David Parkin on dream and nightmare lockdown dinner parties

MY idea for a fantasy dinner party based on the “rule of six” where you are allowed to invite five guests, living or dead, has had a huge response.

OK, two people have bothered to send their suggestions.

Food entrepreneur Mike Firth said the topic and title of his dinner party would be: “What the hell?”

He said the guests would be:

Harry and Meghan.

Ex-President Donald Trump and Melania.

Bill and Hilary Clinton.

I wondered what the thinking was behind inviting those particular guests?

Mike replied: “Well, I like an early night!”

Given he sent this list about 10 days before this week’s Presidential Election, I’m not sure whether putting “ex” in front of the Donald’s name was a sign of Mike’s prescient wisdom or just cheerful optimism.

Then came an email from humorous wordsmith Dave Robbins.

“Hope this email finds you in good spirits despite the world of Covid gloom we currently inhabit.

“Great idea to have a dinner party.

“To be honest David, you would have been on my list – top of in fact. But then as you’d out dress the lot of us, I didn’t want to look shabby in comparison.”

Dave’s not daft, he knew he’d get a mention just for the comment above alone.

I better not tell him I’m writing this in my dressing gown and pyjamas. I can’t even find my paisley cravat.

No dear, I said cravat.

Outlining his choice of guests, Dave explained: “I’m afraid my list might be somewhat obscure in places, but you did ask.

“I opted for three female guests to make things even and have tried to cover my two main loves in life – performing arts and sport. To make up for not inviting you, I’ve put in a replacement writer. And there’s some family history in there too. Thought it best to avoid politics and religion.”

Lucy Kellaway

Former management columnist on the Financial Times, Lucy Kellaway changed careers in her 50s and is now a Maths teacher at a London secondary school. Why Lucy? I read her for many years and so often agreed with her common sense approach. She’s funny and her writing encourages you to want to start a conversation. And I want to know how you can be a great writer and do sums. But there is a bigger fish to fry here; following the break-up of her marriage she started on-line dating. Her biggest ‘no, no’? Middle aged men in Lycra. How can this be? Time to either change her opinion – or in my case, probably confirm it.

Heloiise Adelaide Lettissier

“Who?” I probably am hearing you cry. For everyone’s benefit, Heloiise is better known as Chris of ‘Christine and the Queens’ an avant garde French musical combo. In the first instance I love her music, I love her use of dance and, having seen her interviewed a few times, she comes across as arty, intelligent and charming. And, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to have her beautiful French accent floating around the dinner table? She does, of course, speak perfect English. Mind you, she might not like my choice of wine.

Beryl Burton

Time to bring a bit of Yorkshire grit and determination to the table. Beryl should need no further introduction. Born in Leeds, she’s one of our greatest sporting stars. Seven times world cycling champion on both road and track, in 1967 she won the National 12-hour championship beating not just the women, but the men. At the time, her achievements went largely unnoticed by the media. 100% amateur – she was coached by her husband Charlie – she supplemented her income by working at a rhubarb farm in Morley.

Neil Hannon

The man behind the indie music band, ‘The Divine Comedy’. Born in Northern Ireland, he’s the son of a Church of England minister. For two decades his songs, which can be witty or romantic or satirically scathing, have been a favourite of mine. He flies perfectly under the radar of fame, whilst being astonishingly brilliant. I met him once – in the bogs at Ripon Cathedral. But that story is for another day. I reckon he’ll have a fund of great stories further enhanced by his Ulster accent. I might even persuade him to play our piano after the cheese and port.

Second Lieutenant George Robbins (West Yorkshire Regiment att. to The Machine Gun Corp

Am I allowed family members? If so, I’d like my Great Uncle George. He died of his wounds on the Western Front in May 1918 aged 21. Without his wise counsel I wouldn’t be here. On his last leave home he exhorted his younger brother Tom (my grandfather) that when it was his turn to join-up, to apply for the Navy, because the Western Front was “bloody hell”.  Tom did; he survived and the rest, as they say, is history. Quite simply, I’d like to say “thanks”. Also he was a nice looking guy, so it would be good to prove that not all Robbins are as ugly as me.

That is certainly a thoughtful choice and an eclectic group.

Thanks Dave.


I agree with Dave’s thoughts on Neil Hannon’s sharp wit.

I’m a fan of The Divine Comedy’s song National Express.

It includes some lovely lines like this: ‘Take the National Express when your life’s in a mess. It’ll make you smile.”

And this one: “On the National Express there’s a jolly hostess. Selling crisps and tea.

“She’ll provide you with drinks and theatrical winks. For a sky-high fee.”

I don’t know whether it contributed to a spike in coach bookings after its release in 1998, but it deserved to.

If you want more, watch below


IN a recent blog I quoted one American political commentator, who, when asked about Donald Trump’s argumentative approach to the first Presidential debate with rival Joe Biden, came out with a pithy comment about it being like playing chess with a pigeon.

Having looked up the full quote, I think it also applies to Donald Trump’s current approach:

“Arguing with an idiot is like playing chess with a pigeon. It’ll just knock over all the pieces, sh*t on the board, and strut about like it’s won anyway.”


IS it me or have we seen a lot of celebrities pass away recently?

The first James Bond and the one many consider the best 007, Sir Sean Connery, died last weekend at the age of 90.

Gifted comedian, actor and mimic John Sessions is gone at the far too early age of 67.

Writer Craig Brown described him as a “human jukebox” with a host of jokes and stories to impart.

He’d be one for the fantasy dinner party.

He was hilarious playing Keith Richards opposite Phil Cornwell as Mick Jagger running a local corner shop in oddball TV comedy show Stella Street.

I turned on BBC Breakfast early last Sunday morning and they had a tribute piece to Sean Connery with live interviews with his fellow Scottish actor Brian Cox and Valerie Leon, who played a Bond girl alongside not just Connery but Roger Moore as well.

Brian Cox was in New York where it was gone two in the morning but he had stayed up to pay tribute to the acting giant, who he clearly had great reverence for.

Valerie Leon was in The Spy Who Loved Me with Roger Moore and also Sean Connery’s return as 007 in Never Say Never Again in 1983.

But I thought her greatest role was as Bernard Bresslaw’s fiancee in Carry On Girls.

Have a great weekend.

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