With a public holiday on 26th October to celebrate the anniversary of Austria’s independence-cum-neutrality in 1955 following the defeat of the Third Reich in the Second World War and subsequent occupation by the allied powers, we decided to take full advantage of the public holiday falling on a Friday to push the boat out at Curmudgeon Heights. Usually our parties are relatively staid affairs, with all of the assembled guests “old enough to know better” and not knowingly up for over-indulging if it gets in the way of beating a retreat for a weekend away, and usually packed off in taxis with the tupperware containers they bought with them not much past midnight.
The evening also doubled up as a birthday bash and pick-me-up for my sister-in-law, who is somewhat fraught at the fact that her son (currently apparently on board a cruise ship in the Caribbean somewhere) has only contacted her very sporadically since he decided to leave for a life (insert more suitable time frame as applicable) on the ocean wave, in a bid to get himself back on a firmer financial footing. He briefly Skype-d his mother to wish her a happy birthday earlier in the week, without really giving very much away about his location. He locked down his Facebook profile recently, and my sister-in-law has tried badgering me to join Facebook, but I steadfastly refuse. A Twitter account that I look at in fits and bursts and try to post pithy put-downs to consumerism on is about my limit. I keep in touch with those I want to by e-mail, and don’t fancy being found by all and sundry on it. My wife, who has to deal with Facebook junkies at her school or whatever the latest social media fad is called, has also steadfastly refused to join.
You might ask why we hosted my sister-in-law’s birthday bash, seeing as she now has “sturmfrei” now that her son has left home for the lure of the ocean liner, and since he is showing that he has no intention of returning to Hotel Mama. And therein lies the problem. In having cleared his chattels from a storage lock-up facility as a way to cut down his outgoings, his worldly goods are taking up a considerable part of the room that his mother might have otherwise used for such a soirée. And so it fell to us to throw a party, since we have more space and also need little excuse to throw a party.
We quite enjoy having friends over, and since a lot of my sister-in-law’s friends are also friends of my wife (particularly those they have known longest) it is hardly as if we are inviting marauding vandals of unknown origin into our flat. And to date, there has never been anything approaching the last days of the Roman Empire. Although this time, clearly the bar was raised substantially, as the post mortem of all the empties after a very long lie-in on Friday revealed.
I alluded to the fact that the guests were all “old enough to know better”, but I can only presume that the full moon the night before might have been what led many to throw caution to the wind. We had certainly never had a party where the following day we would receive a bizarre SMS like:
Ist unser Autoschlüssel noch in der Obstschale auf dem Esstisch?
I apologise to the two readers who understand the remark and who have snorted their commuter coffee in disbelief (I appear to get most reads around the peak commuting hours). Rest assured, dearest readers, our party was not a “car keys in the bowl” affair. The innocent explanation was that two friends, realising that they were by far and a way too intoxicated to drive, saw fit to put their car key in the fruit bowl at any party at which they over-consumed, since they do not wish to drink and drive (a laudable attitude to have, and one that has yet to fully make its way throughout the more rural parts of Austria). Around 4pm on Friday afternoon, when I finally was feeling half-human after the worst hangover this side of the millennium, our friends popped by with some chocolates to retrieve their car key.
Over the years we have accumulated a lot of booze, and the stuff we are less than keen on never gets touched, although we leave them out at parties in the hope that a guest might decide to help us out. In just the same way that anglers regale you about a day spent in the rain eating soggy sandwiches and drinking stewed tea from a thermos as the rain pours down without a sniff of a tug on the line, some bottles had never been tasted. Until last Thursday’s party of course. Amazingly the Bosnian spirit with the largely missing label that I can’t remember where it came from is now in a recycling bottle bin and I and some of the Stammtisch boys put it out of its misery. The hangover I had on Friday was more memorable than the drink itself. That might also explain why the dodgy bottle of Raki and the Macedonian brandy (we presume) might also have been polished off.
Wednesday is Halloween. We are out in town to avoid the trick-or-treaters. I dread to think how many miniature bottles and energy drink cans will litter our neighbourhood. One thing is for certain, we will not be putting our car keys in the bowl that evening, but will nevertheless rely on public transport to get us around town efficiently, and will doubtless encounter the odd bedraggled goblin, slutty looking vampire or inappropriately dressed zombie. And that will not be when we go to the cemetery on 1 November.