Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Surprise! Surprise! (part II)

Click here for part 1

The flight to Melbourne was uneventful, apart from a request by one girl to swap seats with me to allow her to sit with her friend. I was reluctant at first, but was convinced when they explained that they were participating in an "Amazing Race" style adventure that their employer (some Canberra-based real estate agency) had sent them on, along with all its employees. Apparently it was some sort of thankyou for a good year's work. Do you ever get the feeling you're in the wrong line of work ? The two girls apparently needed to sit together to discuss tactics, thus requiring Aff and I to split up. Given the flight to Melbourne is barely an hour, and the fact that I planned on nursing myself back to full strength after the previous night's festivities, I was happy enough to sit alone.

Within an hour of touching down in Melbourne, Aff and I were settled nicely at Aff's Mum's house in Carlton. According to Aff, we had about 2 hours before we should leave and go to dinner. I looked at the clock. It was 4pm, which meant dinner would be around 6pm. I asked Aff what time the comedy show was on.

"eight thirty I think", she replied.

"So the plan is to have an early 6pm dinner, then onto comedy show at eight thirty right?" I repeated back.

"yes" said Aff

"This is funny" I said, "This is the exact same plan as last night - and that ended up being a surprise party!".

I paused for a second.

"Wait a minute! ... No way! surely you couldn't have organised another surprise party for tonight!?", I asked, almost embarrassed at the thought of my arrogance to think myself worthy of such a thing.

"No way!", Aff quickly retorted. "Sorry to disappoint you Chris, but that would be too much".

"I didn't think you would have", I replied. "And thank god anyway - I don't think I'd cope with another one - I think I'd cry."

"No need to worry my Chris", said Aff reassuringly.

And with that, any thoughts of a second surprise party were instantly abandoned. I settled into the couch, and began reading the paper, excited about the mystery comedian we would be seeing that night.

Not long after this, Aff's Mum Mary began preparing for a night out with her friend Chris. They were apparently meeting at 5pm to go to the movies. After discussing how we would work the locking of the house with just one set of keys between all of us, Mary left with the parting words "Enjoy the comedy show - oh - and if my friend Chris calls, tell her I'm on my way". No one rang.

About 45 minutes later, Aff and I began walking down to Fitzroy for dinner. Aff had the plan to have dinner at a popular African restaurant on the southern end of Brunswick St, about a thirty minute walk from Mary's house. As we walked along, I began to notice Aff constantly falling behind.

"Why so slow?" I asked.

"My shoes are hurting!" Aff explained.

"One thing I will never understand is why women choose to wear shoes that are entirely impractical, and even worse, painful" I pontificated. "why don't you just wear comfortable shoes?"

"I like these shoes!" Aff retorted.

I left it at that, and we continued walking slowly through the quiet back streets of Fitzroy in slience. Eventually, Aff broke the silence with a question which, quite coincidentally, I had been contemplating myself as we walked along.

"Where do you think you'll have your 30th in Melbourne ?" Aff asked.

"I don't know - I really don't know" I replied in a somewhat agitated tone. The question had been bouncing around my head for weeks, and causing me no end of stress. I wanted it to be in a pub, but which pub was the question. One option - the "Standard Hotel" - was certainly a favourite of mine and a possibility.

Again, almost perfectly on cue, Aff said "What about the Standard? You like the Standard don't you?"

"Yeah, I do", I replied, "but the Standard can be quite crowded - and it can be hard to find a table - and I don't know how many people you can book dinner for. I am just not sure it's the best place for a largish gathering." I explained.

"Well why don't we drop in on the way to dinner now?" suggested Aff.

"Ok" I replied, "maybe we can have a drink as well ... if we have time."

And with that decision made, yet again, Aff's true plans for the night were put perfectly in motion, and yet again, I was none the wiser.

The Standard Hotel is a classic Melbourne pub. Off the main drag, on a back street of Fitzroy no where to be seen, it is one of those pub's you would never know about unless a local told you about it. With an open fire place, and long bar, it has a cozy, welcoming feel as you walk in.
As we entered through the front door, I instantly thought "yes, I think this is the pub I want for my 30th".

After thinking this, I turned to the right to face the main bar area, which resides in a seperate room from the small loby area you arrive in upon entering the pub. Almost instantly I caught sight of my good mate of mine, Bron, sitting at a table which I could only see a small portion of through the door. I turned to Aff and said "look, Bron's here!". Just as I said this, I caught sight of Mark, her partner. "and Mark I said! what a random sighting this is!". Then things got a little confusing, for sitting next to Mark was another friend of mine, Penny - but Penny, as far as I knew, had never met Mark or Bron before, so why is she at the pub with them. I walked into the room to say hello, and to get a full view of the rather large table (the largest in the pub).

Then the penny dropped.

The table was completely surrounded by my friends, about twenty of them - some I had not seen for years, while others I had seen only a week before. It was another surprise party, and for the second time in as many days, I had been had big time!

Just when I thought I'd seen everything, from the adjacent dining room came a flood of family. Mum, Dad, my sister's Shelley and Lindy and their partner's Ben and Jez. Suddenly Aff's Mum Mary appeared - she had no movie to see! and this friend by the name of Chris was apparently me! Aff's Dad, Edgar, his wife Olga and her son Alexi were also there, along with Aff's sister Casey. Even some extended family from Aff's side had made it along, including Aff's grandmother. I also noticed in the middle of a large table booked for our dinner, a huge birthday cake made by my Mum. This, however, was no ordinary cake! Mum, under instructions from Aff (a bold move I must say), had made a Thomas the Tank Engine cake. How the train cake made it all the way from The Basin to the pub without falling apart is beyond me.

