Old folk at lunch

Sunday, July 15, 2012

More birthday observances

My birthday celebrations generally stretch over a period of days and today I took the initiative of inviting family over for one of my pizza and champagne nights. It's simple fare but always goes down well

Anne was due to contribute to the celebrations by cooking me a haggis last night but she has the flu so could not. For the same reason she could not come tonight.

Nanna was also not feeling well and other people could not come for various reasons so there were only 9 of us tonight -- but we were a jolly company, including Joe, just up from Canberra.

We were going to have it downstairs in my backyard under party flares but the cold weather plus the smaller numbers meant that it made more sense to have it upstairs, so we did.

It all went well with lots of chat. George kept Ken and Paul engaged in conversation for a while -- with George reminiscing about it being REALLY cold in his native Yorkshire. Both Ken and George were glad to have escaped to Brisbane instead.

Paul's Susan was an absolute tower of strength to me. In Anne's absence, I had to take care of various hospitality duties but my bumbling efforts were not getting far so Susan took over. She even opened one of the champagne bottles! She is surprisingly good at that. And to top it off she bought over a PERFECT Schwarzwalderkirschentorte as my birthday cake. What a woman!

Matthew entertained us all by trying to get his little fingers into everything he shouldn't and Dusty was also crawling around with great energy. It's always a pleasure to have the little ones present. It was amusing how Matthew kept heading for the kitchen tidy bin. We all had to take turns keeping him out of it. It was like a magnet to him.

At the start of proceedings I had a 3 question quiz with a prize for the first person to get the third question right. The first two questions were who lives at no. 10 and no. 11 Downing St, which were easy, but when I asked who lived at no. 12 Downing St., there was a great hush. I gave a few clues and Paul eventually guessed it: The Chief Whip of the majority party in the House of Commons.

We also have a Whip system in Australia so Paul's interest in Australian politics paid off. Or maybe memories of "Yes Minister" did the trick. I remember that in one episode the Chief Whip was described as a "terrorist". So Paul got a bottle of champagne as his prize. As Paul remarked, with Australia's current fragile majority in the Federal Lower House, the Whips must be pretty busy.

Nobody knew what a three-line whip was, however, so I explained that and pointed out that there had been a mass rebellion against one in Britain very recently. A great shock!

I have never heard of a whip system in the USA and it probably would not make much sense there, given the "broad tent" that both major parties constitute there. There is plenty of (metaphorical) arm-twisting in in the corridors and offices of Congress, nonetheless.

The cake

Sahara was very good at handing out kisses & cuddles to the other littlies

A video of the cake-cutting below with Matthew in attendance

A reflection

It's interesting that a quiz about a small street in London should not only be seen as entirely legitimate by people on the opposite side of the world but was in fact answered correctly. Admittedly, two of the people present were England-born but they too are Australian citizens (whether de facto or de jure I am not entirely sure) and the answer to the hardest question was in fact given by someone Australian-born.

I think it underlines how small is the PSYCHOLOGICAL distance between England and Australia -- one of the more amazing events in human history. Normally psychological distance and geographical distance are closely allied.

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