Saturday, August 18, 2007

On the couch at John and Janette's

On the couch at John and Janette's

Danny Katz

July 26, 2007

Ha ha Peter Costello you didn't get invited round to John Howard's place for a private dinner and just about EVERYBODY'S been invited round to John Howard's place for a private dinner: Tony Abbott and his wife, Bronwyn Bishop and his wife, Andrew Peacock and his wives, Mel and Kochie, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Wolfmother, ol' Sprocko from the mail room ...

Even I've been invited round to John Howard's place for a private dinner AND I DON'T EVEN KNOW THE GUY - he just called out of the blue a couple of weeks back, said "Hey, whatya doing Friday night?" and I said, "Well Mr Prime Minister, we were hoping to stay in, watch Ghost Rider on DVD, see if Nicholas Cage is still keeping his hair." John Howard said "Nah, come round for dinner with your wife, I'll be on drinks duty, and Janette'll whip up a batch of her tangy beetroot dip. It'll be fun!" So we wound up going, because John's pushy like that - he even promised to pull the troops out of Iraq for me, and deport Catriona Rowntree.

We showed up at 6, and John answered the door in his green and gold tracksuit, with a pair of Grosby shoes in pastel-grey, for that smooth-slammin' hustler-boi look. And Janette was beside him in a very smart skirt and jacket ensemble, made of quality terry-towelling with low-piling properties. They led us into the house: nice place but the walls are all covered in furry '70s wallpaper - you rub against it, you stick like Velcro.

We sat in the living room: John dimmed the lights, put on some Getz/Gilberto - a laid-back Latin version of On the Road to Gundagai. Then Janette offered us pre-dinner nibbles: chicken chickadees. My wife said "Wow, I haven't had these since I was a little kid. Are they in the shops again?" and Janette said "No, this is just an old packet I found in the pantry." Meantime, John had popped behind his fake bamboo tiki lounge in the corner; "What's your poison, patrons?" he yelled, "We've got a 4-litre cask of Lindeman's Moselle, or pink Spumante." We all went for the moselle and started chatting: John told a funny story about Dr Mahathir at an APEC party covering the toilet seats with clingwrap. And Janette got quite emotional over the plight of black infants in modern Australia, specifically the ones in the Allens Jellybabies - they were always left uneaten and unloved, and it made her feel angry and hopeless.

John jumped up and said, "It's chow-o'clock!" so we sat in front of the TV, with little Albert Namatjira TV-trays on our laps - I think they might've been real Namatjiras. And we ate dinner while we watched Big Brother Friday Night Games, it's Janette's favourite, though she said she can't stand Bodie. We dined on cheesy pineapple bake, pineapple salmon log and Hawaiian ham steaks, and right in the middle of the meal, John leaned across to me and said, "Tell me, why do you think I'm so out of touch with Australian voters?" and I said "It's a real mystery John - hey pass another ham-steak, with extra pineapple, please!" John sighed, shook his head, told me how much he hated Kevin Rudd: "Never trust a man who smiles when he talks," he said, "just like that Adam Hills and Liberace."

After a dessert of custard trifle (with pineapple pieces), John was looking a little tipsy: he'd moved onto Sambucas with flaming coffee beans, and had to drink it from the side of his mouth so he didn't singe his eyebrows. He yelled "Party games!", then we sat in a circle and played political charades (Janette won with her impression of Joe Hockey climbing out of a spa-bath). We also gathered around the piano and sang ribald songs (John did a hilarious improvised verse of The Good Ship Venus about a first mate named Costello, an eggplant and a labradoodle). And we finished with a bit of Clinker-divination; you ask the Clinker a question, then bite into it, and if you get a green one, the answer is yes, pink no, yellow maybe. John went first: he said, "Am I an outdated remnant of a faded Australia who's time as Prime Minister has come to an end?" then he bit into the Clinker and I don't know what he got but he went a little quiet after that, lost interest in the dinner party and disappeared into the computer room to update his MySpace page. Janette just plonked herself on the Jason Recliner and watched Big Brother Up Late and we made our own way out.

So Peter, you're not missing anything, believe me. You'd be better off at home, enjoying some Vietnamese takeaway, and a DVD of Howards End.

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