Thursday, 24 May 2007
Party News II
Lapin Kulta: The name of a beer which means Gold of Lapland (not a country, by the way; part of Finland)
Alex Horne - 24th May 2007
I spent last weekend in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, with my parents, parents-in-law, brother-in-law, brother-in-law’s wife (not sister-in-law but is there a word?) and my own wife, whose birthday it is today (it’s now Tuesday, and I really should be writing about Petra who I met almost three weeks ago. Sorry Petra. Soon, I promise. And Happy Birthday Rachel!).
On the Friday (the day after the day I’m meant to be writing about) I was asked if I’d been working the previous night. Working? I thought. No. No. ‘No, I had this thing. In a Scandinavian bar. That a Canadian guy had sorted. It was like a get-together. For people from all over the world who I’d met recently. I’ll show you the photos – this guy from Singapore took them, they’re great actually…’
I found it hard to say exactly what had happened. And it’ll probably be as hard to write it here. So instead I’ll just type manically, press ‘publish’ and maybe re-read it red-faced and nostalgic a few months down the line.
Owen and I were both a little nervous about the party we’d hastily organised for all the people we’d briefly met over the past seven months. It seemed like a good idea to stay in touch with them all and hopefully even cement the first few bricks of friendship but many would be near impossible to contact, many of those whom we were able to reach may understandably have plans for that night - or, like Becky and Nathan (Ghana) who I’d spent that very afternoon with, a small baby to look after - and many of the small remainder may even prefer to stay in and watch How Clean Is Your House? (Channel 4 Thursdays 8pm) than spend a potentially awkward evening with people they don’t know and may not even share a language with. To each other we didn’t even dare call it a ‘party’, in case we jinxed it further and be forced to convince the bar manager that yes, the two of us were the sole guests at the ‘event’ and yes, we were going to ‘party’. We called it an ‘evening’. That’s about as neutral and pessimistic as you can get.
We needn’t have got quite so worked up. Even before we arrived, Nicholas (our photographer from Singapore) was there, taking snaps of the Nordic décor and telling his own guests, Crystal (from Hong Kong) and Antonia (China), all about the project. Chris (Canada), who’d been unbelievably helpful and active when he heard about the plan, contacting over thirty bars and eventually securing us cheap beer (Lapin Kulta) and hot dogs in this appropriately international (and cool in both senses) setting (The Nordic Bar on Newman Street), arrived soon after to help scatter flags amongst the venue's perennial Christmas trees. Then, when seven O’clock arrived, so did a constant stream of familiar faces and we soon realised we had a proper international half-way party on our hands.
It was terrific. Owen and I stopped off for a Big Mac on the way home and were elated. Ecstatic, nearly. I might have been either jittery or a little drunk throughout the evening but I hope I’ll never forget Mairam (Kyrgyzstan) introducing her sister Baku and their friend Mark (Ireland) to my friends Mel and Mike (Eurofruit); Laureen (Zimbabwe) chatting away to my brother Mat (recently returned from a year in Africa); Ligia (Colombia) and Lisa (Trinidad and Tobago) getting to know Valeria (Argentina) and her Spanish friend while Nico (Germany), Hans (a BRAND NEW Swiss guy) and Herman (Namibia) happily guzzled their Finland-brewed ale; Andrew (Indonesia) and myself (UK) deciding we’d definitely meet up with Nicholas and his friends for an authentic Chinese meal as soon as possible; Irina (Kazakhstan) being regaled by Jamie (also UK and someone we’d never met before but who had found this blog, been to Kazakhstan the year before and who now had many a story of his own to tell) and still promising to find us more nationalities; Tom (the real Greek) hoping to meet Carlos (Paraguay) and Kenny (Honduras) and generally being very smiley; Milena (Bulgaria) hugging everyone and handing out CDs of Alejandro’s Mexican music; Angella from the Oxford Language College making friends with everyone as usual, and her student Shelbys (Venezuela) talking weddings with Chris (Canada) whose fiancée is also Venezuelan; Petra (Czech Republic), Jasminka (Bosnia) and her friend from Somalia enthusiastically marking their countries on our world map; or Gianina (Costa Rica) braving the occasion with her boyfriend Mike (the only true Londoner in the bar) despite not even having met us yet; so too another Matt (USA) and his girlfriend Diana (Slovakia), who were still chatting away to Owen and Chip (my other brother and surprisingly not American) long after the bar had closed, despite the fact that she had work and he an exam the very next day; and so on and so on. I know I’ve already only got a vague memory of who said they knew someone from Greenland and who was confident they’d get us an Andorran…
Phew. I was quite glad to be off to Ireland the next day as lying in my bed after what was definitely a party my head was spinning with nationalities, flags and future plans (and maybe just a bit of that high quality low priced Scandinavian beer). I needed to take stock.
During the course of the gathering we already starting planning the next one – a picnic, probably in Hyde Park in July, to which people can bring as many international friends/food/games as they like. But we’re also psyching ourselves up for the Big One – after we’ve finally met all 192 nations - when we try to get someone from every country in the world into one place at one time. We’re not sure quite when. Maybe this year. Maybe next. It may well not be possible. We found it incredibly hard to get even a small proportion of the world’s countries over to Newman Street for this ‘Nearly Half-Way Party’.
But it happened. And, in the words of Adidas, Impossible is Nothing (especially if you get a bit of sponsorship – hint, hint, etc).