Rock ‘N’ Rajasthan Evening, Mostly Alleyn’s Alumni, 14 November 2017

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.

Paul Hamer, top left, a few hours after the baroq-ulele recital, still visibly, profoundly moved by the heavenly harmonies, while those who sadly missed out on the music are smiling in blissful ignorance

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.

A rare sighting of David Leach, third left, on the “water polo quartet” side of the table

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.

A characteristically low-key appearance by The Right Reverend Sir Nigel Godfrey, third left in the above photo (half-tucked behind Rohan Candappa) and (in theory) third right in the photo above that, entirely obscured by Leigh Parkes.

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.

There was also a fair bit of reminiscing about Andrew and Fiona Levinson (more “Andrew” at the Lisa Pavlovsky end of the table, more “Fiona” at the David Wellbrook end), which encouraged me to up a charming video of the three of us (me, Andrew and Fiona) when we were very little indeed – click here.

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.

What Listening To 10,000 Love Songs Has Taught Me About Love by Rohan Candappa, Cockpit Theatre, 31 October 2017

Ahead of the performance, I went to Don Pepe, where several of Rohan’s friends, but none of the Alleyn’s crowd other than me, were gathering; on my recommendation.

Nick Primmer appeared to be the ringleader of that group; a really pleasant bunch of people. (When have I ever met unpleasant people through Rohan?) We ate light – just a few tapas between us – we hadn’t allowed much time. Then we navigated an inverse Bodmin (everyone wanted to overpay) before heading towards The Cockpit.

I joked that Janie’s and my visit the night before for the jazz – click here – was essential reconnaissance for Rohan’s evening. Strangely, it did help, because approaching the theatre from the north-west side, you need to climb a rather unusual staircase/walkway, which I think the others might have missed but which I realised must be the right way from the previous night’s loop round the estate to get out.

So we were in good time…

…but perhaps Rohan wasn’t. At least, he seemed in no rush to start. We waited for one or two latecomers, getting our number up to perhaps 30 people. Then Rohan said, “I have one or two things to do, so I’d like you all to discuss in pairs the question, ‘what is your favourite song?’, before I start.”

Of course this was a ruse to warm us up.

I was sitting next to John Eltham and Ben Clayson. We decided to break the rules and work as a trio. We quickly concluded that it is impossible to name one favourite song. John suggested that we name a current favourite, or perhaps the song that is occupying our minds most of the time at the moment.

I chimed in with, “in that case, for me it must be Innsbruck Ich Muss Dich Lassen, the Renaissance song I am currently trying to work up to performance standard on my baroq-ulele for the forthcoming Gresham Society soiree.”

That pronouncement seemed to put an end to the conversation in our trio for some reason. Heck, it is a love song, you know? Still, as John said afterwards, “only Ian would say that his favourite song of the moment is a 15th century song.”

Fortunately, around that conversation-stopping moment, Rohan decided that we were all warm enough, so he started his performance.

Gram-o-phone, grandad?

The performance started with Rohan computing that he (and therefore all of us of a similar age) have probably listened to about 10,000 love songs.

Rohan then takes us on a journey through his own coming-of-age and rites-of-passage, using a few well-chosen love songs to illustrate his stories.

I’m tempted to describe it as a sort-of autobiographical cross between a Bildungsroman and Desert Island Discs. But that sounds like a prelude to damning the piece, whereas it is my intention to praise it very highly indeed.

It reminded me a little of Every Brilliant Thing, which Janie and I thought was quite magnificent but when I tried to describe it,  the piece sounds ordinary – click here.

Not that Rohan’s piece is as tight and polished as Every Brilliant Thing…yet.

Anyway, the record in Rohan’s head for his first kiss (and therefore the first record he played to us on the evening) was Heart Of Glass by Blondie.

Rohan explained the Triangular Theory Of Love through the use of Toblerone, so I think that means that the advert I recall saying “do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?” should really have been a question about your last piece of Toblerone.

While Rohan handed around the Toblerone to the audience, a riot broke out.

No, the riot wasn’t a scrap for chocolate-based food amongst a feral, hungry audience; but something seemed to be kicking off on the local estates around the theatre.

“Standin’ at the door of the Pink Flamingo cryin’ in the rain…”

Meanwhile, Rohan pressed on. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye by Soft Cell for an unrequited love episode…there’s a lot of 13th Century troubadour material on that subject, Rohan, if you would like me to dig some out for you…

…and a couple of left-field choices which, very strangely indeed, also coincide with my own coming-of-age stories:

I don’t know whether Rohan’s piece brought floods of memories to other members of the audience to the same extent as it brought such floods to me, but I have now written some 3,500 words of memory pieces since the show in order to capture those recovered memories while they remain fresh in my mind.

Like any good Bildungsroman, Rohan returns to his adult self and thoughts of his parents at the end of the show, with their favourite song, Moon River, proving that you can’t keep a good love song down; be it 56 or 532 years old.

By the time we’d cleared up the room, only a few of us retreated to The Globe pub, but a delightful small group of people it was. A very substantial police presence protected us for the 200 yards or so between the theatre and the pub. Many police in high viz flak jackets felt a little more robust than the theatre’s security; the solitary figure of John Eltham with a label/badge which reassuringly read “security”.

Anyway, a chance to say hello properly to Jan and also to meet Julie, aka the character “Croissanita” from Rohan’s previous show, How I Said ‘F*** You’ To The Company When They Tried to Make Me Redundant – click here for the pilot review of that one.

Ollie Goodwin and I were the last to leave the pub, although most of us left roughly at the same time.

