Sunday, 8 December 2013

Turkey in Tunbridge, Lagavulin in Lincs and two handsome men in Soho!

It's been a frantic weekend of politics, booze, food and friends. The type of weekend which, had I been 20 (even 10) years younger, I would have relished, but one which left my (and my kidneys) asking "why did I have to pack it all in to 72 hours?"  That being said, I enjoyed every minute of it, even if my overnight bag seemed to get progressively heavier at each stage of the journey.

The weekend's activities commenced on Friday morning with an early stint on the doorsteps of Borough Green, with our outstanding candidate Stuart Murray and friends from Croydon, who had dropped-by to help. I had to leave them campaigning to pop across to High Rocks for the annual Christmas Lunch, organised by the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Ladies Group.  At the lunch I was presented with a cheque for £1,200 for the campaign fund.

Lunch was followed by coffee with two potential new local government candidates, and this was followed by one of my regular catch-up sessions with Greg Clark MP. At 5pm I was delivering the last of my leaflets around Rusthall, advertising our Christmas Fete, then to the Church Hall with association Chairman, William Rutherford, to set-up the stalls for the following day's activities. Finally, a brief visit to La Fiamma for the TW Speakers' Corner Christmas Meal.  Home after 11pm.

Trolley Dolley; Edward Cain proactively selling tea and coffee
Saturday I was up, dressed and packed and on the road by 7am, arriving in TW by 8.30am for the Christmas Fete. Along with William Rutherford (Chairman) and Edward Cain (Vice Chairman, Communications) I had agreed to run the refreshments. The thought of three blokes running the catering was met by derision and incredulity by the womenfolk, who took it in turns to wander into the kitchen offering advice and guidance on everything from "how to fill the urn" to "how long tea can be left in the pot before it "stews".  "I see they've forgotten the washing-up liquid" said one, unknowingly within my earshot. "Yes" said her friend, "but they're using  disposable paper cups!"   There was a long silence. "What,
paper cups? In Tunbridge Wells. The Association really is going downhill..."  It is therefore with a degree of satisfaction that I can report the "three clueless blokes" contributed £120 to the grand
total - more twice what was made on refreshments last year!

The fete raised £1,200; and our takings were further boosted when Cllr Julian Stanyer (below) donated £500 on behalf of Langton Green, Speldhurst & Bidborough branch (see below).

Other stalls included home made cakes, infused oils and vinegars, children's gifts, chocolate galore, hand made jewellery and a Christmas Hamper raffle which alone raised £360.

We even had the local UKIP leader Victor Webb (left) spending his money at the bottle stall! 

Association Chairman, William Rutherford (left) accepts a cheque for £500 from
Cllr Julian Stanyer (right) on behalf of Langton Green Branch
It was then a quick dash to the railway station for a series of connecting trains to Grantham, where I was joining old friends for a formal dinner party at their magnificent home in the lovely village of Hough on the Hill. I had not seen these friends for 13 years; we had sadly drifted apart. Fortunately, Stephanie had seen references to this blog in the Sunday Times and managed to trace me via the party, and last night was the re-union. There were eleven of us for dinner, seated around a magnificent oak dining table in their red dining room, lit solely by candlelight and the flickering log fire. We talked, reminisced, laughed and drank into the small hours, causing considerable damage to Glenn's single malt collection.

This morning I was hoping to catch up with more old friends, Karl and Cordellia McCartney in Lincoln but time simply ran out, as engineering works resulted in 3 trains and a replacement bus service to get back to London. This I managed (just) to meet up with Richard Cheadle and Rupert Barton for lunch at Andrew Edmunds in Soho at 1pm (with a thumping Lagavulin hangover). Rupert and Richard I have known for 15 years; they came to work with me when they were both students - and we have remained friends ever since, though we only see each other annually at our Christmas meal. They are both now in their early 30s and are hugely successful in their chosen fields of law and hedge funds. It is lovely that they make the time to stay in touch - even if walking down Old Compton Street with a young handsome bloke on each arm attracts a few suspicious (if not envious) looks!

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