I don’t normally do requests. When someone makes a request it’s normally because they don’t like what you’re doing. Worse is when a performer asks for a request, because the translation is, ‘I give up. I’ve got nothing. Help me. Please’.

There are certain instances though when it’s in your best interests to heed request, such as when the requester signs his emails, ‘Editor’.

In short, a VIP has requested a follow-up to a column I wrote last year about organising the 60th birthday party for my uncle Bruce, in New Zealand. It’s a very important topic and I appreciate the chance to table the findings.

To re-cap, Bruce is one of Earth’s gentle souls. He cares for his mother and sister. He gardens. Everything he wears is a result of a shopping trip to an op-shop in 1982. He’s adored by everyone. He didn’t want a party.

Last year I wrote, ‘A mop will be dragged across the hallowed floors of the Waikanae Beach Community Hall, and bowls of Bluebird chips laid out seductively on sturdy trestle tables.’ And so it was. Also on the menu was potato salad, fried rice and a huge paper bag of fish and chips fresh from the corner shop. Perfect. For decoration we transformed the hall into a tramping (Australian translation: hiking) museum, in recognition of Bruce’s favourite activity. Party-goers marvelled at such wonders as a waterproof pack-liner, a portable billy-handle (known in the trade as a ‘grippy thing’) and even uncle Panda’s original PVC raincoat, kindly on loan from his personal collection.
For the main event the guests were plonked in front of a projector screen. A night at the movies. Tonight’s screening was a new-release: The Life and Times of Uncle Bruce. Deadpan narration was overlaid on historical family photos. Every possible family joke was dug up and dished out. Bruce’s penchant for skinny dipping was exposed on the big screen. The funeral he held for his amputated finger (kept lovingly in a jar in the freezer for months prior) received the attention it warranted. Every ridiculous moment of our family’s unfathomable habits was brought to life in stunning detail. Rave reviews ensued.

The floor was then handed over to Bruce. He brought his own microphone – a piece of driftwood, tip wrapped with red electric tape – and was a bit miffed when we insisted he exchange it for a real one. He started at the start, a biology lesson on his conception. Grandpa Barry’s sperm finally got the airing it so richly deserved. He ended with an observation. ‘Overall,’ he said, ‘I’m very much disappointed with humanity.’

Bravo! For the encore uncle Panda re-set the floor for a game show he wrote: a Bruce-themed tramping quiz. The two teams battled it out, with questions regarding Bruce’s favourite tramping breakfast (porridge with banana), his most likely to malfunction piece of equipment (torch), and his preference for the status of the toilet door when sitting on the long-drop (open). Last of the formalities was presentation of the present: a new sleeping bag. His old one had been bought in the early 90s (possibly from the aforementioned op-shop), never washed, and its material constituted 30% goose down and 70% sticking plasters, from the various times Bruce had woken up smouldering after sleeping a little too close to the camp fire.

Pack-up began at 10:30pm. You don’t want to labour the point. The only drunks were the teenagers, as God intended. The organising committee ran an arm over the tables, sweeping rubbish into a hungry black bag. A soapy sink dealt with the dishes. The chairs were stacked in the storage room in an orderly fashion and a mop glided over the shimmering floor. Bond secured.

The after-party was tea, biscuits and BBC World News. Bruce looked happy. His favourite part was his own speech. ‘Some nights this week,’ he said, ‘I would practice the lines in my head as I lay in bed half asleep. And I would wake myself up laughing.’