Tuesday, 8 August 2017

WHO'S WHO?

Here's a puzzle for you: this photo is from a time when I was something of a mover and shaker – whereas, nowadays, I can scarcely move and, were I to shake, bits of me would probably fall off! Anyway, who are my luncheon companions? One's easy, the other a little more difficult.

Answer (with anecdote) below...


Not sure of the year (sometime early-1980s); the place: The Dorchester hotel; the event: The Society of Authors/Pye Radio Awards lunch.

I was Chair of the SOA Broadcasting Committee and (being also Chair of the Judges) had written the script for the MC of the ceremony, the noted British TV broadcaster, Mr (later Sir) Robin Day. I rehearsed Day during in the morning and he was characteristically brusque bordering on bloody rude.

The guest of honour was Princess Alexander and I was seated on the top table between HRH's husband, the Hon. Angus Ogilvy (he was still to be knighted at that point), and Aubrey Singer, then Managing Director of Radio at the BBC.

Robin Day had been seated towards the end of the table nearest to the podium he would use for the ceremony. Shortly before lunch, Day, was looking for his seat and was disgruntled to find where he had been placed. "I'll sit here," he announced, "next to Angus, we've known each other for years." Then picking up my place card, he said: "I'll change places with this chap Sibley; who's he anyway?"

"He's me," I replied, "we've been working together all morning."

"Well, you can change places, can't you?"

Before I could answer the boss of Pye stepped in and explained that that was NOT possible: Royal protocol meant that members of the Royal Family were briefed on who they would be sitting next to and those arrangements could not then be altered.

"Nonsense!" said Day. "Angus doesn't need briefing about ME!"

But Mr Pye was not for turning, so the frustrated Day picked up Aubrey Singer's name card and swapped it for his own. "Very well, then Singer will have to sit down the end!" And MD of Radio or not, so he did!

This photo was taken just as Robin Day leaned across me and said: "Something I've always wanted to know, Angus: what honour did the Queen offer you when you married the Princess? You've never revealed what it was or why you turned it down."

As Ogilvy was wondering what to reply (it was an Earldom he had rejected, by the way) , the Toastmaster called everyone to their feet for the National Anthem. As we rose, Angus Ogilvy whispered to me: "Saved by a Toastmaster!"