23 December 2011

Boy's Lunches

Despite having retired over four years ago, I still attend the traditional boy’s festive lunches for the companies I used to work for, IBM and BT.

The BT South of France Xmas Lunch comprises three or four attendees (it was only three this year) and is traditionally held in the New Punjab curry house in Grasse.

Now before you cry ‘sacrilege’, I suspect, Ashley, Ian and myself are so fed up with French food by the time Christmas comes around, we deserve something a little more ‘piquant’.

Normally, the three of us are the only diners in the New Punjab apart from maybe a visiting British couple who happen to stumble across the restaurant which is very well hidden, but this year, the place was full – full of French Xmas partygoers. I say ‘partygoers’, but in fact, it was all very sedate with the nearest the lunchtime revelers got to anything approaching a normal, dare I say, British company do, was when they ordered a round of non-alcoholic cocktails! Vive la difference!

My next festive outing was somewhat further afield, in London for the traditional IBM Boy’s Lunch. There’s a couple of points to make about this; (a) it is most definitely a ‘Boy’s Lunch’ and although the behaviour has ‘settled down’ over the last few years, females would find the constant chatter about sport, economics and fine wines, difficult to cope with, and (b) the lunches have been going strong for thirty years or more so it is a well established routine – meet up, drinks, lunch, more drinks, sometimes dinner and then, strangely enough, more drinks. 
The Famous Long Room at Lords
I didn’t make it last year, as paying around £500-£600 for a lunch (including flights and hotels) is extravagant even by a London banker’s standards, but this year, I decided that the venue simply could not be missed – it was being held in the historic and iconic Long Room at Lords Cricket Ground.

My mate Mick who was organizing the tickets had sent an e-mail saying the dress code was ‘lounge suits’ but dragging a suit all the way to London was a non-starter as far as I was concerned and so I turned up in a smart, but nevertheless, non-dress code sports jacket and slacks which was a bit of a faux pas on my part as I reckon I was the only one in the room not dressed to the required code.

You might be getting the impression at this point that it was a rather posh do and indeed I got that impression myself, as almost as soon as we had sat down to eat, after a champagne welcoming, there was a short speech and a request for ‘my Lords, ladies and gentlemen’ to stand for the loyal toast.
Lords Pavillion

Lunch itself was a fairly standard affair with various members of our table trying to ‘seduce’ the waitress into bringing us more than our allocated wine ration which she steadfastly refused to do and so copious additional bottles were ordered at an exorbitant price.

Once lunch had finished, Mick took us on a tour of the Pavillion and even managed to get us into the player’s dressing rooms which is where I made quite a discovery, well, for me at least.

At Lords, the acknowledged ‘home of cricket’, when a batsmen scores over 99 runs his name is etched onto a board and bowlers who take five or more wickets or ten or more wickets also have their names etched onto a board. Now these boards containing the names of the greatest cricketers who have graced Lords are frequently shown on TV but I was amazed to find that the boards are actually on the walls of the respective dressing rooms. What an inspiration for those cricketers going out to bat or bowl to see the names of their countrymen on the walls of the greatest cricket ground in the world.

Alistair Cook and the Boards
After staggering out of Lords and into a cab, it was off into the City to find a pub where my mates could drink ales and stouts whilst I stuck to my white wine.

At some stage in the evening, remembering J was alone in the hotel back in Kilburn, I said my goodbyes and the next thing I remember was sleeping on the floor of the hotel bedroom with a king size bed nearby – what a waste!

It was a great trip, made all the more special by being able to wander around the Lords Pavillion where cricket officiandos would give their right arm to be.  

No comments: