Start at the bottom: Despite his angling, Neil Start fails to net an introduction to royalty

Friday: Dinner last night was supposedly my big chance to hook an introduction to Prince William, persuade him to be patron of GAG - the Goldfish Action Group - and wow my boss. This is one of the classic 'strategies for success' outlined in How to Get on in the Charity World by Simon Blabb - which is, in the absence of any other distraction, my current bed-time reading.

The first problem was that the aforementioned boss - Clare, our head of policy - insisted on coming 'as my date' to the dinner, given by my only posh friend (and ex), the Hon Candida. Candy remarked sotto voce as she showed me the new extension she and Giles had designed together to keep the spark in their marriage alight, that she'd known I was attracted to older women ever since the occasion when I took her to a Mary Warnock lecture.

I remembered instantly why we'd split up, but evidently I still had my uses. Like cooking the dinner in the basement kitchen while Candy, Giles, Clare and the rest of the party were getting on famously upstairs. When we finally got seated, I was at least next to Jeremy Anstruther-Bantock, who, according to the papers, plays polo with William.

Jabber, as he is known to his friends, asked what I was doing with myself, in a tone that suggested working was pretty low on the list of possibilities.

Now, I've told a few friends about GAG and how I'm not there for the cause but for the experience, but with Clare sitting on the other side of the table - admittedly wearing a somewhat glazed look - such revelations wouldn't exactly have been diplomatic. So I went along with the whole GAG bit, and the evening became a sort of ad hoc underwater Royal Variety Performance.

By the time I was serving the prune and Angostura bitters fool - there wasn't much else by way of ingredients in the kitchen - everyone else was busy running round the room doing goldfish impressions, jokes and tangos. And by everyone I mean everyone, including Clare - who, it suddenly became apparent, was either drunk or drugged or both.

After we had beaten a hasty retreat from Jabber's efforts to adapt the birdie dance to goldfish, in the taxi Clare was unable even to recall the name of her street and kept urging me to take her back to mine. In despair, I gave the taxi driver Anka's address. Luckily, our Latvian receptionist was still up practising her flower arranging.

Unlike Candy, though, she seemed perfectly capable of managing Clare without my help. She soon had her tucked up on the sofa under a begonia blanket and was showing me out. I tried to delay the moment by talking about the new version of the charity's Funeral Rites for a Goldfish handbook I'm editing, but she was having none of it. So I left to walk home, feeling a complete failure.

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