Dungeons and Dragons

March 5, 2007 at 5:23 am (Uncategorized)

Or perhaps I should say dragons and dungeons, because certainly the dragon came first…

Everything started with such promise. It was a perfect morning on Saturday. I got a swim in before my jetcat, and I arrived right in time to meet Soph and Tamsin at Circular Quay. Soph was driving, and we started the trip up to the Hunter Valley for Fluff’s hen’s day. We stopped somewhere for good coffee and toasted, buttery banana bread along the way, and between Tamsin and Soph, some excellent tunes were pumping through the stereo. Between the three of us, the conversation was flowing thick and fast. Nothing like a bit of QT with the girls. It was awesome. We talked about everything from that tasty morsel Tom Williams to the height or relative lack thereof of the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s Anthony Kiedis (5 ft 8.5 inches we found out today, in case you’re interested). And an awful lot of other stuff in between. By the time we arrived at the Adina Winery in Lovedale, we were perfectly tuned up for the non-stop gab fest of a hen’s day.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Bizarrely, the people at Adina had our table set up in their boardroom. It was the most charmless room I’ve ever eaten in. All that was missing was the flowchart and the budget report. I was a little bit confused, until the wine tasting started, and then it all became clear. It felt like a classroom because that’s precisely the type of experience they’re going for. The woman who conducted the wine tasting kept tsk tsk-ing at us like we were students and this was a lengthy session of detention. And we must have done some horrible, because boy, were we in trouble…

First she snapped at us that the group was late (our carload of three met the bus group there), so everything was ruined and had to be sped up. Then she snapped that because our lunches had all been ordered in advance, they’d been sitting out the back. Mmmm. Yummy. Then she said we had to keep our chatter down to… um, nil. We looked around the boardroom at each other and zipped up our traps. Clearly there was no fun to be had here. We were not there to have fun. We were there to have wine instruction. Unfortunately because the exacting mistress of wine school was running such a tight ship, there was no time to enjoy or even properly taste Adina’s wines. She glared at us if we weren’t sipping quickly enough, and tapped her foot around the table as she waited to fill our glasses with the next wine. One of my unused glasses was also nicely dirty. She didn’t care. Lunch arrived, semi-petrified in some cases. I looked up the table and felt certain I had the only edible meal there. A simple although extremely oily pasta, all but impossible to fuck up. I tried to see what Soph was eating up the other end, but it appeared at a distance to be nothing more than a rather intimidating tower of bread. She was staring at it doubtfully. I wasn’t sure what she should do either.

The dragon lady finished the tasting in a huff and stormed out. We all stared wide-eyed at the door and wondered if we were allowed to talk yet. She came back in and I asked if it would be possible to order some wine to have with the meal. “I’ll send one of the girls in,” she snapped. Fifteen of us shared ONE bottle of white. A red was still full on the table and most of us were still eating when the bus driver suddenly appeared. “I’ll go and start the bus,” he said. “Keep the engine running.” I was just bewildered beyond comprehension by this stage, and I was slow to grasp the implications until one by one the rest of the girls started standing up and grabbing their bags. Lunch was over, whether we liked it or not.

We followed the bus to next vineyard, Ivanhoe, which at least, in its favour, isn’t made up of unsightly demountable buildings and horrible angry bitches in the wrong job. It’s a very attractive vineyard nestled in a verdant valley. A very pretty place. Unfortunately we only got to see it driving into the carpark, because as we walked in we were directed down the stairs and into a little dungeon down the bottom. “Gosh, this is a bit claustrophobic,” said Ally, sitting down next to me. I would have responded but I was having difficulty breathing.

Then the teenager turned up. He was conducting the tasting, and he was pretty happy about having a captive audience. He thought he was just chock full of fascinating tales to tell. He also thought we should be quiet and listen silently to each and every one of them. He didn’t hold back telling us to shhh, be quiet, and shut up either. I was having unpleasant flashbacks to lunch. I threw back every taste of wine and started to wish I’d bought a bottle at the last place just so I could share it around, perhaps upstairs, perhaps outside, perhaps over some conversation and laughs and funny stories about the bride-to-be. But no. We were to sit down, shut up, and listen to him repeatedly tell us things we already knew, and endure several explanations of quite bizarre things we didn’t. Like how to barbeque a banana “with a Mars bar shoved in it.” At one point he said “Oldies are the worst. They’re even more fun than me and me mates,” and Fluff, the hen, hilariously muttered “Find that hard to believe…” I nearly sprayed my thimble of wine all over her. In fact, we all started to have helpless fits of giggles, which the ten year old just talked through because this was his audience and we were going to listen whether we liked it or not. The flashbacks intensified. The bus driver appeared in the door. Everyone stood up to leave.

We all seriously needed a drink.

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