When I got word that Rich “The Rock” Davis was to be over from Canada for a short while in mid November, I thought I’d probably miss out on the resultant gathering. I explained to John Eltham that I only had the one available evening throughout the period on offer.
But this was one of those occasions when the timings went fortuitously. Not only could I make the appointed day, but it transpired that Nigel Godfrey would be visiting from New Zealand and that Paul Hamer would be visiting from an even more remote and obscure corner of the Great Dominions; Southampton.
Indeed, also by happy chance, Paul Hamer’s earlier engagement in London was in Paddington, within spitting…well, in truth, walking, distance of my flat.
So Paul and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours late afternoon catching up at the flat; it’s only been 37+ years. Chat was interspersed with the odd business call and a short baroq-ulele recital by yours truly, before we journeyed across London to join the others at the Walrus and Carpenter.
It ended up quite a large gathering this time, with a few people I hadn’t seen for decades; in particular Justin Sutton (peering from behind Perry Harley in the above picture), with whom I chatted at some length at The Walrus, plus David Leach, who arrived towards the end of the Walrus session.
I was also graced by a brief audience with Sir Nigel Godfrey at the Walrus and Carpenter. I had always thought that his gong was for services to the beauty pageant industry. I hadn’t realised that he is actually “The Right Reverend Sir Nigel Godfrey”, presumably honoured for clerical services to the New Zealand laity.
Nigel explained how irritating it is for people, like himself, who wish to use multiple titles, that on-line drop down boxes tend to offer only “The Right Reverend” or “Sir” but not “The Right Reverend Sir”. A tad first world, that problem, but I hope I looked suitably doleful and I audibly sympathised.
Once the Rajasthan eating session was in full sway, Nigel also chimed in with a story about a near-disaster with window-leaning and errant train doors on the journey to school, back in the day, before the health and safety brigade quite ludicrously took such character-forming matters out of the hands of school-children. The resulting conversation about such disasters (real, near and imagined) was in the worst possible taste and those of us who were laughing should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. Really.
I shall also delve into my diaries as soon as I get the chance to recover some other memories of train journeys to school (with Justin Sutton, Andrew Levinson and Rupert Jefferies) and also at least one teenage adventure with the Levinson siblings, coincidentally very near the scene of this evening’s “crime” – the old Billingsgate Fish Market (just across the road). For the latter, I have photographs.
Everyone seemed to be in good form and good spirits; as usual the evening flew by. I should also mention Phil (one of John Eltham’s colleagues, top left in the final photo above) who joined us again this time and is excellent company. Also a thank you to John Eltham for organising, as always.
Plus a massive thank you to Perry Harley – it was great fun sitting next to you again this time, Perry – even more fun watching you deploy your accounting skills so diligently and indeed so very many times over, to avoid successfully the dreaded bodmin, ensuring fair play and fair pay.
Here in the Hanger Hill Garden Estate (also known as Noddyland) polite children with polite parents dress up and come around “trick or treating” for Halloween, but in truth it is all smiles and treats, no tricks…
…or is it?
Here is the sound of the Noddyland witch preparing for Halloween:
Janie loves Halloween and plans for it well ahead of time.
Even our pink flamingo, Flossie Pom Pom, wants a piece of the action.
What could be nicer than a family gathering in rural Buckinghamshire for the Sunday repast?
Escamillo Escapillo and Lavender suggested a few possible dates to us. We chose this one because Escamillo’s aunt and uncle, Sue and Alan, were going to be staying with them. We’d met Sue and Alan at the wedding and got on well with them, so this seemed like a great opportunity for a gathering.
The youngsters chose The Plough at Cadsden – just a few miles up the road from their place. Neither Daisy nor I had heard of it, but according to its web site it is “probably the most famous Pub in England” and “[t]he Pub of Choice of Prime Ministers for many decades”.
Indeed, Escamillo took great pride in reporting that The Plough was the very pub in which David Cameron, famously, accidentally abandoned one of his children, a few days after Escamillo and Lavender’s wedding. Daisy and I made a mental note of how many people were in our party and therefore how many people we would needed to count as we left, to ensure that we were still complete.
We had a short debate on what to call the meal in question; lunch or dinner. With three Lancastrians and three southerners at the table, that match was always going to end as a draw. Given the portion sizes in The Plough. it was basically going to be a one proper meal day for all of us, whatever we called it.
We all decided to have a main and a desert, on the advice of Escamillo and Lavender who warned us about the portion sizes and suggested that the desserts were especially sproggy and good; they were right. The main course specials of the day revolved around roasts (surprise surprise on a Sunday). Daisy plumped for lamb while I plumped for pork. The others went for beef (mostly) or chicken. I went for the death by chocolate brownie and ice cream dessert which was very yummy and was the majority choice. Daisy went for apple pie and custard, which she said was also very good.