When I got home I felt hungry. All could find easily to hand was a croissant on the breakfast bar and some salami in the fridge. I thought the croissant was most apt, given that I had finally met Croissanita that evening:

But the last word should go to Ollie Goodwin, who has e-mail circulated the following review, which in many ways says as much in 11 words as I have said in 1000:

This piece will resonate with everyone who has ears and genitals

A Day At The Edinburgh Fringe Festival With Old Muckers, 22 August 2017

What fun.

Rohan Candappa announced that he would be performing his one man show, How I Said F*** You To The Company When They Tried To Make Me Redundant, at The Counting House, Edinburgh.

You can listen to the first 10 minutes of the show by clicking here.

Rohan piloted this show in the Z/Yen Boardroom in January 2016 – click here for my write up of that evening.

I worked out that there was really only one day that I could be away from London that week, having committed to several days in Brum the week before for the first ever day/night test match in England.

Janie, who would have loved to have seen the show, felt that she couldn’t free up the day.

Still, I learned that there were to be several old muckers from Alleyns in Edinburgh that day and also that Marie and Joe Logan (the former being a Z/Yen alum) would at least be able to join us for lunch.

Marie and Joe’s application to become honorary school alumni for the day was unanimously accepted, especially when the gang discovered that Marie is a close friend of Linda Cook’s, as Linda had organised the Z/Yen Board Room gig.

But, when Marie inadvertently mentioned “Old Alleynians” in correspondence, I felt obliged to explain:

…there is one really important point you need to get right.

You are each an honorary Alleyn’s Old Girl/Alleyn’s Old Boy (respectively).  Neither of you is in any shape or form an Old Alleynian, honorary or otherwise.  Old Alleynians are alumni of Dulwich College, the pathetic, rival school of Alleyn’s.

Let me illustrate with well-known examples:

  • Alleyn’s Old Boy – Jude Law;
  • Alleyn’s Old Girl – Florence (and the Machine) Welch;
  • Old Alleynian – Nigel Farage.

Need I say more?

Mercifully there was no unpleasantness in the alumni-confusion-department on the day.

So I rose about 4:30 (a bit earlier than necessary in truth), setting off on an early flight from Heathrow (thank you, Janie, for the lift all the way to Terminal 5) and then took the tram into Edinburgh.

In schoolboy mode for a meet up with old school muckers, I got very excited with my smartphone when I realised that there was free wifi on the tram, sending Janie a picture and a sound recording of the Chigley-like tram sounds.

On The Tram To Edinburgh – Sound (below) and Vision (above)

Janie messaged back to say that I’m a big kid.

Then a solo stroll through Edinburgh from New Town to Old Town…

Edinburgh Old Town

…towards The Counting House…

The Counting House

When I arrived, only Rohan was there – John and Steve were out soliciting trade…for Rohan’s show, readers, control yourselves…

…but soon after I arrived, there was a surprise (to me) arrival – Claire Tooley (now Claire Brooke) – a very pleasant surprise indeed. Even more pleasantly, Claire was able to join us for lunch after the show.

Rohan was good…very good.

I thought the performance was very good. Rohan hasn’t changed the show much since the pilot, but he has tightened up the script and his delivery has some lovely pauses and nuances that have clearly evolved with practice and experience.

It was a pretty full house, which at 11:00 in the morning on the Free Fringe I reckon is a big win. Certainly there seemed to be little activity for the other morning/lunchtime shows at The Counting House.

The audience was very receptive, I thought, although those who had attended performances earlier in the week thought that the laughter was slower to build that day, but the attentiveness, reaction and laughter as the story built ended up better.

We strolled to Spoon to meet Marie and Joe. Apparently this place is an old haunt of JK Rowling’s, so well suited to an arty gathering.

Like a fool I neglected to take any pictures in Spoon, but we gathered as nine: me, Steve Butterworth, Rohan Candappa, Paul and Cathy Driscoll, John Eltham, Claire Tooley-Brooke, Marie and Joe Logan.

One coincidence about this event, I realised, is that this season is the 25th anniversary of my own material premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe. In 1992, Brian Jordan brought The Ultimate Love Song – click here to Edinburgh in his wonderfully-named show “Whoops Vicar, Is That Your Dick?”.

When I mentioned this coincidence, Rohan (naturally) asked me to give an acapella rendering in Spoon, which I did as best I could – not very well. You can hear Ben Murphy’s excellent recording of the song below:

But back to Spoon. The food was good, the chat was jolly. People drifted away as journeys home or appointments with other shows approached, but we were a pretty lively group for a couple of hours at least.

Eventually, when it was just me, Marie & Joe left, we went for a stroll around town to see what we might find for the remaining couple of hours, before I needed to head for the airport.

We found the Vintage Mobile Cinema outside the Assembly Rooms on George Street, where we heard a short talk about the extraordinary space and were shown some Pathé newsreels from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s about the Edinburgh Festival.

Logan! What are you and Logan doing at the back there? Stop it! Are you listening or taking pictures, Harris? Stop that too!

Then a stroll around the Book Festival before the lure of a wine bar just around the corner from my tram stop, for the last 30 minutes or so of my visit, was too much to resist.

Finally, a wee dram of wine (or two) with the Logans afore I go home

I got back home about 21:00 – it had been a long day but a very pleasant one.

I excitedly told Janie all about my exciting day.

Then I thought I should ask Janie about her day.

“Oh, nothing much,” she said, “I just did a few patients and met Rihanna.” You couldn’t make it up.

Gather Ye Old School Buds While Ye May, 23 May 2017

What a splendid turnout of the old school gang on a Tuesday evening at relatively short notice, just a few weeks after the previous gathering – click here for the juicy details on that one.

Perhaps this illustrates the popularity of Rich “The Rock” Davis, who was visiting from Canada for the first time in a while and around whom the event was planned. Organised by Johnny Eltham – who else? – based on an original idea by David Wellbrook.

