Janie was very excited a few weeks ago when her friend, Toni Friend, made Janie a Friend of the Chelsea Physic Garden for her birthday. A very generous and friendly gesture. This enables Janie to book the delightful cafe/restaurant in the garden for members-only dinner evenings during the summer weeks.
Janie arranged for us to celebrate birthdays with John and Mandy White later in August. But a few days later, out of the blue, Janie texted me to say that there was also a table for two free on 8 August and she had grabbed it. Was I available?
As it happens, I had arranged to meet Simon Jacobs that evening, but then the realisation began to dawn on me that 8 August was actually a rather auspicious date. Checking back through the notes I had made ahead of doing some anniversary Ogblogging, I realised with horror that 8 August was the 25th anniversary of the day Janie and I first met.
I messaged Simon:
I have goofed bigly (as the POTAS might put it if he could ever admit to a mistake). Can we possibly move our evening meet up…
Naturally/kindly Simon said yes.
Janie found the whole thing rather amusing when I told her. She has no head for dates, anniversaries and that sort of thing, so had no idea that the date was significant – only that there was a table available and so was she. But my memory lapse would have taken some explaining once that 25th anniversary of meeting piece went up on Ogblog had I not put matters right.
So Janie and I didn’t particularly want to stroll the garden on this occasion, although no doubt we shall with John and Mandy when they join us later in August. But strolling the gardens before, during and after the meal is very much part of the Chelsea Physic Garden deal.
The set starter (which can just about be seen in the top photo) was prosciutto with fontina cheese, a sort-of celeriac slaw plus a beetroot and chickpea thingamebob.
Plenty of choice for the mains, but we both went for the duck confit.
I was pretty full by this stage, but Janie fancied some cheese and so we agreed to get a plate of cheese and one desert – a summer pudding – to share:
The cheeses were Neal’s Yard – always a good sign – and the summer pudding was home made and delicious, as indeed were all of the dishes.
The waiting staff are all charming and helpful without being overly-attentive or unctuous. The other dinners seemed mainly to be of the Old English Chelsea set (see above photo); this might be another of the very few places (along with Lord’s and the Wigmore Hall) where I might still be regarded as a young man.
We are already really looking forward to our next meal at the Physic Garden. This evening was a really delightful way to end an enjoyable day and to celebrate such a big anniversary.
We concluded that 8 August would be the best day for this – my timings were completely flexible (apart from a hot date with the Mrs in the evening) and it was Day 3 of the county match between Middlesex & Warwickshire; that seemed a good bet.
After a quick reviving snack in Paul Rhodes with the girls, we then hot-footed it to Lord’s.
I hadn’t kept up with cricket events at all during the day, but knew from my visit to Lord’s and the Meet The Players Party the previous day, that the pitch had flattened out quite a lot. So my fears from Day One, when 20 wickets fell, that there might not be much/any play on Tuesday afternoon were surely unfounded…
…or were they?…
…I tapped in to Cricinfo on the way to the ground and exclaimed, “oh no! Middlesex have collapsed. We’re nine down. We probably won’t see any cricket at all.”
But we were only 10 minutes from the ground and we managed to navigate the formalities to get The Deacons in the Allen Stand gap to see some cricket. Between overs, we even got into the pavilion for the last few overs before the inevitable ending came. So the Deacons were actually in the Long Room to witness the end of the match and the traditional end of match civilities. In many ways, that made it an extra special treat for the Deacons. It would have been more special for me had it been a Middlesex win.
Still, that meant we had plenty of time and less distraction for an informal tour of Lord’s, starting with the grand tour of the pavilion itself.
I didn’t realise when we arranged the day, but Anya plays cricket at school in Canada – I imagined that she’s be largely unfamiliar with the game – so the Lord’s visit was quite special for her.
With Janie, we went and looked at the Lord’s Shop and the Cricket Academy, walked back round the ground making a full circuit, had a quick look at the real tennis court and then retired to the Bowler’s Bar in the pavilion for a well-deserved drink.
The afternoon had gone so quickly. We all had evening events to get to; Anya had arranged to see some old pals south of the river, Paul and Christine were meeting some friends for an evening at Ronnie Scott’s, while Janie and I had our hot anniversary date to get to.
It was a really enjoyable day; one of those special gatherings that will live long in the memory and which brought back plenty of other memories too.
But it was an incredibly powerful, mood-affecting piece. So much so that Janie suggested, after getting uber-strident over shawarmas at home after the show, that perhaps we should skip these very morally-upsetting subjects at the theatre for a while.
The show does exactly what it says on the tin – it covers Matisse’s life and work in his studio, so you see many of Matisse’s artefacts as well as his art works that contain those artefacts.
