Old folk at lunch

Friday, December 26, 2008

A double Christmas

Our big family Christmases normally happen on Christmas day. While the "kids" (now all in their 30s) were young, the day started early in the morning (some time between 6am and 7am) as the kids were unleashed on a pile of presents under the tree. After the present distribution, people would either sit around talking, play games or go back to sleep until the big lunch. In more recent times, however, just a lunch after midday has been the custom followed by a swappable mystery present game that everyone plays.

This year, however, we went European and had our big occasion on Christmas eve rather on Christmas day. It was at Simon's big new house out in the boondocks (boondocks from my viewpoint. I have long been a central city dweller). Anne and I Humbered out there. Showing how versatile members of the military can be, Simon cooked up a big and first-class traditional Christmas dinner for us (around 20 people) all by himself on his big new stove.

The house had been designed by Simon to accommodate entertaining and its 9ft wide verandahs were certainly good for that. It was a very hot day but the verandahs were cool. As usual, I talked mainly with Paul, Joe, Simon and Ken but I did get in brief chats with Von and Suz. Von is doing amazingly well. She gets a very high salary and owns three houses. Having a practical streak plus being both nice-looking and happy-natured has certainly delivered the goods for her. I was pleased to see that both girls are still wearing their hair long too. It looked great on both of them.

Joe has been working on his honours thesis lately and is finding no problems with it. He hopes to finish it by March and hopes to get employment in the actuarial field some time next year. He has certainly been consistent in his wish to become an actuary. Academe seems to be only a second preference for him. His mathematics degree is of course a good starting point for actuarial work but he told me that his knowledge of the stockmarket is helpful in interviews too. So my setting him up to get stockmarket experience has had an unexpected side-benefit. I gave him the usual large cheque for Christmas for him to invest. I want him to make most of his investment mistakes before I die, when he has to take over my portfolio.

After the mystery present game, which was very raucous and jocular and must have taken an hour or more, we got our Secret Santa presents. Paul was my secret Santa. Because I sometimes used to give him trick presents when he was a kid, he gave me a trick present this time. The present was ostensibly a circular saw in a circular-saw cardboard box -- even though my Secret Santa request had been for a towel and a sheet. But I rather spoilt the game by neither commenting on the apparent present nor opening the box. Paul however, pushed to get me to open the box and it did after all contain a towel and sheet.

Cake and desserts came after the present exchanges and Simon got me into a discussion of ethics and meta-ethics over dessert! As part of that I suggested that there are some things we can be certain of and "Global warming is crap" would be one example of that. There was no disagreement. I am always a bit surprised by how many global warming skeptics I encounter -- even people in relatively humble occupations. Suzy's husband-to-be, Russel, is a rigger (assistant to a crane driver) but even he could tell you all about ice-cores and such things and why they disprove global warming. I am inclined to think that only an intellectual could be stupid enough to believe in it.

Anyway, Jenny knew that I am a creature of habit and would miss my usual Christmas lunch so she put on an excellent lunch next day just for me, her, Joe and Nanna. Anne was elsewhere attending her own Christmas lunch. We had a small present exchange first and Joe got a Nintendo Wii games machine out of it, which he was really pleased about. They really are an amazing advance on the old games machines that I remember. The dinner itself included two types of kebab, both of which tasted as good as they smelled.

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