Or perhaps the high turnout was simply relief that, for once, our guest of honour visiting from the great dominions was not Sir Nigel Godfrey.

The plan was…the usual.  7.00pm Walrus & Carpenter, 8.30pm Rajasthan curry shop. I was fashionably late again this time, arriving just before 8.00, with no real excuse other than getting bogged down in whatever forgettable thing I was doing late afternoon.

Another glorious weather evening so everyone was drinking outside the Walrus and Carpenter. I got a chance to chat with Rich on arrival; also Paul Driscoll and Perry Harley. The conversation soon got to Brexit and how Britain is increasingly starting to resemble Weimar Germany. Soon after that I was tapped up for the drinks float.

A small, ℛℳ500,000,000 contribution to the drinks float?

The drinks float is a great idea. It discourages late arrival – the price is fixed – £20, not ℛℳ500,000,000 in case you were wondering – and if those arriving late, like me, don’t drink their portion, the remainder of the drinks float becomes a bodmin-avoiding contribution towards the dinner. You can tell that some fine economic brains have got to work on this one over the years.

I also chatted for a while with Rohan Candappa, who sadly was unable to stay for the dinner, as his mum is not well at the moment and he needed to get away. He and I had caught up properly over lunch together only two or three weeks previously; still I was sorry he couldn’t stay, especially given the circumstances.

Soon enough, Johnny Eltham commandeered two or three of us to form an advanced party to seize vital territory in Rajasthan. This we were able to secure without bloodshed or unpleasantness. In fact, the Rajasthanis greeted Johnny like an old friend and welcomed us to the downstairs area, which to all intents and purposes became our private room for the rest of the evening.

By my reckoning fifteen of us sat down for dinner; Chris Grant, David Wellbrook, Ben Clarkson, Martin Cook, Simon Ryan, David French, John Eltham, Ollie Goodwin, Paul Driscoll, Rich “The Rock” Davis, Paul Spence, Nigel Boatswain, Perry Harley, Steve “Peanut” Butterworth…and me.

If you are struggling to imagine what this gaggle might look and sound like, struggle no more. David Wellbrook shot a nifty ninety second vid while no-one was looking and posted it on Facebook – it is embedded and viewable below:

I had no idea that I wave my arms around quite as much as that. It’s a miracle that I don’t send food and drink flying.

Very sadly, we recently lost one of our great schoolmates (indeed our centre forward); Paul Hayes.  Steve Butterworth gave us a touching short eulogy and report from the funeral, before we all drank a toast to Paul. Not Paul’s beloved Montrachet, more’s the pity, but the Rajasthan Valpolicella and Cobra did a good job as substitutes.

As fortune would have it, I was sitting near Steve Butterworth, Perry Harley, Paul Spence and David French – all of whom are people I either haven’t seen in ages or didn’t get to speak with properly on previous occasions. It was really good to catch up with them properly after all this time. I had a brief conversation with Paul Spence about nuclear power, which led to this recollection and Ogblog post about Ringroad revue – click here.

Returning briefly to earlier in the evening…although I was late, I was not the last to arrive. Chris Grant and Nigel Boatswain turned up after me. Soon after their arrival, Johnny Eltham came up to me and said, “have you seen what Nigel is wearing? That jacket…those trousers…they look like a pyjama suit…you’ve got to write about it on your blog”.

I explained to Johnny that I don’t notice what anyone is wearing, so any sartorial references on the Ogblog would, to the regular reader, e.g. Janie, quite obviously not be mine.

“Oh that’s easy”, said Johnny, “it was David Wellbrook who spotted it and asked me to tap you up”.

“Ah yes,” I said, “as long as I make that point, all will be explained. I’ll need to take a photo of the outfit with my iPhone, though, it almost defies description.”

As the evening wore on, I was surreptitiously asked a couple of times when I was going to take the photo. Johnny even offered to provide cover, pretending that I was taking a group photo while in fact taking a photo of just Nigel and his pyjama suit.

I quietly suggested to Johnny that Nigel, as an Apple bigwig, would probably have the savvy to know what sort of photo was being taken with an iPhone (other brands of smart phone with camera are available) and in any case I would only blog a photo with Nigel’s explicit consent; I certainly don’t want the full weight of Apple’s legal department on my case.

“Just leave it with me”, I said.

So late in the evening, I told Nigel he had won a sartorial award for the evening and asked if I could take a photo for Ogblog. He giggled and said yes.

Sartorial elegance

A few minutes later, as Nigel and I parted company at South Kensington tube, I thanked him once again for the photo and assured him that he would enjoy the blog piece.  “Oh gawd, what have I done?” was Nigel’s reply.

For those readers who cannot remember what a real pyjama suit might look like, here is a photo of me only a few months ago sporting my Eva Air pyjamas, after being menaced into wearing them by the lovely stewardess – as reported in my bizarre yet (mostly) true story here.

Kung Fu Pandaman or Tai Chi Pyjamaman

But the last word (on the evening, perhaps not on sartorial elegance) should really go to guest of honour Rich “The Rock” Davis, who started a wonderful thread on Facebook with words and photos about the evening – click here.

I particularly liked Clarissa’s comment:

glad u had a good time with old high school buds.

I commented:

I’ve been called a lot of things in my time…goodness knows, this mob in particular can attest to that fact…but I’ve never been described as an “old high school bud” before.

So, gather ye old high school buds while ye may. These are precious times we share at these gatherings. This one was top notch. As Rich put it on Facebook:

A great feeling with great friends…a night I’ll never forget.