We were only there for 45 minutes or so (we don’t tend to linger), but still felt it was well worth the effort. We are both partial to a bit of Matisse – highly recommended to anyone who shares that partiality.
We enjoyed a drink in the members bar, then a Chinese meal from Four Seasons and an early night on a Friday for a change.
But this year, several key people were unavailable for the Middlesex v Surrey T20 fixture whereas, unusually, most people were available on 3 August for the Middlesex v Hampshire game.
Our Z/Yen contingent contained representatives from across the globe, ranging from “home of cricket” places such as India and Middlesex, through moderately-cricketing places such as Nepal to places where cricket is a rarity, such as the USA, Greece, Germany and Surrey. (I couldn’t help myself).
On this occasion, pretty much everyone got behind Middlesex (why not) although Linda, with her Southampton F.C. connection, felt torn between the two sides.
There was a good crowd at the match and a very jolly atmosphere. Unlike last year’s good close match, Middlesex, a depleted side by this stage of the tournament this year, didn’t put up much of a fight – click here for scorecard.
Possibly the most interesting moment on the field of play was towards the end, when a fox invaded the pitch. How it got through Lord’s security without a ticket and (worse) entered a hallowed part of Lord’s inappropriately attired is anybody’s guess.
But in many ways these outings are as much about being convivial team picnic outings as they are about the cricket. The weather smiled on us; a mixture of sun and clouds, but no rain. The Lord’s experience is always charming and special – and because we chose to come a bit later in the season than usual, Z/Yen people got to see Lord’s properly under lights when it got dark, which is differently special.
It is performed (alongside the author) by a different performer each night, who has not seen the script. We got Phelim McDermott, who is one of the artistic directors of Improbable. He was very good.
The piece is, on the surface, very simple, childish even. Yet the more you think about it, the more you realise that Nassim is making profound points about freedom of speech, not least the pains people like him go through when they leave their home country (in his case Iran) in order to communicate what they have to say in a foreign place and a foreign language.
We sat right at the front but managed to avoid the worst elements of the audience participation. Having said that, I got the dirtiest of dirty looks from Phelim when I tried to help him follow his instructions, by pointing to an “X marks the spot” which was located next to my seat.
We weren’t just moved and thoughtful; we laughed a lot during the 70 minutes or so. Nassim is clearly a very innovative and skilled dramatist; we’ll certainly look out for his work again.
This Bush run is an Edinburgh preview – I think this piece will go down very well in Edinburgh. It is then returning to The Bush for a while after Edinburgh – I recommend that you grab a ticket for that while/if you still can, if you like this sort of thing.
Janie and I had a crazy craving for Iranian food after Nassim’s homesick piece, so decided to try Rice Chiswick, which we found very satisfactory. Not quite Mohsen’s standard, but close and very convenient for the Bush.
Janie was not well pleased with the deep-stained bed linen either, so got to task with the sweet staff, who swapped our mattress over and adorned the better mattress with clean linen ahead of our second night.
Monk’s House doesn’t open until lunchtime, which unfortunately coincided with the weather forecast’s prediction of heavy showers in Sussex. Still, showers can be dodged on a visit to a house and garden, so we resolved to follow the test match in the morning and go off towards Lewes as soon as lunch was called at The Oval.
Monk’s House is very different from Charleston. It must have been a far more orderly place back in the day and is now a National Trust run place. However, unlike Charleston, we were allowed to take pictures inside…
…but understandably there are rules, such as “no food and drink inside” and “don’t touch things or place stuff on things”.
One couple who entered just after us seemed hell bent on breaking every one of the rules within 30 seconds of arrival, sending the charming but bossy volunteer/guide lady into fits of polite reprimand.
On chatting with that same lady later, Janie and I were also reprimanded, but in our case for going to Charleston without visiting the Berwick Church, which the lady swore was the very best example of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s work. “You simply MUST go”, she said.
“Is that an instruction?”, I asked. “Yes, absolutely”, she said, “even if you say on TripAdvisor that I am the most terrible bossy-boots…I’m telling you, you really MUST see that Church”.
Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf’s house-minder? Me. I thought we’d better conform and go to church. Initially I thought maybe tomorrow on the way home, but actually Monk’s House is quite small, so I started quietly plotting a reasonably rapid exit from Monk’s, after seeing the garden; we should still have plenty of time to go back out Charleston way to the church and then back to Brighton/Hove for the cricket match.
We got back to the hotel in good time to get ready to go out to the cricket. The weather improved and we were both chuffed to bits to discover that Toby Roland-Jones had taken three wickets in his first spell on test match debut at the Oval, while we were driving…and then a fourth which we saw on the TV when we got back to the hotel.
