Katie being a past mistress at purposeful whizzing - we speed walked in the direction of Soho. Along the way we popped into a few clothes shops, including a branch of Barbour, where Katie tried on a selection of what I now know to be called Ladies Wax Trench hats. These sported varying degrees of brim width, which distinguished your 20s flapper girl look from your country lady angler. My superior height (not by much, but even a few inches was enough to count) meant that I could fetch down the top shelf hat piles for Katie's consideration.
Once in Soho, Katie suggested grabbing a bite to eat in a little noodle place she knew, when suddenly her phone rang...As a result of that call, the evening took an unexpected - but most entertaining - turn. For the friend who rang was Hattie Hayridge, a stand-up comic and actor in the comedy series Red Dwarf, and she was inviting Katie to join her at The Groucho Club, where she had just secured a table in a prime spot by the window.
And so it was that just moments later, we were sitting down in a plush corner of the club, cocktail in hand(!), and none other than Chris Evans in our line of sight - he was standing at the bar, surrounded by a clutch of friends. It took me about 20 minutes before I realised that this place was in fact the iconic Groucho Club, and not just some West End pub with Groucho in the name - you know, like "The Groucho and Ferret" or "The Groucho's Head". And then before you could say: "I wouldn't belong to any club that would have me as a member", we were joined by another comedienne, Helen Lederer, who ordered a glass of bar Twiglets, of which we all made light work. Then the four of us proceeded to shoot the breeze in a "Grumpy Old Women" kind of a way. Somehow I also managed to shoehorn into the conversation a recent shortchanging incident, whereby a roll of Sellotape ended up costing me £11.55, and the others came through with the head-shaking empathy I so desperately craved.
From the depths of her handbag Hattie then produced a couple of vintage Russian perfumes she had picked up on her travels, which we duly sniffed, and all preferred the more honeyed one - should have noted the names really! And at one point we all sniffed Helen, who challenged us to identify her signature scent - to which I am sworn to secrecy - but anyway, it turned out to be a layering of two perfumes, so we were on a losing wicket from the off, really.
And before long it was time for Katie and me to head off to the main event of the evening, namely the press night of The Card Shark Show at The Mayfair Theatre - an auditorium housed in the hotel of the same name. Katie and I were fortunate to have been allocated front row seats, which meant that in theory we could have been called upon to participate in any of the card tricks. As it turned out, some other people in our row had already been primed for this purpose, and they jumped to their feet as soon as the call came for a volunteer.
NEVER ONE TO RESIST A CHANCE TO MINESWEEP MEMORABILIA
So what exactly did the show consist of? Well, I can best describe it as a novel hybrid of cinematic documentary and live commentary from the show's host, stuntman and magician Steve Truglia, all interspersed with his dazzling performance of jaw-droppingly slick card tricks.
As the show programme states in its introduction:
"From the middle ages through Wild West saloon bars to murderous gangsters, discover how sleight of hand techniques honed by hardened gamblers influenced modern card magic."
And here is a promotional trailer for the show, featuring a number of the media personalities who attended. One of them, the presenter Dominic Littleton (whom I was sure I had seen on TV, but couldn't quite place), was sitting the other side of Katie, and at one point during the show reached across to offer us a mint. I politely declined, then swallowed my embarrassment and said: "I am sorry, but you look awfully familiar", to which he replied, quick as a flash: "Do I owe you any money?!", which struck me as a wonderfully sharp riposte.
After the show, we adjourned to a large function room for drinks and food, in the shape of dainty pokes of fish and chips in mock newspaper. We are talking goujons, basically - I guess you would expect nothing less genteel in a hotel of that calibre! ; - ). As people milled around, I scoped the room for more celebrities, of which there was a goodly smattering. Meanwhile, Katie had her picture taken several times by the numerous agency photographers who had been sent to capture the action. And one actually asked me to stay in the shot, though clearly he didn't know me from Adam! A fine example of "collateral papping", as I remarked to Katie afterwards. That shot has also been included in the official photo album on The Card Shark Show's Facebook page, about which I must confess to feeling secretly chuffed. Or not so secretly, even, given that I just told you all... : - )
NOT SO MUCH A CASE OF 'ROYAL FLUSH' AS 'RIGHT ROYAL LUSH'
And as if the show wasn't electrifying enough, when I got back to my hotel and read the programme, I felt that my viewing pleasure was retrospectively enhanced by reading about Steve Truglia's other exploits in the course of his career as a stunt coordinator and performer. His film credits include Saving Private Ryan, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough. Specifically, his stunts include driving a car round a 12 metre high loop the loop for Channel 5's Fifth Gear, while he also holds the 2004 record for the fastest ever abseil, as well as - my personal favourite - the longest fire burn within the UK at two minutes five seconds.
Tickets for The Card Shark Show cost £50, which by the standards of London's Theatre Land, is not excessive, I don't think. It really was a complete one-off, and though the theme had piqued my curiosity when Katie first sounded me out about going, I found the show even more entertaining - nay, enthralling - than I expected.
And in a nice touch as we were leaving, all the guests were given a pack of cards specially produced for The Card Shark Show. I don't suppose for one minute that I will master how to "control the deck" any time soon, but it could come in handy for the odd game of patience.
Photo of The Groucho Club from openbuildings.com, photo of the Mayfair Theatre from thecardsharkshow.com, photo of me with Katie Puckrik by Gabor Scott, photo of Steve Truglia from autotrader.co.uk, other photos my own