Well, it appears to be that time of year again when one is ever so kindly invited into the outside spaces of other people’s houses. Courtyards, gardens, terraces, rooftops; say the time and place and we will fill it quicker than a Maltese taxi driver on his way to Sphinx pastizzeria. All well and good, but I feel there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration when offering invites, and definitely upon receiving them.
First things first. If ever I receive a stiffy in the post for a party with the instructions “smart-causal” on them, rest assured the journey from letterbox to waste paper bin is shorter than the skimpiest skirt in Paceville on a Saturday night. If you think I need to be told how to dress, I am not sure I am the sort of person you need in your life. Or perhaps I am? Either way, life is far too short.
We all know how stifling Maltese summer evenings can be, and us pesky Brits still just do not have the knack of inviting people at the appropriate time. Seven-to seven-thirty pm is not the time to be asking people to don their glad rags, rush to their car and try and find somewhere to park within a ten-mile radius of whatever house they are looking for. Trust me. If one thing over the last decade in Malta has taught me, it is that summer soirees are always better the later they are. Unless one is happy for their guests to perspire like a gas man delivering bottles in the midday heat, then by all means go ahead and invite people as early as you like.
And now we hark back to the dreaded “smart-casual” instructions. We are all adults, we all know how to dress, ( not all admittedly, but most of us), and we will undoubtedly know the majority of people present. In all fairness, this being Malta I’d be amazed if most of the guests were not related in some way or other. So, use your discretion and dress in a way that you would consider to be appropriate. Long flowing maxi dresses in all the colors of the rainbow to choose from, beautiful sandals, spiky heels, sparkling jewelry. And that’s not just for us chaps ether! Ladies, use this chance to glam up. Swirl your way around the courtyard like Margot Fontaine on opening night. Relax and enjoy yourselves
In all seriousness, I fear us poor gentlemen get a bit of a rough deal in my humble opinion. Again, like weddings, I believe this a time to let the ladies in your life shine. Dear chaps, just be happy with a decent pair of fitted shorts, some quality penny loafers, and a plain coloured linen shirt. Flamingoes and sunflower prints are fine on children. Less so on a grown man. As an Englishman I am afraid I always defer to the long-sleeved option, but with the added frisson of an Italian cuff. I know, such a rebel at heart. Obviously, feel more than free to wear a short-sleeved shirt, but please try not to be offended when a passer-by asks you to grab them another gin and tonic from the bar as you saunter past feeling like George Clooney.
And now for one of the most contentious parts of any gathering. What to take as a gift. If they are people one knows well, we can already assume they have good taste, and a home full of exquisite objects. So, popping along to Camilleri Paris Mode, or any other such outlet of beauty, is an all too obvious choice in my mind. I learned something many moons ago from a very dear friend of mine that has always stayed with me. Whenever said friend arrives at anyone’s home the only gift handed over is a carefully chosen book. It struck me at the time what a beautiful thing to do. It shows you have taken the time to consider what the receiver may like, and it can be enjoyed at leisure. Books can stay on shelves for as long as it takes until the time is ripe for them to be read. And as my darling friend, John Waters once said, “If you happen to go home with someone, and they don’t have books on their shelves, don’t sleep with them”. So not only have you given someone an object of beauty, it may even help them in the love department. A win-win situation I believe it is called.
So, with the silly summer season beckoning, relax, have fun and catch up with all the lovely people you have missed over the last few months. But please bear one thing in mind, I implore you. However exuberant you may feel, and as tempted as you may be to use a supporting pole as dance apparatus, it will end in tears. Trust me.