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Fidelma Cook: Now I'm going to party like it's 1979

God knows I've been to a lot of parties in my time and thrown almost as many.

In particular I enjoyed the tarts and vicars era, keeping a black basque, thigh boots, electric blue wig and hunting whip always close to hand. Tally ho!

Even the normally unimpressed Glasgow west enders gawped when, during my BBC days, a procession of well-known faces dressed as popes, ministers, priests, floozies and whores arrived at my flat.

They gawped even more when, many hours later, the same "faces" fell out into the streets drunk, incapable and, in several cases, brawling as egos exploded.

Ah, innocent times. No sidebar of shame. No fears of exposure then, when camera phones were science fiction, "mobiles" were rented for special occasions and carried by a shoulder strap and the words social and media never appeared in the same sentence.

Anyway, enough of the past.

Parties, real parties, not grown-up lunch and dinner parties, are rare around here.

Aperos couldn't really be called parties as a) there's no music and b) everybody knows they're just an excuse for uncorking at 5pm and pretending we don't drink alone.

Fetes are just that - fetes.

So when I got an invitation to a 50th birthday party with the promise of dancing through the night, I checked the inhaler had plenty of clicks left, swallowed an antibiotic, dusted off the wedges, straightened the shoulders and hit the back roads.

The village is the one where the previous restaurant owner's adulterous wife was dragged down the street and flung at her lover's door - so anything could happen. Goody.

The couple giving the party has more French than English friends, are chasseurs - hunters - and live in the centre across from the glass doors of the Salle des Fetes.

The gathering is just right, around 30 or so people, half French, half others. The British, a mere handful of expats plus family imported for the occasion, are bang on time for the apero start before the main meal of paella.

The French slouch in, in dribs and drabs, up to an hour later. It's what they do.

All is perfect, the sun is hot and I already know the playlist to come.

When we finally sit down, I sit on a French table. The divide has begun…British together, French together. All seem to prefer it that way and I sense I have disturbed the balance, but sod it; I'm in need of new stories, French stories.

My half of the table has the women and children. The men are at the top. The British tables are done in the man, woman, man fashion.

Over the next couple of hours I realise, once again, how very, very different we are. Or rather how different the rural French are.

On my table I seem to be the only one really drinking and instigating chat. No-one has heard of my village (10km away) and no-one cares. No-one asks me a question. My presence is immaterial.

A teenage son looks at me in amazement when I ask if he plans to travel, live in the city. "Pourquoi?" I try to explain how glorious seeing "outside" can be. His eyes glaze over.

From the English-speaking tables I hear increasingly loud laughter, voices over voices, the clink of glasses, the emptying of bottles. I feel the warmth of a tribal gathering.

There is a strange but sweetly comic interlude when the hostess's best French friend appears in a rabbit costume chased by a hunter with a real gun. They hop and run around and around the tables. The French find it hysterical. The Brits laugh nervously and flinch, praying the barrel is empty. One can never be sure.

And a touching moment, when in a mix of both languages, a fearsome espresso machine is presented from all D's village friends. She and her husband are genuinely loved and at home here.

The music starts, cleverly mixed to reflect our pop cultures, I suppose. I am the only foreigner standing, arms linked and swaying to Connemara with my fellow diners. I even cheer the Johnny Hallyday selections, saluting my neighbours for French loyalty to old rockers.

I'm a fraud. The music changes, the Brits are up and rocking, and I'm out there: "Tainted love, doo, doo…."

Blow-up plastic mics and guitars appear. The imports dance, sliding down the Salle, pounding plastic, and mouthing familiar anthems.

The locals look on, slightly baffled, but basically unmoved until Johnny reappears, when they leap up and shake, just a touch, on the outskirts of the floor.

I wait for Call Me Maybe. It is my moment. I mimic every move; to cheers, I should add, even undulating against the Toulousian brick wall. (Oh God.)

I do not look back at the French, although I notice the expats have long faded away.

I exit stage left, aware that I have given of my best and need to go before I go...well, just too far.

D's best French friend walks me to the car. As I leave, she holds an imaginary phone to her ear and says: "Call me, maybe?"

Perhaps some of us are not that different.

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