THE EASTER EGG HUNT THAT WAS NO PASSOVER
Not long after I had returned from a brief visit to Cyprus, and Mike Stockford had returned from a two week sojourn in Dubai, a chance meeting happened between us in Chicago Prime one Friday night. That in truth isn’t really that fortuitous since anyone who’s anyone tends to gather there to celebrate “poet’s day” on any given Friday. After exchanging pleasantaries, Mike declared: “Simon, it’s been several months since our Christmas party, and I think people have had enough of Winter dragging on, so what do you think about us throwing an Easter party in my apartment?” This wasn’t a hard sell and I agreed enthusiastically. I also mentioned that NTV were sending me to London to finish filming a documentary, so maybe I should buy some of the illustrious Cadbury Cream Eggs and we could do an Easter Egg hunt- for adults, not children. The plan was now in place and Mike was keen to try out his apparently delicious Italian meatballs in large pasta shells, as well as his signature Thai green curry plus my humble offerings.
We decided to make invitations by word of mouth only and aim for 25-30people only, so numbers were slightly limited, but at the same time we ran the risk of upsetting some uninvited people. We ended up with around 35 on the guest list, knowing that half a dozen would bail on us for any given number of extraneous factors. I had long promised my university students from MSLU an invite, and happened upon a couple of said ladies on my way out of the campus, so to speak, and when I suggested they might like to come, they jumped at the idea and promised to invite others of my ex group, so that accounted for another half a dozen people. Both our culinary efforts in our respective homes negated a Chicago visit , and so it turned out to be ‘The Long Good Friday’ like the notorious film a couple of decades previously, as Coronation chicken which I was making takes the best part of two hours to create, and similar could be said for Mike’s effort. We agreed to rendezvous on Saturday morning for me to deliver some of my shopping: Pimms from London duty free, a few bottles of Aperol plus the prerequisite red and white wines and various cheeses.
Mike was on a mission to locate the hitherto unobtainable pasta shells, and was optimistic that Metro would provide the answer- alas it didn’t and the air subsequently turned blue as dark oaths were muttered venomously! Having lugged everything upstairs we figured we deserved a small, medicinal noggin, so some Moet was brought into play to calm ourselves down. Mike then started on his meatballs and I began to make Chicken Bhoona Gost for the minions who were due to arrive within the hour. My great friend Elena Tolstaye arrived on cue, immaculately turned out as usual with some pink, designer trousers that had knife-edge creases. I suggested she was about to commit haute couture Hari-kari as curry stains are usually permanent. She just smiled, dug into her handbag and produced in a style not unlike to a magician pulling rabbits from a hat, her very own apron- what wonderful forethought! She deftly got to work like the practiced hostess she is, and the timescale for dish completion was halved!
Bang on 7.00pm, the doorbell began the first of many chimes, announcing the arrival of excited guests. At this juncture I realized the Easter Eggs hadn’t been hidden, so the underlying theme of the evening was lost before it began. However, even if we had hidden them, I doubt they would have got much attention, as once the guests saw the canapes of smoked salmon, pate and caviar on offer, not to mention Mike’s delectable Italian meatballs as well as generous quantities of Aperol Spritzers being dispensed, Easter egg hunting couldn’t have been further from their minds. I heard many sighs of ecstacy as food was tried out for the first time, and then I knew we had scored a bullseye. People were wonderful in bringing bottles and one guest brought a cake with several creme brulee equivalents that people devoured with great gusto. Many of my clients past and present were there and I was delighted when the doorbell rang to announce the arrival of my dear friend, Lyubov Zolotova, well on the way to recovery after her near fatal accident in Thailand- people flocked to see and touch her to make sure she was real, and she looked like the cat who had got the cream, such was her happiness.
At about 10.30, when the party was at its zenith and the volume of conversation and laughter had risen several decibels, a tap on my shoulder, followed my a warm embarce and a kiss, saw the arrival of Anna Makarenko, hot from performing at the Bolshoi just minutes before, and now standing before my very eyes. I mixed her a drink and sat her down with some salad and other jollifications on offer, then took a deep breath and, with several wines under my belt affording me a plethora of ‘Dutch Courage,’ I asked her if she wouldn’t mind performing something classic- she acquiesced with alacrity, God bless her, and the final Act was in place. First, though, I got people’s attention by thanking Mike for allowing us to run amok in his palatial apartment, then I introduced Lyubov who wanted to personally thank everyone who had assisted her in her staggeringly courageous battle back to present day- God does indeed move in mysterious ways, and how wonderful and apt to see her rejoicing in front of us this joyful Easter tide, when like Jesus, she had risen from the ‘dead.’ I then handed over to Anna to take the already successful evening to the next level.
It took just a few bars of Bizet’s Carmen and she was well into her stride, owning the ‘stage’and everyone present alike, with her soft dolcet tones intermingling beautifully with her powerful upper register as her voice soared like an eagle for all to hear over the quasi slumbering Moscow. We were treated to several renditions, which culminated in the iconic ‘Ave Maria’ and by then you could hear a pin drop, such were people’s admiration and expressions of awe and wonder. She finished to tumultuous applause that could of been heard in the Bolshoi from whence she came! It never ceases to amaze me that a person of average stature height-wise can produce such power and virtuosity on the floor, unaccompanied as well which takes special skill and confidence. Thank you, Anna, for bringing something special into people’s lives, especially those who haven’t witnessed this kind of thing first hand so to speak- no one present will forget your impromptu performance. The evening carried on unabated, and I was amazed that no one knew about the Pimms punch on offer or indeed had heard of it except for your two hosts and the redoubtable Mike Gibson. It was amusing explaining the contents to them, as they remained none the wiser, so I suggested they tried a tiny bit first, which then morphed into considerable larger quantities as their initial suspicions had been replaced by unadulterated admiration! The party shenanigans continued well into the small hours, and one by one we repaired to our apartments thoroughly invigorated by such a splendid evening.