On a wet Saturday earlier this month I was invited to a ‘Baby Shower High Tea’ (for my work buddy L). It fell on the same day as ACDC’s 2nd and final Sydney show on their Rock or Bust world tour.
These two events shared a backdrop of drizzle and grey sky. Tattoos and tea were the order of the day (both Angus Young and Brian Johnson from ACDC prefer tea as their beverage ‘du jour’).
L is Maori and the community hall she hired for her baby shower was bursting with aunties and cousins, most of whom were proudly sporting at least one traditional Maori tattoo . My favourite was ‘Aunty M’s’ – the straps of her electric blue sundress forming a perfect frame for her massive ‘tatt’ between her shoulders on her back.
There was a lot of love in the room for this little mother-to-be with her thick, beautiful jet black hair that hung to her waist. I was agog at the variety of food on offer, the tables groaning with petit four sized slices from my childhood, miniature sandwiches and cupcakes, hot canapes, tiny cups of chocolate mousse. This tribe know how to put on a spread! The set up was impeccable – as if an event organiser had swooped in, but no, when I enquired about who was responsible, 3 aunties’ names were given.
In pride of place stood a gold plated tea set belonging to L’s great grandparents, having made its way across the Tasman Sea way back when, carefully and lovingly wrapped for the journey. There was much laughter, jostling and cajoling, all of it loud, unabashed and playful. I sensed an air of permanence, of belonging in the group, exacerbated by the presence of 4 generations.
The guffawing increased as various games were played under the tutelage of extended family members: ‘guess what’s in the nappy?’ (I will spare the details); the ‘waters bursting’ game (involving balloons filled with water – in case you hadn’t guessed already. The mop was called for on a few occasions). Opposing grandmas-to-be slogged it out, pegging baby clothes on a makeshift line one- handed, egged on by much cheering and whistling from the sidelines.
The gift table resembled a shop display. This unborn baby won’t want for much; it was all there already – bibs, nappies, baby bath, pram, books, clothes, muslin wraps (3 at last count)…
High Tea as a social event has gained momentum in Australia over the past 5 years. One aficionado (and extremely clever marketing person) Michelle Milton established the High Tea Society website and an impressive international following of 73,000 lovers of this old world concept.
Local journalist Sarah McInerney has this to say on the subject:
“Traditionally, high tea was a meal working people in England ate at about 6pm in place of a late dinner. The event that most resembles the high tea of Australia and other parts of the world is afternoon tea. This is believed to have been started by the 7th Duchess of Bedford in the mid-1800s, who found herself in need of sustenance between lunch and dinner. She started inviting friends to join her and it took off. In England, it is still referred to as afternoon tea, but in many other countries high tea is the norm”.
There was also a tribal sense of belonging at the 2nd camp I found myself in that day: a mass of loyal ACDC acolytes who weren’t deterred by the fine rain, clothed in shades of black and navy blue, winking devils horns atop their heads (they’d paid a ridiculous price for these cheap plastic ornaments).
I channelled my inner teenager who had danced numerous times to TNT in army pants. As the band worked their way through their setlist they didn’t disappoint. Remarkable that in this ageist era a seventy year old (Brian Johnson) and sixty year old (Angus Young) could keep the full attention of the red horn adorned crowd of 55,000 for twenty songs, which translated into 2 hours of sheer energy. No time for chat between sets here. The amps weren’t wired for conversation.
It was the Angus and Brian show for most of the way, the remaining band members emerging from the shadows intermittently to step up to the mics. There was the token bare breasted babe in the swarm near the stage (apparently there is at least one at every concert). How did the camera crew find her in the sea of people?
Johnson was all fuzzy hair beneath his trademark cap – a caricature of himself, prancing around the expansive stage and owning every step, clad in stove-pipe black jeans. Seventy. Really? Towards the end, Angus treated us to a guitar solo that had us mesmerized from the get-go. He was spinning on the stage floor like a cockroach, all riffs and intensity.
As they came on for an encore – and perhaps my favourite song of the night, Highway to Hell – they may have been thinking of that nice cup of tea waiting for them back in the dressing rooms.