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Sunday, July 19, 2009

RNA Conference Part 4

The Big Dinner

Consider me sartorially challenged if you will, but I always try to go out of my way at ‘official’ dos to look my best which often means looking slightly different from everyone else. By all accounts, the gala dinner was a pretty well-groomed affair – no jeans, thank you, but as long as you look smart you’re in, with the opportunity to dress up if you so choose.

However, I’d been wearing a shirt and tie during the daytime, so I wanted to go one better. That’s where the cravat came in. Yep, I’d ordered one especially and had been itching to put it on, so when the time arrived I was pretty pleased with my appearance: black suit trousers, black shoes (newly polished with the free polisher I discovered in my room), white shirt, burgundy cravat and my Writer’s Jacket ™, that comes with me for these exclusive occasions. Sue had also dressed to impress, splashing out on a gorgeous black sequinned dress, and I’m not just being biased when I say that you looked great, Sue! *blushes*

We’d learnt our lesson by this time and arrived early for the dinner, which meant we didn’t have to queue too long. Unfortunately, there was still some waiting involved, and we found out later that the chef had just chopped the end of her finger off and had been rushed to hospital. That’s dedication for you! This left the rest of the catering staff running around like headless chickens but nevertheless we were seated soon enough.

Sue and I opted for a four-seater table, and then we sat with baited breath, wondering who our dining companions would be for the evening. It turned out that they were Patricia Teggart and Sarah Lee, a pair of lovely ladies who couldn’t have been better company. Patricia writes stories targeted at People’s Friend and has a small obsession with Betty Neels, while Sarah’s a Kiwi who works as a cellular pathologist. Clearly she was the cleverest person at our table and had to field my boring questions about her day job (hey, I’ve never met a cellular pathologist before!).

Soon the conversation - and the wine - was flowing as the evening began proper. Put 130 people in a medium sized room with the windows shut and things start to heat up, so my gambit of sitting underneath a ceiling fan quickly paid off. By this time, the rest of the diners had arrived, and many of the ladies were wearing some very pretty dresses in order to make the most of the evening. I’ve also never seen so many high heels together in a single room!

Another word on the wine: this was a silver service meal, so our table opted for the Pinot Grigio. By God, it was gorgeous – the best wine I’ve tasted! Needless to say the first bottle had soon been drained of even the smallest drip and we were quickly unscrewing the second. I’d never had it so good (the start of things to come perchance?).

This was a three-course meal and soon we were tucking into the first course: mushroom soup. No straight-out-of-the-tin concoction this, oh no; this was a delicious, extremely edible soup packed with real mushrooms. Croutons, too, which is always a pleasure. I also had a particularly fine garlic-topped bread roll which went nicely with the soup. Sadly, the soup drained away before I’d even looked at it properly (I swear there was a hole in the bottom of the dish)!

Time for the main course: chicken roast. (I was under the impression that the chicken was supposed to be accompanied with a delicious red wine sauce?) I was slightly disappointed with the quality of the ingredients of this, but then that’s the danger when catering for so many. (Hmm...) Needless to say I finished it off quickly enough, just in time in fact for the stupendous dessert, which was actually a dish loaded with a selection of mini desserts: there was an Eton mess, along with a lemon slice, some treacle tart and something else I can’t remember the name of but which went down a treat. Good show!

Katie Fforde was on hand to deliver a well-deserved competition award, and then I checked my watch and was astonished to discover it was ten ‘o’ clock already. Where had the night gone? The diners started slipping away and it was only too clear where most people were going: the Gin Case, of course! Sue and I said our farewells to our fantastic dinner companions and headed over to the bar. Feeling somewhat shambolic, I had a half-bottle of Pinot Grigio slipped into an inside pocket so I had to make a hasty detour back to the accommodation as you can’t take your own alcohol into a place like that.

We ended up sitting at a table with some more simply fantastic people: namely, Pia and Henriette. I discovered a shared passion for historical romance and the rest of the evening simply flew by. So much so, in fact, that by the time our companions left it was well on the way to becoming the next day and the bar’s shutters were coming down. The game of pool that Sue and I had been planning on? Well, never mind, it wouldn't have been much of an alternative when compared to the wonderful conversations we’d been having. By this time it was tipping it down, so Sue and I headed home and were soon out like a light.

To be continued...

Catch up on earlier RNA Conference posts here:
Part 1
Part 2

Part 3