I am in the throes of organising a farewell party.
I am gripped by paroxysms of anxiety regularly.
I’m not good at parties. My own other or other people’s. At my own I worry nobody’s having enough fun/to eat or drink. And in advance of other people’s I worry about what to wear (and usually end up wearing the wrong thing entirely so return home feeling miserable to a bedroom that looks like a bomb has hit it since floor littered with almost every item of clothing I own) and I worry nobody’s going to talk to me which makes me look, well, worried I suppose (so I frown and just look cross instead) and then nobody does talk to me.
Despite paroxysms, however, the advantages to party in question are twofold: whatever I wear on the day (most likely habitual jeans and t-shirt, or a pair of shorts and a t-shirt if it’s very hot) will be acceptable since am hostess.(As hostess you are excused whatever you wear because everybody’s in your thrall for that single day on account of generosity in inviting them all to eat/drink at your expense). And because it’s my party – and I’m leaving – everybody will have to talk to me. If only to say goodbye.
Husband wanted party to be held at home. Which would have been tricky given that I presently only have 5 glasses, 6 chairs and motley collection of about a dozen plates and cereal bowls. Not enough, clearly, for the 121 friends my husband thinks we have.
So I have sought alternative venue. With shade in case the sun shines and shelter in case it doesn’t. And – of course – requisite number of glasses and chairs. I hope my husband is not being overambitious about how many friends he has, for it’d be a shame – not to say embarrassing – if glass and chairs were surplus to requirements.
The food is to be provided by Mr Khan. He owns a ‘shop’ called Khan’s Barbeque in the backstreets of Arusha, next door to a wailing mosque and behind the central market (where you can buy basketfuls of vegetables whilst simultaneously having your car, parked outside, harvested of wing mirrors and spare wheel).
Mr Khan’s restaurant, nicknamed chickenonthebonnet, does not resemble a conventional restaurant: you buy your supper inside and eat outside, on the street, in – or on – your car. His chicken tikka and nan bread, served with assorted relishes, is deliciously mouthwatering and fragrantly scented. Not that same can be said of premises which are grungy in extreme. When I went to arrange the catering (though ‘catering’ is possibly too strong a word where Khan’s is concerned) I was confronted by a very dark, faintly pungent place with a woman asleep on a sofa, a child sitting at the front desk and no sign of Khan himself. Until somebody hollered really loudly and he appeared, with short orange hair, courtesy of a liberal – and recent – brush with Henna. I didn’t see anything that would remotely connect the place with a catering facility: no fridges, no freezers, no gourmet paraphernalia of any kind. We discussed numbers, prices and whether I could supply own plates and bowels at party venue.
Bowels? I said perplexed.
Yes, bowels, bowels, he insisted, you know, to put salad in.
Oh, I exclaimed in relief, BOWLS!
Khan’s wouldn’t pass any health and safety standards. Not one. But his fare is scrumptious. I was left wondering – indeed hoping – that his particular concoction of chilli and spices kills anything suspect that might be lurking on the chicken, salad or on the counter tops/kitchen tables which I – perhaps thankfully – did not see when I visited.
I don’t want to give anybody who comes to say goodbye food poisoning. Many have waited for me to ‘return invitations’ since they first invited us to supper 16 years ago. But such is my aversion to ‘entertaining’ that I’ve been putting it off.
Well I can’t do that any longer.
I just hope that – after waiting decades to finally get a meal out of me – there won’t be 121 disappointed and dehydrated people in Arusha sitting on the loo when I leave. I hope that Mr Khan’s pronunciation has not already jinxed the meal and branded me with eternal legacy of hostess with significantly less than mostess