But this year, several key people were unavailable for the Middlesex v Surrey T20 fixture whereas, unusually, most people were available on 3 August for the Middlesex v Hampshire game.
Our Z/Yen contingent contained representatives from across the globe, ranging from “home of cricket” places such as India and Middlesex, through moderately-cricketing places such as Nepal to places where cricket is a rarity, such as the USA, Greece, Germany and Surrey. (I couldn’t help myself).
On this occasion, pretty much everyone got behind Middlesex (why not) although Linda, with her Southampton F.C. connection, felt torn between the two sides.
There was a good crowd at the match and a very jolly atmosphere. Unlike last year’s good close match, Middlesex, a depleted side by this stage of the tournament this year, didn’t put up much of a fight – click here for scorecard.
Possibly the most interesting moment on the field of play was towards the end, when a fox invaded the pitch. How it got through Lord’s security without a ticket and (worse) entered a hallowed part of Lord’s inappropriately attired is anybody’s guess.
But in many ways these outings are as much about being convivial team picnic outings as they are about the cricket. The weather smiled on us; a mixture of sun and clouds, but no rain. The Lord’s experience is always charming and special – and because we chose to come a bit later in the season than usual, Z/Yen people got to see Lord’s properly under lights when it got dark, which is differently special.
Brian Eno Singsong and Party, Brian’s Studio, Tuesday 13 December 2016
The first of my “three dos in four days” was at Brian Eno’s place – I have been invited to such dos on several occasions now, often but not always at this time of year. I have known Brian from the health club (BodyWorksWest, formerly known as Lambton Place) for quarter of a century or more.
The party is combined with Brian’s a capella choir gathering, allowing neophytes and bathroom singers like me to have an occasional go.
I thought I arrived in quite good time on this occasion, but the singing was well underway when I arrived; the regulars presumably having made a punctual early start.
The songs chosen were quite relentlessly morbid at first. There is usually a fair bit of spiritual blues material, but this set seemed especially bleak, with unfortunate folk being hanged for crimes they didn’t commit and all sorts. It wasn’t too difficult to pick up on the tunes quickly enough – I suppose that’s why they choose this material for the more open sing-song, but it didn’t feel much like party music at first.
The last couple of numbers were a bit more lively – not least All I Have To Do Is Dream at the end, sung in a doo-wap style. It helped me that I was standing next to a couple of very able, presumably professional singers, upon whose rhythms and harmonies I could latch. A few people afterwards asked me if I was a professional singer, but I’m sure they must have been hearing the sound emanating from those guys, not me.
Brian said that he couldn’t hear me this time, which is a good sign; presumably therefore an improvement on last time. But perhaps he also was deceived by my co-location with the professional-sounding guys.
Anyway, as on previous occasions, I also found the rest of the party great fun, meeting and chatting with several very interesting people. I also danced a bit to some excellent party mix music, well designed for the purpose (mostly 1970’s dance, with some earlier and later stuff thrown in).
I didn’t stick around until too late – I had a scheduled client call quite early the next day – so (as on every previous occasion) I missed the blood, guts, ambulances and police cars stage of the party. Brian subsequently told me that the emergency services stage failed to occur this time, to his intense disappointment.
Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner, Café Rouge Holborn, 15 December 2016
Since around the turn of the century, when fellow NewsRevue writer, Ivan Shakespeare, tragically keeled over and died while jogging, several of us have gathered a few times each year to keep in touch and reminisce about our NewsRevue days. Just before his death, Ivan e-mailed a few of us suggesting that we should regroup for that purpose, but never lived to see his idea to fruition.
Quite early in the life of this occasional gathering, it became part of our tradition to play a comedic quiz or two towards the end of the evening. I think it was John Random who initiated that idea, but several other people, occasionally contribute a quiz. Gerry Goddin latterly contributes a variant in which we all have to try to write jokes on suggested themes and Gerry allocates points (or deducts points) based on how well the jokes go down, his perception of each joke’s quality and/or Gerry’s authoritarian whim.
For the December gathering in 2002 (I’ll get around to Ogblogging it in the fullness of time no doubt) I went into a local tourist gimcrack store and bought the cheapest, tackiest piece of porcelain royal memorabilia I could find; then I emblazoned it with a legend declaring it to be the Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Trophy. Since 2002, that trophy has been played for earnestly each year. Nine different people have held the trophy over the years; I am proud to be able to state that I was the 2004 winner.
