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Public faces in private places - Johnny Grimond

Blog | By Johnny Grimond | Aug 26, 2022


Johnny Grimond throws open his doors and invites all and sundry to the party

My first thought was Sir Roger de Coverley: he would get the guests onto the dance floor. And, being fond of a reel, he would bring some friends who would set the pace. Paul Jones would mix everyone up, and could be joined by Fergus McIver and several others from north of the border. All would be welcome. Major Ian Stewart, the Duke of Perth and indeed the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh would add to the fun, as would Brown-Eyed Mary and Texas Tommy.

More than music would be required, though. I would put Jack Daniel and Tom Collins in charge of the drinks. For the soft-drinkers, poor things, there would be some Dr Pepper. As for the children, they could have Shirley Temples. The wine would be supervised by ‘Three-bottle’ Marie-Jeanne – no, not Mary Celeste (likely to empty the room), nor Mary Rose, who would probably come with her brother, Peter Pomegranate, each rather abrasive.

Instead, we would ask Kate Maclaren and Peter Ross. Both being sharp, they are a good pair to have attached. Kate is very attractive and Peter quite colourful.

Stupidly, I got into a bit of a muddle with the Jacks. In handing over control of the bar, I confused Jack Daniel with Jack Russell, who has a reputation as something of a scrapper. Tom Collins must have thought I was barking (I can imagine his thank-you letter). Luckily, I sorted things out without too much damage. It turned out that Jack R was actually more interested in the Melba toast than in the booze. When someone tried to remove the toast rack, he was heard to shout, ‘Not on your Nellie!’ Then he sank his teeth into my ankle.

Meanwhile, Jack Tar had taken a nautical turn and gone off to seek a tarpaulin (he said it was in his genes), while Jacky Howe, our local sheep-shearer (though he comes from Australia), was accused by someone of being a wife-beater. Fortunately, Jack Robinson, not always the quickest man around, suggested it was time to eat, and all the Jacks moved off for a John Dory and a few fillets of Bessie Braddock, supplied by my Cockney fishmonger.

It was getting late, but people were still arriving. They’d come from all over, and some had had difficult journeys. The airports were scarcely operating, it seemed. Martin Marauder and Enola Gay had both had a terrible time with JFK and then Charles de Gaulle. Miss Veedol and Piccadilly Lilly had fared little better with John Lennon.

The trains were chaos too. After two cancellations, the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe said he had been obliged to travel with Oliver Cromwell. Luckily, old Edgcumbe had left his Cavalier King Charles at home. Colonel Bogey may have envied him: he missed his train and had to come on foot – a pity, since John Deere could have given him a lift.

The ladies had evidently suffered less. Violet Copper and Holly Blue, although both prone to fluttering, looked lovely. Nelly Moser is inclined to cling rather annoyingly, but Alice Fisk is a star, Barbara Jackman looked well and Miss Bateman was keeping the little group in order. In the other room, some foreign friends were having a good time. Frau Dagmar Hastrup was getting on well with Josephine Bruce and Papa Meilland (almost puce – does he overdo the port?), while Sarah van Fleet, always a bit prickly, looked on.

I realised I should stir things up. I introduced the dashing Tam o’ Shanter to Mrs Lovell Swisher, but I fear she was too upright for him. David Brown (didn’t he do well in the Bond films?) was probably not quite right for Lady Hillingdon (rather slack in the neck). And perhaps it was a mistake to think that Mickey Finn would be amusing for Mrs Sinkins: her divine scent makes her more suitable for a ‘nose’ than a ‘throat’.

The biggest boo-boo, though, was with Mae West and John Innes. I thought these opposites might attract. But they didn’t – not each other, anyway.