2002 – MICHAEL’S 60TH BIRTHDAY BLANKET BAY NZ FAMILY CELEBRATION . . .
No less than 60 people have celebrated at 60th Birthday parties hosted in my honour around the World this year. My old Amex friend Jim Kober, Joe Walsh and a mellower Victor hosted a ritzy dinner for New York friends in May.
Then Eddy Buehlmann was gracious host to a group of my good European friends at that bastion of English snobbishness, the Royal Automobile Club in London in Pall Mall in June. Staying with Eddy in the days leading up to the dinner was simply hilarious. His efforts to get everything just right, and keeping guest list and venue as a surprise for me was like a re-play of ‘Monsoon Wedding’ or ‘La Cage aux Folles’.
Closer to home, and the actual 60th birthday weekend was at the Blanket Bay Lodge outside Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand. It was conceived simply as a fun gathering of family – and friends who know my family.
Time for a spot of tea in front of the roaring fire blazing away in the huge stone fireplace at one end of the thirty-foot high Great Room. Sit still? We couldn’t. In the comfort of over-sized upholstered sofas at the other end of the room, we simply lay back and gape. The natural splendour of the snow-capped peaks of the Humboldt Mountains across the lake is numbing. It’s already shaping up well.
The polished floors in the public areas and bedrooms were retrieved from old shearing sheds. The weathered old beams came from old railway bridges in the South Island, and from steamer wharves along the Brisbane River. Artisans were brought in from Mexico to teach the locals how to ‘age’ the remaining timbers for architraves and doors. The schist stone for much of the walls was quarried locally, and the natural landscape is preserved with artistic use of local grasses. The guests will go crazy.