Pop's soirée is at noon at the In And Out Club in St James Square. This was known as the Argentine Club during the War. John has done all the heavy lifting on this gig, corresponding with the venue and the guests. He deserves a lot of kudos.
I got a barber appointment for a shave beforehand. I'm not sure if the young lady had ever done a shave before and she seemed a little nervous throughout. But it was a very nice experience, hot towels and all.
The people coming to this party hail from several of Pop's different paths. There are relatives, specifically Caldins, who actually are rather distant blood wise, but who have always been very welcoming of us whenever we sail across the pond. Also, cousin Joy and her son, Angus, more our age with family of his own.
Quite a few are very old friends from the Argentine, schoolmates and such. There are also old cricket buddies, including my godfather, Terry Woram and his wife, Pat. I haven't seen him since the seventies and it was good to catch up. He is from Rhodesia originally and still goes back to Harare. It is interesting to hear first hand how Mugabe has screwed up that country.
Also in attendance are the Morles, Chris and Sarah, who lived with Pop in the year after Mom died, having a big hand in raising John at 13, a difficult year. They have been our family's guardian angels. Chris was over to teach for a year at Low-Heywood, a local private school. They had advertised for a place to stay and Pop needed help, so it worked out great. Now they come and visit us when they are in the states and we visit them when in the UK.
Cath and Martin Middleton were also there. We had seen them in the past few years at Cath's father, Algy's funeral. Algy was one one Pop's oldest friends, also Argentine, but being ten years older than Pop, I'm not sure if they knew each other as kids. Martin is a racing car mechanic. When I was here in '74, I stayed with them up near Birmingham. I helped Martin change the shocks on a Mini Cooper and we took a drive in his Jaguar up to the racing exhibit at Donnington. Martin drove very fast, which I loved, but which also, embarrassingly, made me sick.
The In and Out Club is a servicemen's club of which two of are guests are members: Robin Gilderdale and Barney Miller. Barney's son is Domenic Miller, Sting's guitarist. Pop has stayed with Barney on occasion when visiting the UK.
The club is old and stately and the staff are wonderful. We start out in the Argentine Bar. The brothers greet guests at the door and provide everyone with name tags. Casey takes coats. Everybody is on their best behavior and the Hussey boys and their wives make a stunning impression. Have I mentioned we are big? And loud? And like to laugh a lot?
We meet and greet in the bar for a while, catching up with people, some of whom we haven't seen in decades. I go upstairs to the Norwegian dining room to drop my ukelele and bag. Carly is already up there, setting up the laptop so she can show the slide show she has made with pictures ranging from Pop as a baby, all the way up to the day before on he London Eye. The cord with which they have provided her doesn't work for video. She works with the staff to try to get it working and eventually one of them runs out to the Apple Store to get the right one.
The younger children were all in a passel down at the bar, huddled over their iPhones. They have now moved up to the dining room in the second floor because the wifi is better up here. Though they are attached to their phones, I don't find them completely disengaged.
The rest join us and we are served an excellent fish dinner. John put this whole club thing together and he did a wonderful job. Pop appears to be in his element, surrounded by the people he loves and the accoutrements of British colonial opulence.
Between courses, Pam works the room. It is amazing, the amount of energy this 93 year old nun has. She comes over to our table where Barney and Robin are sitting. She knew them when they were small boys in Buenos Aires and starts grilling them. Like you do.
They are Old Georgians meaning they went to St George's School with Pop. Pop made many lifelong friends there. When we were children he would have asados in early September every year for all the Old Georians living in the New York area. About a hundred people would come. We would get two whole lambs from a butcher in the Bronx. We would get up at the crack of dawn the next day and arrange them spread-eagled over a slow cooking fire for hours. Everybody would arrive and park all up and down Logan Place and along Rowayton avenue. We had friends we would only see this one time annually, but we would always pick up where we left off running through the woods and up and down our dead end street. There was a full bar and lots of Gallo wine. At some point, my father and his friends would get on the porch and start making speeches and singing. One time the porch fell down. We grew up seeing how to put on epic parties. All of us have carried on that tradition and we value friends and fun more than anything.
After the main course Carly shows her movie. She did such a good job on it and it tugs at our heartstrings. Applause goes up whenever someone in the room comes on the screen.
We sing happy birthday to Pop and he gives a little speech. I then play Ninety, the song I have written for this occasion. Everybody joins in on the choruses. Des, Fred, Heather, Colin, and Tracy have all contributed verses. Fred helps me sing a few verses. Though I get tongue tied on a few lines, we get through it and everybody loves it.
After dessert we break into Zoombaza. This is a German drinking song that Royal Navy friends of Pop learned from the sailors on a U-boat they captured. It is a call and response ditty that we have done at gatherings as far back as the early sixties when we used to go camping on Yellow Mountain in New Hartford, CT with my mother's family, the Barnes. That was when I was very young. I don't remember us doing it for a while during high school and college but at some point it got revived, maybe when people started getting married. For years it was just us boys and our father. Then as kids started getting old enough, they'd learn all the moves and do it along with us. For some reason, on this day it's a guy thing. All the boys come up but none of the girls do. I suppose seeing us all up there in our suits and ties was a testosterone overload, at least that's what I got from Charlotte and Molly that night at dinner. In any event, it was a rouser and everybody was amused.
After that there are some pictures taken. Tami is the official photographer and has been wandering around shooting unobtrusively the whole day. Then we say goodbyes and dissipate.
It is dusk when we get out and Tami and I walk back to Gilbert Street through the old streets of Mayfair in the gathering dark. As we walk though brick lanes and alleyways, I am reminded how much I love this woman and how glad I am that she is part of our family.