It’d be nice to say that things have been a bit on the quiet side in terms of the better things in life … OK, that’s good company, good food and wine … but they have been quiet. At least fore the past two days they have. Alcohol-free in fact … eight and a half hours sleep a night and I’m unsure of what to make of it ... OK, the body is rebelling because it’s not sure why it is rested, sober and still well fed.
It was a move that came out of some sort of necessity after a weekend of monumental proportions, given that I’d had kids in the house again for a few days and nights and to say that there was some wine … all right, bourbon, scotch beers and other stuff … consumed is like saying that it’s a fairly long drive around Australia.
I’d forgotten just how well I slept when they are about, not. One, with girlfriend in tow, ambles/staggers/reels through the front door any time between midnight and four, while the sober one (read black sheep of the family) rocks in at six. I’m a parent. I hear them no matter how tired I am.
The Vanuatu arm of the family (Liam) and his girlfriend (Mara … she’s a Canadian personal trainer and probably the fittest person in my house since I was 84 kilograms what seems a lifetime ago) enjoyed their stay in freezing Melbourne … it was in the 20s every day, yet I have a picture of him in jeans, jumper, robe and a pair of ugg boots. Joel, my youngest, also stayed … the boys are very close … and he’s a dealer. I love saying that to people who cast a quizzical eye at me. OK, he deals poker at the casino and loves it. Like I said, he doesn’t drink or smoke, is nearly always sensible and he sings in a band that is putting together an album (more when the details become apparent to anyone outside their often-noisy house).
Given his mother’s and my penchant for the odd snifter of something, it’s nothing but praise for him turning out the way he did, even if he’s one of the world’s great night owls.
I had a feeling that the visit would go pear-shaped the night the Vanuatu express hit town. Seems he’d been bumped up to first class (he knows lots of the airline staff over there) and subsequently there was the bottomless glass of red (and, he claims, really good food), something for which I think he has a degree/masters/doctorate. Maybe he’s just a natural who has been well taught by his father. He was met at the airport by his girlfriend and a mate (I was at home drinking wine … of course I was) although to this day, he doesn’t remember it. It wasn’t apparently the red that did it, more like the beers he had with mates at the airport before he flew out of Port Vila. Yeah, right. He finally emerged through immigration minus his footwear, which he’d left on the plane. Then there was the problem of getting his luggage, which had been confiscated/misplaced/whatever by Customs to whom he’d been “cheeky”.
After an entrance like that, little wonder we could but drink the duty-free scotch until the need for sleep enveloped us all … earlier than I had anticipated. No going out for us lot.
What followed were days (even mornings sometimes) when the need for a fermented mouthwash was the order of the day. Lunches, dinners, snacks, all washed down with something. And the Dominican Republic cigars (how good are they?). Thank God the Limerick in South Melbourne was open for lunch on Good Friday.
Sunday was a family gathering, mother (and her husband), father, sons. I went market shopping in the morning to buy laksa ingredients and to restock the flower vases in the house. Oh yeah, I bought wine too. It was still AM but we lifted the stopper on a bottle before heading to a local pub for a long Sunday lunch/afternoon tea/pre-dinner drinks extravaganza.
Luckily, after a few post-lunch drinks, I spent three hours or so on the phone to a friend, something that got me back onto the straight and narrow (Yeah, like that’s ever happened).
Joel through it all was designated driver, confidante, level-headed influence and all-round good guy. Thanks mate, well played.
It all culminated in a farewell dinner with a few (there were eight of us at Lina’s wine bar) at the farewell dinner. I love Liam lots, but I wasn’t all that unhappy to see him into an airport-bound cab after a lifting, filling bowl of the old man’s laksa to sustain them on their trip back to paradise. Oh, and given that footwear was in short supply, I cost me an (old) pair of snakeskin boots, which will no doubt grace many a social occasion in Port Vila.
The next two days were spent, after working my arse off at Crikey and at The Weekly Review, after which it was combing the house for remnants of bodies, crockery, the odd ladle, cutlery, food scraps, a waitress or two, sunglasses, wine glasses, empty cigarette packets, corks, empty lighters, socks (yeah, he borrowed mine. Of course he did), bottles (99 per cent empty), hay bales (no a lot surprises me), restaurant menus, plastic bags, duty-free receipts, aluminium cigar tubes and sundry other stuff. Oh, and the pile (think Ayers Rock dimensions) of towels, bed sheets, doona cover, pillow cases, socks and whatever else needed washing.
It was almost good to be back at work after the Easter break. OK, it was good to be back at work … earning some dough seemed like a good thing given that the debit card behaved like it had a personal trainer. It did little else but work out ¬¬-- a bit like my liver really.
Work won the week. I enjoyed the lack of pressure to gaze into the bottom of a glass, at least until last Saturday, when I caught up with a friend who has a penchant for Japanese food.
A quiet sip of the most excellent Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch chardonnay was the order of the evening before making a beeline to EIS, the contemporary Japanese restaurant almost at the end of the street.
Again it was the degustation menu … and what value it is. I’ve been to this place four times and each time it has been wonderful. Did I mention that it was good? Eight courses, five matching wines (including fantastic, yeasty French bubbles to start) for $105 a head. The best beef tartare I’ve eaten by a country mile. Oyster shooter in mint vodka with coriander and chilli. My God. Scallop with cucumber, pesto and fish roe. Tuna nori roll, beef sushi (can you call it sushi?). Miso-infused lamb cutlets; pumpkin soup with king prawns and truffle paste; unctuous eel with steamed rice and green tea. I couldn’t make it through the blueberry crepe to end. Done and dusted I was. My friend, however, went the distance. And the wines. Bubbles, Mo Mo sauv blanc, Geelong region pinot, some cab sauv and Japanese plum wine with desert. It was all we could do to finish the “Ladies” when we got back to my place before tackling some excellent South Australian riesling.
Talk (and wine) plus music was the order of the evening and we pulled an all-nighter. Sleep came easily.
It wasn’t a great preparation for a Sunday night out, but that was always the plan.
My friend, Andrew McUtchen (see andrewmcutchen.com.au) was playing at Lina’s (see link elsewhere on this blog) at six on Sunday night. Given that I’d recommended him for a gig or two meant that, regardless of my liver, grey appearance (I’m not talkin’ hair here) and general lack of demeanor and dress sense, I had to be there, but I wouldn’t have missed it for quids.
This bloke has talent in spades. At the last dinner party I had, Andrew put on a show to remember. Consensus was by all there to be the best night ever.
He went beyond that at Lina’s. I recall saying to him after his first set that his voice was better than I’d ever heard it.
“I woke up a bit dry in the throat this morning, but it’s come good,” he said.
Good? This bloke is a major, major talent. He sang stuff by a few people (including an excellent INXS cover and I recall him mentioning Leonard Cohen) but most importantly, he did Andrew McUtchen songs. Genius.
Suss them out and buy his albums. Listen and discover your new favourite singer/songwriter.
All too soon the gig was over. So was I, after 8-10 glasses of most excellent French rose and a piadina to soak up some of it, I had to put out the bins and enjoy some Zs. Lots. I did.
Hence, the two days alcohol free, although as I write this, some NZ sauv blanc is doing its thing.
Roll on work tomorrow, if only for the fact that it’s when I submit my invoice for services rendered.
Oh, and what a good sight it was this morning, walking along the promenade alongside the casino and heading for the office. There was a bloke, oblivious to those around him, reading as he walked.
Checking Twitter or Facebook on an iPad or his phone?
Nah, he had a book on the go.
All power to ya, fella.
ME IN A NUTSHELL
- G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.