By staff writer John Richardson
I arrived at Timothy Oulton for high tea to celebrate both the Queen’s Birthday and Stephen Huyton’s last official engagement as the Britsoc chairman. As the theme of Timothy Oulton is ‘useful antiques’ it is indeed fitting that despite voicing the opposite and professing to spend more time with his family, Stephen has been asked to become a board member of the British Chamber of Commerce once he steps off the good ship Britsoc. His ten years at the helm have not gone unnoticed and he will soon serve once gain as a ‘useful chap’.
As he navigates his way like an ancient mariner through the intricate seas of British business, let’s hope he doesn’t have to use some the ancient and rusted navigational instrumentation that Timothy Oulton has turned into chandeliers.
As I entered the store, with its two massive Union Jacks sweeping the pavement, I was met head on by a World War II yellow submarine floating in a giant fish tank; to my right hung a large framed black and white photo of a naked man skiing down a glacier; to my left a young chap in a bowler hat offered me champagne. As it was only 11am… I naturally accepted his thoughtful gesture. After all, it’s always Champagne O’Clock somewhere in the commonwealth. I was half expecting to be invited to play polo on top of an elephant.
Looking relaxed and resplendent, with a pink jumper slung casually over his shoulders, there was an element of prep school style about Stephen that was matched only by the colourful high tea laid out in red, white and blue on a table whose timbers had been sourced from an ancient Viking longship. My favourite treats were the scones, tea served out of Charles and Diana china tea cups, and the deliciously moreish union jack biscuits. Scrummy!
Prior to Ian Cherington’s fun speech comparing Stephen with Her Majesty, we were taken on a quick tour upstairs to discover the handcrafted wonders that make this store so eccentrically British: a dining table whose chair cushions are made from medicine balls; washed up timber from exotic beaches that has been set in perspex and turned into a coffee table; and possibly Stephen’s favourite, the Aviator chair: featuring aged aluminium finishes and a multi-riveted construction, inspired we were told by World War II Spitfires.
I could almost hear the faint strains of the Dambusters theme as Stephen sat in one of them. For a moment he was imagining himself diving out of the sun with his leather helmet and finger on the trigger ready to do battle once again. Which he will do. For now though, Britsoc’s Aviator hero has flown the nest. But he’ll not be forgotten.