Old folk at lunch

Monday, March 10, 2008

A big family dinner last night



I am a member of long standing in a family that is a family only in a rather loose sense. Everybody in it is related to someone else in it but not to everyone in it -- if that makes sense. Even that summary is a bit inadequate as we would tend to regard George as part of the family even though he is not related to anyone in it! Anyway we often get together and always enjoy doing so -- and have done so for many years. Some of the "kids" in the family are now in their late 20s and early 30s!

And I think we found last night how many people are in the family these days: 22. That is how many turned up last night. The occasion was a sendoff for Simon: an airforce member of the family who is being deployed to the Gulf this week as part of the Iraq/Afghanistan hostilities. I am actually no real kin to Simon at all but he and I have always got on well at various past family gatherings so I was delighted to have the privilege of hosting his sendoff. Having some military background myself, I was the first to appreciate that his deployment was a significant occasion that should be appropriately marked.

I invited everyone to dine at my expense at my local Indian restaurant -- which is first class. I can host only a few people at my own house and the Indians are such good cooks that it would be hard to imagine better food anyway. As is often the case, I spent much of the time at table talking to my son Joe and stepson Paul. I sat at the head of the table and had the two young men on either side of me. The three of us get on very well. Anne sat with the ladies at the other end of the table.

My stepson Paul was bemoaning the fact that he had lost $100,00 on the stockmarket over the last month or so. I assured him that I had lost $300,000 and I wasn't worrying so I think that helped him a bit. Joe said that he is just not looking at the market these days -- which is reasonable. It is just a waiting game for wise investors at this stage. Only fools sell during a downturn -- but there always seem to be plenty of them. I have BOUGHT a couple of small parcels, myself.

Joe has been eating good Indian food for most of his life, off and on, as his mother Jenny is an excellent cook who does even the most complicated Indian dishes well. So my local Indian restaurant is also Joe's favourite restaurant. Somewhere along the line he has picked up a taste for lassi -- so he always orders that for a drink -- rather to the bemusement of other Anglo-Saxons present.

Ken (Paul's father) also joined "the men" at my end of the table, as he usually does. He and Paul disagreed about just about everything during the course of the evening, as they usually do, but it made for a lively discussion. I get on very well with both Paul and his father, myself. Paul and Ken work together in their computer business so their constant wrangling doesn't seem to do any harm. There is zero animosity between them and lots of trust. They just can never convince one-another of anything!

Speeches were mercifully short. At the beginning I spoke for about two minutes leading up to a toast to Simon and later on Simon spoke with similar merciful brevity. He will be away for 6 months and it is already clear that he will miss his wife and children badly whilst away -- but having so many people turn up to wish him well before his departure will no doubt help a little.

I have often remarked that our frequent family gatherings have given my son Joe a typical Italian upbringing. None of us are in fact Italian but I have always thought that the Italians could teach us a lot about how to live. And frequent big family gatherings around a long dining table are a traditional feature of Italian life. And Joe has grown up in exactly that sort of environment. Forza Italia!.

I have never been to Italy but the place where I grew up (Innisfail) was 50% an Australian country town and 50% a Mediterranean village -- and Italians have always impressed me as top quality people. They have their foibles -- like anyone else -- but their virtues (hard-working, good humoured, hospitable, family-oriented people and only a little bit crooked) greatly outweigh their vices in my opinion. But I like Indians too so maybe I am a bit of a Pollyanna. I have certainly been accused of that. I definitely do have the gift of contentment, something unknown to the political Left. I can get bothered by things at times but it is a rarity. I don't let anyone push me around, though. I am pretty good at pushing back.

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