Thursday 24 February 2022

The humble Axolotl comes of age...


Many years ago, MAD Magazine used to make up manic names for people, issues, etc., and one of them was 'Axolotl'. It was an odd, but funny word in the context of everrything published in the magazine, and was added to a long list of others, some of which are still etched on my memory, like 'Grunch', potrzebie, furshlugginer, Moxie etc!  

Back in the 'nineties, Scrobs was heavily involved in the business networking scenes in London and other cities, where mainly construction and design people could mingle, get to know what work was around, and generally give thousands of pounds to Balls Brothers, Davey's and other wine bars. There were plenty of 'official' clubs for this purpose, like Placemakers, Movers and Shakers, and The Doyle Club, and Scrobs was a member of all of them! It was a great time, especially as expenses were there to be - er - expended, and in fact, a lot of business came my way for my various firms.

But one issue niggled, which was the issue of sending invitations out for a function, getting positive responses, and then getting no-shows. This is very rude and unforgiveable, except in extenuating circumstances like illness etc., so Scrobs started the Order as below!

And for most of the time, it actually worked!

The Noble and Ancient Order of Axolotls

The Noble and Ancient Order of Axolotls is one of the most recent and respected, and now, most important Orders to emerge from the Property, Agency, Consultancy and Construction forum of the last century.

The origins of The Order can even be traced, as far back as 29th May 1997 to a serious meeting of like minded Professional People who solemnly agreed, after much discussion, that they are continually faced with the serious problem of organising functions, and, consequently, once the day in question is being addressed, having to deal with the excruciating dilemma of some of the guests crying off at short notice or not bothering to turn up, even after confirming acceptance of the said invitation.

The Order was created, first, to alleviate the stress, embarrassment, discomfort, loss of privileges and extra cost which ensues from such corporate misconduct, ill-breeding and bad manners, and second, to provide an altruistic method of fulfilling the task of maintaining a full table or making up numbers at any given function, wherever that may be.

The Order is absolutely unique and bears no resemblance to any other organisation, formal or informal. The business of the Order is to improve the lot of Members in their duties to provide full tables and guest lists by which they can further their chosen course of business, either for themselves as individuals or for their employers.

Membership is strictly accorded to those who accept the criteria as set out by the acronym of the noble adopted Scandinavian amphibian –


Always Xcluded Or Last On The List

The Membership is restricted to those Members who can be contacted at absolutely minimal notice, and, without any embarrassment whatsoever on behalf of both parties, to discuss filling a place which has suddenly become available because of the potential non-appearance (for undisclosed, pathetic and possibly or probably unwarranted reasons) of a previously invited guest at any business function, in order to make up the numbers and therefore introduce a fulfilling, invigorating, and, (through the eminent quality of the Membership), a far more suitable substitute to take the place of the original invitee.

See Glossary at end of this discourse, for full description of each term (in italics).

Credentials For Membership (or alleviating the Disaster)

Members must have experienced at least two of the following potentially disastrous conditions: -

That, as Hosts, they have suffered the ignominy of being four short at a table for ten and the guest of honour is going to be late and when he/she eventually arrives, slurring feeble excuses, he/she forgets the Member’s name, knocks over the claret and nods off during the speeches.


That they have been contacted, at office, home, wine bar or by phone, at any time of the day or night, by a groveling and anxious Caller who has to combine an immediate hesitant, probably garbled, indubitably cringing invitation, with an urgent personal requirement to retain the original numbers on his or her guest list, together with an increasingly implausible and embarrassing explanation as to why the late invitee (Receptor) was not originally wanted or even vaguely considered as the slightest possibility for an invitation in the first place. (Now you see why the Members are Axolotls – good eh?)


Members have made all the arrangements for the wrong date and have to fill twenty places by eleven o'clock or lose their deposit and pay for the champagne themselves, with no chance of putting it on expenses.


