Last week saw the latest gathering of the great and the good (and some of the not so on either count too!) from the UK tobacco industry at the home of cricket, Lord’s.
In a world where smoking and everything associated with it is constantly frowned upon, this is one of the few opportunities that we in the business get to meet up, smoke a pipe or cigar, and just chat. “What’s going on in the industry, what are the latest products, what are our customers favouring, what’s the latest fashion”? These are all questions that aren’t easily answered with the dearth of quality information available to us, and a good face to face over some tobacco a couple of times a year is about as good as our ‘industry intelligence’ gets!
So it was on with the lounge suit and tie – used less and less frequently these days I have to admit – and onto the red eye from Guernsey to London City airport… Living on ‘the rock’, as we affectionately call it, means that a trip to London is always a special occasion whether for business or pleasure, and flying along the Thames east across central London and past Greenwich, the Olympic Park and into the airport was a great start to the day. What an incredible city it is, and it was fascinating to see the latest regeneration of the East End going on all around! To give me a different perspective this year I’d booked to stay at a small place in Shoreditch, so it was onto the DLR for some more sightseeing. A quick bag drop, a check of emails and off to Lord’s I went.
A small band playing Dixie style tunes greeted guests into the Harris Garden where Hunter’s & Frankau had sponsored the champagne reception. Last year Dunhill were involved and had brought along a fantastic cigar roller from, I believe, the Dominican Republic so this year I made sure all my pockets were empty and ready for the copious cigars no doubt on offer! Alas, not a single cigar on offer! Come of H&F, what was all that about?! Luckily I had stowed away a tubed Don Tomas Clasico just on the off chance, so out it came and I have to say it made a great companion to the champers on offer. A few quick meets and greets and then it was off into the Thomas Lord Suite for lunch, and this is where Lord’s really do excel. Similar menu to last year, but you will never hear an argument from me when served up king prawn and crab as a starter and then good old fillet steak for the main. Dessert, well you can keep that as far as I’m concerned but no doubt it was also delicious! And then up stepped Phil ‘Tuffers’ Tufnell, no doubt buoyed by the recent record breaking defeat of NZ in the first of the one dayers the previous afternoon at which he was commentating. And what a great after lunch speaker he was, as most of you would have guessed – full of great stories and quick to respond to the many questions offered from the floor. There was many a ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour’ type story which cannot be repeated here, but for the more anarchic amongst you two comments in particular brought the house down. The first was his introductory line in response to the biographical information that had been read out by the MC ‘yep, 42 Tests and only 4 positive!’ and the second was in response to a question about who was the best bowler he ever played against. The answer was Shane Warne about whom he eulogised for some time, but he followed this up with the epic words ‘but I’ve seen him in the showers and mark my words, there is a God!’. Brilliant entertainment…
Then followed the raffle – I’ve never understood why a room full of pipe, cigar and tobacco specialists would want to win a prize of a pipe, cigars or tobacco which seem to make up the majority of what was won – but it’s really all about the donations and with a well supported event there was money for the coffers of the charitable fund.
And then? Well then it’s all about the Tavern – a few well placed enquiries led to some highly smokable cigars and it was a chance to pick up where we’d left off in the Harris Garden, a chance to make new friends and perhaps even do a little business. I snuck out at gone 7pm, and a few follow up phone calls have confirmed that several parties carried on long into the night and even into the following morning! That’s the trouble with only meeting a few times per year – there’s a lot to catch up on!
My thanks as always to the organisers and sponsors for providing all of us in the business another chance to catch up – I’m looking forward to next year already (although I’ll take my own supply of cigars next time I think!).