Lunch with Basil Raven, Thespian and Wine Fancier
From the journal of Foster Unction
Unwilling to submit my expensively cultivated derma to the ravages of direct sunlight, I sit ensconced beneath an umbrella by the pool. I have just polished off my ‘Terrinadi Salmone Conuova in Camicia’ as the place card suggests (Terrine of salmon with poached eggs) with a drizzle to the side of Salsa Verde and an espresso of Fazenda Santa Ines from the gentle Slopes of Minas Geraiz, Brazil. I believe it costs somewhere in the vicinity of $50 a bean, or something similar.
The Amazonian wonder that is my better half, Dympha is emerging from the pool wearing nothing but a smear of Lycra to cover her strategically exfoliated loins. As always, Trudy Festival, both my assistant and my best friends’ daughter, is hovering discretely in the shadow of the portico. She is a dear girl, but seemingly without an ounce of wit. I sometimes worry about the child but what to do? Dympha, dripping and sun glistened, reclines on the pool lounge and sips her morning flute of Krug. As she lights one of her ghastly cheroots I hear the phone ring faintly indoors.
‘Who the fuck could this be. It’s barely nine thirty.’ I said. ‘Tell them I died in my sleep last night, would you Trudy.’ However, she appears beside me a few seconds later.
“It’s your sister, Shana”
“Never heard of her…O yes Shana,” I said irritably.
“What is it Shana?”
“It’s Christian, Foster, he’s disappeared. I haven’t seen him for a week”
“So what’s new?”
“He was in a particularly poor state last time I saw him, I fear for his safety….please Foster you must help….he is your brother in law and IT manager, after all”
“You have just noted the two attributes he is least qualified for, have you looked at my web-site lately, bloody thing looks like somebody photographed a pile of rancid peanut butter. For god’s sake Shana, I have one of my lunches today. Basil Raven will be seated at my table by midday. What the fuck do you expect me to do? Make an Oscar award winner wait on the porch until I return; I can’t leave Dympha unchaperoned while he’s extant; he is an outrageous pants man.”
“O dear, I’m at my wits end. I know he’s an incorrigible drunk, but I do care for him Foster,” she said. There is a pause, where I fleetingly hoped she might have died, when she started up again. “Is Basil Raven really coming to yours for lunch? I loved him in that sword and sandal’s flick. What was it called now….?”
“Terror of the Coliseum’ Look Shana I think I know where the dreadful old soak will be. I’ll get back to you.” I hung up before she could regale me with horror stories of her drug addicted children. “Trudy, ring your father’s house would you; I suspect the idiot brother-in-law is there. Your old man is far too kind for his own good but I know from experience that Christian will be approaching the avenue of least resistance.”
Come midday my famous guest has crossed the threshold screaming on his cell phone.
“Look it’s Basil Raven, put that fucker on now or I swear I will come down there and break your fucking chicken bone of a neck, you fucker” Pause. “You don’t know who I am? I see, well you will shortly find out you rancid little…..Hey!…Hey!” There is a sharp shattering as the phone collides with the wall opposite. “Fuck me, fuck, shit, cunt. “ After making it abundantly clear he is an aficionado of several expletives, Raven red-faced, paunchy and sweatier than a warm piece of cheese at a school dance, pulls out an object from the inside pocket of his leather bomber jacket. It’s a soft foldable case he opens to reveal several phones. He selects one, waits for the tell-tale chime of life and drops it in his side pocket.
“G’day Foster, sorry about that.” I am still staring at the pile of shattered phone pieces on the floor. Fucking shit-bird kid. That was my agents 7 year old’ How come nobody over the age twelve answers the phone anymore?”
“I’m afraid I cannot say Basil,” I lied.
“Ah….Trudy” and pointed at the mess.
“Crikey, you’re a fine looking wench,” he said. Raven gave Trudy the once over as if she were a prize filly, doubtless reprising his role in the execrable ‘Earl of Huntington’. Trudy stared back enigmatically. That is to say her expression could be construed as either one of revulsion or confusion and I feared the former.
“Come and sit down Basil, you are clearly overwrought (I nearly said overweight). Look, Racine has prepared a little something as an appetizer.” A platter of thick, homemade tortillas were stacked in a cylindrical tower filled with squash, eggplant, mildly salted manchego cheese, and crisply fried greens. A trio of asparagus spears tilted against the tower. A soupcon of fine vine arête, lapped in a tiny bowl beside the dish. We began to dish portions of this miracle onto our plates and Basil was about to make a full frontal attack on it, when I signalled to Trudy at the sideboard.