The weather improved enough for us to brave the walk from the hotel to the Hove cricket ground; a very pleasant walk it was too.
The Sussex CCC hospitality was warm, friendly and informal; ideal for a T20 match. To make matters better, the match even started on time:
But the weather forecast was iffy to say the least and after a while the brollies went up…Middlesex were not doing so well at that point.
The match resumed for a while and Middlesex’s fortunes improved after the resumption, with fours and sixes punctuated with flames,which Janie took great pains to capture on camera:
But then the rain returned and remained until the match was abandoned. Then it stopped raining again so Janie and I could walk back to the hotel.
We hadn’t seen much cricket, but we had enjoyed a very convivial evening in good company.
We were both in very good spirits; we’d had two very enjoyable days sojourning in Sussex.
Janie and I arranged a short trip to Sussex, primarily to visit cousin Sidney & Joan Pizan, but cunningly co-ordinated with Janie’s desire to see the Charleston Farmhouse and my desire to see Middlesex’s only game at Sussex-by-the-sea this season; a Friday evening T20 fixture.
The cricket and some other interesting touring will be written up in Part Two of this piece.
So, we stopped off at Charleston, a short detour on the way to Brighton. The sun shone that afternoon, which was good news for the visit as the place comprises beautiful gardens as well as the fascinating house.
The house was the home of Vanessa Bell and her entourage and has been restored/preserved in its Bloomsbury artists form. In the modern parlance, the whole house is a kind of installation art work, with many of the walls, furnishings, artefacts etc. having been decorated by one of the many artists who lived or hung out at the house over the years.
We were not allowed to take pictures inside the house, but Janie did buy a book with lots of pictures (as well as words), so if you ask her nicely she can show you pictures of the interiors.
We took lots of pictures in the lovely gardens – see Flickr album. A few of the best of them follow.
It is always a pleasure to see Sidney and Joan. The Jetty seemed to be a good choice of restaurant for this gathering; interesting dishes aplenty but not overly fussy food. Sparing Sidney the cooking job (which was his original plan) allowed the four of us to concentrate on catching up on each other’s news and chatting about all sorts.
Sidney and Joan cabbed it back to Hove while Janie and I chose to walk off a bit of our dinner. It had been a really pleasant evening, which had passed all too quickly.
This was Lisa’s idea – she spotted that Restaurant Oklava was doing a couple of special tasting menu evenings and thought that sounded like such a good idea that she would book first, find companions later.
When Lisa suggested the idea a couple of week’s earlier, Janie said yes straight away without checking her diary – whereas I was sure that there was something about that date. When we did check, oh joy, that “something” was the fact that we had booked the day off, either to recover from or as the reserve day for The Women’s Cricket World Cup Final.
Janie and I were still full of the cup on the Monday evening, until we got into the meal, at which point we were soon getting full with the meal. Modern Turkish food – but this is Turkish as we’d never tasted it before; really subtle flavours and fascinating combinations.
Each dish was delicious, with the octopus and the lamb in particular being the standout dishes for both me and Janie; perhaps indeed all of us. We enjoyed the wine matching idea, which gave us a chance to try several Turkish wines at a modest additional price.
Chef Selin Kiazim must have been exhausted at the end of the evening – we had a late booking, but she didn’t show it…
…she even signed the back of Janie’s menu as a keepsake to insert in the excellent Oklava book, which Toni had kindly given to Janie a few week’s earlier…
…and even kindly posed with us for a picture or two before we left:
I’d been an honorary girl for the evening. This restaurant gathering, the day after The Women’s World Cup Final (have I mentioned that Janie and I went to that?), brought a very successful girlie long weekend to a most enjoyable conclusion.
Back in October 2016, when the Women’s World Cup dates and venues were announced, I mentioned to Janie that we should book out 23 July for that match and also suggested that we ask Chas and Dot (aka Charley the Gent and Mrs Malloy).
“Don’t put me and Dot through the embarrassment of her constructing excuses for not coming to the cricket”, said Janie, “she really doesn’t like cricket”.
“But I know they enjoy watching women’s cricket together; they often go to Chelmsford to watch it…let’s leave it for now”, I replied.
Less than 48 hours later, I received an e-mail from Chas:
…I know this may sound a strange ask, but Dot likes the English ladies cricket, she has seem them play at Essex for a number of years and really enjoys watching them.
I mentioned the women’s world cup final at Lord’s next year and she expressed an interest to go!…
…My favour to ask, do you have any influence in getting reasonable seats?
I called Janie to have a gloat, knowing that she would make me suffer for it at some stage, but still Janie expressed delight at the idea and instructed me to get tickets for all four of us.
