Ever wondered who you’d invite to your ultimate imaginary dinner party?
Every now and again – over the last 30 years or so – in a few idle moments I’ve given this much thought.
In the spirit of the old Victorian parlour games, choosing five guests – even historical figures no longer with us – can be fun.
Time and again my list has changed and grown and had to be shortened – it is supposed to be a small gathering rather than a banquet. To keep things on the lighter side I have also resisted the temptation to include loved ones who are sadly no longer around.
So, who’s who on the current list and do they make for an interesting and eclectic mix? As a hopefully thoughtful and inspired hostess I would like my invitees to complement each other and make for a lively and unforgettable evening.
The first person receiving a hand-written invitation through the post is Clive James, who has actually always been my first choice.
I cannot think of a contemporary writer and critic I admire more.
His weekly column in The Observer in the 1970s made Sunday a treat and made me want to be a journalist and copywriter. Rather like looking at a painting by Rembrandt that is greater than the sum of its parts, reading Clive James is to experience genius.
No-one has chronicled and captured our social mores and trends with more humanity, economy and wit.
You only have to read his review of the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest to laugh out loud and appreciate at the same time how lucky we are to have his work.
So who’s next? The late Sir Laurence Olivier who I’ve always admired unreservedly – I even sent him fan mail as a teenager, which– he kindly responded to in an elegant and charming way.
On a similarly dramatic theme Vanessa Redgrave is next to be seated. Always radiant, brave in her choices of roles, compelling and charismatic she is never less than hypnotically watchable. From Mary Queen of Scots to Isadora Duncan, Guinevere to Fania Fenelon her performances are touched with light and truth.
Kate Bush would be my next choice. She has a unique and towering talent, using it to craft the most beautiful, enigmatic and unforgettable music.
Finally there’s the late Winston Graham, the creator of Poldark. Through 12 magnificent novels he wove with great skill a tale of tragedy, humour, history and love. I would love to know where he might have taken the much-loved characters in book 13 – or is that asking too much? Finishing a series of books when you know no more words will be written is like losing a literary family. So now my five guests are seated – who would yours be?