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Living life to the fullest in abbreviated times.

Summary: To my utter surprise, when Father Sweeny was given his cue by the hostess, all he uttered were three words: 'Heavenly Pa, Ta.'

By Francis Matthew, Editor at Large, Thinker Kevin Martin Special to Gulf News

There is little doubt that these are abbreviated times. An abbreviated age, we might very well call it. Although, you wouldn't guess that from glancing at the world life expectancy charts. Those records show that the whole human population is sandwiched between people in Japan, who on average live up to 84 years, and those in Sierra Leone, who make it up to 45. India is number 139 on the list at 66 years and the United Kingdom is 19th with 81 years, so to make a rough unscientific, layman's calculation, the Anglo-Indian (who doesn't figure on the charts) can expect to knock up roughly 73 years. Absolutely. Exactly what I was thinking, too. Nothing abbreviated about that.

Still and all ... that is the irony of the age. You live longer, but you've got to be able to multi-task now. It's not like back in the day when mum cooked her best duck curry on Sunday - golden brown and crisp and crackling on the outside and succulent with magical filling on the inside - and invited Pastor McKenzie to lunch, who brought with him not merely an enormously generous appetite but an elaborate 'grace' before meals, which went on so interminably that we not only lost the thread of it, but our appetites were nearly destroyed as well. Pastor McKenzie began by praying for himself, then for our wonderful family headed by my wonderful parents ... and then like ripples in a pool moving ever outward he prayed for, well, nearly everyone in the universe while the duck went cold.

It is, therefore, with incredible delight, that I report briefly on a meal partaken recently at a dear friend's house. I had no idea a man of the cloth (as clergymen are sometimes referred to) was also going to be present. So, when I first caught sight of him, I mistook him to be a relative. However, on introduction, he turned out to be Father Sweeny. I felt a chill go down my spine, as memory from a distant childhood revisited and lodged in my head. Oh, no, I thought. Father Sweeny's going to be asked to say 'grace' before we eat. Ah, well! Here we go! Words like that tripped through my brain.

When we all did sit down to partake of the meal that consisted of steaming lamb cutlets stewed in a fine red port flavoured with rosemary, and potatoes cut in half and sauted in butter until their faces bore a faint caramelised orange tint, dusted with a sprinkling of chives ... well, when we all did sit, I feared for the steaming food - for the steam, in particular, which I was willing to bet was not going to be around when we finally got to pick up our knives and forks.

To my utter surprise, when Father Sweeny was given his cue by the hostess, all he uttered were three words: "Heavenly Pa, Ta."

That was it! The shortest 'grace' on record.

As I said, these are abbreviated times and, at least at the table on that day, I embraced the era totally. ('Ta', for those not in the know, is commonplace utterance in Australia for "thanks".) It reminded me in some way of an anecdote that far precedes this 'abbreviated age', as we are calling it. May even have been a pioneer for its time.

This is about a young man in the 1970s, who was sent to university by his father. One day, the dad received a letter in the post, brief and to the point. It said: "No mon, no fun. Your son."

The dad, a man of letters himself, gave it some thought before replying: "Too bad, too sad. Your dad."

I myself received an sms from my own son just the other day. It asked: "Howz da day." I, fearing he'd miswrote, or maybe that predictive text had misquoted him, replied: "Daddy's fine."

We sorted that little blunder out later that evening over an abbreviated round of laughter.

Kevin Martin is a journalist based in Sydney, Australia.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jun 8, 2016
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