The BCSA Annual Dinner crept in to my calendar a few years ago as a duty, I used to be on the BCSA Executive Committee, and has quietly become an important part of my busy social schedule.
This year's was possibly the best one yet.
The basics of the dinner were the same as usual; traditional even. The venue was the Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel which while retaining its basic shape and character has improved a little here and there and also refined its name a little. The dining room we use had gained a darker due a few years ago but seemed lighter this. We also had a modern clear plastic lectern to use instead of the old-fashioned wood one. Only minor changes but indications of a commitment to quality and to keeping competitive.
The festivities were due to start at 7pm and I arrived a little before that in case any last minute help was required. In previous years I have done things like putting names to places but this year everything was done when I got there. So I went for a Budvar instead. People soon arrived in good numbers and I had plenty of friends to talk to.
Soon after 7:30 we made our way in to the dining room. My table was a little out of the way in a corner by a window but the location of the table was not important, it was the people sitting at it who mattered and I had Ruzena to thank (as always) for putting me on a table of interesting people, most of whom I knew, with Zuzana on one side and Katerina on the other.
The conversations flowed as well as the wine. The food was very good too. The blue spot on my card had me marked as a vegetarian, Zuzana managed to swap for the vegetarian option too and we had somebody else on the table who was lactose-intolerant. The hotel coped easily and with a smile.
Monika spoke about her work which had taken her to several institutions in several countries until she returned for a second spell at Oxford University.
She was amusing, such as pointing out that she was the one with the red hair in a photo of a room full of Japanese people, and instructive on the life of a scientist which seemed to consist of a series of short horizons with one research project following another. I got lost on some of the actual science, and I suspect that I understood more of it than most people there, but that did not matter; this was her story and she told it well.
I was pleased to be able to catch a few minutes with her after the dinner and to discover that we had a mutual friend through the Czech and Slovak Society at the university.
The food was good and I did not mind too much not winning one of the great prizes in the raffle, such as luxurious breaks in Slovakia. All of the components of the dinner worked well and either added to the pleasure of the evening when they were meant to or were unobtrusive when they were purely functional.
There were other friends to catch up with after the formal part of the dinner and there was still some beer left to encourage me to stay. As always at good events like this, the time whizzed past and I was soon rushing to catch the last tube home having missed all of the trains.
It was the people that made the evening such a fantastic success and it was the efficient and unfussy service from the hotel that created the ideal atmosphere for us to mix in.
We bill the BCSA Annual Dinner as the main event in our calendar and this year it certainly lived up to that billing.