Original post: Friday, 30th September 2011
There are troubling signs that this blog is evolving into being all about dinners and lunches – six of the last twelve postings [if you care to go back and look at the archive on my old site]. Well, you can’t fight evolution – here’s number seven out of thirteen.
It was the Orieladelphians 37th annual dinner on 2nd September, a Friday, as they all are. Christopher was the President. He had contacted me a few weeks earlier, in my self-appointed capacity as keeper of the archives (or to put it another way, as Steve of course did, “Kevin, you ought to get out more”) to check what the menus had been over the last couple of years, so as not to repeat them. This shows admirable conscientiousness, paying attention to the details that no one actually notices. No one remembers what we eat from one year to the next. Even I have to look it up, on the menu cards I purloin (no longer surreptitiously, since everyone now knows I do it) from the table each year.
I have objective proof of this. One year we had exactly the same food as the year before and no one realised. I only spotted it some time afterwards when I was filing the menu card. And no one cared. “Bloody good dinner!” we all said, both times. The only dinner that we all remember, that we never let Neil forget, is the one where he decided to have a large and splendid piece of fish, but no meat course. The dawning horrified realisation that after the fish knives and forks at the place settings were only pudding and cheese implements, swiftly followed by the production of the actual pudding, rather than something meaty, made an indelible impression on all present. Though it is the absence of the meat that is remembered, not the food that we ate. There is even some debate about the fish itself – turbot? halibut? No one has tried anything that experimental again.
There is a sameness about the annual dinners that is reassuring. The same ten people turn up, and they are largely each the same people as they were the year before, changing gradually as many years pass. There are five regular guests who join us for the pre-dinner drinks. Weather permitting, we all meet on Second Quad lawn outside the SCR. This year we were standing right behind a notice saying something to the effect of: “Do not go on the grass.” Ha! That notice is not for us! We stood right there on the green stuff.
Last year, Neil caused a stir by wearing a white jacket (see archive blog entry for 10th September 2010 “OOGs”). This year I took my own white jacket as well as the black, and since the day was hot and summery, in contrast to the week, indeed weeks, preceding it, I decided to wear it, with barely a comment at all. As we stood on the grass with our champagne, word filtered through that Judge Neil would be late. He was on the M1 somewhere North of Nottingham, stuck in traffic. He arrived at around 9 o’clock with some excuse about having been given the wrong case to try, the four day case rather than the three day case, meaning he couldn’t leave Durham until late. Anyway, the staff had saved him most of the meal and he worked his way through it while we drank port.
In the course of dinner, it emerged that long-missing original member, John Chettoe, is still alive. The linguists of our year, of whom Christopher was one, decided at the Gaudy to have a reunion themselves and tracked down the aforementioned Chettoe. He came to the first few of our dinners, then declined one, then stopped responding to our invitations. So we stopped trying and ejected him from membership. Occasional stories would surface. He had joined GCHQ. He was a spy. He had been abducted by the Soviets. He had gone over to the Soviets. It turns out that he had joined GCHQ, but as for the rest, probably not. (Unless – perhaps joining GCHQ was just a cover story…)
We adjourned to the Small SCR, snaffling the remaining port and bottled water to go with the coffee and brandy and whatever else was in there. Several people got very pissed. At the end, it was just Neil and I and we discovered it was about 3 a.m. I hadn’t pulled that late a night at the Orieladelphians for twenty-five years or more!
We both made it into breakfast, though. And it was a bloody good dinner.