Despite my antipathy to the holiday season, my wife and I were actually invited to a picnic on Christmas Day. I ended up going on my own, since she was battling bronchitis and there wasn’t much I could do except commiserate. Reassured by her promise that she wasn’t going to expire in my absence, I plugged the address into the GPS and headed out to East Brighton. If you must drive in Melbourne, Christmas is a good day.

The invitation had been extended by a fellow cyclist from the Great Victorian Bike Ride. He and his family and some friends get together for a long Christmas lunch. When the weather is nice (as it was Christmas Day), they meet at his friend Tom’s place, which gives on to a lovely park. Other families had the same idea, but the park was large enough for all.

It was a potluck picnic, so I threw together a baked dish and stuffed a plate and cutlery into a bag.  There were introductions and I was made to feel welcome. There was very good food, conversation and even musical entertainment. One of the neighbors (an architect by trade) elected to abandon his own group and serenade Geoff’s family and friends with his guitar, practiced performance skills and an inexhaustible repertoire of songs.

At one point, I was conscripted into a board game called “Make Me Laugh.” There was a period in my life when I was actually interested in board games, but I left that behind many years ago. Even though I couldn’t really make heads or tails of the rules, I joined in with enthusiasm. It was Christmas, after all, and it was fun.

A group nearby (probably the group our guitarist had abandoned) was playing cricket. When I was twelve years old and living in India, a Sikh friend my age tried to explain the rules. At the end of a monologue that went on almost as long as his explanation of the pantheon of Hindu Gods, I was utterly baffled. Geoff told he had a tea towel that explained the rules.  It was tongue in cheek, but everything on it was apparently quite correct.

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.

Yesterday was the first match of the Boxing Day Test, bringing together the teams of India and Australia and 68,465 fans.  110 people were evicted for hoonish (boorish) behavior, such as throwing plastic cups or baring all and running out on the field. Despite the extensive coverage in the paper, I have no idea who is ahead. This will continue for five days. By that time, everyone will be thoroughly inebriated.

In the end, anyone who can remember the score (or the rules) or his name, will be deemed the winner.