Our Annual Cricket Dinner passed off without incident. It was held at my country residence at Turville Heath, currently up for sale at a bargain £2.95m. That it is shabby, rather than shabby chic, was noted by many guests. Some of our yobbier elements commented on the ‘second-hand furniture’ (‘antiques’ to the cognoscenti) and the ‘crap old paintings’ (we call them ‘old masters’). These same people had never seen a butter knife before and were presumably nonplussed at being offered napkins, and a glass to drink beer out of. We did not bother with finger bowls in case punters thought it was the soup course. One uncouth chap had never seen a serving hatch before and wondered why there was a hole in the wall. But no-one resorted to fisticuffs or made a pass at Michelle or her mother, our staff for the evening, and I did not spoil the evening with my card tricks.
Vin Grantham amused the company with a themed quiz on the V&A museum, which several had heard of. We had to dine in separate rooms because of the healthy turn-out (34) which was fine. The company assembled for the customary awards ceremony in the withdrawing room. The ceremony was presented by Ross and Christiaan – the latter having done the boring business of working out averages etc. A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT award was deservedly won by Adam Jacot de Boinod, whom I met 35 years ago when he was playing for the Hermits. He was then fast and fit, although no less eccentric, but he did not possess the wiles that he does now, as his Bowling Feat of the Year award attested. Some people asked me why I was invariably rude about Adam in match reports, and suggested it was unfair to pick on a man clearly not all there.
The evening was graced by babies and dogs and if it didn’t match the splendour of the National Liberal Club at least the staff were younger and more comely. In the morning I returned from exile at the Leander Club in Henley (where I had taken Andy Fraser to protect Michelle’s mum) to find a full English breakfast laid out by Michelle and much of the detritus of the night before cleared away, including Chris Mounsey-Thear (our new Fixtures Sec, please show him respect).
Annual dinners work well at places like Turville Heath House, because one can be uncouth without causing offence, and spit on the kilims, it won’t show. But you have to have a house that is a) large and b) is frayed, not just around the edges but at the core. I think Christiaan’s house qualifies unless he dinks it up with frills and flounces which show finger marks.
The next occasion when we are all together in a large house is our Wiltshire tour in May, which Ross is organising. Incidentally, I bought enough wine for our AGM to cater for twice our numbers, and you drank the lot. My doctor told me that my weekly intake was roughly 3 times the safe limit; but such modest excess was due to the fact I lied. The NHS recommends an absurdly low threshold for your weekly dose, 14 units. Our resident GP, Dr Grantham, has that before breakfast and he should know.