For as long as I can remember, my family has celebrated every occasion at the same place. If I'm being generous, I'll call it a restaurant. If I'm being honest I'll call it a Chinese take-away near a train station with a couple of tables, one of which has a wood-look formica lazy susan.
My dad loves this place. I'm talking true love. He's going to get it's named tattooed on his butt. (This could happen, his 80 year old self is a recent convert to the art of tattooing and in the last few years has acquired several brightly coloured new designs on his papery old man skin... I think that's another blog though).
His love runs deep. In all the years we've been going to Emily's.... (I should explain here that the restaurant ISN'T called Emily's, my Dad calls it that based on the name of the long suffering hostess who puts up with us. I can't actually even be sure that her name is Emily, she sort of grimaces whenever Dad bellows it out and I have a sneaking suspicion that he might have got it wrong) .... so, as I was saying, in all the years we've been going to 'Emily's' I've only ever noticed one or two other diners eating in. It's possible that I have that wrong and they were just waiting at the tables for their take-away. Despite this, old man Geoff like to book in advance, like several months in advance if given the opporunity. He likes that table with the lazy susan and has a freak out if a surprise restaurant visit is announced.
We were heading to Sydney for a visit last Thursday night. I called Dad on Wednesday to make sure he'd be home on the Friday for us to come and visit.
"Hi Dad, did Mum tell you we were coming down?"
"Um, OK. Well we are. Anyway, I was going to bring the kids over on Friday for a visit if you're going to be around. It's Mum's day off isn't it?"
"What? All day?"
"Well, no. Not all day we'll have to go back to Andy's Mums to get ready to go out to Emily's later."
"EMILY'S? Shit, has your mother booked? It's a Friday night you know. Bloody hell. OK, well I'll drive down now and book."
"Dad, just call them. You can book over the phone."
"No, no. I'll drive down. I might have to talk to Emily in person."
The funniest thing about going to this restaurant is that every experience is exactly the same. It's like some MSG induced Groundhog day.
Dad takes his favourite chair against the wall under the picture of a panda. The rest of us, whose numbers have grown over the years, assemble around him ready for the Geoff show.
It goes like this:
Dad "I love this joint, never had a bad meal here, have we darl?"
Mum "No Geoff, we haven't."
The rest of us snicker as we know what's coming next, even the toddlers wait in anticipation of his next line.
Dad "It's always so fresh."
There it is, this is the line he will repeat constantly throughout the meal and several times at the payment of the bill. He might even throw in another 'never had a bad meal here' for added emphasis.
Time to order.
Dad "What's that red chicken called darl?"
Mum "It's Peking Chicken Geoff."
Dad "Oh yeah, we'll get some of that hey. Beauty. Better get some Nasi Goreng too."
Mum "Geoff, that's Indonesian. They have fried rice here."
Dad "Nope, I like Nasi Goreng, Emily will make it, she knows."
Exactly the same. Every time. This is no exaggeration, this conversation has played out hundreds of times over the years. My sister and I used to giggle under our breath, now all of us burst out laughing and hi-5ing "There it is, he said it, always so fresh hahahahaha. Nasi Goreng hahahahaha". Dad meanwhile, absorbed in consuming as much 'red chicken' as humanly possible is oblivious to the sitcom he has become.
It should be noted here, that my very wise 11 year old pointed out to me, that while I was busy mocking Dad, I too ordered the same thing every time... eeek, time to try the prawns maybe.