Assembled on the outer reaches of the known universe, discreetly clutching our Oystercards, we prepared to commiserate with that notorious old tosser the GM on his having beaten the odds and achieved his three-score-and-ten.
Up and over the hill, through the dark woods we hurried - and then down, down, down into the very bowels of the earth! Well, Chorleywood Underground Station - which as the name suggests, is above the ground. There we eagerly awaited the arrival of the 20:07 departure for all points East.
Where were we bound? Baker Street perhaps, home of England's Greatest Detective, Sherlock Holmes? Barbican, for an evening devoted to High Culture & The Arts? Or pehaps Aldgate, to rub elbows in a City snug with pin-striped Options Traders and bowler-hatted Merchant Bankers? In fact, whilst we had our fair share of "Merchant Bankers", it was to Moor Park Golf Club we were headed, to gawp like Victorian paupers at the finery therein, before doing our level best to (not) scuff up the lovingly tended greens and fairways on which our Beloved Leader, the Kim Il Jong of HWH3, is bent on seeing out his dotage.
What we didn't know at the time was that...
Moor Park, a Grade I listed Palladian mansion, was built in 1678 and remodelled in the 1720s. The principal architect was Giacomo Leoni, assisted by the painter Sir James Thornhill. Leoni refaced the house with Portland stone and added its great Corinthian portico on the west front. Inside, Thornhill was commissioned to paint the Great Hall and the staircase, complete with a dome in imitation of that at St. Peters, Rome. The paintings on the Grand Stair are by Francesco Sleter, a Venetian artist who studied under Jacopo Amigoni. Amigoni was commissioned to paint the four pictures in the Great Hall - the story of Jupiter and Io, from Ovid's Metamorphoses. The wall paintings in the Thornhill Room are probably by Sleter and Amigoni, while ceiling was painted somewhat earlier by Antonio Verrio, and depicts Aurora and the Dawn.
In 1752 the house was bought by Admiral Lord Anson who commissioned Capability Brown to remake the formal gardens in sweeping 'landscape style' with a small lake. Horace Walpole was not impressed:
"I was not much struck with it, after all the miracles I had heard Brown had performed there. He has undulated the horizon in so many artificial molehills , that it is full as unnatural as if it was drawn with a rule and compasses."
It is said that the commercial strawberry, a hybrid of the European strawberry and a Chilean species, was first cultivated in the kitchen gardens of Moor Park.
Lord Leverhulme commissioned golf course designer Harry Colt to lay out the courses that now surround the mansion. These opened in 1923.
During World War II the mansion was requisitioned, becoming the Headquarters of the 1st Airborne Corps who planned Operation Market Garden, the attack on the bridge at Arnhem.
...but to be honest we managed to find our way round the place regardless.
Back at the tube station, we managed to jump on an earlier train than planned - well, all of us bar Kevin & The Blonde, who had found <ahem> something more entertaining to do at Moor Park Underground Station, thus holding up the rest of us who were obliged to wait for them to finish <ahem> whatever it was they were up to before catching the next train back to Chorleywood. In the meantime I enjoyed pointing out that 'Finsbury Park' spelled backwards is 'Krapy Rub Snif' - and 'Upton Park' is 'Krap Not Pu'. Make of that what you will - Jo was in stitches.
Retracing our steps, we arrived back at the boozer to be blessed with chips galore, and a rousing song for the occasion, with words written by Mike. Quite what any of it meant is anyone's guess - stick to scoffing chocolate and leering at young ladies would be my advice, Mike - but we all enjoyed belting out the chorus, and raising a glass or two to His Nibs.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAVID, and MANY HAPPY RETURNS from us all!