23 January 2011

Good morning on a bright, brisk morning – not quite so Arctically frigid as it has been the last couple of days, just damp and muddy. Another busy week filled, this time, with a couple of birthday celebrations.

On Thursday evening we were kindly invited out by Nick and Lucy to assist in the celebrations of Nick’s 36th birthday. We trundled across to Leamington through the freezing fog to pick them up and then made our way to The Moorings at Myton for a lovely meal. We’d not been here before and I think that Nick might have been once or twice many years ago. It’s recently gone through a major renovation and is now run by two chefs who trained with Master Chef Raymond Blanc of Le Manoir aud Quat’ Saisons fame. (Don’t worry, we’ve never been to Le Manoir as you need to have secured a mortgage on your first born to afford to even look at the lunchtime menu). Still, with a reputation like this we were very much looking forward to it.

The place was lovely but I think we all agreed that the food did not “blow us away.” It was good but not outstanding and the menu, in my view, was a little uninspired with not a lot of terribly exciting options. To make matters worse, soon after we were seated and started perusing the menu, our waiter appeared to inform us that they had run out of the one item on the specials board I’d had my eye on, the breast of guinea fowl with a spinach and something risotto.

Don’t get me wrong – we are always delighted to have a meal out and this was certainly very pleasant. The company was outstanding, of course, but the meal did leave us a bit underwhelmed.

Then on Friday lunchtime we had another birthday celebration to enjoy. This time it was Pen’s father Oz’s 89th birthday and so he and Beryl, Nick and Lucy and Penny’s nephew Michael, his girlfriend Emma and their two sons joined us for a fish and chips lunch. Apparently, fish and chips is one of Oz’s favourites so Pen had whisked into town to visit the finest fish and chips emporium Banbury has to offer and came away with most of that day’s catch. A chocolate cake that was undeniably delicious finished just about everyone off.

Naturally, all birthday celebrations pale into insignificance when compared with the masterful meal Ms Playchute made me for my most recent anniversary. Still, I am quite happy to keep celebrating whatever and whenever the occasion. Who’s next?


Speaking of birthdays and, associated as they are with the aging process, I was struck the other day by how crotchety and crabby some can get in their old age. I am thinking here specifically of our Miss Molly Miggins who, now that she is in her 70s, has become a truly cranky and stubborn old lady, quite unlike the angelic character in her early years. I’ve written before but, when the weather is poor, Molly returns from our ambles across the fields covered and caked in mud. When she arrives home in this state she is hosed down and then isolated in the kitchen and/or entrance hall; she is not allowed into the lounge or into the library (which she reckons to be her personal and private accommodation). She will, somewhat reluctantly, accept her fate but not before staring at you with a look of bemused annoyance. This doesn’t last long, however. After a few moments she will announce her desire to have access to the library by standing in the entrance hall and barking most energetically. Unfortunately, it is not possible to simply ignore her as she doesn’t stop. A loud “No!” will quieten her down for a short period but it won’t be long before she is at it again. (Hmm, is that the forgetfulness of old age or is she just wilfully disobedient?). Naturally, we go through this routine a couple of times before she finally wins and the door is opened for her. The disdainful look as she saunters into her private accommodation is priceless.

I am about two-thirds of the way through reading Bill Bryson’s “At Home: A Short History of Private Life” which I am finding to be most enjoyable. He takes a room at a time from his Norfolk rectory as the starting point for a ramble through social history. Last night I started reading the chapter on the Bedroom and, after a description of bed bugs, rats and excruciatingly uncomfortable mattresses, he went on to discuss the “real problem with beds, certainly by the Victorian period” which was that they were “inseparable from that most troublesome of activities, sex.” He takes inspiration from a book entitled What a Young Woman Ought to Know written by one Mary Wood-Allen in 1913 which concludes that:

“. . . it was permissible to take part in physical intimacies within marriage, so long as it was done ‘without a particle of sexual desire.’”

Bryson continues:

“To avoid arousal more generally, women were instructed to get plenty of fresh air, avoid stimulating pastimes like reading and card games, and above all never to use their brains more than was strictly necessary. Educating them was not simply a waste of time and resources but dangerously bad for their delicate constitutions. In 1865, John Ruskin opined in an essay that women should be educated just enough to make themselves practically useful to their spouses, but no further. Even the American Catherine Beecher, who was by the standards of the age a radical feminist, argued passionately that women should be accorded full and equal educational rights, so long as it was recognized that they would need extra time to do their hair.”

Finally, I ran across a lovely article in the Guardian the other day about those occasions when the audio subtitles for those who are hard of hearing go somewhat awry. The article explains that those who are deaf or hard of hearing love the pre-recorded subtitles which are done before transmission and which synchronise well with the action on screen. Live subtitles are a different story such as the occasion during the Queen Mother’s funeral when a request for “a moment’s silence for the Queen Mother” was allegedly transcribed as a suggestion that we should all enjoy “a moment’s violence for the Queen Mother.”

Last week, during an item on BBC Breakfast News about breeding pigs, a roving reporter explained to the presenter that pigs “love to nibble anything that comes into the shed, like our wellies”. Unfortunately, the voice recognition/transcription software heard that pigs “love to nibble anything that comes into the shed, like our willies”. It does make you wonder how many deaf or hard of hearing young boys will now be petrified of the upcoming school visit to the local farm.

Love to you all,