Sunday, December 19, 2010

Farewell The Barnes Mob

That went well, I think.

Yesterday we had a turn of weather such as only Tasmania can put on. It's high summer. Literally a single day before the Solstice. And so, after a morning playing 'Arkham Horror', we decided to take a trip to the local fish farm to throw in a line.

I'll digress here. 'Arkham Horror' is a boardgame based on the stories of H P Lovecraft, and it's meant to be about Creeping Horror. The original version was a minor classic, and when you added drinking rules (take a big slug every time your character loses a Sanity Point -- the more insane you go, the drunker you get, and thus the verisimilitude becomes almost unbearable by the time you wind up facing Cthulhu) it was a hilarious shambles that everyone enjoyed.

The remake is... complicated. Very, very farkin' complicated, yeah. And of course, since Barnesm and I were playing the game alongside three young and impressionable lads, the more entertaining Advanced Insanity Rules weren't appropriate. So we played, yes, and it was fun, yes, but it trickled to a kind of indeterminate end. I think we need to know the rules better.

Mind you, there was a lot of fun to be had with it. I think I just about broke Mr Barnes' young 'Weapon Against Society' with my impression of a Cthulhu cultist as Hare Krishna. You know: singing "Ia Cthulhu! Ia Cthulhu! Ia ia! Ia Cthulhu! Cthulhu fhtaghn! Cthulhu fhtaghn! Fhtaghn fhtaghn! Cthulhu fhtaghn!" while bobbing back and forth and pretending I was playing a tambourine... Frankly, I kind of like that version of the cultists. Made me feel much better about casting 'Withering' on them, and then kicking them in the nadgers.

The fishing was -- ummm -- can you really call it 'fishing'? It's a goddam commercial trout/salmon farm, for the love of Azathoth. We hopped in the car, took off over the range, and drove straight into the most remarkable rain squall. The temperature plummeted. Looking at yesterday's figures online suggests we were dealing with something like 5C -- which would be about 45F for you Imperialist buffoons. So there we were, Barnesm and I, standing in this horrid, shitty rain that was maybe a degree or two above being sleet. And he was waving the casting net around as the boys reeled in the fish, while I mostly got the job of untangling lines, demonstrating casting techniques, and unhooking fish.

One thing for fishing at a commercial farm: you get fish. We took home something like ten kg of mixed trout and salmon. The Weapon Against Society was particularly delighted because he'd learned the basics of casting with an eggbeater-type rod inside of twenty minutes, AND he'd landed his first-ever fish. (It was a Golden Trout, and I guess it probably weighed a kilo and a half or so. That would be about three Imperialist Buffoon pounds.)

Having some small insight into the psychology of young boys, when we got home I made absolutely sure that the Golden Trout (or one of the two, anyhow... who the fuck can tell apart fish of the same species and roughly the same size?) got thrown into the 'cook tonight' batch, instead of the (rather larger) 'freeze for later' batch. And so it was that we had fresh salmon and trout, baked with garlic, lemon zest, pepper and vietnamese mint, served with a salad flavoured with sushi dressing, black pepper and sesame oil, washed down with a rather nice Kiwi sav blanc, and rounded off by a serving of home-made Leatherwood Honey and Mascarpone Ice Cream in a gingernut crust.

Mr Barnes is a man of impressive appetite. But I'm grateful. I hate keeping leftover fish in the fridge, and what with his heroic efforts, there simply was no leftover. Mind you, everyone else did yeoman service as well. And the Weapon proudly identified his Golden Trout, and insisted on eating his portion therefrom, and did Pronounce It Good, whereupon all were much pleased.

Good meal. Good friends. Good times. The kids were tired as hell, and didn't stay up too late. Nat went to bed too, because country doctors don't get to relax just 'cos some Jewish chap may have been born about 2011 years ago... But Barnes and his good lady stayed up, and there was drinking and there was fine conversation and argument and discourse.

And I had a damned good time. It's great to catch up with old friends. Even better when they're such as Barnesm and the fine and thoughtful woman he calls his 'Reason For Living'. It's wonderful to find that the years and the distance mean nothing, and you can simply pick up where you left off. Not nostalgia: not endless rehashing of the stories of youth, but simply the extension of old, powerful, and hard-won friendships. Mr B is as dementedly witty as ever, and the Other Half -- I can't call her Mrs B! -- is as observant, thoughtful, trenchant, and strong as she was when I met her more than twenty years ago now. I'm proud to call them both friends, and I'm delighted to say they've got a great kid -- and even more delighted to see that my kids and their boy show every sign of extending the friendship to the next generation.

We saw the morning off with a rousing game of 'Kung Fu Samurai on Giant Robot Island'. I'd really rather not try to explain it, except to say: it's a card game about making seriously B-grade chop-socky flicks. The turning point was when my Mutant Cyborgs, allied with the Spirits of the Ancestors, attacked and destroyed Younger Son's almost invulnerable Inscrutable Monk with Kick-Ass Katana. With a bit of help from the Weapon, the Mutant Cyborgs prevailed -- and the game was eventually won by a movie about... a mansion. Nothing else. (All my characters were long dead. But the location of the film survived -- and that was enough to prevail.

In other words: "The Return of Monkey Cop Robot Finger Fury" was all about a mansion. And nothing else. We figured that obviously, the first movie had been a great success but the lead actors died (probably in the same explosion that killed Godzilla, when Barnes' lone Sumo Wrestler used a bomb to kill him) so the film producers quickly ran out a sequel...

Anyway. The family is now calling me to go and watch Fringe with them, and I shall do so. I've made a dinner of steamed dumplings and vegetables, and it's time to go and hang with Natalie and the kids. Farewell to Barnes and co... and come back when you can, eh?