Early this morning – Sunday morning – my cellular telephone rang. I am not accustomed to receive unscheduled telephone calls in the morning much less Sunday morning. As proof of the convention I had plugged my iPhone into its cable to recharge it at the far end of the living area. When the phone rang I moved briskly with a combination of quizzicalness and reserve from my dining room table perch where I had been nibbling orange sections and sipping my first coffee to the end-table where the telephone lay.
The call was from my physician. We were invited to dine with him this evening at his residence in the Village of Ashton where he maintains a century-old stone home bounded by rustic fences, sprawling lawns, an open meadow and languorous weeping willow trees. The estate comprises approximately 74 acres and adjoins the Jock River passing through Goulburn Township (formed in 1818). Before signing off he reminded us to bring our bathing suits.
Shortly before six o’clock this evening we nosed the hood of our sedan off the winding rural trail which fronts the doctor’s house hidden behind the foliage of mature trees and towering hedges into the secluded driveway. In the meadow we immediately we spied our host elevating himself from the pool, hastily shrouding himself in towels to come to greet us. Already our arrival had been heralded by Finn the black Labrador who enthusiastically pranced about the car from one side to another until at last we had positioned ourselves beside the ancient three-bay garage and opened the car doors to pat the tail-wagging Finn. The good doctor’s welcome was as always expansive and warm.
Almost arm-in-arm we toddled to the anticipated venue of our evening resort, the raised cedar deck overlooking the meadow and swimming pool. The delectable smells of cooking emanated from the kitchen whence we repaired to initiate the proceedings and to charge our respective glasses and flute. There were already laid on the central counter plates of dressed yellow beans, sliced beets and feta cheese and a bowl of mixed nuts. While our host busied himself assiduously inspecting the contents of the oven (sliced eggplant), preparing new potatoes and readying certain of the upcoming meat courses (which we were informed would consist of a mixed grill of sausage, ribs and chicken), we grazed upon the blue plates and chatted aimlessly though greedily attempting to gather all possible intelligence of what had lately transpired in one another’s lives.
I absented myself for the next half-hour to relish the luxury of an evening paddle in the swimming pool in the meadow. As I swam and alternately submerged and surfaced, occasionally interrupted by the inquisitive Finn (who daringly though with trepidation clung to the edge of the pool), I admired the nearby quaint pool house adjacent the peripheral forest. It is one of several outbuildings of various sizes on the extensive property. From my sea-level perspective I absorbed the lush and unobstructed view of the surrounding mowed lawns and fields, a veritable country estate.
Not long after drying myself and regaining the social fold, things began to materialize upon the deck dining table. As though by magic our host produced steaming potatoes, a mixed salad (with what turned out to be a superior vinaigrette), eggplant, racks of ribs, roast chicken and two kinds of sausage. As much as we were counselled to pace ourselves we nonetheless heeded instead the imperative of our appetites and the mouth-watering aromas. We punctuated our indulgence with discussions of politics, travel, friends and family; and the distant enthralment of where we might all ultimately land. It is over thirty years that I have known our host. Many, many events of considerable significance have taken place during that period of time. When once he was but the new handsome face in Town he is now the senior physician embroidered by the dignity of grizzled hair and a layer of flesh which modestly bespeaks a generation of gastronomic gratification.
As the sun fell behind the trees and the irritating buzz of mosquitoes was heard we retired to the inside dining room for a berry fruit dessert with frappé ice cream and yoghurt. Under dimmed lights at table and a spot of Metaxa we rounded out our idle evening dialogue and unanimously confessed the urge to wind up the ceremony of our meal. Following the customary thanks and embraces we slowly drove home accompanied by the incessant hum of crickets along the country road through the Village to our own comparatively urban digs. Another superb dinner with the doctor!