John Walsh: A pre-Christmas party in Dulwich – how judgemental could it be?

Tales of the City

Share
Related Topics

My neighbour Andy bought himself a hat some time ago, a leather trilby that had seen better days. It looked good – it reminded him of someone in the movies – and the more battered it became, the more characterful it seemed. Finally, the penny dropped. Andy started looking on eBay for a bullwhip, jungle trousers, a long-strap briefcase and a huge revolver. In a month, he'd transformed himself into Indiana Jones. But how could he show it off to his friends and neighbours?

The answer was to hold a fancy-dress party, and insist that everyone come as a Hollywood figure. Which is why I found myself, at 3.30pm on Saturday, cursing Andy and his bloody fancy-dress requirements, and cursing myself for having no ideas about which film star to impersonate.

Ronald Colman? I'd have to get hold of a very thin moustache. John Wayne? I didn't have the chaps, the bandanna or the huge arse. Groucho Marx? Where could I find a cigar, a tailcoat and granny glasses, and black paint for the moustache?

The hell with it. An hour later, I was at a party shop in Fulham, asking the lady proprietors for advice. "There's the Clint Eastwood look," said one, offering me a Peruvian poncho in garish primary colours, "or the Captain Jack Sparrow's very popular." I thought they seemed childish – a fancy-dress party is, obviously, very grown-up – and looked through the costumes: Frankenstein, Darth Vader, the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. The last held my eye. The metallic sheen, the figure-hugging tunic, the chimneypiece headgear, the silver face paint: it was a look of which David Bowie would have approved in his "Ashes to Ashes" period. It was cool. "Have you got a large size?" I asked. "One size fits all," the ladies sang. I paid up and fled.

In the bedroom mirror, things didn't look promising. It was a one-piece body tunic with separate headgear. The trousers were so tight, it was impossible to bend over to lace your shoes. And when you pulled up the tunic to put your arms into the sleeves, the crotch seam rode up under one's intimate areas and shoved them firmly over in a painful bulge of silver-polyester-viscose. It was suicidally tight. I walked like a chap who'd undergone colonic irrigation. I feared I might die of static electricity. A balaclava-like hat pulled over the face and surmounted by an oil can completed the ensemble.

The children tried to be nice, and failed. "You look like a giant tin baby," said one. "You could still dig out your peach raincoat and go for the Bogart option," said another. I decided to butch it out. A pre-Christmas party in Dulwich – how judgemental could it be?

Extremely, is the answer. The other guests had clearly thought hard about how not to look a wally. Jedi stormtroopers and Airplane! captains rubbed shoulders with Audrey Hepburns and Marge Simpsons. They looked pityingly at my BacoFoil outfit, my toddler hat and my traumatised groin, then looked away. One couple came as Wednesday and Pugsley Addams, and looked coolly Gothic. Another came as Roger Vadim and Brigitte Bardot. One sensible fellow, far too suave for a costume, wore a black suit, white shirt, black tie and weeping gunshot wound, effortlessly becoming Mr Blonde in Reservoir Dogs. Andy/Indiana, the host, exchanged masculine banter with a brace of Yodas, while I lurked in a corner with his wife, complaining about the curse of an over-emphatic gusset. I'd learnt three lessons: never buy a party costume; never assume silver will make you look thinner; and never believe that "One size fits all"...



There's an interesting series of weekly talks on at London's Courtauld Gallery, arranged by its writer-in-residence, Ruth Padel, who has asked public figures to dilate on famous paintings. I went to hear Julia Neuberger discuss Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich by Camille Pissarro, who lived in London during the Franco-Prussian War. According to the Baroness, it displays the painter's dislike of the bourgeoisie, and the development of their ghastly homes through the green spaces outside London. This is, I believe, the only occasion on which the French Impressionists expressed any opinion at all about my home suburb of London SE21.

Next talk is the novelist Colm Toibin on Cézanne's Route Tournante tomorrow at 5.15pm.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: I’m not saying the Ed stone is bad – it is so terrible I am lost for words

John Rentoul
 

Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living