Music, feasting and revelry

Tris had been quite keen to come to this year’s Orieladelphians Friends and Family dinner, but decided (sensibly) that with Important Exams imminent (like, starting the following Wednesday) she didn’t want to interrupt her routine with late night carousing in the Oriel SCR. So, like last year, the Smith contingent comprised me, Diana and Eleanor… Williams.

Diana was already in Oxford so I drove up by myself. The M25, according to the Traffic England website, was congested and had had traffic crawling along for practically the whole day, so I decided to go the alternative route via M4 and A34. This worked well until I reach the Oxford ring road. In fact it worked well round the ring road, until a couple of miles from Headington, when I ran into traffic whilst trying to get to the Thornhill park and ride. But I was in plenty of time and caught the bus, riding up top right at the front so as to peer down into people’s gardens on the way into town.

In Oriel Street, I ran into Patricia, Gaye and Malcolm, who were on their way to tea somewhere. I checked in at the Lodge, found our room (O’Brien Quad, 2 flights of stairs) and arranged to meet Diana at the end of Catte Street by the High. While waiting there, I saw Ashley and Rosie walk by on the other side of the High, but my call went unheard. Diana arrived and we met Ranulph and Thomas, who had been looking at clocks and were by now hurrying to avoid their teas/coffees getting cold.

We changed into party frocks and DJs (who wore what is left as an exercise for the reader) and ambled through to Third Quad and the Music Room for champagne and entertainment. People assembled quite rapidly, a smaller group this year than last, with the sadly unavoidable absence of Edward (see posting of 1st April) and the arbitrary absence of a few friends and family. Beverley was displaying a ring covered in about a month’s output from Kimberley. Neil had proposed and they are to be married later this year. Good news – and I was exaggerating about the “month’s output”. (Or I think I was. Actually, I have no idea what a month’s output from Kimberley looks like.)

Thomas (clarinet) and Malcolm (piano) played a duet. Eleanor arrived at the same time as John (Paul’s friend), waiting for the pause in the music to come in. Thomas and Malcolm played some more and Gaye sang. When they finished, Ranulph disappeared to bring in surprise flowers for Gaye and bottles of champagne for Thomas and Malcolm, only for the call for an encore – the hardy perennial ‘Suite from The Victorian Kitchen Garden’ by Paul Reade – to interrupt his plans. They still got their flowers and champagne, but it wasn’t quite such a surprise.

Diana was perturbed to discover from the programme that the first piece was “for Clarinet and Piano (or Harp)” and the fourth by a 19th century harpist written for “harp and piano duets” with a piano/clarinet version as played here. Was Thomas trying to drop a hint that she should bring her harp to the next dinner?

There was time for more champagne afterwards, one bottle of which turned out to have a nasty taste, and then we went across to the SCR for dinner. Ranulph had chosen an interesting and tasty menu: asparagus spears and quail egg, champagne sorbet, sea bass, the essential meat course – fillet of beef – at its centre (does anyone recall that time we had a large piece of fish instead of meat at an Orieladelphians dinner? No, of course not) and finishing with a blueberry compote. We had the by-now-traditional “men move on after every course” and for this purpose, due to the imbalance of men and women and where he happened to have chosen to sit, Thomas was elected honorary woman. Which he seemed to enjoy.

In the small SCR, to which we moved after dinner, there seemed only spirits to drink, which may account for a lot of things…


Orieladelphians, friends and family in Small SCR (note imperceptible insertion of the author into this picture)

Round midnight, that old jazz classic, Eleanor and Diana took their leave. We escorted Diana back to the O’Brien Quad (the geography of the underpass can be a bit confusing – and, no, it wasn’t the drink: Diana is off booze and has been for a while) and then tried to find an exit from the college for Ellie, but neither of the side gates opened on my key fob (which they had done earlier in the day) and we had to go the long way round via the Lodge. This I blame for Ellie’s missing her bus by seconds and having to get a taxi instead. She texted later to say she was home okay.

I returned to the small SCR and the brandy, until Beverley recommended the bourbon. Conversation was vociferous and vivid – so vivid, in fact, that it obliterated neurons on its way through my brain and I remember nothing of it. Every time, it seems, something gets in the way of my remembering the conversation at Orieladelphian dinners and it is always something different. Inexplicable.

At around three o’clock, things seemed to be winding down and I left for my bed. Imagine my surprise, at breakfast, to discover that things had not, in fact, wound down until much later. There was activity up to at least five thirty, and fallings over, and blood. It seems that I had missed most of the excitement, and trained blog journo that I am, I totally failed to ask any penetrating follow-up questions. This will remain forever an undocumented mystery, though if anyone wants to contribute eye-witness accounts, they are naturally free to add comments to this blog…

The real surprise of course was that, after all this, anyone had made it to breakfast!

Let’s SOGs Again, Like We Did Last Summer

Tuesday (9th) was another SOGs lunch in Shell Centre. Since Diana was out, I had to catch the bus to the station, rather than blagging a lift. (I never drive to the station on a SOGs day, since this would mean driving back again in the afternoon, which is not really on after a few pints.) Catching a bus means paying a bus fare, which in turn means having the cash.

Strictly, this is not true, as my “future of money” friend, the “cashless guru” Dave Birch, would be quick to point out. Arriva (the bus company) has an iPhone app which enables you to buy your ticket in advance and show it to the driver on your phone screen as you get on. But that requires some set-up – getting PINs and stuff – which didn’t seem feasible in the hour before I wanted to catch the bus.

