Since we left high school, my six oldest mates and I have had an annual, drunken, early-Christmas gathering. Doing barefoot bowls at Hornswood Bowling Club last Saturday, I had a surreal moment. Not overly funny, but surreal.
We did not know when we booked, that there was a wake taking place inside the club that afternoon. Harry, club secretary, had tragically passed away at 91 and there was about a hundred people crammed into the little club, to say goodbye.
The classic old bowling club catered for all tastes, having Tooheys New, Tooheys Old and Tooheys Lite (only) on tap. We were the only ones bowling and were putting away jugs of beer like veterinarians on a pharmaceutical company junket.
Being sensitive to the feelings of secretary Harry’s friends and family, when we got our first round at the bar after making our way through the tightly packed emotional throng, we asked the lady could she bring our drinks out to us? We would tip her every time, so we wouldn’t have to insensitively weave through the mourners.
This worked wonderfully, up until the time it was my turn, to pay her for the shout.
Our jugs were empty, but our lady, who had been so attentive when it was the other lad’s rounds, was nowhere to be seen. The boys were thirsty from bowling, so I had no choice but to drag my inebriated self through the despondent crowd of secretary Harry grievers. Not good.
I went inside and EVERY guest was now SEATED, listening to speeches. The rows of seats went all the way back to the wall. There was absolutely no way to get to the bar, unless I was completely tactless and insensitive and was prepared to walk up and over the stage, behind the speaker at the lectern, with 100 highly emotional attendees, staring at me.
The trip over the stage was harrowing. I could feel all 199 eyes (one very old guy in the front row appeared to only have one) burning a hole in my brain as I tried to make my 110-111kg frame unnoticeable, as I snuck along behind the speaker.
Getting to the bar, I was pretty angry about the bar lady making me run the gauntlet. I am very respectful of age, funerals, bravery, hard work and the like.
Me – “Two jugs of New and two packets of salt and vinegar chips thanks”.
I smiled at the girl who had been, up until now, bringing our drinks out to us.
Me – “Are you… surprised… to see me in here?” My tone was brash, but her forgetfulness had forced me to walk behind the lectern and distract all those people from secretary Harry’s eulogy!
Her – “Yeah I am”. She gave me a funny look.
Me – “Well I certainly didn’t want to come in here.” I gave her the old stink-eye.
Her – “No. What?”
What was the point? I paid, gathered up the two jugs and the chips and prepared to traverse back over the stage and receive the looks of seething rage from the 100.
Up I went, the only thing in my favour was that I knew nobody could yell loudly at me in the middle of the eulogy.
Then, the old guy with one eye, yelled loudly at me.
Old one-eye – “HEY MATE! IT’S A WAKE YOU KNOW!”
I was mortified. Even through my shield of intoxication and my socially thick-skin… I was mortified.
I stopped for a second, looked up from my two jugs of Tooheys New and stared meekly at the predominantly elderly crowd. Half of them had tears in their eyes and the others just looked angry as all hell.
Me – “SECRETARY HARRY… WOULD WANT US ALL TO DRINK BEER TODAY AND SUPPORT THE CLUB. AM I RIGHT?”
After a fraction of a second of torturous hesitation, the whole place erupted into cheers. Secretary Harry was obviously fond of a beer himself, as everybody burst into applause.
I made my way back to the safety of the bowling green, with a good story to tell.
The lads meanwhile, were drinking the two jugs that the bar lady had brought out, just when I had gone inside!
It actually turned into a great night and celebration of Harry’s life. We moved inside with the crowd once the sun went down and enjoyed a brilliant night of music with a local band playing 80s classics. So much so:
My mate – “FELLAS, WHEN I DIE I WANT TO HAVE MY WAKE HERE”.
Old one-eye (from across the room) – “GREAT, WE’LL USE YOUR ASHES TO FILL SOME OF THE DIVOTS YOU LEFT IN THE GREEN”.
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