The Life Of Brian Blog!
Elizabethan Banquet at the R.A Schools.
For the last day of my three years at the Royal Academy Schools in Piccadilly I organised an Elizabethan Banquet which sounds grand but there are only 15 students in each year. The school gave permission to use the student canteen. The floor was protected with plastic sheeting on which bracken I'd collected around Guildford where I was living, was liberally scattered. A long trestle table placed down the centre was covered with hessian on which were placed wooden bowls full of sand to take candles. I made menus detailing the eight courses including Suckling Pig and syllabub. Menus were of hand made paper dipped in tea, for an aged look, burnt at the edges and tied with ribbon. I hired costumes from a theatrical agency and had suitable hats made. I charged everyone a modest amount but couldn't afford live musicians so bought records of suitable music.
The evening was a great success, unfortunately we threw a large amount of red wine at each other, as art students do during a banquet! The result was having to have the costumes dry cleaned , with limited success. The hats seemed to have escaped too much damage so I gave them to the hire company as some sort of recompense.
The outside caterer was impressed with my organisation and offered me a job! "I'm an artist, it's the last day of my education and next week I shall be approaching the galleries in Cork Street to start my career as a world famous artist! Two weeks later I was working for her!
I still have a few wine stained photos 51 years on!
Some years back I went into the restaurant at the RA, which by then included the old student canteen, it had become quite smart, and the catering was run by Mustard Catering, a company employed on many occasions by Party Organisers Ltd for whom I went on to work ...... of which more, in another story!
I drank the Queen Mother's Martini !
One of the contracts the outside caterer had was to provide food, drink and staff for charity parties at St Jame's Palace. On occasions it was my job to make the Queen Mothers Martini before she went to a main room to greet the public.
She liked her Martini just so. I was stationed in a small anti room, oak panelled to the dado rail with William Morris wallpaper to the cornice. There was just me, a small table, a bottle of Gordons gin, a bottle of dry martini, a bucket of ice, lemon, silver tray, white cloth and a cocktail shaker, that was it. No sink not even a pot plant ! A member of the household would pop his head round the door and say "she's on her way".
The "just so" meant that she liked two thirds gin, one third dry martini, a twist of lemon and ice added just before she drank it. I added the ice just before I thought she was arriving, she did not like it to melt and dilute the strength of the drink. On a couple of occasions I was told she had been delayed, I watched as the ice melted! I could of poured it into the ice bucket, being a young blood I thought that a waste! So down the hatch, wipe the glass and wait for the next call, on one occasion she was delayed twice! I stood to attention, silver tray on my right hand with the martini centred, white cloth on my forearm. She'd been told my name and always said "nice Martini Brian"
Some of the more frustrating tales I’ll tell later, but to start with - an amusing one! A friend’s son needed some work during his summer break from college and I asked if he would paint the outside of the building. Naturally I asked if he had ever painted a building before, he said he hadn’t , so I asked if he was right or left handed, as you do, he said ,”Right,” I said,”Go to the far right end of the building & put the ladder in one arm’s length, from the end and paint to the ladder.
Having done that, move the ladder another arms length and paint to the ladder again.” When he’d done the top part of the wall, I told him to take the ladder away and paint the lower part of the building. The walls are rendered, kicking out about two feet above ground to brick work and I’d left instructions that I didn’t want paint on the brick work.
After twenty minutes I went to check! My painter, when I’d first left him, was a black haired young man, so I was somewhat surprised to find his hair yellow, I forgot to mention I was having the building painted yellow so perhaps I’ve only myself to blame! He also had paint dripping from both elbows. What he’d done was to paint to the ladder with his right hand & instead of moving the ladder he’d swapped the brush to his left hand and painted away from it, realising he could not put the ladder against the wet paint he’d moved the ladder one arms length from the wet paint and painted to the ladder again but promptly forgotten what he’d just done and again swapped the brush to his left hand, leaving a striped effect!
I suggested that the task was beyond him, and, to give him his due he said it was! I said I’d do it myself but would he please go to the builders’ merchant and get some more paint. I’d be out by the time he got back so put the change & the invoice through the letterbox and the paint around the side of the building. Having placed the two 5 litre cans in the boot of his car he set off for Bees Hall. He was driving along and overtook a parked car and had to swerve in suddenly to avoid an oncoming car.
Shortly after this he wondered why there was a yellow line following him down the middle of the road! Realising that the tins must have fallen over, the lids come off & that the paint was dribbling out he pulled into a side road and tried to scoop up the paint with his hands back into the tins! This was not a success! I came home to find the invoice & change covered in yellow paint pushed into the letter box .Two empty tins with a small residue of paint were around the side of the building in a black bin liner. He had then gone home, hands, steering wheel and gear stick covered in paint, and as he started to wash out the paint from the boot with a hosepipe, he fused the electrics!
The next day the car was seen outside his house with the word FREE printed on the windscreen!