Sunday, March 27, 2011
It started Friday morning, more or less. Or maybe it started Tuesday night. I'm not sure.
Natalie took the Younger Son to Queensland on Tuesday evening. She had a medical conference to attend, and she felt that it would do the boy some good to hang out with his grandad (Nat's father), who is a long-time rally-driver, dirt biker, and competitive sailor.
Younger Son, as you know, was born with Attitude. Thus, for the first few nights I got phone calls (via Natalie) from the kid, telling me all about his adventures riding a motorbike, learning to swim (finally!) and so forth. All good.
Mind you, that left me doing sole parent with two kids. Still, that's not such a big deal. The only real issue was Wednesday evening, when I had to teach the ju-jitsu class. The Mau-Mau is not yet an attendee... so she caught the bus home from school to her best friend's house while I took the classes. That worked okay.
However, a very dear friend of mine had the very poor manners to schedule his wedding for Saturday. (Yeah, I'm staring at you, John.) I mean - it's not even his first! He's done it before!
Nevertheless, I wanted to attend. Of course, it was happening in Briz.
So -- I teed up a couple of minders, and I packed bags for both kids on Friday morning. Elder Son Jake went to his best friend's house for the weekend, and the Mau-Mau went to hers. (And I am undyingly grateful to two different families for that one!)
Meanwhile, I rounded up things about the house, packed my gear, grabbed a fine bottle of Tasmanian bubbles for a wedding present, and hit the road.
I got into Briz on Friday evening, and immediately incurred another debt. Another beloved friend of many years standing -- the other half of the Barnesm team, as a matter of fact, whom we shall call 'Charlotte' in honour of her unnatural predilection for Victorian literature -- kindly picked me up at the airport, and drove me out to the wilds of Fig Tree Pocket, where my sister lurks. Seeing as how Charlotte was also on the invite list to the wedding in question, we organised a pickup time for the morning, knocked off a pizza, and then she headed back home. I had a couple beers with my brother-in-law who is one of the more relentlessly big-hearted, decent, kind and funny individuals I know, and then I did The Big Crash.
So, yeah. Next day saturday. And the world being what it is, by coincidence also the fourteenth birthday of my nephew. Seeing how he's fourteen, and I had no real idea of his interests (I knew he used to like archery... and that's about all I knew) I slipped him a decent-sized bill, and then did my best impression of a Bad Influence Uncle: I taught him how to sweep the cards on his deal so that he put an ace on the bottom of the deck. Then I taught him how to keep the ace on the bottom of the deck through the two most common forms of shuffle... and finally, I taught him how to deal a card from the bottom of the deck without being spotted.
I'm not sure he realises the value of these skills yet. But nevertheless, I'm quite proud of myself. I feel I've done my duty as Bad Influence Uncle. I also taught him to cut the deck when anyone else volunteers to deal, and gave him a few pointers on how to spot a rigged game, how to avoid the most basic forms of con and cheat, and when to get the hell out gracefully to save his hide.
The wedding invite said "dress for cocktails." I did. Rum cocktails, to quote my comrade Arian, who was also at the wedding. In fact, I was the only bloke there without a tie. I hate ties. I hate suits. I don't do them. So I had my best piratical shirt, my leather vest, a gaudy sash, my baggy black Thai fishing trousers, and my black, suede, kneehigh moccasins.
Before you ask: yes. That is absolutely what I would wear to some sort of goddam cocktail do. In any case, John invited me. He knew what to expect, and he didn't bat an eyelid.
The wedding went off very nicely. There was a smattering of folks there I'd not seen in many a year, which was entertaining, and it's always good to swap bullshit with Arian. (I also left him with a message for Girl Clumsy... which should be entertaining.) The new Missus John is a gorgeous, doe-eyed lass who goes by the name of Amy, and gets the Flinthart Stamp of Approval. We had a fine conversation about "The Journey To The West", by Wu Ch'en En, and I look forward to further discussions at some time in the future. But in the meantime, the couple is off to China to have a SECOND wedding in China, for the sake of Amy's family. (Her parents were there, and a few others, but I think she has a bit more in the way of family back in the Old Country.)
I did, in fact, get invited to the China do as well, and I was sorely, sorely tempted... but the timing is not at all good, and then there's the money, and... ah, hell. At least I made it to the Brisney do, eh?
John's dad was looking pretty good, despite being 80 not out. He was, at one point, a professor of mine at UQ, teaching a course on science fiction. He's had the odd stroke over the last few years, and speech isn't as easy for him as once it was, but he's still sharp as ever, and he knows how to get his point across when he wants to. Late in the evening, after I'd had a few ales and was shooting the breeze with John, said father came out with a copy of 'How To Be A Man' in his hand, and the most wonderfully accusatory expresssion on his face. Once I finished laughing, I pointed out that clearly, not all my hours in his tutelage had been wasted...
The bride and groom made a disappearing act at a very reasonable hour, in a car duly decorated in shaving foam, toilet paper and soft-drink tins. Mme Charlotte and I trundled off not too much later, and after another couple of brother-in-law accompanied ales, I crashed out again...
... because the next morning at 0900 Briz, Charlotte collected me and we went off to Chermside in pursuit of another very dear old friend. This gentleman I shall refer to as Major Disaster for his connections with the military, and for his frequent bouts of accident-induced hospitalisation. Seriously: this man is amazing. I have seen him cut his finger on a drinking straw. He's not clumsy or stupid - far from it! He's simply one of the physically unluckiest individuals I have ever seen, and it is occasionally downright scary. I can only hope the two endearingly cute kids he has managed to raise with the aid of his good wife, Madame Disaster, have not inherited this particular problem.
I'd not met the kids before at all, since Major Disaster and co have been hangin' in Wales for lo, these many years past. But now they are returned as prodigals to the fold, and all is right with the world, more or less. Or at least, he wasn't wearing any new bandages when I saw him.
We had about an hour and a half at Chateau Disaster, and then it was off to the airport. A farewell to the lovely Mme Barnesm, and then a stint with the Deathstar, and I was home...
... about an hour and a half later than I expected. So I had to race like hell to collect Jake and the Mau-Mau from their various minders, offer up heartfelt thanks, then get home, make 'em a nice cup of hot chocolate, and put 'em to bed.
Natalie and Younger Son are due in 'roundabout midnight, at last text notification. I'm guessing the Deathstar is treating 'em roughly the way I expected. And for those of you wondering why we actually succumbed to the Deathstar, it's simple: nobody else at all flies direct Launceston to Brisbane.
Which sucks. Because the Deathstar is no way to fly.
Good weekend. Nice to see so many much-loved faces, and very fine to be part of John and Amy's big day. But... it's good to be home!