Sunday, March 11, 2007

A family do

Last night was the big "do" to celebrate both my mom's retirement and my parents' respective birthdays. The whole family was invited, as well as my mom's former work colleagues and the neighbors on their street (who, from all accounts, are party animals).

My dad had rented the function room at The Swan, a pub a five-minute walk from the house, and we spent the afternoon decorating it with balloons and banners (and trying to figure out how the duct-taped-together audio system worked).

The evening was a lot of fun; it was good to see so much of the family in one place, especially the cousins of my generation (perhaps predictably, we gathered at one table and passed our time insulting each other).

The food was typical Northern buffet of triangular tuna-cucumber sandwiches, sausage rolls, fried sausages, pickled onions, pork pie, open-faced egg salad sandwiches, potato chips.

And a cake.

A lovely real proper fruit cake--not the painfully dense American version with green cherries--light and buttery, with a nice fruit-to-cake ratio and a good thick crust of royal icing. My cousin Deborah's friend had made it, and (based solely on the knowledge that my mom has dark hair and my dad has a beard) decorated it with parental figurines:

See the resemblance?

Oh, and there was drinking, of course.

Of course. Because there was an open bar.

I asked the bartender if he knew how to make a martini. No, he said, he'd never made a cocktail before. (In Teesside, the drink of choice is beer (or wine, but it has to be either "sweet" or "dry white.")

So, I said, put four parts gin and one part vermouth in a glass.

"This one?" he asked, pointing at the sweet vermouth.

"No, the other one," I said .... but it was too late.

Anyway. Let's continue.

I asked whether he had a shaker. No, no he didn't. So fill the glass with ice, I said (which he did), and then strain it into another glass ... do you have a strainer?

"Umm ... I have orange wedges."


"No, to strain the ice out of the drink."

"Oh, right. No, I don't." He started looking around the bar for a suitable alternative--and came up with a beer mat.

Good enough. He placed it over the top of the glass, leaving just a narrow opening, and deftly poured the drink into another glass.

He pushed it across the bar to me and watched as I took the first sip.


"Mmmm ... this is really great," I said. "Just like James Bond would drink."

He beamed with pride.

For the rest of the night, I drank dry white wine.



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