Andrea Allsopp provides an insight into the recent Chelsea ladies’ lunch at Stamford Bridge and tries to explain how she got her hands on John Terry’s underwear.
TS Eliot wrote of the ladies’ powder room: “Where the women come and go, talking of Michael Angelo.” However, at the Chelsea ladies’ lunch the talk is more likely to be of Gianfranco Zola and his contribution to the impending Coventry game.
When I decided to go to this event I did not know what to expect diehard Chelsea women with their allegiance discreetly tattooed on their left shoulder, or ladies of leisure with a natural ability to make small talk who are more used to corporate lunches?
The organiser told me that many of the ladies she spoke to found Friday a difficult day to engineer time off from work and arrange a babysitter. I know the feeling. I attended a school assembly that morning as a penance and conveniently “forgot” to tell my boss that I wanted the last-day-before-deadline off. I wonder if she noticed?
As it turned out, there was a really mixed crowd at the lunch girls whose companies had stumped up the 50 quid a head as a treat, ladies who wanted to see what went down (did I detect a press contingent?) and yes (hurrah!) some long-standing supporters. One I spoke to could tell of exploits on trips following the team in the late 1960s.
At the risk of sounding like my granny back from her holidays in Tenerife, who would describe every meal in detail when asked if she had a nice time, I have to say that the food was excellent, although I would have liked more of it. I suspect that my appetite may have been fuelled by the liberal amount of champagne which was flowing, or the wine, or maybe the brandy I had after that.
Susan Dwyer’s speech was funny, warm-hearted and touching. Such a nice lady, so there is probably little point in asking her to put the thumbscrews on Ken to get Petrescu back. I especially liked the story she told about the cabbie who dropped her back at the Village once and remarked: “I had that chap in the cab once, you know, him. I suppose you must bump into him on the escalators or something?” She replied: “No, in bed mostly.” I envy her. I have never been able to fire a smart remark back at a cabbie.
Sue Barker’s chat was amusing in a different way. She is obviously more used to talking to people about herself, but was quite self-effacing. She came across as someone who could not quite believe her luck in life. It was refreshing to see a person who had, and has, major talent display this attitude. She promised to field questions but did warn: “If you have any about Ally McCoist the answers are yes, yes, yes and no!”
Although the lunch was for ladies only, Ken was present too. He was allowed in providing he wore a lady’s garment, but refused point blank to wear the velvet coat that he was offered on the grounds that he would not be seen dead in “M&S rubbish”. He was on his feet primarily to conduct the charity auction (for Great Ormond Street) but Ken also displayed a knack for stand-up comedy.
My non-Chelsea companion, who had no prior knowledge of Chairman Ken, noted at this point that she would bid for the dinner with him because “he seems such fun”. That remark went down about as well as my admission that I think Peter Reid is sexy. It’s okay, we are both back on the medication now.
The items up for auction were much as you would expect signed football, match tickets, dinner, Rod Stewart’s shirt (que?) and discarded bits of kit from the players. That is to say, freshly discarded from a training session the previous Monday. Eidur Gudjohnsen’s pants went first for £100.
At the end of our allocated time I found myself making arrangements to return for the next lunch to meet again with the ladies at my table. My companion wanted to come back too (good grief, does this mean she may even attend a match with me?). It was buzzy, fun and good to be able to talk football with the girls for a change.
A few bars later on, having at last assuaged the munchies in a Fulham Road eatery, I was jostling for a final drink with the kilt-clad Scottish hordes in town for the “other” sport. I needed this last drink to fortify me for the journey home and prepare me for my attempt to explain how I ended up with John Terry’s underwear.