A Long Weekend Catching Up With Long-standing Friends, 6 to 9 April 2017

It was no real coincidence that I worked up several pieces about parties of my youth by way of introducing Rohan Candappa’s guest piece last week. I was due to see the Alleyn’s crowd on the Thursday and several old youth club friends on the Saturday.

Thursday 6 April 2017

The Thursday evening was a semi-regular-style gathering of the old Alleyn’s clan in the City. John Eltham tends to organise it and who would have bet against Johnny being the “get together monitor” back in the school days? He wrote:

here is the plan:

7.00pm Walrus & Carpenter public house- 45 Monument Street

8.30pm wander a whole 10 yards to Rajasthan curry shop  ( our usual)

I pre-announced that I didn’t expect to get to the pub until 7:30/8:00 – as I had long-since arranged a game of real tennis early evening.

Fun, it was, playing doubles with my allocated doubles partner for this season’s doubles tournament – which will be my first go at the trophy – indeed at any physical sports trophy, since my glorious quarter-final fives victory against Johnny Eltham himself in 1975.

So I arrived at about 7:50 to be told by Mr David Wellbrook (who else) that I was late and needed to assume drinks monitor duties.

Fortunately (and quite naturally) it was John Eltham who was holding the float, to which I added my share and then three of us (Ollie Goodwin the kind third) shared the burden of getting the round in.  A small float of “poppadom money” survived the round.

Fifty billion here and fifty billion there soon adds up to real poppadom money

Early April but such glorious weather – we were gathered outside the Walrus and Carpenter enjoying the setting sun and getting a bit cooler, yet not cold.

Indeed it was quite close to 8:30 when Johnny remarked that it was starting to get a bit parky…nippy even…but in any case it was time to regroup in The Rajasthan.

That restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine. Long-used to getting unco-ordinated groups of city folk to gather themselves and place their orders – it all just sort-of happens in that restaurant and it is always a decent (if not exceptional) meal.

My eye was caught by Hariali chicken, which is minimally-described as “Cooked to Chef’s special recipe”. I asked the waiter, who mumbled, “curry-leaf, lemongrass, lots of herbs and spices, very very nice” and I was convinced. Most if not all the others at our table paid far less attention to the detail of their chosen dishes than that.

Most drank beer, but Ollie Goodwin, Lisa Pavlovsky, one other (was it Jerry Moore?) and I formed a small gang of four for white wine, specifically Nika Tiki Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Not the best I’ve ever had but a decent example; I’m sure Sir Nigel Godfrey would approve.

At my end of the table I was within chatting distance of Gavin Hamilton, Martin Brassell, Paul Driscoll, Ollie Goodwin, Jerry Moore, John Eltham and Mike Jones. Sadly I missed out on proper chat this time with Rohan Candappa, David Wellbrook, Lisa Pavlovsky, Steve “Peanut” Butterworth and the late Chris Grant. By “late”, I mean “arrived half way through the meal”. Not “deceased”, nor “arrived at 7:50, roughly the time I said I would arrive, Mr Wellbrook”.

As always it was a very pleasant evening indeed. What a treat to be able to take pre dinner drinks outside The Walrus and Carpenter.

Saturday 8 April 2017

Let’s gloss over the Friday, which I had intended to be a “do my own thing/get some blogging done” day but which turned in to a mostly work day. Bitty, stressy work at that, with a shocking game of real tennis thrown in mid-morning.

Saturday, the weather was truly glorious, although Janie and I weren’t really able to take full advantage of the weekend’s exceptional weather until the Sunday.

Still, it enabled us to start our evening with friends at the house in the garden terrace, which is a bonus in April and was a very pleasant way to start the evening. Our record for this feat is a mild 7 January evening with David and Steph – click here, but this April evening in the garden had the added benefit of enjoying light in the earlier stages of the evening and thus enjoying the sunset.

The guests were Jilly Black, Andrea Dean, Simon Jacobs and Wendy Robbins; all originally friends of mine from BBYO, i.e. going back to when we were teenagers. It is a testament to Janie that she gets on so well with all of them and likewise they have all taken Janie to their hearts.

It wasn’t long-planned as precisely this group of six, but we had wanted to invite Jilly for ages and she had particularly mentioned that she regretted not being able to see Andrea and Wendy at the party, which Jilly missed, last May.

Then, when I saw Simon in January, around the time we were setting this evening up, realising that he knows and likes all of these people, it seemed only sensible to ask him too.

It might seem a bit drawn out to some readers, inviting people in early January and setting a date for April, but by our (admittedly rather low) temporal standards, I think we got the gathering planned and implemented pretty quickly.

And everyone turned up.

Janie went to town with exotic nibbles; thai-style fish cakes, some flaky-pastry-meaty-parcels and a wonderful chicken liver pate on toasted french stick.

Between the nibbles and the main course I tried to pacify the guests with a few numbers on Benjy the Baritone Ukulele.

Andrea and Wendy, who are dear, dear friends of mine, appreciative of, but not experts on, music, declared that I have truly mastered the instrument. Jilly and Simon, who are also both dear, dear friends of mine, fine musicians to boot, were both clearly so moved by my performance that neither of them was able to add to Andrea and Wendy’s judgement. I think that says it all.

It did get a little chilly by the time we went inside. Some might even say “nippy” or “parky”. Anyway, inside we went.

The centrepiece of the meal was Janie’s signature beef with wasabi sauce dish, which works so well for gatherings of this size and which we knew would be novel to our guests. We’d have to eat it very often indeed to tire of it.

After the main course, chocolates, tropical fruits etc.

What did we talk about? All sorts.

Old times? – not all that much.

What people are up to now? – much more.

The difficulties involved in grown-up dating and some very funny anecdotes from some around the table reminded me and Janie of the film Through the Wall, which we saw in December – click here.

