Forget the demos, it's been a week of treats

We ate wild salmon canapés and talked about mono-filament fishing nets

Sue Arnold
Saturday 22 November 2003 01:00

Typical. Nothing happens for weeks. I sit at home knitting bed socks, and then suddenly wham - treat jostles treat. The bad news was that they were all at the other side of the anti-Bush demonstrations. Maybe I should have cut my losses and joined the demo; after all, I don't like Bush and I do like marching shoulder to shoulder with people of principle. Then again, my participation in the anti-war march last February didn't appear to cut much ice with Supreme Allied Command, so why bother, whispered the sloth within.

The first treat was purely accidental. An Irish friend telephoned to say she was flying over from Dublin for a dinner at the Science Museum - maybe we could meet for a drink. Too bad the pub opposite us is still thick with builders noisily transforming The Trafalgar from a football and lager lout hellhole into a sophisticated gastropub. All the giant TV screens have gone and the windows seem to have got smaller, presumably to put an end to the well-established Trafalgar tradition of inebriated yobs standing on the windowsills mooning at the passers-by whenever England scored.

We found another pub. I drank Guinness for old times' sake and Mary Rose told me first about her latest fishing trip and then about the dinner. She's a fishing fanatic. Tierra del Fuego, the Seychelles, Chile, Cuba, she's fished them all. The latest excursion was to Russia, the last leg being a helicopter flight from Murmansk along with a dozen fellow anglers (she was the only woman, as usual) to a pretty basic tent in the tundra but absolutely divine fishing.

The Science Museum gig was a Save the Salmon dinner organised by an Icelandic vodka millionaire called Orri Vigfusson, another passionate game angler who heads something called the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, dedicated to saving the disastrously depleted stocks of wild salmon from total extinction. Sounds interesting, I said. "Why not come along," said Mary Rose. "We've got a spare ticket." Which was handy considering they were £250 a throw.

And worth every penny, it turned out. What a thrash: 500 fishing freaks from all over the world, North America, South America, Scandinavia, but alas not Wales. Prince Charles should have been there but something came up at the last minute so he sent a recorded message congratulating Mr Vigfusson on his tireless campaign instead. I didn't hear much, I was too busy trying to spot Kiri Te Kanawa who was rumoured to be there along with Jeremy Paxman, Max Hastings and most of the Scottish nobility.

We ate wild salmon canapés and talked about mono-filament fishing nets (bad) and restocking salmon rivers by using IVF (good). The high point of the evening, apart from Rory Bremner, was the auction. Ten lots made more than £100,000 but then they did include a week bone fishing in Cuba staying in a floating hotel, and an evening for up to 15 people with Paul Volcker, former chairman of America's Federal Reserve Bank. The head of the Fed went for 12 grand which sounds steep to me but I'm not a banker. It's the monetary equivalent of 15 balletomanes spending an evening with Nijinsky.

The next treat was in the Voicebox at the Royal Festival Hall where a young Burmese revolutionary soldier turned Cambridge graduate called Pascal Khoo Thwe was reading from his autobiography. Now there's an evil regime that needs overthrowing, Mr Bush. How about it? They don't have oil in Burma but they don't have weapons of mass destruction either. To make him feel at home in Cambridge a medical student nicked some locusts from the lab for Khoo which he roasted. Apparently they taste like shrimp.

That, in fact, is what I ordered - shrimp, not locusts - at the Pizza on the Park venue for my third treat which promised to be a disaster because the Pizza Express which owns it has just sold out to a junk-food group. No matter. We weren't going there for the food. We were going to listen to a glamorous cabaret singer called Charlotte Bicknell, reputed to be a cross between Gertie Lawrence, Millicent Martin and Sarah Brightman, but twice as sexy as all of them.

It took us half an hour to get through the cordon of police vans around Hyde Park Corner but it was worth it. Miss Bicknell, to judge from the reaction of the men in the audience, is a one-woman weapon of mass destruction. Good luck to her.

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