The Eagle Huntress, Curzon Bloomsbury, 1 January 2017

If only I could hold sway over Dumbo-pan (above) and Daisy-pan, the way that Aishol-pan the Eagle Huntress can control her horse and eagle.

Our original plan had been to see this movie on Boxing Day, but the excesses of Christmas Day – click here – encouraged us to defer the visit.

The next convenient slot for us was New Year’s Day itself. I didn’t book the tickets in advance of the day – that would have been tempting fate. But our restful Twixtmas and New Year’s Eve – click here – meant that we were fit as fleas and raring to go to the movies.

So, early morning, before being thrashed on the tennis court by Janie- click here for that Twixtmas link again, I logged on to the Curzon site to grab the best seats. After all, who books for afternoon showings of movies that far ahead? Turns out, quite a lot of people do for New Year’s Day; there were not all that many seats left. I grabbed two good ones in the middle of the penultimate row, having missed out on our favourite double seats at the very back.

We went in my car, Dumbo (above), or Dumbo-pan as I was calling him by the end of the outing. It was bucketing down with rain that afternoon.

In the downstairs lobby we immediately run into George Littlejohn and his good lady. I have known George since 1994 when we met, for reasons that will only be explained to you if you click here, at the 1994 inaugural Accountancy Awards. Janie and I have bumped into the Littlejohns at cultural events before, not least a grim evening at Pains of Youth in 2009 (grim by virtue of the show, absolutely not grim because we met the Littlejohns) – click here.

Anyway, it turns out that George is precisely the sort of person who books his cinema tickets earlier than sparrowfart on the day of the viewing – he’d booked their seats the evening before. Naturally, George had booked “our” favourite double seats. This sorry tale disproves the adage that the early bird always catches the worm. The early bird only catches the worm if the late bird hadn’t caught that worm the night before.

Which brings me neatly back to the subject of birds hunting for live prey. i.e. the film, The Eagle Huntress; that’s why we were all at the cinema.

The Eagle Huntress is about an ethnic Kazakh girl in Mongolia, Aishol-pan, who has an extraordinary aptitude for and love of eagle hunting, the traditional (male) sporting/lifestyle/survival activity of her tribe.

There is a good IMDb entry for this movie explaining it all, so why should I replicate or  try to improve on it? – click here.

It turns out that George has been in Kazakhstan recently, helping to get a new financial centre properly established there. He showed me a picture of himself trying on a Kazakh hat; a spectacular-looking piece that apparently comprises several dead animals, which George  (wisely) declined to purchase. I showed George a selfie (shown below) sporting my comparatively modest-looking but animal free Vermont from Locke & Co.

Despite appearances to the contrary, no animal suffered in the taking of this selfie.

Anyway, we all enjoyed the film very much. Some of the sequences seem a little set up, such as the snippets of old eagle hunters complaining that eagle hunting is not suitable activity for a girl. The music was more blockbuster than art-house movie style.

But you’ll probably forgive this film its attempts to commercialise the story, because it is a true story and it does show a truly remarkable talent in a young girl and the setting is simply stunning. At times it seemed anathema to be hearing Daisy Ridley’s dulcet tones narrating, because those types of wildlife and landscape scenes have to be narrated by David Attenborough. Isn’t there a law about that?…there should be.

I don’t often implore people to “go see a movie”, but this one really is 90 minutes or so well spent. This is not the sort of film that I would choose to see on reading what it is about, so I’m really glad that Janie (Daisy-pan) nagged me into seeing this wonderful, life-affirming movie.

Mercifully the rain was relenting when we left the cinema and waved goodbye to the Littlejohns. I tried calling “Dumbo-pan” and “Daisy-pan”, but I have no sway over the untameable. Probably just as well.

Pains Of Youth by Ferdinand Bruckner, Cottesloe Theatre, 7 November 2009

What a grim evening of theatre this turned out to be.

The only ungrim thing about the evening was bumping into George Littlejohn and his good lady in the foyer before the show and then again in the interval. I have known George since 1994 when we met, for reasons that will only be explained to you if you click here, at the 1994 inaugural Accountancy Awards. Only click if you find pompous awards funny; don’t click if you take them seriously.

The play is about young upwardly mobile Viennese trainee doctors in the 1920’s, who should have been among the most happening people on earth were it not for their unfortunate juxtaposition with time and space (i.e. 1920’s Vienna) and their existential angst.

Janie and I hated the first half of the play and resolved not to stay for the second half. I’m not saying that it was either going to be members of the cast, or us, or a mixture of those two cohorts, but suicide was clearly on the cards during the second half. We made absolutely certain it wasn’t going to be us.

Unfortunately for George and his good lady, they had some sort of connection with someone involved in the production, so they stayed for the second half. We wished them luck as we waved them goodbye.

The irony of the bad straplining of that last piece will not be wasted on George Littlejohn, who was at one time the editor of Accountancy Age, no less, but has since managed to exceed even those giddy heights.