Less Trump/Brexit talk than usual these days – which was a blessed relief really.

Wendy told us the story of her recent visit to Downing Street, which really needs to be an episode of a sit-com, rather than an after dinner anecdote.

It was really nice to see everyone and (cliche alert) the evening flew by.

We could do nibbles on the patio again this evening, Sunday – the weather remains glorious. As I write, the sun is still streaming in through the window of my little man cave here in Noddyland.

Nibbles in the Noddyland Garden. Janie took the picture so once again she isn’t in it!

Postscript

While I was posting this piece, Simon Jacobs uploaded a couple of tracks from his forthcoming album. It was possibly one of those Brian Wilson/Lennon-McCartney creative tension moments after hearing my exquisite baritone ukulele playing last night. As Simon himself says on Facebook:

After 3 decades of procrastination, I’ve finally recorded some of my own songs – and now the first two of them are on YouTube (one of them even has a video!)
So please take a listen, subscribe, share with your friends and post your comments… Then, sometime in the summer I’ll release a whole album through the usual channels, tour the world and then of course there’ll be the drugs and the groupies, the breakdown and rehab, the bizarre plastic surgery, the invitation to be an X Factor judge – all the usual humiliations.

Ogblog readers might well enjoy one or both of these tracks:

Too School For Cool, Edward Alleyn Club Dinner, 12 November 2016

Them Good Old Boys
Them Good Old Boys

Formal school alumni dinners are not really my kind of thing, nor are they Janie’s kind of thing. Indeed, both of us have managed to reach a fairly ripe (if not actually old) age without ever having attended such an event.

Until this event.

This event was going to be different. Why? Because Chris Grant was the President of the alumni club this year and he wanted to make the event different. In any case, you turn up to events like this to support your friends when it is their gig.

The first I heard of the matter was the evening back in January when a gang of us gathered at Z/Yen to experience Rohan Candappa’s wonderful monologue, “How I Said F*** You To The Company…” and have a curry afterwards – click here for the Ogblog piece on that evening.

I explained to Chris that I don’t do weekend stuff without Janie, but that notion only reinforced Chris’s view that this year the dinner should be different and that he would actively encourage people to bring their partners.

To add to the “making it different” motif, Chris engaged Rohan to write and perform a short monologue for the pre-dinner reception. Chris also asked David Wellbrook to act as Master of Ceremonies for this additional feature.

The long and short of it was, I ended up being a bit of a cheerleader for the event amongst our generation – although it was naturally down to John Eltham to act as gang-leader for those of us from our era to book and sit as a gaggle.

We’re On Our Way

Janie (aka Daisy) in frock
Janie (aka Daisy) in frock
Ian (aka Ged) in a state of tux
Ian (aka Ged) in a state of tux

It seemed strange arriving at the school gates with Janie, but we had the good fortune to run into John Eltham and Steven Butterworth as we were walking in. The pre-dinner function was in a new Edward Alleyn Building, which didn’t exist when I last visited the school, many years ago.

Our rabble-rousing had born fruit, so I chatted briefly with several people from our era; David French, Paul Driscoll, Nick Jarmany, Nick James, Tim Moulson, Tim Church and several other people at that reception.

Rohan’s Bit

Rohan’s short monologue was good fun. A meander around the theme “South London, Nah Nah Nah”. The talk included some navel-gazing around the word south itself. Should it be pronounced “sarf” or “sowf” rather than “south”, for example. Is it merely convention that south is shown below north – after all, the world is a globe? Rohan’s conclusions or central theses (I am truly bigging up this talk, aren’t I?) were that:

  • South London is an edgy underdog that deserves our affection and support, even if some of us have long since migrated north,
  • we Alleyn Old Boys (at least the cohort from our era) formed exceptionally strong bonds of friendship which have kept us together and/or brought us back together across many decades and in some cases vast geographical spread.

Rohan teased us throughout his talk about a blue joke that David Wellbrook wanted to tell, much against Chris Grant’s better judgement. Rohan then nearly told the joke through audience participation, but concluded that South Londoners do not need to be told the punchline of the joke; they are edgy enough to work it out for themselves:

What do we want?

A cure for Tourette’s.

When do we want it?

If you want to read Rohan’s wonderful piece in full, he has kindly agreed to its wider circulation and it is therefore Ogblogged as a guest piece in its own right  – click here.

The Dinner Itself

Then across to the school dinning room for the dinner. It seemed strange to be fine dining in that place, all done up to look sprauncy. Chris had chosen a very imaginative meal, based around curry, to symbolise the friendly informal meet ups that invariably end with a curry.

But this was a posh curry-based meal. A starter of slightly spicy scallops, enough to tell you that the meal was posh, that being the first of three interesting courses. Then cheeses, then coffee and petits fours. A well posh curry-based meal.

There were several toasts, speeches and club business in-between, mostly based on the traditional/regular/formal format of the club, I suppose.

Janie and I were honoured and indeed privileged to be seated next to Sir Nigel Godfrey. Sir Nigel, apparently, has recently received a gong for services to the New Zealand beauty pageant industry.

Ged and Sir Nigel Pontificating Nicaragua
Ged and Sir Nigel Pontificating Nicaragua

Sir Nigel was wearing his Broach of Honour with pride that evening, but sadly he seemed to keep it covered up whenever Daisy was nearby with her camera. Perhaps he thought she might swipe the bauble if he left it unguarded even for a moment. How does he know that Daisy is such a scallywag?

