I’ve always liked the idea of holding literary salons in my house. Truth to tell, however, the preparation and the hosting has often stressed me out so much that I would regularly wake up the next morning determined to cancel all future dates. I never could judge if the evening had gone well. An internal nervousness prevented me from relaxing and often distorted my perception.
‘You are the hostess. ‘My husband loved to advise me. ‘You arrange the evening; provide the space, the food, the drink. When the guests arrive, you should relinquish control and relax.’ Easier said then done. Anxiety kept me on tenterhooks all evening long. I don’t think people ever noticed. But I didn’t enjoy the feeling at all.
Yesterday I tried a trick. We held our 17th Peirene Salon with German author Birgit Vanderbeke. I pretended in my head I was a guest too. Yes, I still organized what needed to be organized and looked after speakers. But I also told myself, I am not solely responsible. There are 50 other adults in the house. The trick worked wonders. I had some wonderful conversations and became closer to people I always wanted to know better.
‘It was not a trick in your head,’ Peirene winks at me as we are clearing up the house this morning. ‘It was the wine.’
The wine was delicious, I have to admit. The white went down like juice and when for a brief moment I opened my eyes at six am, I worried that I might had a glass too much. Three hours later, however, I woke up with a beautifully clear head.
Peirene, too, is in a cheery mood this morning, whistling while she dries up.
‘Yes, the Wine Bear is lovely indeed,’ she muses about our new wine sponsor. ‘What a stroke of good luck.’ I throw her a side glance. She smiles to herself. For a while we continue clearing in silence. Then she adds: ‘And the young man they sent yesterday – quite charming, isn’t he? Such a wine connoisseur.’ Her cheeks are flushed and her eyes glimmer. I catch her eye.
‘Now don’t get any wrong ideas!’ She says indignantly. ‘After all he is a mere mortal and I am a Greek Nymph.’ She hesitates. ‘But he is a mortal who knows his wines well. I am impressed that he turned up to our salon.’
Image by classic_film.