Anyway, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find a venue that operates flexibly enough for a rather haphazard bunch of former (and in some cases current) comedy writers to gather in mid December. Café Rouge Holborn has become the regular venue for the past few visits, but it seems they tried to impose a Christmas season “pre-ordering” regime on us, which was somewhat beyond the capabilities of John Random’s organising and our ability to be organised by anyone or anything.
So, half-a-dozen or so of us had pre-ordered and Café Rouge assumed that there would only be half-a-dozen of us (despite John booking the table for 10); which proved problematic once the eighth and especially ninth person showed up.
To be fair the staff tried their best in what seemed to be chaotic circumstances and did relocate us to a table for 10 quite quickly.
But poor Jonny Hurst ended up waiting for best part of an hour before any food was brought to him at all, at which point a starter and two main courses all turned up at once. I was half-hoping that Jonny would say, “do you know who I am? I’m Jonny Hurst, the chant laureate, that’s who”. Jonny might even have been forgiven for “doing a Jeremy Clarkson”…but Jonny is far too mild mannered and polite for any of that, even when he has a real hunger-on and everyone around him is tucking in. Respect.
Eventually we played the quizzes. Colin Stutt offered a small quiz to warm us up, but the main quiz, for the trophy, was a very imaginative effort from John Random which comprised 10 maps, each of which had a location marked with a year. We had to name the movie that was made in that year set in that place.
I was pleased with my 7 out of 11 (one map had two years and therefore two movies and two points) but Mark Keegan pipped a couple of us 7-istas with 8 out of 11 to claim the trophy yet again – his fourth victory in 15 years. Respect.
Gerry Goddin ended the evening with one of his joke-fest games with some especially harsh marking and the predictable result that Barry Grossman’s jokes pleased him more than anyone else’s – it is nearly always Barry who wins, very occasionally me.
A most enjoyable evening.
Z/Yen Group Christmas Lunch at Watermen’s Hall, 16 December 2016
For the first time in Z/Yen’s 23 Christmases, we decided to do Christmas lunch rather than dinner this year.
Linda and Michael conspired to find a five course extravaganza of a lunch at Watermen’s Hall, which seemed just the ticket in the circumstances. It’s a comparatively intimate and relaxed atmosphere for a guild’s hall; but now that Z/Yen is that much smaller, our group wouldn’t completely dominate the room.
But before exercising our lungs, we ate the following excellent five course meal, washed down with some fine wine and (for some, not me) port.
Z/Yen Group 2016 Christmas Lunch at Watermen’s Hall
(The Company of Watermen and Lightermen)
Torched mackerel, pickled and salt baked beetroot, horseradish crème fraiche
Smoked ham hock and chicken terrine, pickled apricots, watercress salad
Butter roasted Norfolk turkey, sage and apricot stuffing, bacon wrapped sausages, brussels sprout choucroute with chestnuts
Star anise poached pear, almond crumb, whipped clotted cream
Christmas pudding, brandy sauce
Michael kept me and Xueyi talking about GeoGnomo for a fair chunk of the meal, but otherwise we managed to steer clear of work chat.
Michael was also keen not to torture too many people with our song, but once there were only a few stragglers left (apart from we Z/Yen folk) we found a surprisingly receptive audience; indeed those Watermen and Lightermen joined in the singing with us, rounding off a fine afternoon.
♬ WATERMEN AND LIGHTERMEN AND Z/YEN ♬
(A seasonal song to the tune of ♬”Winter Wonderland”♬)
VERSES ONE AND TWO
Mackerel torched, beetroot pickled,
Ham terrine, we’ll be tickled;
We’ll eat Christmas lunch, Z/Yen Group as a bunch;
Watch us put on weight at Watermen’s.
At the start, we’ll be perky,
By the end, stuffed like turkey;
Five courses of nosh, all terribly posh;
Watch us put on weight at Watermen’s.
After eating turkey laced with trimmings,
We’ll tuck in to star anise poached pear;
Christmas pud as well, you must be kidding,
The brandy sauce could be a warning flare.