My reply to Chas:
Really funny that you wrote to me about this today, because I mentioned it as an idea to Janie over the weekend. Janie said that she’d be up for it but as Dot had said no to the pavilion the other week and to Edgbaston in August, Janie was sure that Dot would be uninterested and that we should stop putting pressure on her to do things she doesn’t want to do blah blah.
Anyway, members’ area seats will go on sale in a private December mailing after the ICC public sale. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble snapping up enough tickets to enable all four of us to go, as long as I leap in quick for the initial members’ sale, which I shall of course do.
And so I did.
There was much doubt about the weather in the run up to finals day; every time I looked at the weather forecast it changed, but the nearer we got to the day the more ominous the “risk of showers” sounded. On the morning itself, it looked as though the afternoon rain might be so bad that the match would be rain reduced or even held over to Monday, which would have been such a shame.
As it turned out, apart from a couple of sudden but blustery/blow-over type showers, which did not even interrupt play, the weather smiled on Lord’s for the whole match.
We had managed to persuade Chas and Dot to accept our hospitality picnic-wise, not least because I had enjoyed their picnic hospitality at Chelmsford recently and would enjoy it again for the start of the Edgbaston test in August.
Daisy and I brought a jolly Provencal rose wine to grace the turkey and a bold southern hemisphere Cabernet Sauvignon to support the beef. Plus various small nibbles, vegetables and fruit – not least pears for Chas – although all the pears came home with us. Chas and Dot also brought a bottle of fruity Riesling, lots of nibbles and plenty of sweet stuff, most of which went home with them again. Plus soft drinks and waters, most of which didn’t make it home.
As the England innings went on, we reduced our estimates of what a par score might be. In the end Chas reckoned 225 and I reckoned 240, so when the England innings closed at 228, we agreed that we should have a good match on our hands.
The interval entertainment was a gospel choir singing some soul and gospel standards at high volume and with great intensity. Far more to our taste than the usual test match fare of marching bands, bagpipe bands or Yorkshire Tea folk with tea mugs on their heads and brass instruments in their mouths.
Easier said than done, this selfie business, especially the double-selfie. After about five attempts I was getting a little exasperated, although I’m sure it didn’t show on my face…
…and soon we were both seeing the funny side of it:
Strangely, I chose the above photo (from a batch of many) without noticing the blue-shirted gentleman and his daughter behind us in just that one picture.
About five minutes after Janie took that photo, when she popped out briefly and just before Chas and Dot returned, I heard someone bellow, “IAN” at high volume. I turned around and saw the blue-shirted gentleman waving at me.
“Hello Ian,” he said as I wandered up to speak with him, “I’m Jeff Tye’s son”.
“Chris!”, I said, “it’s been years and years. How did you recognise me?”
“I wasn’t 100% sure, but I knew that, if it was you, you’d turn around if I shouted out your name loud enough.”
Chris was very pleased to learn that Chas was also with us, so we all spent a few minutes chatting at the end of the interval. Chris’s daughter (Jeff’s grand-daughter) must have wondered what all the fuss was about.
The second half of the match was so exciting yet it seemed to pass so quickly. An early wicket, then a good stand, then a smart run-out, then another good stand…
…India looked as though they had the match in the bag at 190-odd for three. Just before that point, Chas had said game over. I said it looked grim but one wicket could change the whole thing and I still gave England a one-in-three chance around that point.
Daisy kept telling us that we weren’t getting behind the team enough and was yelling, “come on England” at high volume as only she can.
Then a wicket…no, two wickets…no, a flurry of wickets…then some incredibly tense cricket…then an England win.
When Anya Shrubsole took her fifth wicket, the little boy who was sitting with his mum next to us, scoring the whole match carefully in a big red scorebook, told Chas proudly that Anya Shrubsole’s dad was his PE teacher. That was a bit of an “oh, wow!” moment for all of us. Soon after that, Anya took her sixth wicket and quite rightly won the player of the match. The little boy looked incredibly happy.
It had been a great day for us; everything had gone our way.
But more importantly, I think it had been a great tournament and a great day for women’s cricket. The standard of women’s cricket is improving so quickly now; this was genuinely entertaining sport at a very high level of skill. This year’s women’s world cup has shown off that improvement in the best possible way, with several high quality and nail-biting matches at the conclusion of the tournament, not least the high-profile final which we had just witnessed.
Lord’s had been a sell-out, with a really good vibe all day – a far cry from the corporate Champagne-swilling of the tests or the muscular beer-swilling of the T20 sell-outs – a different style crowd enjoying the cricket and many people enjoying seeing cricket at Lord’s for the first time.
As the interval gospel choir had put it, “Oh Happy Day”.