Diary: Billett bashes out the hymns at secret party for John Ayling's 60th

It's tricky knowing what to buy people of a certain age, isn't it? If you buy them anything too fashionable, they end up looking ridiculous (friends and relatives of Andy Tilley, please note), but if you buy them something more fitting for their age - Derry boots or a foot spa, for instance - the chances are they'll never speak to you again.

Lyn Ayling, the devoted wife of the redoubtable media legend (and soon to be knight of the realm?) John Ayling, was faced with such a challenge as her old man approached his 60th birthday.

Her solution - hire the massed voices of the London Welsh Male Voice Choir and invite everyone's favourite media auditor and twice winner of choirboy of the year (1954 and 1955), John Billett, to tinkle the ivories as a cabaret act.

Everyone who is anyone was invited along to the black-tie celebrations in the Long Room at Lords to commemorate the day, with Stan Park acting as the master of ceremonies.

John Ayling, who had spent the previous day pounding the streets for the London Marathon, had no idea and was dragged to the event, thinking it was yet another charity bash, by John Hooper, one of Ayling's friends and the former director-general of ISBA.

Whereupon all 150 guests (all of whom were John's closest personal friends, of course) wished the man a happy birthday while the Welsh singers banged out a few of his favourite male voice choral pieces. You know the sort of stuff, Men of Harlech and so on.

So there you have it - obvious when you think about it, isn't it? And while Ayling was clearly delighted with the present (what sane man wouldn't be?) you can't help thinking that after the 26-mile run the previous day, perhaps that foot spa might have come in useful too.


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