Random Play by Graham Reid


The Last of the Long Lunches . . .

I was about to write a lengthy lament for loss of the Long Lunch. And it would have started like this because it was all true . . . : “So I said to her (via e-mail of course) that I was disappointed that the Long Lunch had all but disappeared and she replied (via e-mail) that she was in PR in the Nineties and was having terrific Long Lunches. But everyone then spoke of how great the Long Lunch was in the Eighties and she was disappointed to have missed that era . . .

“And I said (via e-mail) that yes, I was around for both and they were all great days but now . . .”

And so on.

Briefly I’ll tell you where this was going because I got bored myself with the idea, but my argument went like this . . .

People don’t do the Long Lunch these days. Not because they are more busy (I was writing pages and pages for the Herald every week which didn’t include interview time and those hours writing up Listings which a 12-year old could have done), but that many people have lost the ability to plan their downtime.

Back in the Long Lunch eras we’d work like galley slaves for days knowing that meant we could check out at noon on a Thursday or a Monday (at least three times a month, all year -- not just in the weeks before Christmas) because all the necessary drudgery had been done.
We worked so we didn’t have to stay at work. And all the work got done.

Today that doesn’t happen. Many think they have to be “at work”.

I blame e-mail. Many today feel they have to answer the damnable thing immediately (think, just how many e-mails are so urgent they can‘t wait a few hours?) and they get attached to their screen.

They watch and reply to every frittering e-mail, trawl the Net or update their Facebook page, forward jokes and banal video clips and so on. What a crashing bore -- and an inadequate substitute for life.

There is life beyond the screen and it usually happens over a Long Lunch where people exchange ideas and bonhomie, stories and information. They are sociable occasions.

Don’t kid yourself kid, exchanging birthday wishes with strangers on Facebook ain’t being part of a “social network”.

Anyway, I was also going to say that many people today fear being face-to-face with others (like, so totally not used to it) so the idea of a Long Lunch is anathema to them. Those people I feel sorry for. They probably believe they have 724 friends because Facebook tells them they have.

And they don’t have the stories or off-line experiences to keep up their end of a conversation . . .

And so went my tedious Grumpy Old Man Rant, largely because I have enjoyed so few examples of the Long Lunch this year because of The Recession ™ and people being Busy.

Poor time management in most cases, fear of human contact (how can PR people not want to do a Long Lunch), lack of money (heard of split-the-bill?) and . . .

Oh and blah-blah more-such-nonsense from me.
But you should have heard me talk about this over a hilarious Long Lunch the other day. And they all agreed with me -- because over a Long Lunch that's what you do.

You agree, you swap stories about previous Long Lunches (so you need to do them to you have something for the next one) and you tell anecdotes (but never mundane gossip because it is disrepectful and the province of the shallow, that’s the Unstated Protocol).

You also don’t Drink Too Much. You always drink Exactly The Right Amount.

Anyway the season for such things has now gone -- and my fear is that with The Recession ™ they might be gone for a while.

Irregardless (as they say in The Sopranos) I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

For those who like music in their lives I have indulged myself at Music From Elsewhere and posted what I consider the 40 best albums of the year of those I heard (never heard Bon Iver, can’t comment) -- and I heard many hundreds. Honestly.

In a way that’s what I do -- because I work at home beside a CD player/turntable. I wish you could too.

Others are well read, I am well listened.
(Oh, and there are a couple of excellent DVDs posted and a very good rock biography -- all discerning gifts for Christmas, perhaps?)

Elsewhere might be the only place where the best music of 2008 means a kora player from Mali sits alongside mainstream rock acts, obscure alt.country, camp glam-rock, baroque pop, an album in te reo and . . .

Just so much more. You’d need a Very Long Lunch to take it all in. But you have time.
It is that brief window in the year when we can kick back and consider life, love, music, literature and the whole damn thing.

I sincerely hope you have had a good year and that 2009 treats you even more kindly.

Next year though, put aside time for a Long Lunch.

You -- and your off-line friends -- won’t regret it.

Me te aroha nui ki a koutou katoa

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