Last Friday I went to meet Christine and Rekha at the Savoy Hotel before going on a wander around Covent Garden, Piccadilly and Westminster. I'd heard about the Savoy's infamous cat, but hadn't expected to find him sitting nonchalantly in the rather splendid foyer.
Basically, to try and cut a long story short, back in 1898, a group of fourteen people had booked to dine in the Savoy restaurant organised by a guy called Wolf Joel, but at the last minute, one of his guests cancelled, leaving thirteen. They had apparently commented on the superstition that it was unlucky to have thirteen seated for dinner, and that the first to leave would be destined to die first. A week later, Joel was shot dead in South Africa.
Upon hearing the news, the Savoy Hotel vowed never to allow thirteen people to dine together and tried various things like having a waiter join the group, but discovered it wasn't always appropriate. In the end, they settled on Kaspar, a wooden sculpture of a cat, who since the late 1920's, when a group of thirteen books at the restaurant, joins them, sitting at his own place with a napkin tied around his neck to make the fourteenth member of the group, apparently also being served all the courses ... which seems mildly wasteful.
It would seem that Winston Churchill was quite a fan of Kaspar, who not only had him attend meetings, but intervened when the feline statue was stolen, to ensure his safe return. More recently, Michael Morpurgo immortalised the infamous fourteenth dinner guest in a children's book called 'Kaspar: Prince of Cats' which he penned after a stint a few years back as the Savoy's writer-in-residence.
However, I have no idea what the Savoy would do if they had more than one group of thirteen book for the same sitting ... perhaps they have another sculpture waiting in the wings.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.