Despite their ordeal, sticking out the whole evening, I am pleasantly surprised, indeed delighted, to report that both the Littlejohns seem hale and hearty at the time of writing (January 2017).  Janie and I ran into them both again at the Curzon Bloomsbury on New Year’s Day 2017 – click here, which triggered this memory and hence this write up.

Accountancy Age Awards, The Brewery, 9 November 1994

In the annals of accountancy folk lore, 9 November 1994 will forever be an historic day, not that you would easily find a reference to it on-line…

…until now.

For that evening in 1994 was the very first Accountancy Age Awards, now operated as a separate venture by the looks of it and/or rebranded as the British Accountancy Awards.

And I was there.

Not just there, I was an honoured guest. For I had been one of the judges on one of the panels for that very first year of the Accountancy Awards. I had been on the judging panel for accounting systems, no less. Selected for the role while I still worked for Binder Hamlyn, although I had left to form Z/Yen in the meantime. Accountancy Age were told about the move but didn’t mind. Nor did Binders.

A few weeks or months earlier, while still at Binders.

According to my 1994 diary, I spent the afternoon of 13 September 1994 at the Accountancy Age offices. During those few hours, I and the rest of the panel “examined” several systems, to decide which were worthy of  awards. You can imagine just how methodical and scientific that judging process must have been.

It was my first experience on an awards judging panel and I learnt a lot that afternoon to stand me in good stead since, whenever I have subsequently sat on (or in some cases chaired) such panels… mostly I learnt how NOT to judge awards from the Accountancy Awards experience.

But on awards night itself the judging was all behind me. My hard work was done. My black tie outfit was donned. I think I might have still been hiring black tie gear back then. It looks from my diary as though I worked from home that day, thus avoiding the worst excesses of “black tie day misery”: lugging clobber around all day, knowing you’ll have to change into that tux in some smelly bog, early evening. Or, in many ways worse, wandering around town all day in black tie, explaining to each client in the morning and afternoon meetings that you are so darned busy with back-to-back meetings that you are already dressed for a pompous evening do.

I have two lingering but fitful memories from the evening. The first relates to Bob Monkhouse, who hosted the show. I remember discovering that Debbie Barham was writing gags for Bob Monkhouse when he did this kind of gig, by mentioning this event to Debbie at a NewsRevue writers meeting. Debbie was a young, supremely talented comedy writer, whose subsequent tragic story was posthumously written by her dad in this book – click here.

I cannot remember whether Debbie and I had that conversation about Bob before or after the event itself. I do remember that, once we’d had that conversation, I’d get occasional e-mails from Debbie (she, like me, was a relatively early e-mail adopter) asking me for background information, buzz phrases or just something for her to latch onto when she was writing patter for similar commercial events, usually for Monkhouse or another serial awards offender, such as Ned Sherrin or Rory Bremner. Little did I know at that time how obsessive Debbie’s work habits would become and how tragically her situation would end.

But on the Accountancy Awards evening itself, I recall finding Bob Monkhouse’s jokes rather predictable but very professionally served. As was the food.

My second memory relates to George Littlejohn. By good chance, I was placed next to George. He was also an honoured guest, in his case in the capacity of a former editor of Accountancy Age magazine. George had subsequently moved on to bigger and better things; yes that really is possible.

George is a most interesting chap with a very good sense of humour. The latter came in especially handy that evening. There is always something incongruous/pompous about awards ceremonies done “Oscars-style” for matters less glamorous and more mundane than the Oscars. Accountancy Awards, for example, are, in my opinion, just a tad less glamorous and a smidgen more mundane than Oscars.

Perhaps George Littlejohn remembers the evening differently; if so, I hope he chimes in with a comment or three. We’ve kept in touch all these years, our business interests overlapping occasionally, but in any case we always enjoy meeting up. I occasionally run into George at cultural events, as indeed I did on New Years Day 2017 at the Curzon Bloomsbury – click here – which triggered me to write up this 1994 event now.

I particularly recall the last award, Accountant of the Year, being delivered with extreme fanfare, won by a big-haired young woman. Her excellence as an accountant I couldn’t possibly question, but it seemed (to us at least) that she had primarily been chosen for the award because she would utterly look the part in the press photos. In any event, she rapidly got busy, kissing Bob Monkhouse spontaneously, looking elatedly happy and supremely excited about it all. Meanwhile, the flash guns went on firing and the thumping music went on blaring. George and I couldn’t stop giggling for quite some while.

Still, the event must have been a great success – it is still being held every year, at the same venue I believe – for sure it was again at The Brewery, Chiswell Street in 2016. The event even has its own website and strap line – click here.

Although I have no pictures to show you of the event from 1994, the good news is, Accountancy Age have put up an album of pictures from the 2016 event. I have to tell you that, apart from the absence of me, George Littlejohn and of course the late Bob Monkhouse, the photo album looks just how the event looked in 1994 – it’s an uncannily similar look – click here.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that there is no record on-line from the 1994 event; who needs it? As another great George, Santayana in this case, succinctly put it:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.