Head for home, very slothfully,
On the trail back to Lothbury;
Let’s hope that we scoff…ing walk our waists off;
Walking all the way from Watermen’s.
(RISING/ROUSING FINALE): Let’s hope walking makes us Lightermen!
For several years now, it has been a Z/Yen tradition for a dozen or so of us to visit the Middlesex v Surrey T20 match at Lord’s. For several years, the tradition was also to witness Surrey thrashing Middlesex and for the assembled throng to try consoling me and Jez with “maybe next year” platitudes.
But last year, for the first time in yonks, Middlesex won the match. Better yet, this year Middlesex were sitting a bit higher in the table than Surrey ahead of the fixture, with both sides desperate for the points to help achieve knockout-stage qualification. A big game.
However, I had some difficulty persuading Xueyi to attempt watching cricket again. Her previous visit (two years ago) had left her cold in several respects; not least the chilly weather but also finding the cricket hard to fathom and finding the “M&S picnic nibbles” not quite to her taste. I suggested that I might take a trip to Chinatown and stock up with Cantonese bakery delicacies as the centrepiece of the picnic if that might persuade Xueyi to join us. She said it would.
I was working from home that day, so I chose to make my Chinatown hike reasonably early to be sure of a good stock of the day’s bakery delights. I googled to see if my old stomping ground was still top notch for this purpose and discovered that, indeed, Kowloon in Gerard Street is still highly regarded, especially for its massive cha siu baos and gai mei baos. I was introduced to that place in the late 1970’s/early 1980s when doing holiday jobs for Newman Harris in Cavendish Square; the Chinese Malaysian trainees and I used to make a lunch of those big tasty buns. It must be a good 25 years since I last went there, though.
On the way, I recalled that the place used to be cash only and made sure I had drawn enough money just in case. Indeed, the place was utterly unchanged including the hand-scribbled order ticket and the cash only payment desk. I went a bit mad buying lots of baos, plus some cha siu pastry ones and some sweet melon pastries too.
I called Xueyi to let her know that I had bought loads of food and also to ask her to let Linda know that we wouldn’t need much else for the hoards, but Xueyi clearly had other ideas, not least a fiendish plan to get some smaller delicacies from her favourite dim sum joint; Orient London. Like me, Xueyi went a bit mad getting loads of cha siu pastries (smaller than the Kowloon ones, but, frankly, much finer) and also some very juicy and delicious prawn spring rolls, which were surprisingly good cold. Also some Cantonese brisket beef slices.
In her fervour, Xueyi neglected to pass on my message to Linda, who went down to M&S and bought a fair selection of nibbles just in case my Chinese food idea didn’t go down well with everyone.
Anyway, to cut a long story short the Chinese delicacies went down very well with our team and there were plenty left to feed other spectators sitting near us and Linda had lots of M&S food to take home with her for the weekend.
Why were we there? Oh yes, a cricket match.
Barmy Kev came and sat near us but for some reason chose not to join us when invited. Perhaps he thought we might have designs on his bottle of wine (as if we didn’t have plenty of that too). But soon Kev realised that he had no corkscrew, so (not for the first time in my life and surely not for the last) begged the loan of a corkscrew from me and then demonstrated for about 5 minutes how very bad his screwing technique is for one so experienced as he – Kev’s MTWD write up, here, does not do his demonstrable incompetence justice. There was a big crowd cheer when he eventually withdrew the cork.
Meanwhile, Xueyi (from Nanjing, China) and Ashley (born in Jamaica but raised in the USA and therefore strangely aware of but not well versed in cricket) asked quite a lot of sensible questions about the game and then settled down to finding pokémons in the crowd, which they seemed to be able to do with little difficulty and much delight (see photo).
Marc (sitting next to me) tried to argue a social justice case for Surrey to win the match because Middlesex won last year; this was about as convincing to me as his “Brexit leave” arguments.
Regardless of whether they focus on the eating, drinking, pokémons and/or cricket, the Z/Yen team always seems to enjoy this outing. There was a record crowd for a domestic T20 cricket match in England that night 27,000+, so it seems that we’re far from the only bunch that finds these T20 evenings a fun and enticing proposition.
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.
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.