Our table rapt with attention as Sir Nigel orates. Mr Wellbrook taking electronic notes, presumably
Our table rapt with attention as Sir Nigel orates. Mr Wellbrook taking electronic notes, presumably

Daisy was also sitting next to Mr Wellbrook, who had been Master of Ceremonies earlier. I asked Chris Grant, “what did Daisy and I do to deserve the honour of sitting next to Sir Nigel and Mr Wellbrook?”, but I think Chris must have misheard my question, because he merely said, “there’s always one short straw”, which seemed to me to be an answer to an entirely different question.

Then Chris Grant made a short but touching and excellent speech, continuing the themes of edginess and especially the theme of enduring friendship.

The audience was then subjected to the Headmaster’s Savage response…

…correction…I never was much good with grammar, I should have paid more attention in English lessons…

The audience was then subjected to the Headmaster, Dr Savage’s, response. Dr Savage seemed keener on the friendship theme than the edgy theme. That is understandable really. Can you imagine the mischief that might kick off in the school and end up with pupils sent to the Headmaster’s Study, only to get the phrase thrown back by the miscreant, “but Sir, you told us that it is a good thing for us to be edgy”?

Dr Savage spoke very well and quite wittily, although I did think he missed a golden opportunity to pun on the pronunciation of Suffolk (from whence he hails) and Southwark, the borough in which he now heads a school. After all, the two place names, at least when pronounced by a native of the latter, are indistinguishable. (I think he might have been trying to make such a joke, but he got a bit confused and mentioned Norfolk, for seemingly no reason.)

In short, Savage is a talented speaker who prepares diligently, but he lets himself down at times through hurried delivery and under-rehearsal of the humorous lines. A-, could do better than this.

There is an official report and deck of photos for this event on the Alleyn’s School site – click here.

And Then Home

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening. Janie found the company delightful, both the old boys and their wives/companions, such as Lenneke (Chris’s partner) and Emma Jane Moulson. Similarly, I enjoyed chatting briefly with those two and at greater length with Victoria (Oliver Goodwin’s partner) as well as chatting with old school friends.

My only regret is that I barely got a chance to chat with some people I would have very much enjoyed catching up with properly, such as David French, Paul Spence and Nick Jarmany. Perhaps next time, although I hope our next time is a less formal gathering.

Next morning, there was no respite. Daisy and I got up to play tennis in our usual Sunday morning slot. Half way through the game, I realised that I had subconsciously donned a purple top and a purple bandanna. Purple. The Cribb’s House colour. Steeled by my renewed sense of tribal purpose, I naturally went on to win the set.

You can take the boy out of Cribbs House, but you cannot take Cribbs House out of the boy.
You can take the boy out of Cribb’s House, but you cannot take Cribb’s House out of the boy.

A Most Unusual, Multi-Media, Transatlantic, Partially On-Air, Pop-Up Gathering by Part of the Old School Clan, 7 May 2016

I had been corresponding with my old school friend Paul Deacon on Facebook for the previous couple of days, sparked by:

As an aside, Paul asked me if Janie and I had listened to his weekly broadcast on The Grand At 101 lately. I had to admit we hadn’t. The show is on Saturday afternoons in Ontario, therefore Saturday evening here. Janie and I are almost always out on a Saturday evening – Ogblog postings passim attest to this fact. It must be more than a year; perhaps even a couple of years since we last tuned in.

However, our Saturday evening plans – feeding friends Kim, Michel and David – had, for practical reasons, been switched to Sunday lunch instead. As it turns out, Sunday 8 May is scheduled to be “sunny, hot, sit in the garden” weather, so the switch was fortuitous in many ways.

In short, we would be around, so I told Paul we’d tune in at least to some of the show. In the course of this correspondence, Paul Hamer (another old school friend) said that he would also tune in “while cooking his risotto”. At the start of the show, Paul Hamer evidenced the fact that he was listening and cooking risotto with this picture:

Paul Hamer Risotto Evidence
Photo courtesy of Paul Hamer

Indeed, Paul Deacon’s posting about his show and all the ensuing Facebook correspondence can be found here.

Once we were listening in, I mischievously sent Paul the following private message, which relates closely to the rag, tag and bobtail records we procured at the Slipped Disc all those years ago:

Ian and Janie messaging in from warm and sunny London. Would you be able to spin a 45 for us today? Ideally a Melodisc classic, such as Jolie La Ville Curepipe by the Alain Permal Mauritius Police Band, Agbogun G’Boro by Tunde Nightingale and his HighLife Boys, Bulgarian Betrothal by the Bulgarian Variety Orchestra or the classic Stop For The Music by The Nutrons. We and your listeners deserve nothing less.

Melodisc was a most unusual label – probably the first truly “Indie” label around – read more about it here.

Of course, I should have known better than to challenge Paul to play an unbelievably obscure 1960s record.

Soon after 20:00 our time, Paul Deacon broadcast a shout-out to Paul Hamer and played some rather unappetising sound effects in honour of Paul Hamer’s jumbo prawn risotto. Paul Hamer’s retort; a photo of said risotto in all its glory – makes better Facebook/Ogblog than it does radio…but it does look very appetising:

Paul Hamer Risotto Full Glory
Photo courtesy of Paul Hamer

I showed Janie the jumbo prawn risotto picture; she suggested I take a picture of the remains of our dinner and upload it. I made an executive decision not to do that. Even if people could imagine that fine meal from the messy carnage of (what had only recently been) a most impressive-looking roast duck…I wouldn’t have wanted to upstage Paul Hamer.

Then a few minutes later Paul Deacon broadcast a shout-out to me and Janie. Much to my embarrassment, he actually played Stop For The Music by The Nutrons as a request for us. “Truly terrible”, was Janie’s verdict on that obscure musical masterpiece.

When Paul (wisely) interrupted the track before the full 125 seconds of noise had completed, he played The Grand at 101 jingle. “Oh, so Paul also has a Room 101 for crappy records then?”, asked Janie. “No”, I replied, “101 is the FM broadcasting frequency of Paul’s radio station”.

