Saturday, July 21, 2007

Of lava lamps and old friends

Yesterday Jenny put on a dinner for our son Joe, who had his 20th birthday recently. He also got all 7s (the highest mark) in his mid-year university exams (all in mathematics) so celebrating that was part of the occasion too. For an academic to have such an academic son is of course most pleasing, if not entirely surprising. Aside from Joe, Jenny, myself and Nanna, the only other people in attendance were Jenny's eldest son Paul and his wife Susan. Paul is very close to Joe and has always been very supportive of him. Paul in turn got a lot of his ideas from me as he and I have always got on very well ever since I first met him when he was aged 7. We had a very jolly stepfather/stepson relationship. So now Joe gets some of my ideas via Paul, which I am of course very pleased about.

Paul tended to dominate the conversation, as he tends to do, but it made for a lively night. He kept us all busy discussing the ideas he put up. Paul's thinking seems to get more and more Right-wing as he gets older so the conversation was generally congenial to all present. Joe and I don't say much so somebody has to do the talking.

While I was there I borrowed a lava lamp off Nanna (Jenny's mother). Lava lamps were all the rage in the 60s but seem to be regarded with some hilarity these days. I wanted the lamp for a 60s evening I was having the next night -- an evening to mark a visit back to Australia by China Hand -- Alfred Croucher.

The 60s evening was a reunion of three of us who once shared a house at Glebe in Sydney many years ago. We got on very well at the time and have remained in sporadic contact ever since. We address one another by surname only. I address the other two as Croucher and Henningham and they address me as Ray, so how you define that sort of friendhip I have no idea. You just have to be part of such a friendship to understand it, I think. It is an unusually strong friendship. People who have been to school together or in the Army together often address one-another that way. It is sometimes referred to as a "muscular" friendship.

Anyway, when we shared a house we were all greatly enamoured of a comic book called "The wonderful world of Barry McKenzie", written by the inimitable Barry Humphries.

It is about an Australian naif in London and we found the characters in it very recognizable. So for our reunion I planned a few touches to take us back into the 60's -- the era in which the comic was set. And a lava lamp seemed appropriate. As well as that, I persuaded Anne to make a French Onion dip and horse doovers (hors d'oeuvres) on toothpicks -- both of which were very popular in the 60s but which are now regarded rather poorly.

Anyway, Henningham arived at my place in great form -- full of nonsense -- just as he was in the old days. His wife Helen drove him over to my place and looked in some distress. She is a very quiet person and Henningham normally follows suit. But when he is with his old friends, the old Henningham emerges -- so I suspect that Helen does her best to dissuade him from having much to do with his old friends. A visit to Brisbane from China, however, could not be passed over.

We went to a nearby Chinese restaurant for dinner -- one that has Beijing cuisine. Croucher says he likes to come to Australia to get all the Chinese food he cannot get in China! Chinese cooks do of course adapt their menus to local tastes.

Anyway, it was good to be back in the same company as many years ago and it felt very little different from how it always was. Time had not caused us to drift apart in attitudes etc. It was still the same old muscular friendship, quite undiminished by many years apart.

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