Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The dinner guests

I was musing the other morning while I waited for the energy to get my back off the mattress - or was it the other evening as I was dropping off to sleep?  Not that it matters either way, really.  But the fact remains that I was musing, musing about how much pleasure there is to be found in conversation with a group of friends round the dinner table.  This led me to ponder on who I would like to invite from the world of the great and the good if I had the opportunity to host a dinner for people such as they.  I would want the conversation to flow well, perhaps covering serious matters at times, but also - and I consider this most important - in a light-hearted vein.

There are, no doubt, many people from the past who would be interesting to meet and with whom it might be fascinating to talk but I think those people would probably make fairly dull dinner companions given that their language and food preferences would be so much different from those of today.  So the guest list will have to consist entirely of people alive now.  And I refuse to bow to convention by ensuring that there are an equal number of ladies and gentlemen.  I will assume that the Old Bat will be at dinner with us and I will invite six guests to make up the table.

Given my general opinion of politicians, it might seem odd that my first two guests are from the world of politics.  Many people regard Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, as a buffoon.  Yes, there are plenty of times when he does come across as that, but I am convinced he is an extremely clever man.  He is also very knowledgeable and seems to have no pomposity.

The second politician, albeit now a retired politician, is Dame Ann Widdecombe.  She has always seemed to me to be a person not afraid to tell things as she sees them while being quite happy to have fun poked at her.  Indeed, she is not averse to making fun of herself.  What is more, I have rather enjoyed the novels she has written.

My guest list would also contain two people from the world of entertainment, both of them past presenters of radio shows.  Terry Wogan, or Sir Terry Wogan as he now is, presented a breakfast-time show on BBC Radio 2 for many years and has also hosted television shows such as the Eurovision Song Contest (until he got so fed up with it that even the fat fee the BBC offered was unable to induce him to continue) and the BBC's annual Children in Need television appeal.  An Irishman (not that I hold that against him) of charm and wit, he would be capable to keeping the conversation flowing.

As would my other one-time radio show presenter, Sarah Kennedy.  Her show ran from about 6.00am and I listened to her and laughed with her as I drove to the station.  Radio presenters have to be people never short of a word and, like Terry Wogan, Sarah would be able to keep the conversation flowing.

My fifth guest would be a man whom I have admired for many years.  He sometimes comes across as irascible but that, I believe, is simply because he cannot abide fools.  He expects a certain deference to be paid to him but will, I am sure, be happy to put ceremony aside.  The Duke of Edinburgh is the first person on this guest list whom I have had the honour of meeting and I would very much like to renew his acquaintance.

And so to my last guest.  So far all the names are well know, but not this one.  My cousin's brother-in-law is a retired professor   Anthony Ridge is one of those people who are most interesting to talk with, people who can converse on a wide range of topics and seem interested and knowledgeable on all of them.

So those are my six dinner guests.  But perhaps I had better have a seventh, just as a reserve.  I think I will opt for a fellow member of Brighton Lions Club.  An old-Etonian and a farmer, Robin Windus is another of those men like Anthony Ridge who have a wide range of interests and who can talk intelligibly about almost anything.

Now all I have to do is decide on the menu.


I will be meeting my cousin Hilary for lunch on Thursday.  Her mother (my favourite aunt) cut herself off from the family many years ago and Hilary was unaware of our existence and knew nothing about her grandparents until after her mother's death.  I have been looking out and copying old photos, like this one, which I have dated to about 1906.  My grandfather is the one-badge leading seaman on the right.

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