So that meant really I had to have the cash, which in my case I had not got. We had exhausted our cash reserves buying fish and chips in Wadebridge last Saturday and paying for parking in Oxford last Sunday, whilst unloading Tris at uni, and not got round to replenishing them. I had 13p in my pocket, and I haven’t seen a bus fare that small since I was at school.

So it was round to Waitrose to use the cash machine there, which refused my debit card on the spurious grounds that the chip was damaged. I had to use the household account debit card instead. Then I had to break into one of the tenners because they don’t like large denomination notes on the bus, and also I fancied a bar of chocolate.

I caught the bus and the fare turned out to be £3.80. With a price that high, I needn’t have worried about breaking a tenner. At the station I went to the ticket machines a few yards away from the ticket office, where there was no queue at all. I used to have a debate with myself over whether to get an extra-super-cheapo day return (valid for journeys starting after 11.00 am with the return before 4.00 pm) because I was never sure whether we would finish at the pub in time. South West Trains have very kindly and thoughtfully removed this dilemma for me by making the starting condition “trains arriving after 12.00 noon”. I got a bit worried when someone came and stood behind me, in line for the machine, when there were two other perfectly good and working machines next to me, but this potential ticket-mugger turned out to be a railway employee wanting to extract cash from my machine. There were some train delays which South West Trains automatically apologised for, but at Woking this means that you wait five minutes for the train delayed by 23 minutes, rather than wait five minutes for the train that is on time.

When I arrived at Shell Centre, a few people were already there. I got a text from Alun saying he wouldn’t be coming for lunch after all. Some furniture that he had been waiting for for four weeks had decided to be delivered exactly this lunchtime. And Mike pleaded that work had got in the way again – this work stuff sounds inconvenient, I don’t know why people put up with it. Nigel and Gill also sent last day apologies.

But there was a good crowd: Keith, Keith, David, Geoff, Paul, Malcolm, Gerry, Jeremy and me. One person was missing – Adam. This was a problem, because Adam needed one of us to sign him in as a guest, rather than being an SPA member in his own right, so we couldn’t really go up to lunch before he arrived. Paul reminded me of the train delays, which I realised would have affected Adam as well. He arrived just after 12.00, muttering about 25 minute delays, and up we went to lunch.

After my brilliant success in spending exactly six pounds last time, I tried for it again. My chili con carne was £4.15. I found a fruit juice for 75p, leaving £1.10 for a pudding. Easy, I thought. I found the puddings: £1.16. Poo! I put the fruit juice back and, dispirited, let the 69p go.

Several people that we knew went by and said hello. Dave Durling, clutching a sandwich, stopped as if stunned by the sight of ten old familiar faces, then said he couldn’t stop and chat. He had to run because he had a phone call in six minutes, which is not much time to eat a sandwich, even if he were to start munching in the lift. Work – damned inconvenient, shouldn’t be allowed.

After a leisurely lunch, occupying a full lunch hour, we selected a pub to which to adjourn proceedings, the well-regarded Camel and Artichoke. Three of us arrived, the others vanishing off into the office to look for old colleagues, and one (Geoff) stopping by a bookshop on the corner of Lower Marsh to procure a TARDIS and Dr Who novel, sellotaped together. (A model TARDIS, that is, not a real one.)

We first three selected the largest available space, an area with arm chairs and a low table, to sit with our pints or coffee and waited for the others. A few more arrived and filled the remaining armchairs. When the rest came, they had to sit across the gangway, at a table recently vacated by a family having lunch. They immediately dubbed it ‘High Table’ and looked down upon us.

Keith S’s partner, whose wrist was damaged in a car accident just before the last meeting, is only now beginning to recover. That was some nasty accident. We hope the improvement continues. Paul continues his Citizens Advice Bureau volunteering one day a week. He caught himself thinking about how to do more and move up the ladder and realised that that was how you thought at work, which he wasn’t at any more, and one day a week was right fine, thank you very much.

I was asked if I would still be coming to these lunches in future. I certainly hoped so, I said, although I would have to catch the 06.57 from Bodmin Parkway to Paddington to get there in time. Reflecting on that as a departure time, and allowing for getting to the station, it starts to seem like catching an early flight to the Netherlands did, which is very much too much like work, and more than inconvenient. But I will find a way, with a little help from my friends.

There remained the question of who would take over as organising secretary and with very little prompting Dave was nominated, seconded and put in position, bypassing the need for him to accept. He took the remaining kitty, though.

Edward Green

I was all set to knock out one of my usual trivial pieces, this time about going on the beach barefoot yesterday (after all, it couldn’t be that cold. Yes, it could) when I got an email from Neil with the sad news that one of our fellow Orieladelphians, Edward, had died suddenly on 22nd March. He’d not long reached 60, which is no age to be dying.

We’re not sure what the cause was – Neil guessed heart attack, which is as good a guess as any at the moment. Immediate reactions from other on-line members included “bloody hell!”, “dreadful shock”, “dismayed”. Diana, when I told her, said she’d miss his conversation at the annual Friends & Family dinner. The next one of those is in less than two weeks, so I imagine it will be a bit subdued – although I’m less sure that Edward would want that.

Edward and I were assigned to share rooms in our first year at Oriel in 1971 and we’ve been friends ever since, despite his becoming a monk of the Order of St. Benedict and my veering away from the C of E to become an atheist.

I shall miss him, too.