Needless to say, the sight of everyone and the sudden rush of excitement was quite overwhelming., not to mention being the focus of everyone's attention so suddenly, and so publicly. I should say, however, that despite my prediction made earlier that day, thankfully, I did not cry.

As with the night before, I quickly set about saying hello to everyone, particularly those I hadn't seen in so long. It seemed, however, that every time I sat down to chat, someone else would tap me on the shoulder to say hi, or to ask me a question. While I have never participated in speed dating, I think I now have some sense of what it might be like with the number of short, less than satisfactory catch-up conversations I had in that first hour. More than anything, however, I was just riding the wave of the night, and was happy to move and chat with who ever I ended up sitting next to.

After an hour or so of mingling, Aff ushered everyone into the dining room for the only formal part of the evening. Despite this being a surprise party, I was well aware of what was to happen at this time, for this was something both Aff and I had planned to do when I did have my 30th in Melbourne.

While I have not mentioned it yet on this blog (for good reasons), Aff and I actually got engaged about four weeks ago! Yes, that's right blogosphere, Aff and I are gett'n hitched!
While friends in Canberra, and our families were told about the good news weeks ago, our Melbourne friends, many of whom we have known for quite a long time, were not told. Our plan was to announce this to as many Melbourne friends as possible, in person, all at once. My 30th seemed like the perfect time to do it, particularly given we had no plans to organise any formal sort of engagement party, but wanted to celebrate with everyone. It is for this reason that so many of Aff's family were there (not that they wouldn't have been welcome anyway!).

And so, with everyone gathered in the pub's dining room, Aff and I announced our engagement. One thing I have found so touching since Aff and I got engaged, is just how happy people react when they hear the news. Seeing such happy, in some cases just plain shocked and excited faces gives me such a thrill. After announcing it on the night, it also served to take much of the attention off me and my birthday, as most of the females swarmed around Aff to hear the story of how it happened. Of course, I wasn't left alone either, and had plenty of people coming up to say congratulations and hear the story. In truth, it was an absolute treat to have so many good friends come up and so genuinely congratulate us both, with genuine excitement.

As the night rolled on, some people left to attend other parties and social engagements, while the remainder of us settled in with countless jugs of Carlton's finest. This gave me the perfect opportunity to talk more with people, and catch up properly. I must admit, I was becoming increasingly tired as the night progressed - apparently I was not alone either, because many others in attendance, like me, had had rather large Friday night's as well. When Rob asked the inevitable question of "are we kicking on?", it was met with only minimal enthusiasm. In hindsight, I wish we had kicked on, but I remember at the time that this was just not going to happen. We did however, stay until stumps, when the pub kicked finally us out. Admittedly, this isn't quite that impressive an achievement at the Standard, given it closes at 11pm due its residential zoning.

And with that, so ended my two days of surprises. We stayed in Melbourne until Monday, which allowed Aff and I to also celebrate our good friend James' 30th on the Sunday, a surprise birthday lunch (but unfortunately he had already worked it out). On the Sunday night we also went to my parents' house for dinner, so by the end of the weekend, we were both absolutely spent .

So as you have probably gathered, this was quite a weekend to remember, and one that I will never forget. Let me take this opportunity to thank all those people who helped make my 30th, and Aff and my engagement, such a memorable occasion. Aff did an amazing job of organsing two surprise parties in as many days, and I have certainly been spoilt rotten! It truly was fantastic to see so many friends, both old and new, as well as family. I also got some fantastic presents, and a life's supply of red wine to keep the cellar stocked for years! I think it was the great Jeff Fenech (Australian boxing champion) who said it best in an interview after winning a hard fought bout:

To all my friends and family, "I love ya's all!"


Anonymous Rob M said...

Surprise on the whole wedding thing? More like "why the hell has it taken you this long?" :)

Regardless, congrats again...

5/16/2006 03:01:00 PM

Blogger macca said...

a fair question Rob - in fact, the official stats on engagement well wishing messages places your question second only to "have you set a date yet?"

I have no good answer I'm afraid :)

5/16/2006 03:16:00 PM

Anonymous Em said...

I'd watch that future mother-in-law of yours if I were you Chris. She sounds like a devious piece of work to me - blatant lies about movies and such! Still, she and her dad did manage to raise a wonderful young woman in Affrica - one who has turned out to have impeccable taste in her betrothed - bless you both.

5/16/2006 06:16:00 PM

Blogger Miss Eagle said...

All the best for the future, Chris and Aff - and may your life together be full of beautiful surprises.

Blessings and bliss

5/18/2006 05:42:00 AM

Blogger macca said...

em - thanks em! and yes, this mother-in-law to be is certainly one to watch out for em - you never know what she's up to, or where she might be lurking - even in cyber-space ;)

5/18/2006 10:23:00 AM

Blogger macca said...

thanks miss eagle ! very much appreciated.

5/18/2006 10:24:00 AM

Blogger melt said...

so you've promised a post on the whole popping the question thing, am intrigued...

5/18/2006 12:36:00 PM

Blogger macca said...

mel - it's in the process of being written up - i'm quite proud of it I must say, but. I don't want the story to suffer the same over hyped lead-up as the Da Vinci Code movie (although, the two stories do have a little bit in common) :)

5/18/2006 03:49:00 PM


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