Reception and Dinner in the Megarry Room
Catherine, Claire, Sarah and Neesha had organised a splendid event – and what a shame that so few turned up. However, with just 50 of us there, the Dinner was held in the Megarry Room, tables all tastefully laid up and decorated with roses and candelabra. The room was perfect for the occasion and quickly filled with the buzz of conversation.
We were greeted at the Porters Lodge and enjoyed drinks and canapés beforehand served by an army of white-coated staff from outside caterers, Stuarts of Pulborough. John Hall was busy moving around taking pictures as usual.
Dinner is served
Eventually the Headmaster welcomed us all formally - and invited us to take our seats. Father Richard Harrison gave us an appropriate Grace.
The food was both unusual and excellent. Starter was a smoked fish salad. The main course might best be described as ‘Beef with Beef’ – fine fillet steak and vegetables accompanied by a small pot of beef casserole. On our table there was much discussion of the sweet course. Eventually we decided it was ‘Mango Sorbet with Croutons’ (we were told later that the sorbet was accompanied by breadcrumbs, nuts, cream and pineapple sauce and with a caramel wafer). Cheese and Biscuits, accompanied by Apricots, Walnuts and Quince Jelly, followed – served artistically on slates.
Red and White wine (Le Versant from Pays d’Oc) and still or sparkling water was dispensed generously by our army of young waiters.
Things started well on our table as Ellen Broackes-Carter’s necklace of jet beads exploded. Some of us – including the Chairman of Governors’ wife - might have been spotted on her knees beneath the table searching for the beads. After a good start we could at least claim that ours might have been ‘the most entertaining table’.
Toasts and Speeches
Chairman Graham Robinson called us to order and Treasurer David Rice proposed the Loyal Toast. President Sir Tim Rice then welcomed us all, members and our guests – noting that Second’s House was particularly well represented. He welcomed the Headmaster and his wife, the Head Boy and Head Girl. He thanked Catherine, Claire and Neesha for all their efforts in setting up the evening and Graham Robinson for his long stint as the lynchpin of the Lancing Club. He then introduced our Guest of Honour – local MP Tim Loughton, who is a ‘current parent’ with a son in the Sixth Form.
Tim Loughton MP for East Worthing and Shoreham
Tim Loughton set out to amuse – which he did well - with a torrent of stories from his time in Parliament. There were letters from schoolchildren addressed to the Queen and to David Cameron - which end up on his desk as Minister for Children. Some of these were magnificent – along the lines of “our school dinners are awful” and “too much homework”. He recalled his predecessor in the Shoreham seat – Captain Henry Kirby – who was thought to have spoken only once in the Commons (his maiden speech being more about South American railways than the joys of his constituency).
The main emphasis of his speech was on Education. Britain’s children have fallen way behind others in Europe and worldwide. GCSE results have been inflated by the inclusion of ‘equivalents’ in curious subjects and there has been a regression in the 3Rs. Hong Kong students are reported to be ‘two years ahead’ of our own at school. Last year 159 schools had failed to enter a single student for GCSE History. A huge gap has opened up between the wealthier and poorer areas of the country in educational attainment. Children are arriving at primary school completely unprepared for it. In Sweden and Finland children start school at 7 or 8 – and they have overtaken children in the UK within 18 months. One in five ‘learn nothing at secondary school’. Behaviour Management is critical: there are tales of boys aged 4 being expelled from nursery for appalling behaviour, of ’14,000 pupils sent home for alcohol and drug-related problems’ and of ‘rehab’ programs for children addicted to television, computer games and the internet.
Tim told us of a stunt he had done for Channel 4 – spending a week in a flat on the 9th floor of a tower block. His host family had no table: there was no food in the flat. They spent more on the cat than on the kids. They spent more on the dogs than on themselves. There are 200,000 such families in the UK – so the current aim of government is first to get the economy back on track and then to get these disfunctional families back on track.
He finished with a few light-hearted remarks on Europe – quoting from ‘Advice to US Travellers to France’. He told us that he had been coming to Lancing for 14 years to meet sixth-formers - but this was the last year he would be coming to Lancing as a parent.
Thanks and Future Events
Chairman Graham Robinson thanked Tim for his interesting and entertaining speech and presented him with a pair of Lancing socks – which he hoped would not upset the Speaker in the House of Commons too much.
Future Events include ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ at Lancing with a Gala Performance on 15th November, the Carol Service at Chelsea Old Church (followed by a knees-up at the Cross Keys next door), Bicentenary Concert in March with a performance of the piece of music commissioned by the College and funded by the Club from the late David Bedford, OL and the Spring Reception at the House of Lords in May.
Immediately after Dinner we all moved outside for a firework display from the field outside Teme House. It was a surprisingly warm and still evening: the display was magnificent and the noise of fireworks reverberating from the chapel windows added to the occasion.
Altogether this was a splendid occasion – You should have been there.