The Croatian Hand Model’s idea of philanthropic support was forcing you to go out for dinner with her. “You need to have a relaxing evening when you can just be yourself”, she’d say. “With me”, she meant. “At the weekend”, she meant. At Nobu.
Now, I’m not opposed to eating Black Cod and drinking high-grade sake on someone else’s pay cheque (or inheritance cheque, more like) but there are limits to what I consider philanthropy and what I consider a good time.
But I obviously hadn’t managed to convey these philosophies to The Croatian Hand Model in time for her to announce that she would like to take The Orchestra out for dinner in their entirety. All of them.
I was going to need a couple of drinks on the way there.
Now, orchestral musicians are amongst my dearest friends but they have an occasional tendency to be clockwatching jobsworths. The likelihood of me managing to get all of them to attend a dinner with a donor and to not send me an invoice for their time was very low indeed. Even if it was at Nobu and even if ‘bottomless sake’ was part of the offer.
Painful negotiations ensued with both The Orchestra (a ‘voluntary’ protocol was adopted with a ‘bring a plus one if you must’ accompaniment) and The Croatian Hand Model’s office. “She really doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t want to come”, they’d say. “She only wants to give them an opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company”. They actually just want to go home and cultivate their resentments, I thought.
Nobu was, of course, past its prime by this point. They still insisted on shouting at you, in unison, on your arrival. But the days of ogling sozzled young bankers or Julia Roberts at the next table were long since past. And, indeed, the likelihood of getting a group booking for 100 (and a hundred orchestral musicians who would insist on arriving with their instrument cases and looking like extras from a movie about refugees at that) would have been very low indeed in the good old days.
I’d (after having had a couple of drinks on the way there) bought some flowers to thank our host for her generosity. I huddled in the corner with Her Assistant and The Orchestra Chairman to discuss how they would be presented as part of a formal vote of thanks on behalf of everyone who had been dragged here to pay homage in their spare time. “I don’t think those flowers are entirely appropriate”, said Her Assistant. “Excuse me?” I said. “They’re not the sorts of colours that she favours”, was the response. Seriously.
We decided, therefore, to run with a line that said words to the effect of “How can we thank you enough – words, flowers and presents could not convey….”. Or some such bullshit. The flowers were in the bin by this point.
I had one of the waiters on the nod to keep me topped up and dinner managed to pass off without significant chopstick-related incident. I wasn’t, on this occasion, invited to sit with The Hostess. She was much more interested in being ‘at one with the musicians’ this evening. Or it was the flowers.
The party adjourned casually and I sidled over to the bar, where some of the marginally-more agreeable fiddlers were congregating. I thanked them for attending and they asked me how much we were likely to get out of The Croatian Hand Model as a result of the world-class entertainment that they had provided this evening. Fuck All, I thought. She probably thinks that this is her donation for the current financial year (she did).
Our Hostess sidled up and everyone dutifully bowed and scraped and thanked her for a lovely evening. She was holding an object that you might, under other circumstances, have perhaps called a Handbag. I was a jewel-encrusted case, the size and shape of a deep cigarette box, but with a long, chunky gold chain designed to enable the flinging of the thing over one’s shoulder with a degree of abandon.
She was a woman of few words at the best of times. Her favoured forms of communication were permutations of ‘pursed lip’ and ‘raised/lowered eyebrow’. The eyebrows were particularly, jauntily raised as she unclasped the Jewelbox and produced a rollup cigarette from inside it. These were the days of still being able to smoke inside, so that wasn’t the issue. “Oh, you’re so naughty”, said Her Assistant. The rollup was lit. A distantly-familiar sickly-sweet smell wafted in all directions. And The Croatian Hand Model proceeded to hand the doobie around the group.
“Now we can properly relax”, she said.
A full-on Bong Session was, alas, cut short by a Maître D’ sidling over with equally-arched eyebrows as Hers. He looked directly at the doobie and said to Our Hostess, “I do hope that you’ve enjoyed your evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. Is there ANYTHING else I can help you with?”. The Croatian Hand Model got the message and dropped the still-lit joint into the Jewelbox, no doubt igniting the stash of £50 notes within. Not that she’d notice or care.
As is the case with high-grade sake (not to mention my first taste of a spliff for a few years) it didn’t hit me until I, myself, hit Park Lane. I walked for a good half an hour to brood over the indignities of my day and jumped in a taxi.
A wry smile finally found its way onto my face as I approached home. I jumped on The Boyfriend on arrival saying, “The Orchestra were as miserable as ever tonight. Got stoned with The Croatian Hand Model though”. And passed out.