Sitting at the dinner table the other night, we were ushered in to the sparkle and vitality of good conversation. When Oscar Wilde said, “Conversation is one of the loveliest of the arts,” he knew what he was talking about. That was certainly our experience. It was one of those moments that leave you with the desire, if you’re inclined that way, to want to reflect on what made it so satisfying and pleasurable. Analysis always kills the moment, some say, but I found myself pondering and savouring the events of the evening. Such was its impact.
It was obvious our host had chosen her guests well. She knew them individually and mixed them with skill, even in their geographical placement. The food was out of this world, an absolute gastronomic feast, but it was the conversation that took pride of place. As it gathered momentum, one could feel it being lubricated with those marvellous qualities of attentive listening and intelligent questioning. No doubt the egos of those present were robust enough to withstand disagreement—none of those annoying and conversation-killing retreats into sulking silence, only energetic and vigorous engagement.
Then, of course, discretion, that marvellous ability of knowing when to speak and when not to, and when to stop. What an absolute joy! Conversation of this nature is a gift, and to be part of it is always a momentary life-giving privilege.
Is there such a thing as a perfect evening? I wouldn’t have thought so, until the other night.