Members have been courteous enough to accept the invitation with good grace and absolutely no display of gloating at the obvious leg-twisting gut-wrenching discomfort of the Host. (Caller )

Further Refinement for Qualification

Admissions to Membership must be resolved, to at least Two Attentive Members, with hand on heart, and after minimal alcoholic sustenance (to avoid bringing the wrong sort of people into the order), in accordance with the following declarations: -

Members have capability for displaying absolutely and unconditionally, no pride in accepting such late invitations (by being the Receptor - see later) in the hope of getting a damn good lunch with loads of drinks and a chance to meet a contact from one of those new multi-national inward-investing type institutions with more dosh than you can shake a stick at.

Members also have to admit that they don't really enjoy drinking pints of warm orange juice and eating boiled grey toast 'canap├ęs' (It's our Chef's special, Sir, sorry, Madam, EAT IT !!!) between the hours of six and ten in the evening, at boring cocktail parties and receptions, but, to maintain the spirit of The Order, they will damn well stick it out on the promise of a decent bottle of Fleurie in Balls Bros or Davy’s the following week, paid for by the Invitee, to make up for the disagreeable nature of the gathering.

or (and this is a good one)

Once an urgent Murmer has been proffered, Members have immediately cancelled a boring and possibly unnecessary business appointment in their Northern office for the same time and day in favour of this more interesting invitation to the races or a champagne opening of an expensive project in the City.


Members, after an urgent Murmer have actually turned round at the next motorway intersection to return to London or anywhere within shouting distance, at full speed, to attend the lunch/dinner on offer at the exclusive restaurant. In the latter case, they have retrieved their specially deposited dinner jacket/posh dress from the boot of their car and changed in the hotel loo.


Members have angered a business competitor to distraction (not a Founder Member, by God) by turning up at any function at the last minute, wearing a blazer or silly tie (or the Ladies' equivalent), barging in, grabbing two glasses of Moet, and, after being helped across the room, sits next to the Guest of Honour who everyone knows has an enormous contract to place and/or an appointment to confirm by the late afternoon.


Members have actually taken a call on their cell phone during a late morning function/business meeting with a boring client, and decided to abort the current display of dreadful futuristic interior designs (with unusual escapist and intellectual visions concomitant with the locale) in favour of a reception at Langans, and you know who will be there....


Finally - Members will never upset other Members for any of the above reasons. All Members should already know the business of other Members eg. In order to avoid sitting at a table where everyone does the same job. If not, ask the Founding Father and Elder Axolotl in Perpetua who will provide the information for a small fee…

Modus Operandi for accomplishing the Invocation of the Spirit of The Noble and Ancient Order of Axolotls

Members have the freedom and right to call (hence the term, The Caller) any other member at any time (even minutes) before a potential Disaster (see above) and which immediately relates to an impending function, with the opening statement (The Fellowship Murmer) as follows:-

"Hello Member." (Pleasantries are allowed but not too many, after all, the Member may not immediately understand the reason for the call for personal reasons, but there again, it may be time for Wimbledon or The Varsity match and you have to be quick at this!) "I invoke the Procedures and Principles of The Noble and Ancient Order of Axolotls and invite you to (such and such event). Are you able to respond?" (The inviting Member (Caller) must not, repeat NOT say 'please' in a wheedling, whining and subservient manner. Groveling and offensive hyperbole is officially unacceptable and will call for several penalties in the customary manner). (see penalties).

To which the newly invited member (The Receptor) immediately replies:-

"I am delighted to accept or unfortunately/sadly have to decline, the kind offer by the Member with due regard to the Spirit and Principles of our Order."

Supplementary statements (not too many, there’s no time now, this is bloody urgent…!) can also be made such as:-

"Let me invoke paragraph (any number) of the credentials/ refinements and ring you back."


"Will so and so be there?"

Unhelpful or distressing statements.

