donning the rubber gloves: a new outlet for my nesting instincts. I like having something official to do when abroad, even if it’s only taking the Number 2 bus to the e. Leclerc in the outskirts to buy a whizzy vacuum cleaner sans sac.
I’ve encountered three lifeenhancing instances of music colliding with art this month. First, I went to the Galerie Thaddeaus Ropac in Dover Street, where the artist Oliver Beer had made the whole building into a sort of musical instrument. Four professional singers stood in corners emitting sounds that created an extraordinary force of vibration through the building, which thus revealed its ‘voice’.
Then, I went to an exhibition of works by Jane Mackay, who creates ‘Sounding Art’: paintings that record the images she sees in her mind’s eye when she hears pieces of music, Britten being one of her favourites.
Finally, I’ve just read a new novel by Catherine Clover called The Templar’s Garden, which comes with an accompanying CD, both having on their covers one of my favourite images, the white hart on the outer panel of the Wilton Diptych. I loved the novel, narrated in the first person by a medieval damsel called Lady Isabelle and set in the 1400s in castles and monasteries, and I’m addicted to the CD, sung by New College Choir, of settings of Like as the hart through the ages, from Ockeghem, Tallis, Schütz and Buxtehude to newly commissioned ones by Pitts and L’estrange.
More CDS to accompany books, please. A walking guide of Germany, perhaps, with accompanying Bach cantatas?
Ysenda Maxtone Graham is the
author of Terms & Conditions: Life in Girls’ Boarding-schools, 1939–1979 (Slightly Foxed). She lives in London Next week: Kit Heskethharvey