I can’t imagine anyone who knows me thinking of me as anything less than an irritable old sod.
I only go to Embassy functions because I know I will be able to catch up with a few other irritable old sods while dodging those who insist on trying to be pleasant to strangers. It is harder at the bar, of course, as one can end up cheek by jowl with the very worst sort.
‘Hello! My name is Frank and I work for Mega Inc. in Angola!’
‘What’s your name?’
‘It is Tom, Frank’
Oh please God I thought and tried desperately to get the barman’s attention.
‘Who do you work for Tom?’
‘No, what I meant was, what do you do in Angola, Tom?’
‘You must do something Tom, everybody has to do something, I mean, how did you end up in Angola?’
‘I got lost, Frank, you should try it’
The ones that really drive me nuts are those who try to ‘engage’ a whole group of irritable bastards at the same time. This requires the presumption of a common experience. The only guaranteed common experiences I attribute to humans are breathing, eating, shitting and dying and they hardly make for stimulating cocktail party conversation, unless they were all somehow humorously combined. Perhaps having inadvertently inhaled one’s soup, one had a fit, soiled one’s DJ and died. The humorous part being that the host had lightly excused the obvious fatigue of his guest and had carried on regardless.
No such luck with guys like Frank.
‘Where were you all when President Kennedy was assassinated?’
‘Frank, would you say that you were older than me?’
‘I don’t think so Tom’
‘Well, apart from Peter here, who might well have been the man on the grassy knoll, I am the oldest and I was four when Kennedy was shot’
‘Well how about the moon landing then?’
‘I was asleep in bed when Armstrong made his small step but I don’t think I missed anything because I am still waiting for the promised giant leap’
‘I was shagging my maid and only found out the earth had moved after the fact’
I could see he thought I was kidding. The trouble with guys like Frank is that they fail to appreciate that what may appear to be momentous on a world stage, no matter how tragic, generally matters not a jot to the average guy on the street. We will still have to get up in the morning and go to work, the wife will still hate us and the bills will need to be paid.
Truly momentous moments are deeply personal. I remember where I was when my sons were born. I was with their mothers in hospital. I remember teaching Dominic to ride a motorcycle and then a bicycle (arse about face I know but that’s how it worked out) and I will always remember today because today is the first time I took both my boys fishing together. Dominic is an old hand but today was the first time Alex rode in a boat, was deep in the bush, probably further away from his mother he has been in his entire three years of life and old enough to overcome his initial nervousness and really start to enjoy himself, with his Dad and his older brother.
OK, we didn’t catch any fish but we scored ten lobsters which Marcia boiled up and Alex described as ‘Lishous. Another first for him and a delicious day for all of us.
Alex, age three. He will kill all the sharks. You'll see...