HOW TO BE HAPPY Though Week-ending

Sunday Times – 14 September 1924


Though Week-ending

    There are notoriously people who hate going away for the week-end. They hate going to hotels because hotels are dull. They hate going to other people’s houses because they find other people intolerable after the first few hours.
I do not know whether anything can be done to rescue such victims of general boredom; but the editors of a new omnium-gatherum, The Week-end Book, have made a gay and gallant attempt. If, after this, the hostess at a week-end party sees the faces of her guests gradually lengthening in despair, all she has to do is to take down The Week-end Book and administer one of the tonics which are scattered through its pages.
She might open it at the section devoted to great poetry, for instance, and read out the 137th Psalm, “By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept,” which would remind her guests, at least, that they were not the first people to be miserable on our planet.
Or she might try them with Francis Thompson’s From the Night of Forebeing, which lasts ten pages and would undoubtedly startle a week-end party composed of racing men or tennis players.


    If these stimulants failed to reinvigorate her guests, she might hastily turn the pages till she came to the section about food and drink, where she would find certain recipes for cocktails with a broad human appeal. There are a few people who care for both poetry and cocktails, but I am sure the hostess who plies her guests with cocktails will earn ten times the reputation for cleverness that will be earned by a hostess who only plies her guests with poetry. Hence the hostesses will be grateful for such recipes as:
Mr. Sutton’s Gin-Blind (to be drunk with discretion) : Six parts gin, three parts curacoa, two parts brandy, and a dash of orange bitters.
    I am no authority on cocktails, and regard them as the next worst thing that America has given the world after prohibition; but even I cannot help reverencing the genius of the expert who mixes me a drink in which several good drinks are shaken up together in such a way as to produce a bad one.

    Undoubtedly, the surest way to make a success of a week-end is to provide your guests with interesting food and drink, and the guests will take care of themselves.
    In the matter of food I am not sure that the editors of The Week-end Book are not a little too Spartan.
    Thus, they tell you about sandwiches and tinned meat and tinned soup, and give you much unnecessary advice:
    “DON’T cook and attempt to eat young bracken shoots because the Japanese do. What suits the hardy races of the extreme East may not suit you.”


    Now who, on packing his bag for the week-end, has ever looked forward with sinful lust to eating young bracken shoots. If one guessed that one’s hostess would try to make one eat young bracken shoots, one would regard it as a valid excuse for remaining at home. Next to cannibalism, I fancy, a taste for young bracken shoots is the rarest dietetic vice in England. Though, perhaps, the editors of The Week-End Book refer to one still rarer in their note: “Mice in honey should be imported from China, not prepared at home.”
If I were giving directions to an English hostess I should alter this to: “Mice in honey should not be imported from China.”
If you do happen to give your guests dishes of this sort, however, the editors are good enough to follow their notes on food and drink with a section called First Aid in Dvers Crises. They tell you, for instance, what to do for food-poisoning (which one does not, somehow, think of as one of the things to be expected at a week-end party). In case your hostess should be an eccentric or a dietetic specialist, however, it is as well that you should know of the uses of a tablespoonful of salt in a tumbler of water :
“Meanwhile, the patient should be put to bed, hot bottles and hot foments applied to the abdomen, and, if there are signs of collapse, brandy or other stimulants administered. Finally, give an ounce of castor-oil. These measures are good against Surfeits of Wholesome Meats and Drinks, as well as other forms of food-poisoning.”


    I can imagine jollier ways of spending a week-end; but there is no accounting for tastes. It may be that there are some people who would enjoy spending the week-end in bed, with hot bottles on their abdomens, and drinking brandy. I know an old colonel who would far rather do that—or even eat mice in honey, or young bracken shoots—than read Francis Thompson’s From the Night of Forebeing.
Suppose, however, that during your week-end in the country you are lucky enough to escape snake-bite, and sunstroke and nose-bleed. In that case, lest time should hang heavy on your hands, the editors have provided you with 20 pages of games, ranging from rounders to look at your feet through the wrong end of the opera glasses.
I trust that no hostess will adopt these recipes for the amusement of her guests. I do not wish to be compelled, in the interval between one week’s overwork and another, to take part in potato-and-spoon team races, or to play the animal and stick game, or yet to play hide and seek in the dark.
If games there must be, let them leap spontaneously from the brains of those present, and not be gone through in obedience to a book.

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