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.

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:

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.