Friday, 22 November 2013

John, Jacques and Jesus

Today was the last ever meeting of Tonbridge & Malling Lunch Club, at least in its present format.  Mrs Trish Robinson, who launched the Lunch Club in 1992, has retired; and after 21 years and nearly £25,000 raised for Association Funds, who can blame her?

Marking 21 years service and £25,000 raised as Chairman of the Tonbridge & Malling Luncheon Club, from left
Sir John Stanley, Mrs Elizabeth Stanley, Miss Claire Browne, Mrs Trish Robinson, Dr Tony Robinson and Jacques Arnold.
The Club has met six times a year for 21 years  - with Trish presiding at each and every one of them. During those years Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet members, local Kent MPs, Council leaders, minor celebrities and leaders from the worlds of business, charity and  the third sector have been invited to speak.

About a 18 months ago I told Trish that I had been invited to address the Tunbridge Wells Ladies AGM. "Who'd pay to hear you?" she asked, with a degree of incredulity in her voice. Six months later, my summons arrived. I gently chided her for her previous comment and asked, "are you sure people will pay to hear someone like me...?" "Well". she replied, "the Easter luncheon is always poorly attended so I don't want to ask anyone important as it's embarrassing when only a few turn up."  That put me in my place.

My own indignities paled into insignificance however compared with the time she invited Association Chairman and former Gravesham MP, Jacques Arnold, to speak, Trish left guests in no doubt that all they were expected to provide was 10-15 minutes plus a further 10 minutes for questions. "Any more than that they will get restless and start to fall asleep".  Jacques was in full flight and 20 minutes into his talk on the Hanoverians when Trish hauled herself to her feet, banged her teaspoon on the coffee cup and announced, "thank you, Jacques but I'm not sure we can take much more." Somewhat crestfallen, Jacques slumped into his Chair.  "And don't even think about questions or we will be paying the staff overtime."   Sadly, they don't make Tory women like Trish any more!

Today's grand finale was rightfully addressed by Sir John Stanley, who was the very first guest speaker when the Club was formed in 1992. In the adjoining function room (separated only by a sliding screen) was a group named "Church Army Golfers for Jesus", who were singing between courses. As Sir John rose to speak Golfers for Jesus struck up "Shine, Jesus Shine".  Sir John paid the warmest and most heartfelt tribute to a lady who had dedicate three decades of her life to the Conservative cause.

To thank Trish for her work, the Association presented her with a bouquet of lilies and a gift of Afternoon Tea for Two at The Ritz. Her hard working Secretary, Miss Claire Brown, was also thanked with a presentation of flowers.   
It was right that the Luncheon Club came to an end today as Trish retired. This was Trish Robinson's Lunch Club as much as it was the Association's Lunch Club, and one without the other just wouldn't be right.

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