“Wait!” I said. Trudy approached warily with a napkin shrouded carafe and poured us a glass each of the deep red nectar. “Tell me what you think this is Basil. You know your wines I’ll give you that, but I’d wager my firstborn, you will be hard pressed with this one.” He sniffed at his goblet and his eyes lit up. He swirled and took another careful inhalation. I actually thought he was about to swoon and he’d not even tasted it yet. At last he sipped, sucked it alarmingly through his teeth, rolled it on his tongue like an anaconda savouring a marmoset. I was thinking this behaviour was literally evil when his Oscar winning smile spread like a rash, his eyes actually twinkled; his concentration on the flavour was palpable.
“Mary, mother of God…it can’t be but I’m sure of it…it’s… “The Blood of Christ” A.K.A. Château Lafite….and its, I know it’s preposterous but I do believe it’s 1787.”
“There goes my firstborn, although I doubt you will want him,” I said. “It is the very same vintage Thomas Jefferson remarked on when visiting the Bordeaux in the same year.” I said in disbelief. “How do you do that?”
“It’s a gift Foster, what can I say. Shit, that must have set you back a fucking fortune.”
“Well, put it this way, I swapped a case of it for the house next door.” I said. I felt a little miffed to be honest. For all his many faults, he had the nose of a truffle-sniffing bore in heat.
“Any chance of slipping me one or two?”
“All gone Basil,” I lied.
“Bugger!” He seemed genuinely disappointed.
“So tell me Basil, how is that sporting venture you bought into. What was it now…”
“Camels.” He said, murdering a green bean.
“Yeah, the South Sydney Camels. It’s a croquet club. Me and my mate Skeeter bought the team, the mighty Cameloh’s needed a leg up…so to speak. They couldn’t win a trick in a rigged game. Business plan was non-existent. Still as fucking useful as tits on a bull but hey, it’s a lark eh.” At this he laughed uproariously. Trudy drowsing by the sideboard was startled and shivered visibly. The dear girl clearly found Raven repungnant. I must say I failed to see the joke, and decided to change the subject.
“I heard you copped a bit of stick at this year’s BAFTA awards. Something about how they didn’t allow you to read the first sixty stanza’s of the Iliad at your acceptance speech. The rumour is that you accosted the director of this event in a broom closet and bit his face off.”
“You see, this is what I mean about the press. They’re a bunch of cunts. I bit a portion of his nose off accidentally when he inadvertently collided with my bodyguard. I arranged for it to be sewn back on, I immediately chucked the hooter into my Dewars and ice, and had my bodyguard drive him to the hospital, with the revolting thing. He’s right as rain, although the conk is a bit red and veiny these days. Later he said I was the very picture of compassion. They didn’t report that, did they?
“Actually, what they did report was the chap has had some rejection problems with the schnozzle, discovering it actually wasn’t his nose, but belonged to a homeless man ensconced in the next bed.”
“Frankly I don’t give a flying fuck where the nose is. Look Unction, give me a fucking break. I have a mind to ram my phone up your arse and bite you’re fucking goatee off you old poof.” I am completely convinced that I would have been de-goateed forthwith if it had not been for the appearance of Dympha, bless her Cuvee soaked soul.
“If it isn’t Basil Raven, for goodness sake Foster why didn’t you tell me Basil would be here.’ I demurred to offer up the anecdote that I had that very morning informed her of his imminent arrival, knowing full well, by lunchtime it would have slipped from her mind as precipitously as the bubbles from a champagne flute. Resplendent in nothing but a gown made of what appeared to be mist, but on closer inspection was silk so fine it practically didn’t exist. Her breasts protruded through the miasma, like two buoys signalling the approaching shallows. The splendid vision of my wife, rendered Raven speechless which allowed Dympha a brief shot at cinematic erudition.
“I saw “Cones of Silence” recently Basil and it is a tour de force. You were magnificent as the disgraced spy addled by hashish who must re-enter the murky world of the CIA. Sheryl Stripe as the battle hardened boss with neo Nazi sympathies is, as usual, a credit to her gender.” She said, clearly with an eye on an Oscar herself. Raven still rendered speechless by the enormity of Dympha’s endowments, downed a goblet of Chateau Lafite and Trudy discretely provided a refill.
“Dympha, our guest has had a time of it lately’ I say imploringly. What with the various sandals, I mean scandals he’s been embroiled in from San Diego to London and that is just since Friday. By the way I just spied Fernando, the gardener, outside. He fed the roses with what appear to be a bucket of small rodents. I fear he needs further tuition in the horticultural arts.’
