Alex James: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

In that part of Mayfair that always feels like it's Christmas, the crowd from the Harper's Bazaar party was spilling out on to Berkeley Street like large amounts of silly string, braving the cold and the paparazzi, puffing and blowing with the crowd that were spilling out of Nobu, a few doors down.

It was a good party. At least, I spent most of it outside, smoking, but I had a good time. One used to meet the best people in the toilets; now they're all to be found on the street outside. Walk around the West End on a Thursday evening now, and you can join all the best parties without an invitation. All you need to bring is a packet of cigarettes.

After a couple of weeks in the jungle with the army, and circulating with gangsters and politicians in Colombia, it was good to get a warm blast of the fashion crowd, with all their A-list triumphs and must-have emergencies. Colombia only has one famous person, Shakira, and she's never there.

The fashion world is thought to be fickle and fleeting, but actually it's remarkably constant. Last week, it was all the same faces as it was 10 years ago, with a couple of new ones. I'm sure it will be the same ones in 10 years' time.

The party moved on to Gaz's Rockin' Blues, underneath Wardour Street, and I danced to old 78s with actresses and models until way past bedtime. Somehow or other, Gaz's is the best place in town. It's a grimy cellar that hasn't had a lick of paint for decades, and there aren't enough toilets or anything, but I've never had anything short of a fantastic time there. I always leave with my head full of music I'd forgotten or didn't know existed.

It was a big week for parties. Newcastle was on fire for Hallowe'en. Newcastle's always been a bit of a street party after dark, but what with the smokers, staggering boozers, parading zombies and Michael Jackson "Thriller" lookalikes, it was more festive than ever. I haven't been able to get to bed at a reasonable hour since I can't remember when, and we'll be rocking all the way to Christmas now.

Even in the parish, it's been one festivity after another. We went to a firework party on Saturday, on the hill. With sinking heart, I saw the first firework go pop in the distance as we pulled out of the drive and it was all over when we arrived 15 minutes later. Firework displays are actually quite hard to avoid. There seem to be more than there used to be.

There were about 3,000 people on the village green on Bonfire Night. I went with Geronimo. Some druids performed a rather dark ceremony with a very lifelike guy while we munched burgers, waved sparklers and watched our children on the bouncy slide before the fireworks. It seemed just as glamorous and interesting as Mayfair or Newcastle in full swing. There was plenty of smoking room around the fire, too. The fireworks went on for ages. Everyone said they were better than last year's.

Geronimo said: "Daddy, I've had enough. I want to go home now." That's my boy.

a.james@independent.co.uk

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