John P. Marquand and John O’Hara–and Others
36 minutes ago
New Year's Eve, and the end of a decade. A portentous moment, for those who pay attention to portents. Guests were invited for nine. Some are already on their way, travelling towards Harley Street from outlying districts, from Oxford and Tonbridge and Wantage, worried already about the drive home. Others are dining, on the cautious assumption that a nine-o'clock party might not provide adequate food. Some are uncertainly eating a sandwich or slice of toast, in front of mirrors women try on dresses, men select ties. As it is a night of many parties, the more social, the more gregarious, the more invited of the guests are wondering whether to go to Harley Street first, or whether to arrive there later, after sampling other offerings. A few are wondering whether to go at all, whether the festive season has not after all been too tiring, whether a night in slippers in front of the television with a bowl of soup might not be a wiser choice than the doubtful prospect of a crowded room. Most of them will go: the communal celebration draws them, they need to gather together to bid farewell to the 1970s, they need to reinforce their own expectations by witnessing those of others, by observing who is in, who is out, who is up, who is down. They need one another. Liz and Charles Headleand have invited them, and obediently, expectantly, they will go, dragging along their tired flat feet, their aching heads, their over-fed bellies and complaining livers, their exhausted opinions, their weary small talk, their professional and personal deformities, their doubts and enmities, their blurring vision and thickening ankles, in the hope of a miracle, in the hope of a midnight transformation, in the hope of a new self, a new, redeemed decade.