Last night we celebrated my grandson's 10th birthday with a family get together - in an Italian restaurant - it's always an Italian restaurant. Which when I think about it is another sign of changing times is it not?
When I was young there were no Italian restaurants - well not out in London's suburbia anyway. In fact I don't remember any restaurants or cafés at all. There were just pubs. So birthdays and family get togethers would just have been at home,
When my children were young there was no family to get together with. They were all in England, unless our parents were here on one of their fairly regular visits. But even then I don't think we would have gone out anywhere to celebrate. By then there would have been a few restaurants and cafés but not as many out in the suburbs. Maybe when they were getting older we might have ventured to Haveli - our local Indian restaurant in the late 70s and a family favourite ever since.
Anyway here we are at our first 'whole family' gathering for months and months, And even so it is not quite complete because my daughter-in-law's parents, sister and partner are not there - and they are now definitely part of the extended family. This is the core though - all of us -because our oldest granddaughter who is pulling a dreadful face, is taking the photo and has included herself with a selfie.
We may all look relaxed, but actually I think we were all, or many of us, somewhat nervous. It has been such a very long time since we have been allowed in restaurants and also to gather in groups of more than two, and even now there are restrictions and we are not quite sure how to behave. Do we wear a mask? All apparently not once we have sat down, although the staff of the restaurant of course still do. They need to protect themselves from we outsiders. Then there's the hand sanitiser on entry and the signing in. And then do we worry about touching things? None of us did, but I'm guessing it's a very mild anxiety at the back of everyone's minds. I wonder how long it will take for this to disappear?
My book group too is wondering how we can organise our end of year party. Will we all (9 of us) be allowed into a home together, or could we organise a picnic in the park, bearing in mind that several of us are old and frail? And what about Christmas. Currently an impossibility as far as a family gathering at home is concerned.
Nevertheless we can at last begin to plan such things.
And what about our chosen restaurant? They too have to accommodate - those masks, extra cleaning, hand sanitiser, sign in book, and in this case limiting bookings to a two hour window, as they need to maximise their business, being unable to fill the restaurant because of the restrictions. It must be hard, and many Melbourne restaurants have, in fact, not reopened, as it is just not worth their while economically.
And how was the food experience?
Well it's a medium sized place in one of those small groups of shops you find here and there in the suburbs and which, nowadays, often include two or three restaurants. I did not count here, but there were at least three. The staff were friendly, and the food was home-made. I had some gnocchi with spinach, ham and sun-dried tomatoes, and it did indeed taste home-made. It didn't have that sort of prepackaged taste that some Italian sauces do. But it wasn't sensational either. One of my companions had a seafood pasta which had real mussels as well as lots of other things, but to be honest, I did not really pay that much attention to the food at all. And I normally do. But the main thing was just being able to sit and enjoy having my family all around and to see them enjoying each other's company. The children especially, have, I think, been missing their cousins.
Now we are all waiting for November 22nd to see if we get let off the leash a bit more.