Last weekend saw the 40th birthday celebrations of my sister-in-law, the wife of Jones Major. The Young Miss Joneses were in attendance, and for Young Miss Jones The Younger (6), it was an occasion on which to learn one of the first, and toughest, lessons of grown-up parties, when she said to me earnestly, 'I don't really understand why Mummy has invited people that I don't know.'
The evening's feature presentation was a barn dance. I am a reticent barn dancer, keeping to the dusty shadows of the room, far from the enforced hand-holding. This aversion is the direct result of a traumatic episode several years ago at an old schoolfriend's wedding. I had gone alone, and although I was surrounded by couples, at no point did I feel like half a person during their reception. This was mostly because they had barndancing which is inherently sociable, and there was indeed more partner-swapping than you'd find in Primrose Hill circa 2001. But as we reached the end of the evening, people were beginning to drift away, preferring to sit and chat, rather than throw themselves into a Gay Gordon. There was one final dance, and all my companions were standing up, ready to participate, with their real-life partners. I had sat down at our table with my drink, feeling not at all left out and more than happy to observe. However, one more couple was required to complete the 'set' (this is a technical term in barn dancing).
'Come on, Hannah,' shouted one of my so-called friends at considerable volume, for which I can never forgive them.
'Hannah!' said the caller, seizing on my name like a famished spaniel. 'Come on, Hannah, up you come.'
I obliged because occasionally I am quite public-spirited.
'Right then,' said the caller, into his booming microphone, addressing the room. 'We just need a partner for Hannah.'
He looked expectantly around the hall.
'Come on! Anyone at all! Would anyone like to dance with Hannah?'
'Don't be shy. We just need one man. That's all. One man to dance with Hannah.'
Apparently, everyone around the room would rather have plunged the cake knife into their thorax than meet the caller's eye at that moment.
'If one of you can come up here and play the accordion, I'll dance with her myself.'
Don't do me any favours, hippy.
'Come on, lads, one of you must want to dance with this lovely young lady.'
This went on for AGES.
I was furious. Not least because I was being made to feel like a misfit by a man in possibly the world's worst waistcoat.
Finally, finally, someone's cringe threshold was breeched and one man dragged his feet across the floor to stand by me.
Ludicrously, I found myself THANKING him. He responded by looking at the floor. For the whole dance.
One day, approximately seven weeks later, my flaming cheeks were finally extinguished, but suffice to say that whenever barndancing is mentioned, I hear a Scottish accent in my head repeating 'Anyone at all?' and I remember vividly the shoes I was wearing that mortifying day, since I spent so long staring at them.
Still, last weekend was a far happier occasion. And perhaps the happiest part of the evening, for me, was the table of desserts, to which the Baking Mothership, Mrs Jones, contributed several dishes. Here she is captured in contemplation of them, like a brilliant military strategist surveying a map of conflict.
Yes, my new camera is so advanced, it can even take pictures in black and white.