It was almost the same group of us too, except was around and Micky joined us this time.
The place is probably better suited to a regular Sunday lunch feast rather than the Christmas feast. The regular Sunday lunch is gargantuan enough, but within a tolerance that doesn’t require several days of overindulgence-recovery-time.
Good food too. Janie and I both especially enjoyed the crispy belly pork. I found the Sunday roast trimmings (not least Yorkshire pudding) went surprisingly well with it. Yummy starters too – mine was a seared tuna salad, Janie’s a crab thing.
But of course it was the company that really made the day so good. Even after Micky, Max and Kim had gone, Janie and I stuck around chewing the fat with DJ until long after dark. Winter is setting in!
After work, I went to Lord’s for my long-awaited round of 16 tournament fixture, tennis racket and baroq-ulele in hand.
The least said about my performance at tennis the better. I wasn’t bageled in either set is about as far as “the positives” will go. Perhaps I would have played better tennis with my baroq-ulele than with my racket.
Afterwards I went on to DJs place for a very enjoyable guitar/baroq-ulele jam.
Tuesday 19 September
A day of county cricket between Middlesex and Lancashire at Lord’s with Escamillo Escapillo. After an early visit to the gym, I got to Lord’s a few minutes after play had started. Middlesex were batting and had lost two early wickets by the time I got to HQ. Things didn’t improve for Middlesex that first hour, with four early wickets going down.
We had an excellent lunch of roast beef baps and salad from the Long Room bar; Escamillo’s idea and treat to spare me the picnic preparation. A superb idea it was too.
It was an excellent day of company and cricket, the latter of which got better, then worse, then better again for Middlesex. Escamillo seemed a little conflicted, as a Lancashire supporter who nevertheless wanted to see Middlesex survive in the first division.
At the end of the day, Escamillo Escapillo joined me as a guest at the sponsors’ party in the Thomas Lord Suite, which was very pleasant. I scored a half case of wine in the raffle, which put paid to any thoughts of walking home after the party.
Wednesday 20 September
Early start, as I had agreed to play the real tennis equivalent of a “naughty boy net” at 9:00 (a doubles partnering Mark Ryan) and needed to prepare my share of the Charley The Gent Malloy picnic before heading to Lord’s. Charley and I had agreed to share the picnic duties.
The above photograph shows my share of the picnic, which includes several food items which were to be the subject of foodie debates which, I hope, will form future King Cricket pieces, which will be linked here if/when published.
I performed well in my naughty-boy doubles and got changed in time to secure good seats for me and Chas before Chas arrived, a few minutes after the start of play. Middlesex took a wicket while I was signing Chas into the pavilion.
Charley, being an Essex supporter, was able to give his full support to Middlesex today, as Essex had already won the county championship last week.
We nibbled little during the morning, as I had a tennis singles at 13:00. Chas came and watched some of that match, which went very well for me.
When I returned to the pavilion, the sides were off for bad light and Chas was chatting with a blind member who was visiting with a partially-sighted pal who was enjoying a day at Lord’s for the first time. Delightful company, those two were.
Much like my day with Escamillo yesterday, Chas and I retired to the Warner Stand for the second half of the day. More comfortable seating than the pavilion and a similar view. Nice coffee available in that new stand too.
The centrepiece of my share of the picnic is there to be seen in the above photo; the centrepiece of Chas’s picnic was a plentiful supply Dot’s speciality corned beef baps.
Middlesex got into a good position but then subsided in the second innings to leave the match tantalisingly poised overnight.
How quickly the season has been and gone, Chas and I agreed, as we parted company at cricket for the last time in 2017.
I supped on a couple of Dot’s corned beef baps with salad.
Thursday 21 September
Working at home today, while following the latter stages of the Middlesex v Lancashire match. I went to the gym mid morning and heard some of the match on the radio; a couple of early wickets for Middlesex not quite settling my nerves, but improving my outlook for the match. It was a tight finish, but Middlesex were ahead of the curve in taking wickets for most of the day.
Soon after Middlesex won the match, it started to rain. Not long after that, I set off for Lord’s to play in the quarter-finals of the doubles tournament.
My good performances from the day before did not translate into performance in the big match that mattered. It was a tough fixture, especially as my doubles partner had been on holiday and therefore not played for a few weeks. We fought hard but came second, so that is the end of the internal tournament season for me.
As I left Lord’s that evening, I ran into several members of the Lord’s staff who had clearly been in end of season goodbyes mode for the last few hours with members leaving the ground after the last professional cricket match of the season. “Winter well”, “see you next year”, that sort of tone.
“See you Tuesday”. I responded. That’s when I’ll be back at Lord’s, picking up again on the fragments of my so-called real tennis career.
