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Six thirty for seven

Posted by Simon Parke, 12 December 2017, 10.50am

I was arranging a seasonal gathering with our neighbours.

‘What time should we come?’ they ask.

‘Six thirty for seven,’ I say.

I don’t know why I say this. I can’t remember ever saying it before. It just comes out: ‘Six thirty for seven.’

And then we’re all politely wondering the same thing: what the fuck does that mean?

I mean, really?

One of us thinks it means you arrive at 6.30pm, and we eat at 7.00pm.

It’s about the food.

But as we contemplate the matter, another view removes food from the equation, seeing it more as a slightly passive-aggressive deadline.

As in, ‘You can arrive at 6.30pm, but please, no later than 7.00pm – because that’s just taking the piss.’

The trouble arises because no one knows what the time on an invitation means.

What is the nature of its authority?

We’ve reached quite a mad place now.

If you put 7.00pm on the invitation, be sure that’s the one time no one will arrive.

God forbid!

The assumption is that arriving at 7.00pm would be unutterably rude.

So everyone then arrives with fashionable degrees of lateness, first arrival 7.20pm, perhaps - with some probably not making it until 8.00pm.

They’ve eaten already, you can tell, which is just as well, because there’s not a lot left.

And when they see your rather tight smile of greeting, they sort-of know, (you can’t hide shame) and say:

‘Oh, we thought it was a drop-in. We’re not the last, are we?!?’


‘No, not at all, it’s just lovely to see you! Come in, come in!’

Stalin used to arrive late to meetings; he felt it got him noticed, and made people grateful that he has deigned to join them.

Early comers, you take for granted…it’s the late comers who draw gratitude, having left you dangling in unknowing:

‘Ah, the relief! They’ve come, they’ve come!’

The late-comer becomes the messiah…though not in my eschatological framework.

Lateness doth not a messiah make…especially at a social gathering.

I mean, I don’t know about you, but put 7.00pm on the invite, and the truth is, I’m ready by 6.20pm.

The crisps out, the dips ready, the beer chilled, candles lit, mulled wine mulled, the wine glasses washed and primed.

So you’re sitting around like an idiot for an hour, unable to enjoy any telly, the mulled wine evaporating…and wasting a lot of good candles.

By the time Stalin and his ilk turn up, I’ve lost the will to live.

‘So what time shall we come?’ my neighbours ask.

‘Six thirty for seven,’ I say.

Fuck knows what I mean by that…beyond a scream for order in the universe.

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