We talked a lot about cricket over lunch; Alan and Sue are very keen on it. Their reminiscences about the Lancashire leagues of old and their thoughts about the London Cricket Trust project, with which I’m now involved, were very interesting and insightful. We also all talked about county championship and test match cricket rather a lot.
Here is a photograph of all of us at table after the meal, with thanks to the nice waitress.
I am delighted to report that, on leaving The Plough, we took numerical stock and all six of us were still together. No-one got abandoned in The Plough or even in the grounds outside it when we all drove off. This I think proves beyond doubt that we could run the country better than David Cameron and his bunch of cronies.
Anyway, we’d had a really enjoyable meal and get together. I hope we get a chance to get together again soon.
It was almost the same group of us too, except was around and Micky joined us this time.
The place is probably better suited to a regular Sunday lunch feast rather than the Christmas feast. The regular Sunday lunch is gargantuan enough, but within a tolerance that doesn’t require several days of overindulgence-recovery-time.
Good food too. Janie and I both especially enjoyed the crispy belly pork. I found the Sunday roast trimmings (not least Yorkshire pudding) went surprisingly well with it. Yummy starters too – mine was a seared tuna salad, Janie’s a crab thing.
But of course it was the company that really made the day so good. Even after Micky, Max and Kim had gone, Janie and I stuck around chewing the fat with DJ until long after dark. Winter is setting in!
…partly inspired by the fact that many of us who gather for these Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinners have been hanging around NewsRevue now for 25 years…
…John Random decided to theme this get together around the notion “Class of ’92”.
I didn’t realise that John had actually persuaded Chris Stanton to come along this time, which was a very pleasant surprise. Chris brought a couple of ringbinder files with scripts from his 1992 runs, including the late Spring run, directed by John Random, in which I (or rather, my material) made its NewsRevue debut:
Seeing those files, it made me realise what a challenging job it must be for performers to do NewsRevue. The sheer volume of scripts, the mixture of sketches and songs, the changes to the show every week…
…Chris showed me one running order, for example, in which there was an unbroken sequence of fourteen or fifteen pieces in which he appeared.
John Random brought along a photo album which had lots of photos of NewsRevue types…even one of me and Janie from our very early days together…most people in the room were represented by at least one photo.
Mark Keagan was there, as was Barry Grossman, Nick R Thomas, Colin Stutt and Gerry Goddin, the latter of whom produced a particularly fiendish version of his “quiz” game and tortured us with it at the end of the evening.
Prior to this evening, when chatting at Lord’s, Chris Stanton had been threatening to have a bonfire of his old scripts. Part of my purpose was to help John Random to rescue this treasure trove for posterity. But by the end of this evening, Chris explained that he did not want to part with his scripts and had no intention of destroying them.
On the way home, my song “Coppers are Dressed as Hippies” popped into my head, as did the notion that I too have a ringbinder file at home with correspondence and one or two old running orders and programmes.
In the morning, I copied/wrote up “coppers” (click link here or above) and found a running order, programme and writers’ newsletter from Paula Tappenden’s summer run; the run that followed the John Random/Chris Stanton one.
In some ways, I thought, I had blooped by not bringing those artefacts to the evening. But in other ways, it seems more fitting that I use Ogblog as a medium, following up on the Class of ’92 evening, to circulate copies of my 1992 artefacts, shown below:
the programme for that Paula Tappenden run (late June through August 1992);
the running order from week four (late July 1992);
John Random’s unusually short writers’ newsletter w/e 31 July 1992…who was your visitor from Idaho, John? Do tell.
Postscript. In response to my request for details on the mystery visitor from Idaho, I received the following beautifully-crafted missive from John Random a week or so later:
…the friend from Idaho was my former flatmate Janet.
One of my biggest regrets in life is that I didn’t spend the whole of 1986 simply writing down everything she ever said. Here was comedy gold, narrative gold right under my nose and I didn’t recognize it for what it was.
Without ever trying to be funny, without even KNOWING she was being funny, Janet contrived to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. This was chiefly because everyone she’d ever known was either barking mad or the victim of some cruel yet ludicrous twist of Fate.
I recall she had a pioneer ancestor who was run over by the very train that brought his family out West to join him. Apparently, he had started the celebrations a little too early and was a little too merry by the time the train pulled in.
Not that this should be taken as meaning she was catty or scabrous. On the contrary, she was a big motherly woman of the sort you might get if you crossed Jenni Murray with Claire Rayner.
Sadly, Janet’s not much of a writer, so I have very few letters of hers, and she seldom even e-mails. However, she recently broke a seven-year silence indicating that she might be coming over in a week or two. I do hope so.
In my grateful reply to John, I described Janet’s interruption to his newsletter writing that week as John’s “person from Porlock” moment.
