Where’s Noel Coward when you want him? If the great man had been around last Sunday he would have found wonderfully rich pickings to write about at the most fabulous party I’ve ever been to.
The occasion? Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee were celebrating their 22nd year of wedded bliss by renewing their marriage vows. The invitation called for colourful bow ties and party dresses. And boy, did the hundred or so guests oblige. Old friends, new friends, family, and show biz glitterati - everyone turned up in a sparkling array of vibrant colours. Greeted at Paul and Debbie’s riverside residence by Kevin Toomey, the white faced clown, and his colourful compatriot, Mick Read, the scene was set.
The circus had started. Amongst the glittering throng I saw lots of people I knew. There was Vince and Annie. And Rolf and Alwen in matching turquoise outfits. Couldn’t see ‘the Bruvvers’ but Joe Brown was there. As were Debbie’s mother, father and sister, and Paul’s 94 year old mother. The riparian contingent was much in evidence too, and who was the glamorous lady in red with an armful of tattoos (and more in hidden places, no doubt?) None other than Jodie Marsh - fresh from appearing with Debbie in the TV show ‘Celebrity Come Dine With Me’. One of the other celebrities on that show was the ex Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, Lembit Öpik. He was at the party too.
We were in for a treat later I could see, as in a blaze of colour, some of the performers were mingling on the terrace in the afternoon sunshine.
Later we noticed a big erection on the lawn! It was an enourmous marquee. Inside was a circus ring dotted with gold stars, and tea was ready at our tables.
Red-coated circus themed girls served hot scones, strawberries, meringues and all sorts of goodies. A jazz band had been playing in the garden, but here in the tent was a dance band. (Two of the band members had, in fact, played at Paul and Debbie’s wedding all those years ago.) Later in the afternoon, bathed in pale green lighting in a lovely setting, Debbie and Paul renewed their vows. Enchanting and beautiful.
They then led the dancing that followed. I even took to the floor for a while (Thank you Court School of Dancing in Reading for the ballroom dancing lessons when, as a gawky teenager I was steered around the floor by a stately galleon in the guise of a Joyce Grenfell look-alike). Next came a plate-spinning act by Andrew Van Buren and Allyson.
This was followed by an incredible contortionist – Iona Luvsandori. She has to be seen to be believed.
We all mingled a bit, both in the marquee and outside by the river. With a forecast of heavy rain Debbie and Paul must have done something good because the sun was shining brightly. Sitting at the ‘showbiz’ table I spied Janette and Ian Tough – otherwise known as ‘The Krankies’. (What a hilarious couple they are - I saw them, together with Paul, the other week in the ‘Best of British’ show in Basingstoke.) Tiny Janette becomes schoolboy Wee Jimmy Krankie and Ian acts as her father. Later in the day Mick Read found his soul mate as he and ‘Wee Jimmy’ danced together.
When we returned to our table we found a complete colour change – it was now laid out for supper – and what a supper. At the end of the marquee Luscombe’s (one of Henley’s premier restaurants) were serving a lavish and absolutely delicious hot buffet. Then the drums rolled and a small circular stage appeared in the circus ring and the white-faced clown announced the final act of the evening.
The skating duo – Vittorio Arata and his extremely pretty (wife to be) Eugenia whirled on to the stage.
Here is a little video the finale of their act. What a way to end a marvellous party. Thank you Paul (see you tonight on Strictly Come Dancing) and Debbie.