The Hirst Report: Friends in high places

I have always been one who is reluctant to name-drop my more celebrated company for fear of sounding pretentious. Nevertheless, the witticisms encountered at one recent event prove simply too amusing not to recount. I was invited to a luncheon for all the greatest leaders throughout history. They were all there, Julius Caesar, Winston Churchill, Richard the Lionheart, the bloke with the ears. Exactly how I had merited an invitation was not immediately clear to anybody, but everyone was pretty gracious about it, although I did hear Queen Elizabeth wonder aloud at one point exactly what “that stupid [expletive deleted] is doing here”.

Actually, I felt the event organisers had erred in a number of respects. Seating Churchill next to Hitler showed a lack of appreciation for the mood of the meal, and although their chat started off pleasantly enough, Churchill had stabbed Hitler in the eye with his butter knife before the entree. I was next to Stalin, and I wondered whether the inclusion of dictators had been such a wise move. I mean sure, it’s hard to know exactly who will be offended if certain omissions are made, but one has to be sensitive to the minority groups.

On my right was none other than Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who, not actually being a leader of any kind, I suspect had to ring in some favours. Apparently Genghis Khan is a fan, as the Mongol contingent are climate change sceptics. I actually wondered if there was some kind of politicisation at play, because Al Gore was absent even though Joe Biden made the cut, and there was a big balloon reading “Rio Tinto” attached to the ceiling. I later learnt that Mao Tse-tung had declined his invitation (although he did sent a copy of his book of quotations) due to what he perceived as the capitalist nature of the event. It didn’t seem to bother Fidel Castro, who sat on the floor unwrapping Kinder Surprises.

George W. Bush (whose attendance at the event seemed even more unlikely than mine) started off with a toast saying something that I didn’t quite catch before launching into a drunken rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. No-one joined in, although George Washington cheered at the end and called him “the greatest of all presidents”. In retrospect, I think he may have been being sarcastic, but George W seemed greatly moved by it. He was also greatly moved by Cleopatra, who pushed the drinks trolley into him.

Sensing an awkward moment if the toast were not completed, I proffered my own services and stood on my chair to address the crowd. Unfortunately, I fell backwards out the window and cracked my head on the pavement some 27 floors below. To say I was embarrassed was an understatement. Imagine being invited amongst such esteemed company, and then falling out of a window to your untimely death! I’m sure it will make a very funny story one day, but right now, the memories (and my head) are a little too painful!

Fortunately, when I rejoined the company, they didn’t mention my humiliating faux pas, but Queen Elizabeth rolled her eyes knowingly, as if to say “I told you so, what a stupid [expletive deleted]!” In fact, she did say that, and everyone laughed. Everyone except me that is, as such comments can be very hurtful, especially from an esteemed member of the Royal Family.

I was determined not to embarrass myself further, but I was faced with a plethora of cutlery. Which fork should I use for which course? Which food items were only intended as a garnish? Would Stalin pass me the pepper if I asked him politely? (No, as it turns out. I have a feeling he’d be a bit of a tyrant at home.)

In order to prevent the humiliation to be encountered in using the wrong cutlery, I decided to use none. Of course, eating with ones hands is a most uncouth exercise, so I instead decided to shove my face in the food and consume it the most dignified way I could. (I would have been more apprehensive about this, except Churchill was already doing it.)

Gradually, they all made their apologies and left (some were longer than others, as Churchill forced Hitler at gunpoint to confess all of his war crimes), and after a while I was the only one left. I forgot to take any photos (damn), but I’ll always have my memories. Until I die, or suppress them, or have amnesia, or develop Alzheimer’s.

Ned Hirst