Stationers' "Sherlock Holmes" Livery Banquet

Monday 27th February 2017

The Livery Committee of the WC Stationers and Newspaper Makers (founded 1403) decided a few years ago that their February Livery Banquet would change from the usual/traditional format to something a little different.. As the Company represents publishers and printing, they use each year as an opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of a famous author and theme the dinnner around that. They've already done Shakespeare and Pepys amongst others, and this year it was the turn of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his most enduring creation Sherlock Holmes. Guests are encouraged to make a gesture towards the theme in their attire, so a nod to the 19th Century or a full-blown costume was equally placed. The Mistress and I erred on the side of caution, Camilla had an ostrich fan, and I used pipe cufflinks and a fob watch with a long chain. Arriving in time for the champagne reception, I took advantage of the lovely courtyard garden for a quick cigar and then joined what was by then a very merry throng. I immediately bumped into "Professor Moriarty" and "The Red Headed League", and then to my delight, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" hove into sight! We were soon gavelled into the dining room which had named and themed tables laid with all sorts of accessories - poison, a 7% cocaine solution, a magnifying glass etc. etc. The menus alone were a work of art and we dined handsomely off "Mrs Hudson's Smoked Haddock; Hurlstone Manor Ballitine of Guinea Fowl; and Sussex Beekeeper's Honey Delight", all washed down with excellent clarets and sauternes. Between each course, the lights dimmed and a spot light to the corner illuminated the imposing presence of Robert Lloyd Parry, a larger than life character, who narrated pertinent excerpts from The Dying Detective with great flair. His performance was enhanced by Matt Redman on the piano who added suitable Victorian atmosphere at key moments - it was really quite gripping. After dessert, Patricia Hammond, a fine lyric soprano, entertained us with a couple of favourite parlour songs, before a game of "Heads and Tails" - a knock out game based on your knowledge of Sherlock Holmes - despite being members of The Sherlock Holmes Society of London, the Mistress was out first go and I the second!! The lucky winners received magnums for their skills. We then unfurled song sheets on the table and joined Patricia for several rousing music hall favourites.. despite having the fag-end of cold I joined in lustily! Then Master Ian Bennett wound up the proceedings and invited us to a stirrup cup. The game had certainly been afoot and we both had a really wonderful evening - thank you Stationers' All, it was great fun.