It wasn't just the guests who were so socially adept that every event had a Hollywood atmosphere of sophisticated elegance; the hosts and hostesses were equally competent and skilled. This, of course, was all nonsense - merely the advertising world's vision of success that would help to sell the products they were plugging. In reality, social occasions are fraught with tensions. Not everyone is feeling totally at ease; many are socially fearful, others are socially phobic and wish that they were a hundred miles away from the occasion.
To be successful, modern hosts and hostesses shouldn't be too ambitious. If giving the party themselves without much or any help, they should remember they only have a limited amount of time. The food shouldn't be planned so as to rival Gordon Ramsay's efforts at Claridges; the table doesn't have to be set like a state function at Buckingham Palace. Have confidence and be realistic. Your friends are coming to see you - or if not you, your other guests.
The table may look superb when they first come into the dining room, but in no time those eating at it will have spoilt it just as thoroughly as the first footsteps ruin a snowfall. Food should be straightforward; there's no competition for the best and most complex meal; after all, the food and wine at a dinner party is no more than the oil in the social machine that turns the wheels. Never be ashamed, if you are both working and you have no domestic help, of serving something from Marks & Spencer. Your guests will love it - and you will be less stressed.