Two Forms Of Soaking And Two Friendly Gatherings In One Day, Uxbridge and Southwark, 13 September 2017

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.

A light sprinkling and covering before the deluge

“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.

In an intriguing echo of the “Ian turning up over-dressed” story from 1980, which emerges from my other recent BBYO reunion with Mark Lewis, I realised that I was ludicrously overdressed for the Uxbridge pavilion in my business suit.

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.

Ice cream at Uxbridge on a cold day brought to mind my previous visit to that ground, which Dumbo (my Suzuki Jimny) reported on King Cricket – here.

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.

Fran displayed Essex beating up Warwickshire as background entertainment on the TV; it was clear that both Simon and Fran follow county cricket avidly and know a lot about it. Simon mentioned that Jack Simmons was one of his favourite cricketers; coincidentally Janie had spent a long time chatting with Simon’s hero when we were at Southport earlier in the season. I forgot to ask Simon why, as a Yorkshire supporter, his hero was a Lancastrian. Perhaps Simon will chime in with the answer to that conundrum.

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:

Say “halloumi cheese”: Ian, Helen and Donna

We got to try a few different wines; Chateau Musar (naturally), a top notch wine from Chateau Kefraya plus several excellent wines from Massaya, with which Janie and I were unfamiliar. Helen also served a couple of French examples by way of comparison.

Massaya is less than 20 years old, so didn’t even exist when Janie and I visited Lebanon, tried Musar and Kefraya wines aplenty and also went to the Ksara caves to taste wine:

Tasting Wine at Ksara, Lebanon in 1997
He’s at Ksara…not the Massaya, he’s a very naughty boy

If you want to see the full stack of photos from our 1997 sojourn to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Eilat, click here.

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 asked us all to look natural, so of course…

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).

A Somewhat Eventful Party At Woodfield Avenue, 6 to 7 October 1979

Somewhat eventful to say the least.

Another holiday without me for my parents…another opportunity for me to hold a house party.

I particularly like the way I describe this party, with all due modesty, in my diary entry for 6 October:

Party v good/described as best ever by some…despite disasters.

I’m not sure that my parents’ house has ever recovered from the “despite disasters” aspect of it.

The disasters were probably due to intense overcrowding. Not only had I been pretty open-ended with my invitations – BBYO club folk descended from the length and breadth of the country – but the party was also quite heavily gatecrashed.

This photo from Easter Weekend 1979 – several of the above were at the October party…none of these were the gatecrashers.

I shall seek counsel from others on some of the details. Also on the extent to which, for some aspects of the evening, names and details should ever find their way to as public a place as Ogblog.

But for the time being here are some fragmentary memories of mine.

It looks from the diary as though Fran helped me to set the party up but didn’t stick around for the party, which was jolly decent of her and/but she must have had something much, much better to do on the Saturday night. I have a feeling that she might have just started/been starting University around then. Fran might remember and chime in with a memory. Anyway, many thanks for the help that day, Fran.

Then the party itself.

For some reason (overcrowding alone shouldn’t have caused this) we had a power failure for a while. No lights, no music…just…whatever a party might be in the absence of those things.

Someone who knew what they were doing (at least to the extent needed to restore light and music to the party) sorted out the problem, but I do recall at one point several people going round with candles, not least Simon Jacobs rattling off quips at a rate of about 16 qpm.

Simon could rap at 20 quips per minute if he wanted to…he just didn’t want to.

One of the gatecrashers broke the frame of my father’s family mosaic piece – depicting us as clowns standing on each other’s shoulders. Mercifully it wasn’t beyond repair. I seem to recall that incident triggering some of the more protective (or perhaps I should say bellicose) guests to take matters into their hands and remove several gatecrashers.

Someone will no doubt be able to explain why the following picture of Jay, one of the welcome guests (like the Simon photo above, taken a few months earlier) popped into my head as I recalled the gatecrashers’ comeuppance.

“…be off with you, fiends!…”

I think there were times during the party when I needed some consoling. I realised what a mess the place was in. But this was not a good party for host romance, although I’m sure it worked well for many guests; not least during the blackout.

One consolation in the damage aspect was the fact that the house had been burgled the day after my parents went away, so it was going to be difficult for them to distinguish burglar damage from party damage.

7 October 1979

…well of course several of the events mentioned/alluded to above might well have been the early hours of 7th…

many stayed, helped clear up. I finished the job…

I’m not sure who Paul S was that Sunday evening (apologies, Paul, if/when your identity comes to light), but the Jeff S who stayed at the house after the meeting was the late lamented Jeff Spector. No doubt he was able to advise me well on dealing with the aftermath of crowded house parties – they had quite a few of those at the Spector house over the years. But those are other memories for other pieces.

Jeff Spector, Spring 1979