My own offerings from that Paula Tappenden Week Four are all now up on Ogblog, btw, all clickable below:
Every month or so, we have “Play Street” in our street. Some of the grumpier residents don’t like it, but we do, even though it takes place right outside our house. We like the sound of children enjoying themselves and the community coming together.
Normally the event really isn’t for us. Not even as a couple who inadvertently ended up at Young People’s Night at the theatre yesterday – click here for that story – can we claim eligibility to join in Play Street…
…until this time. This event was also designated to be a mini harvest festival for the whole community, so all and sundry were invited along. Yes, Janie and I are most definitely sundry.
We thought the afternoon was a great success. We hope the community organisers arrange more such events in the future.
Aleksandra Turner kindly sent me a few more photographs, including some with Janie – which is a definite plus. Here is one of Aleksandra’s…
I’m not sure I’d seen Fran Erdunast (formerly Weingott) since the build up to my somewhat eventful house party in 1979, but we have been reconnected through Facebook for some time and discovered that we share an enthusiasm for cricket, not least Middlesex.
Fran likes to go to Middlesex out-ground matches, so we hatched a quasi-plan to meet up at the four-day game between Middlesex & Hampshire at Uxbridge CC late season.
Both the weather and my work commitments seemed to be conspiring against this idea, but the forecast for the afternoon of 13 September was, in the end, rather encouraging (sunny with a small chance of showers) and I realised that we should get to see a few hours of cricket at Uxbridge between my morning meeting and the early evening wine tasting in Southwark.
That was the plan…
…and the early part of the plan worked. I got to Uxbridge just before the start of play after lunch and saw a figure who was unmistakably Fran sitting conveniently near to the Gatting Way entrance. She introduced me to Simon, who turns out to be equally keen on county cricket, albeit a Yorkshire supporter (he hails from Leeds). They had arrived about 5 minutes ahead of me and were sorting out some well-appointed seats for the three of us.
After two or three overs, we felt a few spots of rain, which seemed to send the umpires into a tizzy and the players all came off, much to the disgust of the tiny crowd.
“I think the umpires and ground staff must know something we don’t”, I said, suggesting that we head for the pavilion before the deluge.
Deluge it was. Lashings of proper, wet rain, for about 20 minutes or so.
I was even more ludicrously dressed for slogging through the sludge of Uxbridge CC after the rain. I rolled up my trousers to avoid mud on suit misery. Jeff Coleman threatened to take my picture for the Middlesex or MTWD website, which I actively encouraged, as I thought it must look very funny, but Jeff kindly relented in the interests of my dignity.
On the way back to the slightly less soggy patch where our seats were now drying in the sun, I decided to have my one “Thatcher” 99 Whippy ice cream of the year, offering to treat Fran and Simon, who both declined politely.
Fran described the intricacies of the dental work she does while I ate the ice cream, presumably to ensure that I was not tempted to try any further sweet treats that day. Simon tried to avoid fainting during this conversation. I tried to put Simon at his ease by admitting to being squeamish when Janie talks about some of the intricacies of her podiatry work, at which point Fran demonstrated her considerable medical knowledge by explaining the difference between mouths and feet. When Simon and I both showed signs of imminent fainting, Fran stopped talking about medical procedures.
We watched the ground staff try to remove ludicrous quantities of surface water from the pitch, ably assisted by Angus Fraser and even some of the players. The efforts looked futile and indeed after about 30 minutes of sunshine and hard labour, the umpires came out and concluded that it would be impossible to get anything going again today.
Fran kindly invited me back to her place in Pinner along with Simon for some tea. It would be a chance to continue our chat about the good old days, cricket and cricket in the good old days, which is exactly what we did.
Fran hardly seemed to have changed in the decades since we last met. I am consistently surprised when I reconnect with friends from my teenage years how little they have changed in essence. Fran articulated it well in a note later that day:
…bemused by the surreal vision of grown up Ian Harris sitting on my sofa…[t]he 16-17 year old version I last saw kept reappearing ghost-like during the afternoon.
16:30 came around ever so quickly and Fran very kindly insisted on taking me to Pinner station, worrying that I might otherwise be late for my 18:00 wine tasting. Indeed, by the time she had picked a couple of pears from her garden for Charley The Gent Malloy to sample next week (I’ll report back on how the Pinner Conferences go down with pear specialist Charley), even I thought I might have cut it a bit fine for Southwark.
I had forgotten how quick the Metropolitan Line is and hadn’t thought about Southwark, on the Jubilee Line, being a simple hop of a change from the Met line. Once I entered Pinner Station, of course, my brain went back onto automatic from all those visits out that way in my youth, to see Simon, Caroline and others at the Pinner club.
Still, I was surprised when I emerged into the Southwark sunshine at 17:20, a full forty minutes early. Time for a coffee and (sorry Fran) another somewhat sweet treat for fortification (pain au raisin).