We probably should have a corporate rule that every board meeting should conclude with a lunchtime concert.
But in reality this sort of thing is a rare treat for us…but treat this was indeed.
Michael had spotted this one, no doubt through some aldermanic connection, so not only did we get to listen to the delicious music but we got to eat some of the delicious food for honoured guests afterwards and network a while.
I like Handel’s concerto grossi and we got two of them in this concert. The sandwich filling was some Arvo Pärt of the listenable variety.
…not sure if Mark, Cristiano and Sonya were there (have acceptances from them but…)
Yes, I recall having a good long chat with Richard and Ellie that evening in particular. But it was one of those evenings when you get to speak with everyone for a while. Like musical chairs but without the music.
We wanted the event to have a slightly different feel, so Michael suggested that I pen a couple of silly songs to use as interludes, getting the audience to exercise their lungs occasionally rather than just get geeky and morbid about the long-term future of finance, post the debacle of 2008.
Partly through Michael connecting up with The Long Now Foundation and partly through my personal connection with Brian Eno through my health cub, the event included a panel with Brian, Stewart Brand and Zander Rose, which was a very generous gift of time and reputation for a fledgling idea such as Long Finance.
Bernard Lietaer also kindly gave of his time and energy for our inaugural event, proving to be both fascinating and charming in equal measure.
Our honoured guests seemed happy with the idea of light audience participation interludes for this event; Brian was positively encouraging of the idea, on the grounds that singing helps open up minds to fresh ideas.
Anyway, here are the two little ditties I concocted and conducted for the conference:
MY FUND MAN
(Song to the Tune of “My Old Man Said Follow The Van”)
My fund man,
Said “borrow and plan,
So don’t fret,
When you run up some debt”.
Off went me house to a mortgage tracker,
In went the cash to an equity knacker;
Which dillied, then rallied,
Rallied, then dillied,
Lost its way and sank just like a stone.
Oh you can’t trust the bankers,
They’re a load of…….thankless-
-Folk who repossessed my home.
Not the best I have ever written…nor the worst.
Home In On The Range
(Song to the Tune of “Home On The Range”)
Oh give me a home.
For the finance I own,
Where the bulls and the bears can all play;
With seldom a jump,
Or discouraging slump,
So that value’s preserved for decades.
Home in on the range,
Where the bulls and the bears can all play;
We’re girding our loins,
For some eternal coins,
Cos “Long Finance” is now here to stay!
After one of them, I think the first, Brian said “don’t give up the day job”, which sounded like highly sensible advice, yet said in a friendly, tongue in cheek manner.
We all enjoyed a decompression session at Z/Yen after the conference, after which Brian left us, as he had a diary clash with dinner; a BASIC event to organise at his studio. Stewart, Zander and Bernard joined we Z/Yen folk and others for an early evening “Musing Dinner” at the Farmers Club to continue the Long Finance discussions.
Before departing, Brian suggested that Stewart and I might like to join his BASIC event at the end of the evening, as I live round the corner from Brian’s studio and Stewart was staying very nearby.
So after the dinner, Stewart and I went to the studio. By that time, the formal elements of the BASIC evening were over and there was a party in full swing. Brian’s studio parties are always good fun and this one was no exception.
I discovered that I had acquired a sort-of groupie at the Long Finance conference; a young Swiss woman who lived nearby and had come along, I think at Brian’s suggestion, then gone on to the BASIC event. She spoke in glowing terms about the sing-song, which was rather flattering. I would run into her in the neighbourhood quite frequently for several months after this day. I don’t think she was stalking me. Nor I her, I hasten to add.
I wrote to Brian the next morning:
Just a quick note to thank you for your hospitality last night. I met some very interesting, BASIC (and non-BASIC) people. It is a real shame that our two events ended up clashing, as I would have enjoyed hearing the formal part of the evening.
I can report smugly that I soldiered my way to the gym at 8:00 this morning, but I shall no doubt need a power nap for a while this afternoon if I am to make it through the whole day.
Once again, many thanks.
That weekend, I received a short missive from Brian:
I saw a bloody piece in some paper or other which picked up my ‘Don’t give up the day job’ quip..of course. Why didn’t I see that one coming?
