Over the years there have been changing scripts, but it was always a going-somewhere sort of day. When We Were Very Young it was the day we visited my other Grannie for another helping of turkey, not to mention more presents. Later, as the family thinned out and people went their own ways, it remained a day for going to a show, or watching football, or just going for a cholesterol-chasing walk in the Pentlands.
|Celebrating the Feast of St Stephen in Italy, where they do things properly|
Today is going to be a quiet day, if we ignore the remains of Storm Barbara howling around the roof windows. We are pretty much tidied-up after yesterday, but there are no real commitments – I expect I’ll listen to the football later on, and I want to do some work on drawing up some more Spanish flags for the newer units in my 1809 army – I’m a bit behind on that.
So I’m up early, heading for the first coffee of the day, and all I have to offer in the blog line are a couple of lightweight stories which are going around my head – entirely, of course, for my own amusement. The only connecting themes are a loose thread of topicality and that recurrent Sod’s Law thing about best intentions. All right – I admit it – the stories have nothing in common…
First tale concerns the singer George Michael, who, sadly, died at a very early age yesterday. I was never really a fan, though I did appreciate the gentleman’s talent, and I know my wife will be upset. This story is really not about George at all, it’s about SDB, whose story it is anyway. I met SDB and his wife on holiday in Tuscany, a good few years ago. They were the most excellent fun – he was one of the most engaging, charismatic people I have met. We kept in touch for a little while afterwards, but, ultimately, I guess my first wife and I were neither rich enough, outgoing enough nor metropolitan enough to be especially interesting, so everyone moved on. Such is life.
SDB was then a director of Morton’s, the dining club in Berkeley Square. His members included a good many famous people, as it happens, and one day he was approached by one of them – George Michael, no less – to arrange a very private business luncheon meeting at the club, involving some important guests. Michael was in the process of falling out with Sony Records at the time – I don’t really know the details, but this meeting was such that there would be trouble and controversy if it became public knowledge.
Being a man of tact and discretion, an experienced helper of the rich and mysterious, SDB had a brainwave and – taking advantage of the fine weather – he decided against simply allocating a private room, and placed the luncheon party on a private balcony in the sunshine, above the gardens – probably above the nightingales, if there had been any. Perfect, except that, just as the soup arrived, an open-top tour bus full of Japanese tourists passed by, and an amplified voice announced, “Oh look, everyone – there’s George Michael!”, which was followed by a rush to the appropriate side of the bus and a mighty clicking of cameras.
So much for secrecy – SDB said that there was trouble, sure enough, and plenty of it came his way. Oh well.
Story 2 is much less elevated – my old musician mate, Fergie (whom I also haven’t seen for years – maybe that’s the real thread), used to keep us entertained on band trips with tales of the shopping exploits of his wife. She was a devoted warrior of the Edinburgh Boxing Day Sales, and, though Fergie enjoyed the peace and quiet while she was out warrioring, he was less enthusiastic about the trophy ritual when she came back, at which point her purchases would be paraded for his delectation – an edgy procedure, since he was not encouraged to express any opinion beyond breathless admiration.
On one occasion he was unwise enough to comment on a very distinctive, red, green and white sweater in a Jenner’s bag (now there’s an Edinburgh tradition). Yes, he was told, it was reduced from £145 to only £85, so it was a particularly splendid buy.
Fergie, never knowing when to quit, stuck to his guns.
“Just a minute,” he said, “I’ve seen that sweater before – don’t you have one like that already?”
I can sense the reader flinching in anticipation. This provoked a disagreement which eventually drove him upstairs to the wardrobe for more evidence. He returned, in triumph, with another Jenner’s bag, containing an identical red, green and white sweater. The receipt was still in the bag – it had been bought in the previous year’s Boxing Day Sales, and had never been worn. Also, to cap everything, last year’s specimen had been reduced from £145 to £75.
The subsequent discussion was not especially constructive, we were led to believe, but Mrs Fergie, as ever, got in the last word as she swept out of the room.
“I may be a bit dippy at times,” she said, “but at least you can’t deny that I have consistent taste.”