To explain, if I put something on a music playlist that Janie really doesn’t like, it doesn’t simply get deleted from that playlist, it gets moved to a playlist named “Janie’s Room 101 Playlist”. The latter playlist would, in extremis, be played continuously on a loop if Janie ever were so badly behaved as to require sending to Room 101 for re-education.

Readers will, I’m sure, be unsurprised to learn that Janie’s Room 101 is more a theoretical construct or “empty threat” than anything approaching reality. She’s stronger than me for a start. Paul Deacon would be a little disappointed by some of the tracks that have ended up in Janie’s Room 101, but there’s no accounting for taste.

Meanwhile, Paul’s radio show. While simultaneously joking with several of us on Facebook, digging out obscure 1960’s Melodisc records…oh, and of course actually broadcasting a show an hour longer than his usual slot to cover for someone…

…Paul Deacon also told us that John Eltham (another old school friend of ours) would be joining him at the studio “any minute”, along with Rich Davies – yet another old school friend, who lives in Ontario near the Deacons.

I was aware that John Eltham was due to visit Paul and Rich this month, as John had mentioned the visit in correspondence with me a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t twigged that the visit was so imminent. Indeed, while the broadcast was still going on, Paul wrote:

He’s here now! Just telling us about Rohan…

…the Rohan reference is to Rohan Candappa. I suppose in particular the “telling” was about a gathering we had a few months ago to see Rohan’s wonderful one-man show, which we now learn will be going to Edinburgh this summer – click here to read about it.

So, I woke up this morning to see these wonderful postings on Paul’s Facebook Area:

Johnny & Pauly On The Grand
Johnny & Pauly On The Grand – Photo courtesy of Christine Deacon (I think) via Paul Deacon
A Grand Quartet
A Grand Quartet – Photo courtesy of the waiter via Paul Deacon

I reflect that this connected world of ours is truly marvellous. We can banter with old friends and listen to radio broadcasts across continents. Face-to-face visits across such distances are now affordable, practical realities also. But by gosh it helps if you can multi-task like Paul Deacon!

 

How I Said ‘F*** You’ To The Company When They Tried to Make Me Redundant by Rohan Candappa, Z/Yen Offices, 28 January 2016

Moncada Barracks or the old Z/Yen offices? One or the other.

Back in December, Rohan Candappa wrote to me asking if he could by any chance use the big Z/Yen meeting room on 28 January to try out his latest piece of performance writing early evening on the motley bunch of Alleyn’s alumni (I include myself in that epithet) who gather occasionally in the City for beer, curry and old times’ sake.

Strangely, Z/Yen’s big meeting room is not much used at 19:00 in the evening, so it would have seemed churlish to say no, especially when Rohan agreed to sponsor some beer and nibbles. Linda Cook, our Z/Yen practice manager, was hurriedly elected an honorary Alleyn’s alum for the evening, so the organisation of the event was practically resolved, even with John Eltham out of the country for much of January.

It felt incongruous (in a pleasant way) to have the Alleyn’s gang at the Z/Yen office for the evening. For one thing, I didn’t realise how well behaved we could be when gathered together in the right environment. There weren’t even any teachers to keep us in check.

But to Rohan’s extraordinary piece. The title basically divulges the plot. Rohan expresses in poignant terms the emotions he experienced when told that he was being made redundant. There is nothing funny about the way being made redundant makes someone feel, but the circumstances of this attempted redundancy are quite ludicrous. In the hands of Rohan Candappa, who is highly skilled at bitter-sweet humour as well as the more standard comedy variety, this sad story generated a remarkable amount of laughter. It is a very funny piece.

The humour builds once Rohan reaches the point in the story where, having had time to reflect on his seemingly hopeless situation, he decides to try and win against the odds. He initiates this twist brilliantly by telling the story of the Cuban rebels attacking the Moncada Barracks in 1953 – click here if you want to see the Wikipedia version of the story – although Rohan’s version is more pertinent to his story and far more fun.

Click here if you want to see the pictures Janie and I took of the Moncada Barracks in 2007.  Indeed feel free to hang around in Flickr looking at our Cuba pictures generally.  It’s one heck of a photogenic place.  As long as you promise to come back here afterwards and finish reading this blog piece.

Once the “fight back” part of Rohan’s story starts to unfold, the piece becomes even funnier and has terrific momentum to it. I almost felt sorry for [Insert name here] (the boss behind the attempted redundancy) and his human resources hench-woman…

…I said ALMOST felt sorry for them. Cut me some slack guys. Or say how you felt about it with your own words in the comments section. Don’t just yell at the screen.

There are precious few pieces of theatre about the workplace and even fewer good ones. With all due respect to Vaclav Havel, who wrote several absurdist pieces about work places, I have seen more than one but never got much out of those Havel plays. Indeed, the only really good play about the workplace that comes to my mind is David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross.  In an intriguing echo of Rohan’s title, btw, the film version of Glengarry Glen Ross (which is a very good movie) has the phrase “F*** You” articulated in an infeasible number of different ways for a two-syllable phrase. But I digress. My point is that the workplace is a big part of our lives but is wicked hard to turn into good drama. Rohan has succeeded in producing some very good drama indeed in this piece, which is a commendable achievement.

In short, the piece is a triumph and I really hope that Rohan progresses with it and gets it a wider audience. It is really thought-provoking as well as entertaining.

We sat in the meeting room chatting for ages after the performance; some of the group are people who have been made redundant, others of us people who have been in a position where we have dismissed staff ourselves. Everyone had experiences, thoughts and points to make. Eventually we realised that we were late for our meal and that our restaurant booking might go south unless we quickly headed south to the Rajasthan. So we migrated and continued our conversations there. A very special evening.

