Birthday Dinner With John and Mandy At Chelsea Physic Garden, 29 August 2017

There was a time when John White and I (together with Mandy and Janie) would celebrate our birthdays together quite regularly. I am was born 28 August and John was born a day later, 29 August.

This age difference (of one day) entitles me to describe John as “young John” and say things like, “when you get to my age, John…”

Anyway, this year the stars aligned well for us to celebrate the birthdays together for the first time in years.

Janie’s membership of Chelsea Physic Garden had already come in mighty handy three week’s before, 8 August 2017, when she and I went there to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our first meeting.

Actually this day, 29 August, was also the 25th anniversary; in this case of our first proper date. So it was, in a way, a triple celebration; two birthdays and an anniversary.

John and Mandy had arranged to stay with us in Noddyland after dinner, so they came to the house first.

Noddyland Garden could easily be mistaken for the Chelsea Physic Garden

The above photo, btw, was the very first picture I took with my new Snap Polaroid camera, a birthday gift from Kim.

Then off to the Chelsea Physic Garden. The tale of the evening is best told mostly in pictures.

The full deck of pictures can be found on Flickr in this album – here.

Highlight pictures tell the story below.

On arrival, we have a drink and a stroll around the garden
Janie asked us to look animated – there are several attempts at this one
Then we sat down to these starters
Three of us went for this excellent Ligurian fish stew
While Mandy went for the contrarian confit of duck
I couldn’t get the Snap to flash in fading light…
…so Janie let me use her smart phone instead!
The birthday boys…
…with illuminated death by chocolate birthday desserts

After dinner, back to Noddyland for a baritone ukulele recital and some more chat before bedtime.

We also had a rare opportunity to chat some more in the morning before John and Mandy set off on their way. It had been a really enjoyable get together – let’s hope we can do something along these lines again quite soon.

A generous gift of flowers and chocolates arrived before the end of the week.

25 Years To The Day Since We First Met…Dinner At The Chelsea Physic Garden, 8 August 2017

Contemplating what might have been had I missed the date

Oh boy did I nearly make a hash of this one.

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.

Have another glass of Kiwi Pinot Noir, dear, and let’s say no more about it, eh?

Of course the Chelsea Physic Garden is wonderful – this whole business was sparked by the visit Janie and I made there with the Gresham Society back in May – reported here.

Ahead of our visit for this meal, we’d spent a super afternoon with The Deacons, strolling around Lord’s – reported here.

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.

Nice legs…

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:

Jamie the waiter is a graduate of the Daisy school of “cut of some of Ged’s head” photography, nevertheless thanks to Jamie for taking the picture.

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.

I DID Want To Go To Chelsea, Gresham Society Visit To Chelsea Physic Garden, then The Other Side Of Hope, Curzon Chelsea, 30 May 2017

When Tim Connell sent round a circular announcing a visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden, I knew immediately that the visit would be a special treat for Janie and guessed that Linda Cook would also be very interested. I was less sure about Michael and Elisabeth; as it turned out Michael was keen.

Janie was very keen and had not yet booked in any patients for that day, so we basically decided to make it a date and took the day off.

A hot date in the Chelsea Physic Garden

There were 25 to 30 of us in the Gresham Society party, I believe. The weather was very kind to us; occasionally the clouds looked a bit iffy, but there was also some sun and certainly no rain.

The Original Sloane Ranger In His Garden

We got split into two groups; our guide was Anne, who seemed very well informed and proved to be good company.

To my mind, the best plant in the garden was Catharanthus roseus (Madagascan or Rosy periwinkle), which yields natural remedies for childhood leukaemia, increasing survival rates by orders of magnitude. Yet the most popular plant amongst our cynical, Gresham Society group seemed to be Veratrum viride (Indian Poke), which induces profuse vomiting and which some native American tribes use to choose their leader; on a “last candidate to throw up” basis. Going back to traditional, natural methods is sometimes a very good idea.

Janie asked Anne zillions of questions, many of which seemed to me to be more about the poisonous, nasty plants, rather than the medicinal, nice ones. Even more worryingly, I thought I heard Janie ask a few of times, “would you be able to taste this if you added it to food?” Perhaps I am mistaken about that. But when we visited the bookshop before leaving, Janie bought a small book on medicinal plants and a larger book on the poisonous ones. I think I’ll eat out for a while.

We enjoyed a spot of lunch/high tea at the Tangerine Dream cafe within the garden, which made for a very convivial conclusion to the outing. We always enjoy spending time with the Gresham Society crowd.

By the time Janie had concluded her book shopping, I thought we might be running a bit late for the movies, but I had sort-of forgotten that the car journey from the Chelsea Physic Garden to the Curzon Chelsea was a very short one.

So we had time to book Janie’s birthday treat (a preview of the new V&A wing) before stepping in to The Other Side Of Hope. We thought this was a great movie – very interesting, at times amusing, at times shocking. It is about a Syrian refugee who lands-up seeking asylum and then working as an illegal in Helsinki.

Here’s a trailer:

Highly recommended.

Then we went back to the flat to round off our very enjoyable day with a dinner of delicious leftovers from the weekend and salad. I prepared it all, not allowing Janie anywhere near the kitchen today, she had done her bit over the weekend.  Continue reading I DID Want To Go To Chelsea, Gresham Society Visit To Chelsea Physic Garden, then The Other Side Of Hope, Curzon Chelsea, 30 May 2017