I have been meme-tagged by no other than my dear wife at The Depp Effect. This meme was, I am told, started by Lively Lottie who gets a link for making me think about it.
I don’t usually get involved in these memes. I think in the three and a half years of Yellow Swordfish I have completed just one. But this one is more interesting than most. My task is to come up with a special guest list for a dinner party of eight – that is people I would most like to invite to savour my wife’s culinary delights as I do not cook. Hang on a mo – this could be a problem because she doesn’t cook either. She has one of those humorous signs that says “I only have a kitchen because it came with the house” – only it’s not meant as a joke. It’s meant as a warning.
Right. So first task is to hire a chef, maid and butler. Well we’ve always wanted a butler. No – take that back. The wife has always wanted a butler although I suspect her preference for a young, virile Johnny Depp look-alike has little to do with buttling.
Luckily however, we do now have the table and chairs. It only took us sixteen years to find a table that we both liked but our guests are in luck in that department as we finally installed one just last year. And despite our problem with disappearing cutlery which has been discussed in these pages before, we do, currently, have a full set. And there are a couple of bottles of lovely Margaux just waiting to be uncorked and half a bottle of Hine for that post-prandial cognac with cigar. Oh shit… can’t smoke in the house and I rather suspect all of my guests are smokers and cigar smokers at that! Just have to be out in the garden then and hope we can trust the English weather.
What am I saying? My guests wont care about the weather. They are all dead. Well, apart from the wife of course. And me. So far. Of course she has already completed this meme and it’s pretty obvious who was on the top of her guest list! Still, she was good enough to invite Mariella Frostrup for my benefit so I can’t complain. There’s a thought. I wonder if I could persuade Mariella to be the maid for the evening…
Anyway – back to business. I can not compete with my other half’s glamorous list of actors Depp, John Cusack and Judi Dench, singer and poet Leonard Cohen and Chicago Bear Walter Payton. I am afraid my list is going to be potentially less exciting. One serious word though. Ideally, I would much prefer to have the following people to dinner one at a time as they all deserve my full attention but that is a different game. So – dinner for eight it is.
So – first up for the feast is Mrs Depp Effect herself followed closely by her father, Fred Buck. I sadly never met him as he died a couple of years before we were married but everything I have ever heard and been told about the man makes him sound like my kind of guy and I am expecting to bond. A printer by trade he was also a highly respected entomologist which explains why his daughter has a weird fascination for anything with more legs than one of our dogs, has a beetle named in her honour and is the remover of arachnids from the house. And he smoked cigars.
While still on the family thread my next two guests are my own two grandfathers, Sidney Staines and William Wheeler, both of whom had also departed this world before I was born. Sidney was an electrical engineer whose company – for which my father worked as a young man before the Second World War – was responsible for installing the newfangled magic into large areas of London’s East End. He also smoked cigars and owned the first motor car in the Essex village into which I was born. William was a rose-grower and, I am told, knew everything there was to know about roses. Unlike Sidney he was a country man and therefore did not smoke cigars. He did, of course, smoke a pipe.
Two of my own lifelong fascinations have been with historical politics and the history of America. This made my next guest a hard one to call. My first thought was Abraham Lincoln, a man to be much admired and, I believe, a smoker of fine cigars. He was also a very humorous man renowned for his joke telling, anecdotes and quick wit. But in the end the seat at the table goes to someone much more colourful, noted polymath and rogue, inventor of the lightening rod and bifocal lenses, Benjamin Franklin. He has to be one of the most interesting characters of all time, will hopefully be able to talk ‘electricity’ with grandfather Sidney and his presence before us will at long last dispel my wife’s absurd notion that I look just like him. He also almost certainly enjoyed the odd cigar.
This leaves just two vacant seats at the table and for these I am going to plumb another world that has always fascinated me and given much pleasure – that of comedy. I attach enormous importance to laughter and my two comedians were, in their day, true masters of the art and truly funny men who did not rely on a script but could ad lib with the best. No… they were the best. First up is Julius Henry Marx known to the world, of course, as Groucho. I was weaned on endless repeats of Marx Brothers movies and to this day still enjoy them. He will almost certainly have to sit at one end of the table to keep him as far away as possible from my other comedic hero, George Burns. And by this I mean the older, ’standup’ Burns, not the Burns of those terrible movies he made when young. It is also interesting to note that both Marx and Burns, er, smoked cigars!
And that’s it. I do not have a clue why, apart from my dear wife, all my guests are men. That’s just the way it is. Oh… and a tip to Mariella if she agrees to be the maid. Watch out for Groucho, George and Benjamin as they will all be on the pull and hoping to get you into bed. After the cigars of course.