WHEN it comes to seeing showbiz legends, I’m on a bit of a roll.
I hope to reveal more in next week’s blog but in the meantime I can exclusively reveal that last Friday evening I saw one of the absolute icons of showbusiness.
Yes, Jimmy Cricket.
No really, I did.
And there’s more.
(Did you see what I did there?)
The Irish comedian and his wife, who he refers to as Mrs Cricket but is a performer in her own right, a singer with the stage name May Marion, were the guest stars at the party of the year.
Well, it has to be, it’s the only party I’ve been to since lockdown ended.
Yes, I received a golden ticket to the 60th birthday party of tax accountant Tim Parr.
Tim and his wife Claire jointly celebrated their milestone birthdays with a dinner at The Bradford Club.
The historic venue stands resplendent in Piece Hall Yard in the West Yorkshire city with a Union Jack flag hanging over the grand entrance and a bookmakers shop to the left of it.
Visitors ascend a curved staircase passing busts of Gladstone and Cobden.
If they ever decide to sculpt the bonces of modern day politicians like Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Gavin Williamson will they call them busts…or tits?
After climbing the staircase, which is a bit like the one from 10 Downing Street, you arrive in the bar which is where we were warmly welcomed by the Parrs.
Tim, resplendent in a shimmering new dinner jacket, is a successful accountant at RSM in Leeds advising successful business people on their tax affairs.
I assumed that I had been invited because he must enjoy my company as I’m a dead loss to him as a potential client.
We chatted to fellow guests who included family, old friends, clients and colleagues before Tim’s son Joe, the master of ceremonies for the evening, announced dinner.
It was nice to bump into my old colleague from TheBusinessDesk.com, Lee-J Walker and his fiancee Zoe.
I’ll be helping celebrate their marriage tomorrow in rural North Yorkshire.
His tax talents aside, Tim is an enthusiastic bon viveur and also has been made a Papal Knight of the Catholic Church by none other than the man himself.
No, not Jimmy Cricket, the Pope.
We feasted on confit duck and fine wines during dinner as my excitement about the after dinner entertainment bubbled like fine champagne.
I asked a couple sitting opposite us who were probably aged in their thirties if they were equally excited about seeing Jimmy Cricket.
They said they’d never heard of him.
After dinner concluded with port and dessert wine and then digestifs were served including a piece de resistance sourced by Tim: ‘Grand Old Parr De Luxe Scotch Whisky’.
Well I had to have one.
The Grand Old Parr certainly heightened my enthusiasm for the evening’s entertainment.
When Jimmy Cricket arrived in the room he was wearing his famous black hat and tailcoat and a pair of wellies with ‘L’ and ‘R’ written in marker pen on the front.
Now, I always thought he wore the boot marked ‘L’ on his right foot and the ‘R’ on his left foot, but at last week’s event he was wearing them on the right feet (you know what I mean).
I’ve researched photographs of his old performances and I can confirm that this was definitely an oversight on his part.
Jimmy and Mrs Cricket – who helps with his props and sings several songs during the act – treated us to an hour-long performance of comedy and music.
At several points during the show I turned to my fiancee Harriet and said I liked one of his gags and planned to use it when I’m next hosting an event.
She rolled her eyes.
I blame the Grand Old Parr whisky for not being able to remember any of Jimmy’s gags.
Maybe it’s a good thing.
What was a really great thing was spending a wonderful evening meeting old friends and making new ones, enjoying nice conversations, eating and drinking really well and celebrating the birthdays of two lovely generous people.
And seeing Jimmy Cricket was the icing on the cake.
I NEVER met Ted Dexter, the former England cricket captain, or even saw him play cricket.
But when his death was announced last month it brought back a story my father told me about the player nicknamed Lord Ted.
After he retired from cricket Dexter started a PR company and was credited with helping create the Deloitte-sponsored forerunner to the ICC Player Rankings system.
He said at the time it was an attempt to prevent Geoffrey Boycott topping the averages!
My Mum and Dad met Dexter when they worked on the Junior World Cup of Golf at Portmarnock in Ireland.
The insurance company Commercial Union – do you remember their TV advert’s pay-off line? “We won’t make a drama out of a crisis” – sponsored the competition and my parents’ old journalistic friend Vic Head brokered the deal.
My Dad said he saw Ted Dexter, who was also working at the event, give a speech which he said was a masterpiece.
