“Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die.”

Simon Green

“Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die,” is a conflation of a couple of biblical sayings, and pretty much sums up my last weekend. I’m writing this on a Monday morning following my celebrations, still in stock disbelief that I survived this ordeal. My actual birthday was on Friday and I had planned to spend it at home, cooking for 30 people we had coming round on Saturday night to join us in a three way celebration: my birthday, Lyubov Zolotova’s belated birthday and Mike Stockford’s house-warming party.

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Mike and I were sharing the cooking duties so had to do a lot of shopping, not least some wine glasses to replace broken ones that hadn’t survived last year’s Halloween party. We agreed on a menu
that consisted of: Coronation Chicken; Boeuf Bourgignon; Chicken Cacciatore and Chicken Curry. Having spent Thursday night and Friday cooking, Mike coerced me into going to Chicago Prime “for a quick one” which turned out to be a ding-dong session. It goes without saying that Saturday morning found both of us nursing king-sized hangovers; I had a lesson to do before another marathon shopping spree.

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Mike’s palatial apartment is spread over 3 floors and is a great venue for a party. People started arriving an hour before the suggested time, and one of the ladies was a professional chef, so she put together the salads and canapes in next to no time. By then the rest of the cavalry were arriving and the volume of conversation rose accordingly with shrieks of excited greetings when long lost people presented themselves at the door. The food and drinks were a resounding success and people had reliably brought bottles of drink with them. I was like a kid on Christmas day as people had very generously come bearing gifts in true Greek fashion. Then in the midst of proceedings, a surprise unfolded in the guise of Anna Makarenko, a Bolshoi opera singer, who serenaded us with a couple of traditional Russian folk songs that demanded an encore such was her prowess. The last guests left sometime after 3.00, and Sunday morning was no better than Saturday morning!

We then moved to party number three, courtesy of John Harrison with his traditional offering of Shepherd’s Pie. There was an eclectic group of 6-8 of us putting the world right, and the group which he runs called Russia Knowledge gave birth to a new maxim- “The quiet voice of sanity.” Several bottles of quality wine were sunk and we went on our way rejoicing. Following the Saturday party, it found another expat friend of mine, Simon, at Sheremetovo airport catching a flight to St Petersburg, also with the hangover from hell, especially as he got to the airport at some ungodly early hour after his revelry with us. He had this to say while lamenting his state: “At the airport with a mega hangover, very little sleep- but heh, this is what we do!” I couldn’t agree more with those wise sentiments. When you sign up to become an expat, the unwritten rule is that you need to put on your party animal hat. The three day party I’ve just endured, which was the hardest partying I’ve done since my 40th birthday when I was living in Cairo, wouldn’t happen in the UK in a month of Sundays. I wouldn’t swap this lifestyle for the world, despite it being detrimental at times to one’s health!