|16 Sep 2021|
It has been more than two years since the UK ODs sat down to break bread at their annual black-tie dinner. If I recall anything from my school physics, it is that energy is never destroyed; it's just converted into another form. In this case, into a supremely enjoyable 2021 dinner where noise and camaraderie in equal parts testified to amount of pent-up energy just waiting to get out - and it did.
Back at our old stomping ground, the very grand Carlton Club in London, a full-capacity of 92 ODs and guests (with many on a standby list) looking very dapper, assembled on Friday 10th September, to remind ourselves what these dinners - when we could still hold them - were like. Covid in all sorts of ways is long!
The pre-Dinner reception was in The Morning Room and it was soon obvious that the evening would be special. ODs mingled across years and lockdown stories abounded, but now in the context of restored liberties (almost). Adrian Kritzinger (F, 2006) supplied the very wonderful sparkling wine which provided the grease that started the wheels turning. Not to be outdone, Anthony Record MBE (S, 1956) most generously donated the fabulous wines from his estate, Domaine Gayda and Michael Cockburn (F, 2006), James During (B, 2007) and Devan du Plooy (G, 2007) delivered their very refreshing Co.bru beer. To all of them our huge thanks.
The warm-up over, we marched off to The Churchill Room for the dinner.
We stood as James Gardener (W, 1974) opened the formal part of the evening with an original grace he "curated" (as they say nowadays):
Nikonwabele ukutya kwenu
Vir kos en klere, dank u Here
For food and friends, thank God. Amen
Then, standing in for our Patron, Raymond Ackerman (S, 1948), Anthony Record MBE welcomed a full house of 92 ODs and guests. Although a small island, the UK is a beast when it comes to travel and Anthony singled out Calum Wehmeyer (B, 2017) who came from Edinburgh and who proposed the Toast to Bishops, having been drawn, as is tradition, from one of the youngest ODs present. From Bath trekked Francois Louw (W, 2003) and from Yorkshire, Richard (G, 1976) and Joy Montgomery. And from Cambridgeshire Nick Koster (F, 2007). Many other ODs had travelled into London from faroff places and for that we are very grateful.From even further afield, he welcomed Dr Rudolf Beekman (O, 1962) and his wife Marjan who had come in from The Netherlands, as had Cormac Petit (O, 1973) and his wife Nahnya.
Anthony and Carole Record had come France.
And Choppy Bands (K, 1990) our brilliant MC for the evening, had flown in from Dublin. His relaxed but effective crowd control combined with his urbane charm and witty and eloquent delivery surely makes him indispensable for future dinners.
We were delighted that Ashley Pople (St Cyp's), the first non-Bishops Bishops Rhodes Scholar, was also with us. She is about to receive her DPhil from Oxford and head off, next month, to New York where she will be taking up a position with The UN as a development economist.
After the Welcome, Calum proposed the Toast to Bishops and what a toast that was. It is difficult to say whether 92 Bishops Old Boys can be moved to tears of affection for their alma mater, but Calum got them very close. His Toast and congratulations to the ODU on its 125th anniversary is reproduced at the bottom of this blog.
Our guest speaker was Seema Jasmal who delivered an engaging and motivating talk on grabbing opportunities, using time wisely, pursuing one's passion and sharing our delight by reminding us - should that have even been necessary - of the recent Bishops v RBHS 1st XV rugby match which Bishops won 50-10. Seema, who is one of the UK's most accomplished and entertaining TV sports' presenters, was charming and artuclulate and added wonderfully to the atmoshpere of the evening.
Francois Louw was in charge of the reply and thanks and picked up on one of Seema's messages of "if you don't know your purpose, follow your passion; if you follow your passion, it will lead you to your purpose". That struck a chord. His thanks were pithy and on point.
After a delicious main course and dessert washed down with OD wine, sparkling wine and beer, we returned to The Morning Room for an ever-increasingly popular after party which extended until 12.30am when ODs dispersed into the night, who knows where, but eventually heading homewards (presumably) reflecting on a great evening and hoping that next year's will be uninterrupted by viruses of any sort.
Our thanks as always to The Carlton whose gracious staff never fail to go the extra mile to ensure a happy and successful evening.
Until next year, Floreat Bishops
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