In fun and exciting news, I have been chosen to beg the local florist for a raffle prize for the Branch Dinner. My mother kept them in business for some years, sending flowers all over the country to decades of friends, and I myself spent a good thirty quid more than she was worth on my ex there.
That’s why it has to be me. They love me at the florists, because my people are prone to memory and romance.
In a time before me, the Club stood silently on the night of the Branch Dinner. This was entirely due to the fact that the Branch Dinner used to take place at a nearby restaurant.
The Branchmen and their medals appeared down the road with their wives and raffle prizes looted from pantries across the locale, and had a fine old time with candlelight and matching tablecloths.
Nothing to do with me, Club and Branch started communicating more effectively, and the Dinner settled at the Clubhouse.
More local, we provide an appropriate stagger distance between Legion and home for most, and it’s good for the Club profits; multiples of wine bottles get a good toasting at the Dinner.
After some years of falling apart and getting stuck together with layers of paint, we were fundraising for the new roof, when the Dinner ditched the restaurant and came to slum it with us.
There are, among the usual Saturday Nighters, a small collective who despise the Branch Dinner.
Part of the reason they enjoy the Club on a Saturday is because they’re guaranteed a quiet drink. It’s as if a bar has appeared in their own living room.
No-one else bothers on a Saturday. With the Dinner, suddenly and rather rudely, sixty-something members who we won’t see for the rest of the year, arrive and show off their knowledge of cutlery – they know which fork to start with, and then complete the picture of thoughtless elegance by seasoning everything that doesn’t walk away before the correct fork reaches the mouth.
Last time we had the Dinner, we had a huge selection of raffle prizes; too many, perhaps. The more prizes you have, the longer it takes to get through the draw and the further away pudding seems to be.
We had a very proactive Committeeman who had asked every business within a forty mile radius for a prize. He was charming, and madly successful.
Damnit. Pudding had to wait and the custard congealed.
One prize had everybody talking. A local gardening firm, run by a committeeman, had pledged a hedge trimming. This had come to us through said committeeman, who took a lot of probably good-natured ribbing for his generous character. A hedge voucher, they told him, could be won by a local property developer, with five clear miles of hedge and a thirst for some trimming.
The property developer smiled. I’m sure he wouldn’t really have held the gardening firm to their word, however, he did buy an entire block of tickets.
By the time we got to the hedge prize, the gardener had modified his wording. Rather than a free trimming, it was now £35 off a hedge trimming. Naturally, he didn’t tell anyone for fear of looking cheap. He merely wandered over and surreptitiously changed the envelope on the prize table.
Labouring under the delusion of free work, the prize was won, and regrettably returned by not one, but two winners, both of whom had fencing but no hedges.
An auction ensued. A bidding war. Between my Chairman, fond beyond words of a bidding war and a little good-natured ribbing, and one of my Movie Nighters, egged on by her daughter, who made jokes about her bush needing attention.
In any case, the money went to charity, and the now-relaxed gardener had employed the winner’s grandson to help with the unpicking and trimming the evergreen wall.
It was at that Dinner, that my dear friend and voluntary granddad, Ivor, told the assembly about Movie Night.
They might have had weekly emails for a few years. They might have seen me wandering the verdant lanes, with leaflets in a logo-encrusted t-shirt.
Equally, they might not have taken me seriously, except that Ivor did. And so they listened. I just wish I’d been there to see it.
For indeed, when Ivor told them all about Movie Night and the money and profile we had raised, the members we had created, the women who had appeared as if from out of the walls, they were impressed, and he encouraged the room to stand and raise a glass to me. They turned to the bar, toasted my name, and I was outside having a cigarette.
This seems to be a pattern. So often, I miss the moments when I am deserving of a pat on the back, but I’m right there front and centre when somebody needs to go and jostle for a raffle prize.
And so, I am charged with collecting a bouquet which cannot be changed midway through the meal.
Nine days later, the builders begin work on the new toilets, and we’ll have porta-potties at Movie Night.