Alleyn’s Alum Gathering, The Fine Line & The Rajasthan, 4 March 2010

With thanks to Paul Deacon for this and the following photos.

In truth, until this event, I had been pretty rubbish at keeping in touch with people from school.

I’d certainly avoided formal gatherings over the years, relenting just once for a Saddlers’ Hall do a few moons/years before this event, which I shall write up for  Ogblog in the fullness of time.

But this one grabbed my attention, not least because one of the ringleaders was John Eltham (with whom I had already re-established contact through quasi-business stuff).

Also because it was billed as an informal gathering of the “Class of 1980”; a rehearsal for some formal thing that was coming up that summer (which I resolved not to attend).

Also because Paul Deacon (one of the few people with whom I had kept in touch over the years) pipped me an e-mail letting me know that he’d be there and hoping that I’d be there too.

I have “borrowed” the photos from Paul’s Facebook postings – which can be seen in their original splendour by clicking here if you are a Facebooker – ahead of asking Paul’s permission to replicate them.

Please my I borrow your photos Paul?

So, if all the photos have disappeared from this Ogblog piece before you read it, that means that Paul has said no to my request and I have zapped his photos. But if the photos are still here, thanks Paul, for the photos.

Now where was I?

The Fine Line in Monument Street, that’s where. At the time of writing (and linking) I believe it has been renamed The Hydrant.

I remember taking along a couple of pieces of memorabilia which caused some mirth; namely my slide rule and a pair of sports socks into which my mum had sewn little patches with my name on them. The slide rule is no longer much use to man or beast (apart from explaining to youngsters how lucky they are to have computers doing all that stuff for them). The socks might come in handy as I approach the other end of my life – e.g. if I start to forget my own name.

I remember meeting Susie Schofield, who was then the new alumni person, chatting with her for some time. I’m not sure I let on that I wasn’t really the most alumni-amiable person at the event…in fact I think I got away with it.

Milk, Peanut, the nicknames all came flooding back…

It was a very convivial gathering and I got to chat with lots of people. Lots of people got to chat with lots of people. Convivial gatherings tend to be a bit like that.

Why I cultivated the most pompous face on earth for this photo is anyone’s guess…perhaps because I appear to be balancing a speaker precariously on my head, to the amusement of Paul Deacon, David Wellbrook and Facebook commentators at the time

I know this next bit sounds almost unbelievable to the uninitiated, but after the drinks, many of us ended up a few doors away in The Rajasthan for a curry. Yes, really.

You want evidence?

The Rajasthan…evidently.

I tried to settle my account with a fifty-billion dollar financial instrument. Yes, really.

You want evidence?

50 Billion here and 50 Billion there soon adds up to real money.

I look a bit tired and emotional in that last photo; parting company with money sometimes has that effect on me. But in truth I had very much enjoyed that evening, which in many ways kicked off my rejoining of the fold and joining in many subsequent convivial evenings with the old school clan.

An Uneventful Day Playing Fives, 9 June 1975

Without doubt my favourite game in the early days at Alleyn’s was fives. Specifically at Alleyn’s we played Rugby Fives.

It was the only sport at which I was good enough to represent the school and no doubt that selection only came through my comparative ability with the left-hand as well as the right. Let’s not call this ambidextrous, in my case more like ambiclumsy. In any case, my doubles partner was Alan Cooke and he was good. I probably got my team berth more on the back of Alan’s skills than my own.

Still, I wasn’t bad and there are lots of references to my successes and failures throughout my diaries, especially 1974 & the first half of 1975.

But looking back today, early February 2016, I thought I should write a short piece about this simple entry I found for 9 June 1975.

Uneventful day.  Beat Eltham 11-5, 11-5 in Q-Finals.

Now in my book, John Eltham was good at sport. Really good at sport. I’m not sure John played fives much, but he was generally good at sport.

I was not good at sport. Really, really, really not good at sport. There was the occasional success, of course, not least one goalkeeping tale of derring-do that I have promised not to blog about…

…for the time being…

…until I can find the reference and/or unless the promised hush money proves not to be forthcoming…

…but my point is, looking back, I don’t see how the two sentences in the above quote could possibly be talking about the same day. Beating John Eltham at any sport made it an eventful day. Heck, just having got to the Q-Finals of any sport made it an eventful day for me.

But perhaps my young mind, turned by some fleeting success, was by then looking beyond a semi-final appearance to greater glory than that achieved. The diary is silent on fives for the rest of the term, so I can only assume that the semi final which I (presumably) lost was on the same day and that I was so disappointed that I (unusually) couldn’t even bear to write down that particular losing result.

Anyone care/dare to own up to ruining this poor kid’s day by destroying his one chance at glory in the internal fives competition? I fancy a rematch.

Postscript One

John Eltham, on seeing this posting, e-mailed me the next day to say:

You modestly left out the fact that we had at least two national Rugby Fives champions in our year ! Hodson & Stendall.

Indeed we did, John. And indeed Jumbo Jennings latterly. I’d forgotten about Neil Hodson in that context.

I have a strange feeling that it might well have been Hodson who beat me in the semis – I have always had a sense of unfinished business with him and I probably would have been too gutted to report the loss. Whereas Chris Stendall was, like Alan Cooke, an old mate from primary school; I took my (more often than not) losses against them on the chin and regularly recorded those in the diary.

Postscript Two

After writing the above line “I fancy a rematch” and posting this piece, I then knelt down to put the 1975 diary back in the box under the bed and then…felt my left hammy twinge when I got up again. Perhaps a fives rematch at the age of 53 is not such a good idea after all.