The Garden Party

The Garden Party

Or what happens when you let an author loose

… A humorous short story about English garden parties…

The following tale was inspired by the classic British comedy series, ‘Stella Street’

Deep in the bowels of the palatial mansion that I call home, lies my ‘prison study’. You may have heard me refer to it in a previous post and it is the place where I spend most of my time when I’m trying to write. In fact, I’m sitting here right now, on a splinter-ridden, one-legged stool, watching the water drip off the damp stone walls and run down my monitor screen. I could wipe it off, but there’s no point, as another rivulet will be along in a moment and besides, the screen might get blurry.

Anyway, I am required to sit here for at least twelve hours each day as part of the agreement that I foolishly made with the United Brethren of Illustrious Scribes (UBIS) and their parent organisation, the Global Authors Guild (GAG), when I first became a ‘struggling author’. So, every day, I enter the prison study and shut the heavy iron door behind me, trying to suppress the shudder that threatens to rise up inside as I hear the dreaded time-lock activate. Then it’s down to work, trying to craft high-quality blogs that will entertain and delight readers from all walks of life, hammering out as much of my latest novel as my tortured brain will permit and of course, Tweeting, Facebooking and social media’ing endless inanities into the Intersphere, in the hope that I will be able to attract a follower, or dare I say it, a customer to my website.

However, although this sounds like a pretty bleak and foreboding existence, it does occasionally have its upsides and last week, my masters released me from my bondage a couple of hours early, so that I could attend a garden party that was being held by Brian May, one of my neighbours and owner of the local hairdressing salon. Now, Brian is a lovely chap and when he holds a garden party it is legendary. But he is known to be a bit of a queen, so you need to be careful about how you dress and what fragrance you choose to wear. I chose a nice, pale green ‘off the shoulder’ number, with a touch of Dior, so I knew that I was fine. Anyway, when I got there, the party was already well underway and I was very pleased to be able to catch up with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who run the garage down the road. They’d had my car in for some work for a couple of weeks and I wanted to find out how things were going. Unfortunately, the pair of them had already got properly stuck into the hotdogs and Pinot Gris, so I couldn’t get much sense out of them. Honestly, those boys always overdo it, they just can’t get no satisfaction.

The Garden Party - Pinot Gris. Rob Gregory Author

Be careful not to overdo the Pinot Gris, boys!

After an overly friendly peck on the cheek from Mick, I left them be and wandered over to the drinks table, where I bumped into Johnny Depp, our local greengrocer. He’s a wizard with a set of knives that’s for sure and was dicing cucumbers by the dozen, tossing them expertly into a jug of cold Pimm’s No1, which he was draining as fast as he was filling it. We had a bit of a chat about the current state of the greengrocery business, which unfortunately is struggling and may explain why Johnny has recently developed a fondness for the booze and partying, but he did mention that he was going to the Caribbean shortly, so maybe the break will do him some good.

While I was chatting to Johnny, we were joined by Morgan Freeman, the village butcher. Incidentally, his shop is right next door to Johnny’s greengrocers if you’re ever looking for it. I had to give him a pat on the back, the poor fellow. He’s always been the serious type, but we’ve gotten along fairly well over the years and he’s always been extremely generous when weighing out his meat, to me at least. Anyway, a couple of girls from the next village made some pretty unpleasant allegations about him a year or two ago and since then he’s had no end of trouble, including an unwanted Police investigation from Inspector Huey Lewis, which made the news and no doubt about it. I must say that I was rather surprised, but glad to see him out and about, as he had become something of a recluse for a while there.

The Garden Party - Kebabs. Rob Gregory Author

Brian always puts on a lovely spread when he’s entertaining.

Glancing around Brian’s back garden, I was quite impressed by the turnout. Matt Damon, who owns the organic farm with all the poly-tunnels on it was chatting happily to Gwyneth Paltrow, mobile beautician, over a glass of Merlot, although I suspect that there might have been something else in his drink, because Matt was starting to look a bit like a Martian from where I was standing. Major Tom Cruise, from the local army base, was also in attendance, looking fantastic in his uniform with all the shiny buttons and medals on it. I must admit that I had always thought he was taller, but then I’d only ever seen him from a distance before. Nonetheless, he was putting on a magnificent show, impressing a host of young ladies with one-armed push-ups, squats and a range of other extremely manly exercises, which for me would be a mission impossible. I was a bit concerned to see young Kevin Spacey, the wannabe journalist from the free weekly paper, taking such an interest in Major Tom’s athletic posing, but then I’ve always worried about him. What with his religious upbringing and all that, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s already committed all of the seven deadly sins and is working on the next bunch.