‘O dear, poor munchkin.’ She palliated Raven with a brisk rubbing of his shoulders. ‘Have they been so very awful to you?” Not waiting for a reply she heads out to our verdant hectare of gardens to provide, no doubt, educational nourishment to Fernando.
Before Basil could get his lower jaw back into a position of repose the appalling Racine, my chef extraordinaire (but devoid of any other redeeming attributes), graces us with his company and two plates. With a flourish he slides the plates before us and what a monstrously amazing thing of beauty it is. Trudy follows behind with a card on which is written the following.
Waygu Beef, Fermented Celeriac, Hops, Silver Leaf (Served on Dry Ice)
With a side of Brillat Savarin, Perigorf Truffle Salad, Truffle Honey
Trudy also nursed a bottle of Châteauneuf-Du-Pape, Château Rayas, 1990. Two more glasses are produced and the wine is poured with another obsequious flourish by Racine himself. He begins a recitation with an accent and tone, I can only describe as insulting.
“The Beef is the finest one can buy. It is imported from Japan; however the beast was bred and slain in Australia. An ancient Japanese breed raised on small lot pasture and grain fed the last 200 days prior to slaughter. Why we have to import a product that is produced in the country that we reside is a mystery that exhaustive research failed to illuminate. You were not asked your cooking time preferences because Waygu fillets can only be pan sealed and then roasted in a 200 degree preheated oven to a perfect medium rare. Any other method cannot be discussed and will be met with derision.” He followed this with an expression of disapproval, usually reserved for serial killers. “I now leave you, bon appétit.” Raven’s phone rings at the very moment he raises his glass to savour the exquisite vino.
“Christ sake’ he remarks irreverently but not violently which indicates that the mere whiff of the Chataeuneuf has had a calmative effect. He removes the phone from his jacket, excuses himself and saunters some two metres from the table and without looking to see who is calling drops it on the floor, placing his shoe on the still bleating offender he grinds it into the tiles with relish. “No phone call comes between me and Chateauneuf” he says returning to sip the delightful nectar and tuck into his slab of Waygu. Meanwhile Trudy reaches once again for the dust-pan.
“Basil.’ I muse between exquisite mouthfuls. “It must have been challenging preparing to play your Oscar winning part of a deranged killer in ‘Knight of the Knives’ What was it that drew you to the part. After all you had to be made up every day of the shoot as a belligerent, bald, overweight, one-eyed, pigeon toed, knuckle dragging Neanderthal.’ Basil downed his Châteaunerf and reached for the bottle portentously.
“Look Unction, if you are trying to suggest I had anything to do with the tragic death of the makeup artist Jack Merybottom, I will provide you with an alternative asshole.” Clearly his Du-Pape composure had been replaced by the more predictable malice. “He died of asphyxiation when my bodyguard, Bull, gave him an affectionate bear-hug.”
“But Basil, I have implied nothing of the sort. Although it was rumoured the hapless Merybottom had sniggered to a set dresser, and I quote “Raven barely needed the benefit of my expertise to play the part”
“You fucking old cunt’ He reached for my throat but swift as a Gazelle on Ice, Trudy had him in a head lock, raising him off his chair and applying the ‘butt drag’, a commonly used wrestling move I won’t go into here. I can confirm, it provides considerable leverage and usually ends with the recipient of said move, calling time out. Not so this time though. As a consequence of his unwillingness to surrender, Trudy had him on the floor in the time it takes to say ‘baboon’ using the ‘Single Leg Takedown’ followed by the ‘Penetration Step’ a particularly elegant move; and this proved to be the decider. Raven slapped the floor in submission and Trudy rose with the poor fellow in the ‘Firemen’s Carry’ thrust him towards the entrance vestibule, opened the door while changing to the ‘Arm Drag’, threw him head first into the hedge of Murrayas caressing our boundary, slammed and locked the door. To say that I was surprised by this event, grossly understates the degree of emotion I experienced. I was at once delighted and relieved by the turn of events. The ghastly fellow was leaving me a tad bilious so I was about to wind the lunch up with a fictitious attack of gout, until he threatened me with a garrotting.
“Trudy, you are immensely astonishing. How on earth did you learn to do that?” She appeared to be in a state of Zen repose. Nevertheless, she mumbled audibly enough for me to misconstrue “Mustafa” for “my father”. I also quizzed her on her enquiries in regard to the whereabouts of Christian, who was indeed ensconced at Chateau Festival. That, needless to say, is another story.