Monday, 26 March 2012

Which Fork Do I Use?

With the nation’s attention tuned in to the eating habits and arrangements of our Prime Minister, his Lady and friends the mind turns to other grub ups here and there.  From the look of the lists they seem a grim bunch but perhaps they are able to lift their eyes above the bottom line to higher things, although quite what can be only a wild guess.

One dinner party that comes to mind is the one hosted by Richard Brinsley Sheridan when he was living in Hertford StreetSheridan was going through one of his periods of being financially challenged and his creditors had sent in the bailiffs to take what they could get.  This included all the decent silver cutlery and tableware.

Unluckily, Sheridan was due to give an informal dinner party for the great and good of the land.  So a deal was struck.  Sheridan could borrow his own property back on condition that the bailiffs acted as the waiters to ensure their return to the creditors at the end of it all.

This reflects the financial condition of the nation at the time as well as the standing of many of the politicians.  Things are much the same today, a more or less bankrupt couple of parties contesting to govern a more or less bankrupt nation.

Later flicking around the channels we settled for a while on the back end of The Books Show on Sky Arts, where at the end the three authors were invited to pick out a dinner party from fiction which they may have preferred to avoid.

One selected from Proust’s “The Guermantes Way” Volume Three of his major work the “Remembrance of Time Past” the 140 pages given to describing a dinner party hosted by the Duchess of Guermantes.  It was not a good party and the conversation was worse, apparently. 

However, perhaps the nearest example to service at Chez Cameron could be the Tea Party given by the Mad Hatter as performed by the Royal Ballet in their production of “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland”, picture above.  We saw this on Saturday and it is certainly very good.

Philosophers may criticise the lack of reference or attempt to convey mathematical logic or the deductive method in the handling of the original book, but you can’t have everything.  It’s a ballet, you just have to dance.

The Tea Party is done exceptionally well, with the Mad Hatter doing manic tap routines in the general mayhem.  One could see George Osborne as a fine Dormouse and Ed Balls as a March Hare, if a little large for the role.  Teresa May would be fine as Queen of Hearts but I think that Yvette Cooper would struggle as The Duchess.

In a European context, Sarkozy is a gift for the Mad Hatter, Rompey as the Dormouse, Berlusconi for the March Hare, Merkel for the Queen of Hearts and Ashton as the Duchess.  Take your pick the casting potential is unlimited.

We should not criticise poor Cameron too much for his choice of dinner table companions, after all beggars cannot be choosers and our Prime Ministers these days have to do a lot of begging.  In any case, if you went down the dining lists of HM The Queen in her sixty years you would find a rare collection of the world’s worst rulers.

Then there was the Edward Heath government of 1970-1974.  Anthony Barber, the Chancellor of the Exchequer lived just across the fields from John Poulson, the architect involved in the famous corruption scandal. 

Reginald Maudling also got too close to him because Poulson became involved in bank rolling Maudling’s wife’s ambition to make East Grinstead the capital of world ballet.  It was alleged at one time that Heath dined with Poulson amongst others.

As for Harold Wilson’s dining companions, oh dear, oh dear. As Cameron looks around the table he might wonder which of companions is going to cause him the most embarrassment in the near future.

Perhaps the ballet “Alice” makes more sense than any of it.

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