I was reminded of an amusing vignette yesterday arising from Robert Halfon's visit to West Kent last week and thought I would post it here for weekend amusement.
Having welcomed Rob to the event in Chatham & Aylesford, Jon and I dashed to Kings Hill to set-up the evening's Christmas Reception for members of Tonbridge & Malling. This involved dressing the tables, arranging the cheese platters, organising the raffle and setting-up the bar for arrival drinks etc. We only had an hour before the guests arrived and were doing well until a worried Jon Botten appeared with a bottle of wine in one hand and a broken corkscrew in the other.
We searched the drawers at the venue in search of a replacement without success and the nearest shop was 15 minutes drive away - so that wasn't an option. We did however find a metal soup ladle, the handle of which fitted into the bottle neck. "I know, I'll push the corks into the bottle and you can then pour the wine, using the shank of a teaspoon to keep the cork out of the way..."
The first attempt proved difficult. The cork was a tight fit and I had to put my considerable weight behind it to push it into the bottle, whereupon a fountain of red wine erupted and drenched me (fortunately I was wearing my customary red trousers so it didn't show).
"I will take the bottles outside an open them at arms length, so if there is any spillage it won't drench me or the floor." Sadly the corks were too tight to move at arms length without any weight behind them, so I hit on an idea. I removed my shoe and started using it as a hammer to bang the soup ladle into the cork thus driving the cork into the bottle. It was quite difficult, especially outside on an damp and uneven grass verge in the dark and drizzle. But it worked. It was however hard work and in between hammering and running back and forth keeping Jon supplied with wine, I got a bit red-faced and over-heated.
As I started opening bottle ten I had that awful feeling of being watched. I looked around nervously, only to spot the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party parked nearby with his Chief and Staff and her boyfriend also in the car.. All three were staring at me in disbelief. I have no idea what they must have thought of the West Kent Agent, puce-faced and sweating, wearing one shoe whilst kneeling on a damp grass verge and hitting a wine bottle with a soup ladle, whilst letting out a string of expletives.
I thought about going over to the car and explaining, but I didn't have the time and the whole thing seemed too absurd, so I gathered up my wine bottles, soup ladle and shoe and with as much dignity as I could muster, limped back to the reception, waving confidently to our guests as if my behaviour was perfectly normal. The three of them nervously waved back.
I am pleased to report the reception was a success, but towards the end I was chatting to some friends and Rob Halfon was behind me talking to Tom Tugendhat. I then heard him ask, "when I arrived your Agent was outside, kneeling on a grass verge, hitting wine bottles with his shoe....what do you think he was doing?" To which Tom, without flinching or hesitation replied, "having worked with him for two years, I have learnt there are things it's best not to ask."
I thought I should set the record straight.