Friday, 25 January 2019

Paddy Fermor Talk

With the Hon Artemis Cooper, Lady Beevor

The Bank Buildings in Belfast city centre remains a disaster zone. Such a pity.

Yesterday the contractor was working away, shifting blocks of stone from the top of the burnt-out building to the ground.

The interior is a complete mess of collapsed debris.

There's a kind of tunnel, which skirts the immediate vicinity of the building, that I passed though en route to the Ulster Reform Club, Royal Avenue, where I'd been invited for a lunch and talk by Artemis Cooper, Lady Beevor.

Her topic was none other than the extraordinary Sir Patrick  (Paddy) Leigh Fermor, DSO, OBE, adventurer, soldier, polyglot, and all-round good egg.

Having relieved myself of the heavy winter overcoat, scarf, gloves and umbrella in the cloakroom, I made my way to the old billiards-room on the third or fourth floor.

This room has a good prospect of building work at the adjacent Bank Buildings.

Only the Tesco Metro (formerly a bank) stands between the Club and Bank Buildings.

There were ten of us yesterday. The room, however, was full with other tables and parties of guests.

We had a large, circular table at the window nearest to the Bank Buildings, and we could hear constant beeping from tractors and machinery reversing within the disaster zone outside.

We were all guests of Ken Belshaw, who also happens to be the honorary consul of Hungary.

Ken follows the blog.

I was seated beside a medical doctor from Garvagh. We had a very good chin-wag about this and that during the meal, including the distinguished naval sub-mariner Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Hezlet.

Of course I've written about Garvagh House and the Cannings.

I also chatted at length to a retired detective, who sat to my right.

I happen to know, or be acquainted with, a number of former or retired police officers in the Province.

Rodney Hermon's father was Chief Constable of the RUC, and I recounted my memories of him arriving at Ormiston about 1974 in an Austin Cambridge or Morris Oxford driven by his father, a Superintendent or Chief Superintendent at the time.

Robin Gouk, QPM, was also in my year at Campbell.

We enjoyed sirloin steak, vegetables, apple tart and cream, wine and convivial company.

Artemis Cooper's father was John Julius Norwich (2nd Viscount), and when I met her after the talk, I told her that I recalled her father as a panellist on the BBC series Face The Music in the 1970s.

I've no idea why the BBC doesn't revive it. It had a dummy keyboard and panellists had to guess what piece was being played.

I must have confused her father with somebody else, or so she believed.

Was John Julius Norwich ever a guest on Face the Music?

After luncheon some of us ambled into the Members' Bar, which was packed!

We had a few more drinks (I stuck to port), and the arcane licensing laws obliged us all to vacate the room at five o'clock.

I'm returning to the Club in about a week's time for the annual Brackenber dinner.

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