Well, I survived the Ladies Luncheon Club.
What a formidable and wonderful bunch Tory Women are! The atmosphere in the West Malling Golf Club Bar, where reception drinks were being served, was a combination of the Day Room at Twilight Lodge and the Hip and Knee Replacement Society's Annual Reunion. They arrived in groups of two and four, clasping each others' arms and elbows, as much in physical support as mutual friendship.
Trish Robinson, Matriarch of the Ladies Luncheon Club, sat like Queen Bee whilst the drones paid homage and offered gifts of raffle prizes. Each was scrutinised and either placed on the table or discarded into a nearby box. I am not sure if the box was for prizes deemed too good for a 20p raffle, and thus retained for some future, grander event, or if it was for prizes 'beyond the pale' to be donated to the Snodland branch jumble sale.
Sherry, un-spiced tomato juice and Cinzano seemed to be de rigueur. Misses Browne (there are two of them - Claire and Janice) sell the raffle tickets. Or they did, but sadly Janice has recently had both a hip and a knee replaced and now struggles to get around, so her sister runs the raffle. Tickets are £1 a strip. There are five colours and the expectation is you buy one of each colour as this comes to £5.00 and thus saves them having to organise a float. I subsequently noticed however that the entire strip of five tickets went into the raffle drum un-separated, and suggested that it would be just as simple to sell the tickets for £1 each rather than £1 a strip - as this wouldn't affect the odds. My humble suggestion was dismissed without a moments consideration, "what a silly idea, who would spend £1 on a raffle ticket." Serves me right for daring to interfere!
Half way through the reception I noticed two of the younger and sharper ladies vanish conspiratorially into the dining room - only to reappear sheepishly a few moments later. I questioned them on what they were up to. "Oh, we always move around the place cards so we don't end up sitting next to the gaga ones" admitted Mrs X. Shameless!
Lunch was served; roast beef, carrots, peas, broccoli and roast potatoes followed by lemon tart and coffee. There was no vegetarian option, and I suspect if anyone dared ask for it, they would never be invited back. Conversation around the table went from trivial comments about the weather, to enquiries about those missing (she said if she ever recovered from her bladder problems she would go to live in Rye) to the most eye blistering critiques of other guests in that wonderful sotto voce delivery which implies a degree of discretion whilst knowing others can hear it too. "I never get tired of seeing her in that frock" was amongst the best! And I thought gay men could be bitches.
Suddenly, Madame Defarge was on her feet and reading my introduction. Apparently I was born "with a blue rosette pinned to my nappy", and after a brief potted history of my political life, guests were informed that, "Andrew lives on a canal boat on the River Medway with his partner, Steve who is not only a Vicar but a member of the Labour Party!"
I am not sure what shocked them most, but to their credit, they didn't flinch.