Then to the Mousse wine tasting, which this time was on Lebanese wines. Janie arrived only a tiny bit late…
…but much earlier than this photo which Janie took quite a bit later in the evening:
My favourite wines from the Mousse wine tasting evening were a couple of the Massaya ones; Le Colombier (entry level but very gluggable) and the Silver Selection wine which I thought was cracking good. I also really liked the Marsanne-based Hermitage white which Helen served by way of comparison. I have never been much taken with the Lebanese whites, whereas Leb red can hit the spot more often than not.
Janie’s attempts to photograph several of us by asking us to look natural were naturally more likely to fail than succeed. The picture above was the best of the bunch. If you want a laugh at the rest, feel free to click through here.
Helen always gathers an interesting, eclectic crowd for her wine tastings, so you don’t just learn a lot about wine, you do so in very agreeable company.
Janie and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening, which we rounded off with Maroush shawarmas and a bottle of Asti Spumante. (OK, I made up that last bit).
After dinner, back to Noddyland for a baritone ukulele recital and some more chat before bedtime.
We also had a rare opportunity to chat some more in the morning before John and Mandy set off on their way. It had been a really enjoyable get together – let’s hope we can do something along these lines again quite soon.
We concluded that 8 August would be the best day for this – my timings were completely flexible (apart from a hot date with the Mrs in the evening) and it was Day 3 of the county match between Middlesex & Warwickshire; that seemed a good bet.
After a quick reviving snack in Paul Rhodes with the girls, we then hot-footed it to Lord’s.
I hadn’t kept up with cricket events at all during the day, but knew from my visit to Lord’s and the Meet The Players Party the previous day, that the pitch had flattened out quite a lot. So my fears from Day One, when 20 wickets fell, that there might not be much/any play on Tuesday afternoon were surely unfounded…
…or were they?…
…I tapped in to Cricinfo on the way to the ground and exclaimed, “oh no! Middlesex have collapsed. We’re nine down. We probably won’t see any cricket at all.”
But we were only 10 minutes from the ground and we managed to navigate the formalities to get The Deacons in the Allen Stand gap to see some cricket. Between overs, we even got into the pavilion for the last few overs before the inevitable ending came. So the Deacons were actually in the Long Room to witness the end of the match and the traditional end of match civilities. In many ways, that made it an extra special treat for the Deacons. It would have been more special for me had it been a Middlesex win.
Still, that meant we had plenty of time and less distraction for an informal tour of Lord’s, starting with the grand tour of the pavilion itself.
I didn’t realise when we arranged the day, but Anya plays cricket at school in Canada – I imagined that she’s be largely unfamiliar with the game – so the Lord’s visit was quite special for her.
With Janie, we went and looked at the Lord’s Shop and the Cricket Academy, walked back round the ground making a full circuit, had a quick look at the real tennis court and then retired to the Bowler’s Bar in the pavilion for a well-deserved drink.
The afternoon had gone so quickly. We all had evening events to get to; Anya had arranged to see some old pals south of the river, Paul and Christine were meeting some friends for an evening at Ronnie Scott’s, while Janie and I had our hot anniversary date to get to.
It was a really enjoyable day; one of those special gatherings that will live long in the memory and which brought back plenty of other memories too.
Janie and I arranged a short trip to Sussex, primarily to visit cousin Sidney & Joan Pizan, but cunningly co-ordinated with Janie’s desire to see the Charleston Farmhouse and my desire to see Middlesex’s only game at Sussex-by-the-sea this season; a Friday evening T20 fixture.
The cricket and some other interesting touring will be written up in Part Two of this piece.
So, we stopped off at Charleston, a short detour on the way to Brighton. The sun shone that afternoon, which was good news for the visit as the place comprises beautiful gardens as well as the fascinating house.
The house was the home of Vanessa Bell and her entourage and has been restored/preserved in its Bloomsbury artists form. In the modern parlance, the whole house is a kind of installation art work, with many of the walls, furnishings, artefacts etc. having been decorated by one of the many artists who lived or hung out at the house over the years.
We were not allowed to take pictures inside the house, but Janie did buy a book with lots of pictures (as well as words), so if you ask her nicely she can show you pictures of the interiors.
We took lots of pictures in the lovely gardens – see Flickr album. A few of the best of them follow.
It is always a pleasure to see Sidney and Joan. The Jetty seemed to be a good choice of restaurant for this gathering; interesting dishes aplenty but not overly fussy food. Sparing Sidney the cooking job (which was his original plan) allowed the four of us to concentrate on catching up on each other’s news and chatting about all sorts.
Sidney and Joan cabbed it back to Hove while Janie and I chose to walk off a bit of our dinner. It had been a really pleasant evening, which had passed all too quickly.