With his typical charm and panache, Dexter addressed competitors, coaches, sponsors and guests at a dinner on the eve of the tournament and my father said that in that speech he mentioned every individual in the room, which is a quite incredible feat.
WHO thought a day-trip to Stockport would prove a real treat?
I was already looking forward to meeting up with Carla Stockton-Jones, the UK managing director of bus and train group Stagecoach.
I first met Carla when we were both on the board of cancer charity Maggie’s Yorkshire.
She was then director of Home Service at Sky, in charge of the 3,000-plus team that put up dishes and installed broadband in homes around the UK.
She was headhunted to Stagecoach 18 months ago – its first ever female MD – and has brought her natural energy, innovation and management skills to what is a very traditional business.
When I arrived at the modern office block in Stockport town centre I was greeted by Carla and her colleague Janine Summers and it was lovely to hear what they have been up to during what has been a challenging time for many businesses and particularly those in the transport sector.
After our meeting I had arranged to catch up with a fellow former journalist, Michael Taylor, the former editorial director of business publisher Insider.
Michael is an engaging character and unlike most of us journalists, is intellectually and politically astute.
As we chatted outside a cafe he pointed out a sculpture which had been created out of thousands of pieces of recycled material.
The giant structure features the heads of all the leaders of the G7 nations and was created by online retailer Music Magpie and called Mount Recylemore (because it was inspired by Mount Rushmore in the USA where the heads of several US presidents have been carved in rocks).
As I marvelled at this incredible piece of artwork with such a serious message, several people walked out of the nearby office building and posed for a photograph in front of it.
Michael waved at a big man in the group.
It was Steve Oliver, chief executive of Music Magpie.
I’d met Steve once before at a dinner in Manchester and when Michael introduced us, he kindly said he remembered the occasion.
He said that he had just come out of the first board meeting he had had face-to-face with his fellow directors in 18 months and they had decided they should get a photo in front of Mount Recyclemore.
He invited us into the office, where Music Magpie are neighbours of Stagecoach and as we sat around the boardroom table his PA offered us a “bottle of pop” to help us cool down on what was a scorching day..
Steve founded the online business, which buys and sells CDs, DVDs, books, computer games and consoles and mobile phones in his garage and it now is listed on the London Stock Exchange and has sales of more than £190m and over 1,000 staff.
“I’ve just given David a tour of the highlights of Stockport,” Michael told Steve proudly.
“What did you see?” Steve asked me.
I proudly told him I’d seen the viaduct which is the largest brick built structure in Europe.
“But how many bricks did it take to build it?” he asked.
I admitted defeat and said I didn’t know.
Apparently it was 11.2m.
I told Steve I thought Mount Recylemore was a brilliant idea and he said when they had unveiled it on a beach at the G7 Summit this summer in Carbis Bay in Cornwall, it had garnered international media attention, featuring on the nightly TV shows fronted in the US by Jimmy Fallon and James Corden.
When Michael had taken me around the old town of Stockport, once a centre of hat making, I marvelled at the old buildings, the picturesque market and square and quirky, independent shops.
We approached a card and gift shop and a lady outside smiled.
“Hey look, it’s the Two Ronnies!” she shouted to anyone who wanted to listen.
After a look around the shop we emerged into the sunlight and she pointed at me and exclaimed: “You’re a very nice looking young man.”
Before I had time to construct an answer, Michael responded: “It’s a while since anyone said that to him!”
Two ladies with head scarves sitting outside a nearby cafe sipping mugs of tea both nodded in agreement.
IMAGINE being invited to a party and the hosts weren’t there..
Given I wasn’t invited, I can only imagine what Channel 4’s “virtual launch event” was really like.
Perhaps they’d left a Post-it Note on the front door inviting guests to let themselves in and help themselves to the Ugandan Merlot and a plethora of Fair Trade canapes.
But the fact was the key people from the TV channel hosts hadn’t bothered to turn up.
They appeared on a live link, presumably from London.
Probably a bit like the way the broadcaster has embraced its enforced move out of London into the gloom of the provinces: it virtually works.
I’ve made my views known before about the only programme that Channel 4 currently broadcasts from Leeds.
That’s Steph’s Packed Lunch.
Not so much a banquet of intelligent conversation, more like a famine.
And if you think that my comments are driven by the fact I wasn’t invited to Monday evening’s shindig, I can categorically deny that.
I don’t like Ugandan Merlot.
I prefer the Chardonnay.
Have a great weekend.