Some occasions you just have to have a get together. Birthdays, weddings and christenings are no-brainers, but there are some other events that simply demand that you make them social. Things like the Eurovision Song Contest, the FA Cup final and the final of the Great British Bake Off are almost moments of national treasure. They represent those lovely points in the year that have that old-fashioned sense of everybody watching the same thing on the telly and having the same thing to talk about at work for the next day or two.
That’s how it was in our mums’ and dads’ days when there were only a few channels and everybody basically watched the same thing all the time. And there is an inevitable whiff of nostalgia when you find yourself nattering away with everyone about what was on the telly the night before or over the weekend.
What is so great is that, unlike some shows, there isn’t the need to be an expert on the intricacies of song-writing, football betting or shortcrust pastry. That’s what the telly does for you. It’s kind of liberating to be able to just sit back and enjoy being part of a national audience. Maybe the Royal Variety performance was like that once upon a time – Top of the Pops certainly was when we were kids and, thinking about it, so was listening to the chart show on Radio 1 on Sunday evenings.
Those kind of occasions make the perfect excuse to get a few people together in a way that stops short of being a full on ‘party’ but which still manages to capture a bit of that social magic. Maybe it’s because the entertainment is taken care of, but there is a lovely chill-out feel to hosting a little ‘do’. A few cakes and fancies, a glass or two of something fizzy and, if you’re feeling energetic, a DIY bingo card is all you need.
Photograph: Phil Fisk for Observer Food Monthly
Bake Off Bingo
Bake Off in particular is great for a bingo card: ‘soggy bottoms’, Paul Hollywood saying ‘I love that’, Mel and Sue pinching a bite of something they shouldn’t, someone mistaking salt for sugar – there is something delightfully innocent about the whole thing. Eurovision and the football may be a bit different, but they each have their place. After all, the important thing is the excuse to get together with friends, what you put on the box is really only the window dressing.
If you want to do it in style then a dress code always adds a fun dimension. Select a period or a theme and away you go. You can make it as retro and as kitsch as you like. Nobody ever really falls out of love with a dressing up box, do they? And for something like the cup final or especially the Eurovision the idea of ‘taking you back in time’ really is what it’s all about.
Sometimes, it’s good not to take life too seriously, and getting a few good friends together – whatever the excuse – is the perfect way to make your own instant nostalgia.