Unhelpful, (and therefore extremely unwelcome in the associated moment of severe stress) statements such as "I'm already going with someone else" or "**** off I'm busy" or “Can’t be a**ed” will be frowned upon (The Frown) and of course, such behaviour will be subsequently relayed to other Members like wildfire and will cause grounds for Penalties in the short term or decidedly painful expulsion from The Order after the fourth offence.


Non-invokement by the Receptor for pathetic reason - One bottle bought for the Caller by the Receptor. This will be increased if the Receptor continues to disregard the Murmer.

(Note - the Founding Father and Elder Axolotl in Perpetua never attracts penalties - such is the manner and constitution of The Order and this rule cannot be changed! Sorry!)

Real reasons, such as illness, holidays etc, will of course be accepted and will not invoke Penalties. However, the utmost courtesy must still prevail in the subsequent declining statement, and references to sun-filled beaches etc will attract the Frown, and possibly Penalties.

Meetings of Members

Meetings of Members may be called as and when the Founding Father and Elder Axolotl in Perpetua may feel fit to decide. It is his sole prerogative and may even invoke all the Procedures and Principles of The Noble and Ancient Order of Axolotls simultaneously, (try me!) depending on his current state of his mind. Titles attributed to Members are also the sole gift of The Founding Father and cannot ever be challenged or altered. However, in his wisdom, they will never be insulting or unsuitable.

Glossary of Terms associated with The Order.

Member - The Person elevated to the Order by decree, almost certainly scrutinised by the Founding Father and Elder Axolotl in Perpetua. Existing Members can nominate anyone they choose according to the Qualifications above, but remember, No roughs, unpleasant people, ignorant louts etc. This is an organisation for Professional people.

Host – The Member in turmoil. Also acknowledged as Hostess of course – no problem there!

Murmer - The actual request for assistance as described.

Frown - The response when ill-breeding becomes apparent.

Receptor - The Member contacted.

Caller - The Member in distress.

Decline – The act of declining a kind invitation

Penalties - The manner by which Members will be chastised.

Non-invokement - The unacceptable style for refusal of a Member's kind

Invitation. (possibly invoking Penalties)

Spirit - The honest and trustworthy character of the Principles of the Order or a suitably enormous alcoholic drink usually taken after all else fails.

Qualifications – The whole damn reason why we want this!

Principles - The Rules.

Rules - The Principles or a nice eating-house in Covent Garden.


Founding Father and Elder Axolotl in Perpetua. (Scrobs)

Examiner of the Extremities

Keeper of the Excuses

Precursor of the Origins

Sole Worker of the Ingenuity

Senior Accounter of the Pabulum

Creative Master of Contingence

Progenitor of Formality

Embracer of Rationalities

Exciter of the Pheromones

Bicameral Agnate of Primeval Un-fasting

Ithuriel Messenger of recent eons.

(Any resemblance to other simliar organisatios are purely coincidental. The original Members' names have been removed to protect the innocent).

Sunday 13 February 2022

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Starter for ten...


So it's goodbye to the great man!

We used to watch University Challenge with a vengeance every week, and try to beat the students with the General Knowledge, and never did, as they always had just one genius who'd answer everything correctly!

One of our favourite TV comedies was 'Moving story', with Warren Clarke as 'Bamber', and on every trip out in the removal van, the chap, 'Adrenalin' who was always trying to sleep was tasked with asking him questions from Trivial Pursuit. One question was 'Who wrote 20,000 leagues under the sea'! Bamber (Warren), waffled as he always did, and just before being told the answer, asked 'How many leagues'?

And the cameramen had to be pretty quick to pan away from any student who mouthed 'F***' when he got an answer wrong...


Wednesday 2 February 2022

Tete-a-tete on 2-2-22...

One of the loveliest times of the year is when these little beauties appear!

Last year, we bought a dozen or so small pots, and I saved the bulbs for this year, and they're just beginning to show outside, but the inside ones on the window sills are well away!

Daffodils are just fabulous harbingers of spring, and I've only just noticed the hedgerows coming to light as well, so all looks good again!