As always at these type of gatherings, there was a moment of unpleasantness when Gwyneth’s boyfriend, Robert Downey Jr, who owns the local gym and is always training for an Ironman event, started picking on Matt. Thankfully, however, Father Bill Nighy, our well-loved vicar stepped in and calmed things down before they got out of hand. He really is a wonderful chap and so dedicated to the local parish. I mean he’s there all day, every day, locked away in the crypt, praying and then out and about every night, prowling the village in search of unworthy souls that he can send to the Underworld. I wish I had his dedication, not to mention his complexion.

The Garden Party - Backgarden. Rob Gregory Author

Brian’s back garden – Not bad for a hairdresser, although the hedge could do with a trim!

As the evening wore on and the sun dropped below the sky, things started to get a little bit silly. Pint-sized Danny DeVito, our resident undertaker, had obviously had a bit too much wine during the afternoon and was mocked unrelentingly by Roy Orbison, the blacksmith, for talking to a garden gnome for half an hour non-stop. Sting, who works at the little hotel in the centre of the village, arrived on his moped and caused a stir by trying to steal some of Major Tom’s girls from him. He nearly succeeded by the way, until Tom pushed him into a plate of blue turtles and someone called the Police.

Finally, with the garden party in full swing, the place was momentarily stunned into silence with the arrival of local bank manager, Harvey Weinstein, with a gaggle of young ladies of dubious origin in tow. He’s been a very naughty boy, that one, but because he’s got everyone’s savings locked up in his bank, no one can do anything about him. So, according to the excellent book entitled ‘The Freddy Mercury Guide to Successful Garden Parties and Marquee Events’, we simply ignored him and carried on talking amongst ourselves.

Well, I don’t know what time it was or how much I had had to drink, but the stars were just beginning to fade when Brian called an end to the garden party. Just at that moment, when I thought that I might be able to sneak another quick glass of Chardonnay from the drinks table, a heavy hand landed with a bone crushing thud on my shoulder and I was spun around into the impassive, ape-like face of one of my UBIS masters’ underlings. How they manage to get a gorilla to wear sunglasses, let alone shoehorn it into a suit is beyond me, but there was no arguing with the brute and probably for the best, I was escorted home to my prison study, where the door was slammed shut behind me.

So, there you have it. The life of a writer may seem like quite a solitary and unrewarding pursuit to some, but we do occasionally get out and when we do, it’s always fun!

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A new word for you…

A new word for you…

The story of how ‘Halfaholic’ came into the world…

How new words are made

Somewhere, high in one of the ancient, ivory towers of Oxford University, hidden far from prying eyes, sits a group of wizened academics, whose job it is to create new words for the English language. As they slavishly pore over their little wicker baskets of consonants and vowels, carefully weighing up the precise value of each letter that they may or may not use, there is another group of individuals, usually found lounging around in pubs or bars, that also comes up with new words. And while those of the academics are arguably far more precise and beautifully crafted, the latter group beats them hands down when it comes to sheer output. ‘Halfaholic’ was one such word and this is its story…


The story of halfaholic

It was a few months ago now and several of my bookish friends, not to mention a couple of others who have long since learned to tune out when the conversation turns literary, were enjoying an evening in the bar. The conversation was good and an undisclosed number of alcoholic beverages had been consumed. As a result, the group was rapidly approaching the point in the evening where time takes on an altogether elastic quality and before you know it, the sun is coming up and the table in front of you looks like a glass recycling factory.

Anyway, one of our group, a noted writer and editor, having had ‘one for the road’ several times in a row, decided to make a run for the doors before the witching hour befell us and complete chaos descended. As he wobbled towards the exit, he commented that he should probably stop drinking for the night because the way that he was going he was at risk of becoming an alcoholic.

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than I said something like, “Well, I’m going to carry on because I’m only a halfaholic after all.” I have no idea where it came from, the word just leapt into my beer-addled brain from a place beyond normal time and space. But, like all words, once it was spoken, it couldn’t be taken back and now existed here in our world. The look on my friend’s face said it all, as he tried the new word out for size, smiling as he did so, enjoying its texture and the image that it created in his mind. Then without so much as a ‘by your leave’, he took the word with him and left the bar.

Since then, the word has been happily propagating itself all over the city and you know what, I don’t really mind at all, because it isn’t a bad word, it’s just new and wants to get some recognition. And every now and then, it even comes back to the bar to be spoken by someone completely new, or by my friend, who still loves it dearly.

So, whether you’re an Oxford academic who has had a couple of heavy nights in a row, or just a regular Joe who’s worried about having yet another ‘one for the road’, never fear, there’s a word for you and it’s a good word. You can tell the world with pride that you’re not an alcoholic, you’re a halfaholic instead!




  • I’ve since found out that Halfaholic is also the name of a clothing company, as well as a Hip-Hop band, which just goes to show that some words will find any which way they can to get out of the ether and into the real world!
  • Glass photo – Edan Cohen,
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