I’m sorry – it was meant as a joke, as I think you realised. In fact both Stewart and I were full of admiration that you had the balls to do that, and I think it was a great contribution to the event – it made people laugh, and also got them involved. I use singing myself often in serious situations, but usually at the end. The beginning is a good place too.
I hadn’t seen it. I needed to do some Googling to get to the bottom of the matter…The Evening Standard of course…then replied:
Many thanks for your kind words.
When The Evening Standard approves of everything we’re doing, then I might really consider giving up the day job. Please don’t give that matter another thought. Despite “The Standard”, Michael is suggesting that we make group singing a tradition of Long Finance gatherings.
More than seven years later, I tried to find the offending Standard piece, to link to this Ogblog piece.
Gone from The Standard site. Airbrushed out of history. Understandably so.
But, undaunted, I thought this would be an excellent test for the Wayback Machine, which I have oft thought about possibly using for Ogblog purposes but have not previously needed.
I can cope with the indignity of the piece, but being so cruelly juxtaposed with a picture of Prince Andrew really gets my goat. In the interests of decency, The Standard could have used this august image instead:
I have only one abiding memory from the afternoon, other than those captured in the photos above and me sinking into a glorious oblivious haze of relaxation arising from exercise, food and wine. Owais Shah’s agent, John E Barnett, for some reason “joined” us in our box for quite time, waxing lyrical about his boy Owais, enjoying our afternoon tea hospitality and watching Owais Shah himself score a top notch century.
Even more sadly/ironically/inappropriately, I am here to report that Sir Garfield Sobers has suffered the indignity of watching me and the Z/Yen team playing live, in person, at Lord’s.
It happened like this.
Middlesex County Cricket Club had very kindly offered me a Lord’s box for a day of County Championship cricket, as a thank you for some pro bono work I was doing with the club at that time. I decided to organise a Z/Yen awayday to take advantage of the box, including booking out half of the Lord’s Cricket Academy for a couple of hours. Of course Z/Yen had to pay for everything other than the box, so it was quite an expensive freebie in the end, but well worth it.
Linda’s e-mail to the team sets out the itinerary for the day:
As the day is approaching, I thought you should have an itinerary of the Z/Yen Away Day to Lord Cricket Ground (Home of Cricket) on Tuesday, 30 June 2009.
13.00 Lunch at the Sir Pelham Warner Restaurant retiring to Tavern’s Stand, Box E to watch Middlesex V Surrey
16.30 Afternoon Tea
In the end our lesson and game was mostly organised by Jamie Thorpe, not James Fielding.
I had told Richard Goatley (then Deputy Chief Executive of Middlesex) about our plans. He told me he had a meeting that morning but it should be finished in time for him to pop round and have a look at us in the Academy.
What Richard didn’t say in advance was that his morning meeting was with Garfield Sobers and that Richard had resolved to try and bring Sobers along with him.
Richard picks up his side of the story from there:
I can remember…
…you were bowling in a bandana.
When Don Bennett saw your first ball Don said, “oh Jesus, I’m done” and started to walk away.
Sobers said, “cmon Don, watch a little”, but Don left pretty quickly afterwards.
Anyway, Sobers was a far more discerning observer of Z/Yen cricket than “The Don”…or at least far more polite, as he did stick around for a good twenty minutes or so; longer in fact than Richard Goatley.
Then Sobers watched the youngsters who were playing in the other half of the Academy for a while, then at the end of it all stuck around for the youngsters and then us to have photos taken with him. What a delightful gentleman he is.
Here’s the Vimeo of it so you can watch from here instead (but for the resources as well, you need to click the above link):
More observant followers of this lecture (e.g. John White) noticed that I strung some lines from songs and stuff through the slides. I made up an iTunes playlist for the lecture – back then, iTunes playlists felt like fun things to try. Here it is:
We held a traditional Z/Yen-Gresham reception in the Headmaster’s Study after the lecture. Doubtless someone pointed out my resemblance to the Chandos Portrait of Shakespeare in that room – someone always did. As I explained on Facebook to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death:
After the reception, Michael Mainelli escorted an honoured few of us to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for one of his traditional post lecture meals. Not sure exactly who attended but I do recall Michael, Elisabeth, Kim, Micky, Charlie, Me, Janie and a few others.