It’s difficult to know where to begin on the subject of the dysfunctional extravaganza that was my father’s 70th birthday.
Do I start with my brother’s baby, who chose that particular moment to begin his long and arduous entrance into the world? Or the grumpy hernia that threatened to erupt and thwart the enjoyment of the birthday boy? Or the paramedics, who finally turned up during the soprano’s aria to whisk Granny off to the Chelsea and Westminster hospital?
Finding content for this blog under the category of ‘dysfunctionality’, is never difficult with my family.
Entertaining is something that the London contingent of my family do incredibly well, and thanks to my father’s long-suffering term partner, the preparations for this huge family event to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday were exceptional in every way. An interior designer by profession, every last detail of the impending celebration was perfection, from the choice of room at the RAC Club in Pall Mall, to the four-course gourmet menu and trio of opera singers chosen to mesmerise us with their talent towards the latter part of the evening.
As the champagne flowed, the guests wined and dined in true London style, oblivious to the drama that was carefully being concealed behind the scenes.
That is, up until that point in the evening where it finally became unfeasible to conceal Granny’s obvious pain; for the matriarch of the family was in trouble, and no amount of British stoicism could prevent a 999 call.
Released from the local hospital only a few days before, following a hip replacement at the grand age of 93, and in spite of possessing the fortitude of the war veteran that she is, (and one who had insisted on attending through her pain), Granny began to writhe in agony in her chair as the opera singers launched into Carmen.
And as the wonderful soprano reached the climax of the first piece, unfortunately it was to be the paramedics who stole the show as they finally arrived in their neon green finery, entered the room with the stealth of ninjas, and relieved Granny from her immediate pain with gas and air.
But in Great Britain, the show must always go on.
And during the following breathtaking, vocal triumphs from the trio of talented musicians, close family huddled together in mutual support and knuckled back down to the serious business of celebration and drinking. Although still numbed by the shock of Granny’s early exit, we consoled ourselves with the best brandy on offer and awaited news of the impending arrival of the newest member of our ‘dysfunctional’ clan, who, unbeknownst to us was now jammed in the birth canal, and didn’t want to arrive.
But that wasn’t enough drama for my father.
An actor in a previous lifetime and revitalised by alcohol the knowledge that Granny was in safe hands (as well as several more glasses of Champagne), he appeared surprisingly calm as he stood up to make his speech.
And his audience relaxed with him.
And he decided to seize the day.
His timing was genius, when with no warning he grabbed what he saw as the perfect opportunity to take the wind completely out of his partner’s already ebbing sails and propose to her after twenty years. And poor step-mom, still in recovery from the earlier demise of her mother, nearly fell off her seat in shock.
Guests applauded, more champagne was consumed, heavy back-slapping was the order of the night, and somewhere across the city a new ‘dysfunctional’ called ‘River’, finally entered the world, and our history of family dysfunctionality at all times, and no matter what the occasion, was once again upheld.