The Vanity Of Shyness

Saturday evening. To a house party in Harringay, near Turnpike Lane, hosted by Robin & Ellen H. They invited me to their wedding a few years ago, where I was seated at the same table as Alan Hollinghurst. I didn’t say anything to him, as nothing suggested itself other than, ‘I’ve read your novels. They’re very good, aren’t they? Well done!’ Except if it happened again now I suppose could talk with him about Ronald Firbank, and how I was pleased he chose the out-of-print writer to be in the National Portrait Gallery’s Gay Icons show last year. It was a slightly confusing title for an exhibition, because while it featured icons chosen by famous gay people (like Mr Hollinghurst), the icons themselves didn’t have to be gay. So Ronald Firbank ended up in the same show as Elton John’s choice, the England football manager Graham Taylor.

At the house party, Ellen serves up champagne with vodka-soaked raspberries. It becomes quite crowded, and after chatting to the small amount of people I know there (the hosts, Alex S, Tammy H, Jamie M), I slip into my usual mode of standing by myself against a wall, feeling awkward and strange. As much as I like parties, I’ve never been very good about going over and Joining In with someone else’s conversation – it feels bad mannered, even presumptious. So I stand there, hoping vainly (in every sense) that someone will come over to me instead. It’s one reason I take to DJ-ing so easily. DJing is also being aloof and passive and standing near a wall, but in a controlling way, and with a reason. On top of which, you have something to cling to.

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