AITS Tobacco Trade Lunch, Lords Cricket Grounds

Tuesday 6th June 2017

Readers with keen memories may recall I attended this lunch last year to present the prize and wonder why I'm here again before my year is over.. It seems the booking had to be made for an earlier date and so, whilst this is usually one of the first post-Iron Bridge functions the Master performs, our Senior Warden Ralph Edmondson was given a taste of things to come as he dined at top table with the Guest Speaker, Alexander Armstrong, and also presented the prize for Best Tobacconist of the Year – I was very content (still with a chest cold) to sit on the Livery table and take a back seat. It had been teeming with rain all morning and, as I planned to drink very little on account of the cold, we drove to St. John’s Wood and were able to bag a space within the grounds – pays to be a little cheeky sometimes! The Harris Garden, scene of so many great champagne cigar receptions, was forlorn and silent as the wind gusted around us. We found a few hardy types – including Alexander, and David Lewis, puffing away on large cigars but with nothing to drink. Ditching our coats, the Mistress and I found a water machine, pinched some plastic cups and had four filled in the Long Bar which was packed with non-smoking smokers – back outside we gave Alexander and David a welcome glass and enjoyed a few pleasant minutes (with many interruptions for autographs and selfies for Alexander) before Roger Merton, one of the key organisers, announced it was time to drink up and find tables for lunch. Roger, Alexander and Ralph were announced and applauded in to our splendid Long Room venue and we settled to dine. We had members of the Livery spread over several tables which was good, and on ours Colin Ritchie stood a bottle of claret which did us very well. We enjoyed asparagus with poached egg; fillet of beef and a curious coconut mousse upon which the jury’s still out. With that dispatched, we had a 15 minute smoking break and I was very pleased to have a few minutes with Jemma Freeman and her team from Hunter Frankau and others of our Livery including Derek Harris and Tony Scanlon. On returning we found coffee and chocs awaited and then the Master of Ceremonies announced that... it was Sally Brookes (soon-to-be next years Mistress, and Roger Mertons daughter) birthday, much to her horror we then sang to her and she was presented with a cupcake! The MC next announced Alexander Armstrong and we enjoyed about 20 mins of anecdotes before he concluded with a short round of Pointless - not something I’ve ever seen, so had no idea how it worked! Ralph was summoned to assist and it was him v. the Room for a bottle of warm fizz – he lost, just! With that all done, we had the raffle (last year I won a humidor of cigars) but my number didn’t come up so the AITS Chairman, Paresh Patel wound the proceedings up and we drove back home – now in lovely fresh sunshine – at about 4.15 in time for a welcome cup of tea!