Article from 6th March 2003

The Diners’ Club: and the Vice-Chancellor came too

Urban myths abound about any institution, some of them are true, some are false; most of them are funny, sad, or spectacular, else they wouldn’t survive. Some remain hidden, in the need of a retelling. But half the time you can’t tell the wheat from the chaff, the wood from the trees, the BareFacts from the BareLies. So, here’s one in an occasional series of silly things … the Diners’ Club.

The annual exams were over and the summer was marching on. It was balmy and breezy, hot and steamy, humid and etc and most spare time was spent over a pint or two in Hari Sutherland’s (former Union Manager) Union Bar. On the agenda was the need for a wheeze – not a cough and splutter; but a good old-fashioned bit of fun. It should be nothing too serious!

Students in the early 70s were quite inventive when it came to harmless fun. After a brainstorming session or two the decision was for a rollicking celebration dinner in tie and tails and posh frocks – what could be more harmless, and more fun than that? There should be a Guest of Honour. The venue would be the Hall Restaurant (then alongside the Old Hall Bar and now redeveloped into the Oak Room complex).

The Hall Restaurant, but that was a ‘canteen/refectory’, how can you have a swish glitzy/glam affair in a canteen? And anyway, the main student body would be eating its evening sausage, beans, and chips!

Now comes the point at which some questions must remain unanswered - for students of the future to have something to challenge them: where did the silver service cutlery come from and did the Lake Restaurant know?; where did the specimen pot plants come from and why did Senate House look so bare?; and as for all the table linen, table decorations, glassware, and decanters …

Invitations had been printed and issued and on D(Diners)-day a group of students duly appeared in the early evening summer sunshine dressed to the nines. Some were as silver-service waiters, some were wine waiters, and some were traditional guests! Within an instant the tables and chairs had been reorganised, the pot plants, linen, cutlery, candelabra put in place and a gypsy violinist was serenading the completely astonished other canteen incumbents. Sherry was served. The Maitre’D duly announced that dinner was served and the guests queued and paid at the serving counter for their sausage, beans, chips or whatever was their fancy. The meal was continued as three courses with wine, port, and coffee. One guest was seen to choose a Zoom ice lolly for their sweet (on a plate of course)! After dinner, the embellishments disappeared in an instant, returning the Hall Restaurant to its former glory.

And the Guest of Honour: the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Peter Leggett. He’d been sent an invitation, though apparently the ‘detail’ had been inadvertently omitted. And what a sport he was; not only did he turn up and take part but queued and paid for his dinner along with everyone else!

Rufus T Grapevine

Typical restaurant circa 1969.

This was the restaurant that was at the bottom of the "amphitheatre" which now houses the accommodation office etc. I don't know whether this was the Hall restaurant, I think it was Senate "Refectory". Very posh. (I think it looks like the Library canteen. Colin)
I am the long hair and sideburns and whiskers in the fisherman's jumper centre right.. Facing me is D F wallis, known as Wal Both physics 66-69, although Wal stayed on for a couple of years or so, long enough not to finish a PhD.
Hardly a haven of hippiedom.
Note the levitating coffee cup behind my head ! !

The picture by Thomas A Wilkie

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