It was the day of the TW Ladies' Lunch with Danny La Rue's dressmaker and one of the Ugly Sisters. As I was preparing to leave the office, the Chairman of Tonbridge & Malling Association, Jacques Arnold, turned up. (Did I ever mention he was once the MP for Gravesham?) Jacques was wearing his best suit, with a black tie, black shiny shoes and a black armband. He was also holding a silk handkerchief to his nose, like a Victorian dandy with a nosegay.
Being from the traditional wing of our party I asked if he was heading to Chester Square to pay his respects. "Oh no, I am on my way to Langton Green for the Conservative lunch." Oh, me too, I didn't know you were going. "I'm the guest speaker", he replied.
Suddenly the horror of what had happened dawned on me. Last year, the Ladies' Group Chairman had asked me for suggestions as guest speaker. I provided four of five names, of which Jacques was one. At the same time, I must have mentioned the date to Jacques to see if he would be available, if asked. Jacques clearly thought it was a formal invitation, and put it into his diary.
I quickly explained the situation and hoped that he would understand, and he very gamely did so. I didn't mention that he had been gazumped by a Bromley Drag Queen and five sequined frocks.
En route to Tunbridge Wells I received a call to warn me that the Chairman and many of the Ladies were in black, as a mark of respect for Baroness Thatcher. I was wearing a sombre grey suit, white shirt, silver and onyx cuff links - all was fine, apart from my tie, which was from Leander, emblazoned with large pink hippopotamuses. I weighed up my options. Too far to return home, not acceptable to remove tie, too little time to stop in TW to buy one.
I realised that the journey would take me passed the homes of several members with whom I am sufficiently friendly to ask to borrow a black tie. After three no replies, finally Hugh Wright (former Tunbridge Wells councillor and good egg) was in. And yes, he had a spare black tie that he could lend me.
"What do you need it for?" He asked. I hurriedly tried to explain.
"I am going to a Ladies Lunch at Langton Green where the guest of honour is Danny La Rue's dressmaker and a Drag Queen from Bromley, but the ladies are in mourning for Mrs Thatcher so I thought I should wear a black tie and not the one with pink hippopotamuses I am wearing."
As the words came out I realised how ridiculous it sounded, which was reinforced when Hugh slowly repeated my words back to me, with a wry smile and arched eyebrows. "After you have stood in memory of Maggie, are you all going to gather around the piano, in your mourning weeds, whilst the drag artist belts out a chorus of On Mother Kelly's Doorstep?" he enquired.
Joe Orton at his best would have struggled to write anything quite so absurd.