What an afternoon that was! Friday’s I Heart Claims Motor Claims Networking Lunch event – always a corker – was enlivened by the presence of former politician, evergreen smoothie, endlessly game self-parodist, wearer of brightly hued country smart casuals, giant-faced rail journey enthusiast Mike Portillio.

Assembled for this august occasion, the organisers have confirmed, were “more than 460 key stakeholders drawn from”… well, they were drawn from somewhere or other (they did say, but we’ve lost that bit of paper now). One of them was none other than Bankstain’s own Dixon Tyrestone. Best not speculate where they drew him from.

The common passion uniting all those present, of course, was a fiercely erotic ardour for all things Claims. Whether Portaloo shares this passion remained unclear after he had got up and spoken for a bit, before succumbing to a fit of light-headedness and having to sit down again.

Attendees who had hoped to hear Porttalbot waxing lyrical on the subject of the C Word, would have been disappointed – as would those hoping to see one of his outlandish primary-coloured blazer and slacks combos close up (boringly, he turned up in distinctly conventional business attire).

Perhaps he was just building up to a passionate declaration of his undying and overpowering love for Claims when it all got too much and he suddenly found himself tongue-tied, flustered, and strongly minded to sit down. Or maybe he was only doing it for the money and had simply lacked the will or the inspiration to carry on. Who knows.

What his audience did learn from suave one’s brief unscripted oration was that he’s planning to follow up smash hit TV travel shows Great British Railway Journeys, Great Continental Railway Journeys, Forgotten Railway Journeys (and highlights compilation Best Forgotten Railway Journeys), with Great American Railroad Journeys.

In a radical departure from previous series, the new programmes will see Portillo (literally ‘little door’, fact fans) traipsing about on various trains, clutching a hopelessly out of date travel guide, sporting brightly coloured blazers, breaking occasionally to enact a grotesque travesty of some hallowed local ritual to the more or less politely embarrassed consternation and discomfiture of all present.

Tyrestone’s an old mate of Miguel’s, as it happens (see photographic proof attached), and commented that it was always nice to see the old loon, but the drab business suit and the jaded (pre-fainting) repetition of tired old material like the aircraft carrier/lighthouse story had done his old mucker no favours.

Still, you gotta love those Claims!

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