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

Tales of the City

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

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

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower