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I have been thinking a lot these days about the dying art of conversation. There are so many topics that are taboo and even talking about the weather has become a no go zone. 

I heard someone say that people are so accustomed to texting that they feel uncomfortable talking face to face. While I freely admit that technology has been an incredibly exciting pathway to opening channels of communication previously unavailable - being able to communicate with friends and relatives in far distant countries - it does have its downside.

People sit down to dine and are busy taking photographs of their meal and posting them on social media. Heads are bowed over smartphones and fingers are busy typing and no one seems to talk with each other.

It is true that many people love chatting. I have a relative who can talk underwater about everything and anything. I also know people who are happy to listen and are comfortable in contributing to conversation less enthusiastically.

The secret to a good conversation, in my opinion, is to let it have its head and meander where it will. It can often lead down unexpected lanes and tracks that have been long forgotten.

The worst thing you can do to stifle conversation is to force people to " stay on topic. "

To me, staying on topic is like having a family dinner at - say - Christmas - and forcing the guests to talk about nothing but Christmas!

To use the analogy of Christmas dinner, in every gathering there is a fair chance that there will be unwanted guest. 

Sometimes you want to tell the unwanted guest to leave. The one who is embarrassing and contributes nothing but angst and division. There are many people; in America, who would like this unwanted " guest " to leave the Whitehouse. 



The abusive or embarrassing guest is no longer a guest. He or she or "  it  "is a menace.

I am not talking about the guest who enjoys too much of the Christmas tipple or tells the same joke every year. Or marches to the beat of a different drum.  


There is a difference between being a black sheep and being a wolf in sheep's clothing.

 But getting back to Christmas dinner. The table is set, the decorations are splendid. The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg wafts through the house. The host and hostess greet us warmly at the door and Bing Crosby croons gently in the background, longing for a white Christmas and how much he really would like to ride a sleigh while listening to bells ringing. 


christmas dinner

In Australia, we are more likely to be listening to the zap of a another mosquito biting the dust on the electric bug zapper and the scent of insect repellent would hang heavily in the air.... but it just doesn't conjure up the same image, does it? 

No matter what, you get the picture. 

The first topic of conversation is obvious:

It is great to be together and Christmas is a time for family. And don't the decorations look pretty this year?


But , as I said, you can't sustain a conversation based on Christmas dinner or the pretty table decorations. 

You will inevitably veer off onto previous Christmases and drunken favourite Uncles... the weather that year that the tent flooded when you were camping at Rainbow Beach ... or the coloured sands and how did they get their colour? Sand makes glass - why did we stop using glass? Before you know where you are the conversation is centred on plastic bottles and why coke tasted better when it was upended in an old fashioned coke bottle.

Of course, there was that episode of " American Pickers " where they stumbled on crates of old fashioned glass coke bottles... is "  American Pickers " fake? 

And what about " Home Town " ... do people really move to Laurel because of a TV series?  

Of course, it is set in Tennessee. Would you want to live in Tennessee?  Aunty Marjorie says that she once lived there and it was too damn hot in summer and the bugs were bad. Not to mention the heat. 

Little Luna, the recently " out " nephew Luke pipes in with a declaration that it is all about Climate Change and that gays are more oppressed than blacks. 

Luna starts to cry when Uncle Aub tells him/her to shut the f#k up and grow a set of you know whats - at which point - nervous dinner host Carrie asks what everyone would like for dessert. Apricot pie or apple crumble?

By this stage, old Uncle Aub has had one too many and he starts telling the story of when he first saw a UFO over Area 51 back in the 70's. 

Before you know it, the conversation has turned to extra terrestrial life. Granpa chirps in and says that his favourite movie was ET. Heads nod. Little Luna announces that she has never seen ET and is it anything to do with Evil Tyrants in charge of government? 

Uncle Aub tells him/ her to stop being a stupid idiot and says " in my day, kids would never have spoken like that! "

Meanwhile old mate cousin Jack is stirring behind the scenes. He whispers in Luna's ear: "Cassie and Colin are racists and bigots. " 

Cassie overhears. She tells Cousin Jack to leave. He does but he stands outside and yells all night. 

Uncle Aub asks where the dessert is. 

Grandpa, Aunty Marjorie and hosts Cassie and Colin bring out the apricot pie and apple crumble.

Cassie declares  " Christmas dinner was never like when I was young" She is crying. Colin is trying to comfort her. 

Uncle Aub says " That's because we weren't pussies back then "

He starts telling everyone about Normandy. Midway. Guadalcanal. About how real men won the war.



Luna starts to yell. " Murder!" he/she/it exclaims.

Uncle Aub tells Luna that they didn't have fairies in the military back when he was serving. 

Luna reached for his/her phone to look up the number of a lawyer so he can sue Uncle Aub for discrimination. 

Meanwhile, everyone agrees that the table decorations look particularly pretty this year.

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