Today’s itinerary included some real tennis at lunchtime, then hot wheels from Lord’s (where Middlesex meetings would normally take place) to Saracens/Allianz Park where today’s “Middlesex in exile” meetings were taking place; then on to a jamming evening with DJ in Cricklewood.
No sense in taking Dumbo on those rounds, so I needed to get smart about my luggage. I discovered that there was but one sweet spot in Benjy’s ukulele case where both uke and racket could fit and the lid would close without difficulty.
That configuration (pictured above) raised a few smiles (and even photographs) as I did my rounds.
The day went well. I won my tennis (just), the Middlesex meeting was very productive.
The low point was the “greasy spoon” at the end of DJ’s road, where I squatted for 45 minutes before the jam. It neither looked nor was rated “greasy spoon” on-line…and since when did greasy spoons have fancy coffee machines with every conceivable variety of coffee available?
The jamming session with DJ was great fun, although DJ doesn’t think that the marriage of tennis racket and uke in one case is a good idea on a regular basis.
Clearly, the Daisy Garden did not look like the above photo on the evening that DJ and Steph came to dinner. For a start, it gets dark around 16:00 in London early January. Secondly, Daisy (that’s Janie for the uninitiated) has invested in some fancy new garden furniture since the photo was taken – painted hard wood rescued from old houses in India, recycled as garden furniture, as it happens.
The idea for the dinner started to germinate back in November, when a few of us gathered for an informal Z/Yen/alumni get together – briefly described if you click here. Janie chatted with Steph, phone numbers (or WhatsApp accounts) were exchanged and the rest is history.
Janie has long wanted to try her hand at matchmaking, possibly because she and I were (initially inadvertently, I think) match-made by Kim, DJ’s sister, back in the day. “The day” was the late summer of 1992, which is approaching its 25 year anniversary, so I’m planning a fair bit of retro Ogblogging about that era as this year, 2017, unfolds.
But returning to the evening of 7 January. Possibly in a nod to our own early interactions, Janie cooked one of her signature dishes as the centrepiece of the meal; shin of veal in a clay pot. This dish is quite similar to the ossobuco (traditional style – none of that tomato-laden sauce) Janie cooked the very first time I went to her place for a meal.
But the shin of veal was merely the centrepiece:
preceded by goose rillette and vegetable nibbles;
accompanied by rice and sprouting broccoli;
followed by a platter of fresh fruits and/or chocolates…
…then followed by cheeses.
Prosecco (for three)/decent white wine (for me);
Some fine gran reserva Riojas, which (as it happens) DJ gave me for my birthday and I had been saving for a suitable occasion with suitable food;
A bottle of vintage port for the cheese, to more or less guarantee “payback” to some extent in the overindulgence department.
Daisy and I were grateful for a quiet day the next day and an extra day off Monday before returning to the day jobs.
So why a photograph of the garden to head up this piece? Well, one of the most memorable characteristics of the evening (putting aside what good company everyone was, what a superb meal it was and how much we all enjoyed ourselves) was the mildness of the evening. So much so, that we were able to take our drinks and nibbles at the start of the evening in the garden, under the glow of the patio heater, which felt quite magical in January.
Stop press! Update!
Daisy has just seen this Ogblog posting and kindly taken a picture of the magical garden tonight, so readers might see what it looked like (except without the wine, nibbles and the four of us enjoying the evening, of course).
An unusual night out for us at The Vaults in Waterloo, engineered by DJ, who very generously sent us a couple of tickets fort his event as an impromptu gift.
Dinner At the Twits is a cross between an immersive theatre experience and a themed dinner party. Based on a grotesque Roald Dahl story, the conceit of the experience is that attendees are guests at the reconfirming of vows evening for the unspeakably awful couple, Mr & Mrs Twit.
We got to the venue in good time, so we stopped off in the cocktail bar before the experience proper. The bar was a fun place and the cocktail mixologist did us proud…
…you get my drift.
Then on to the ghastly garden, where you are given another cocktail – a “sting and tonic” with nettles in it – plus you have to forage for appetisers (including bloodied hearts, burnt sausages and pigeon goujons) and mingle with the Twits and their monkey-like assistants.
Then the banquet itself, where the show continues and you eat a meal based around bird pie and a rather lemony trifle.
Yes, the show was a bit panto-like (what do you expect from Roald Dahl) but the food and beverage was very imaginative; the grotesque theming was very well done.
Just in case you haven’t had enough to drink by the end of the meal, there is an after show “upside down” cocktail bar as well. We had certainly been plied with plenty, so made our metaphorical excuses and returned to the relative safety of Notting Hill Gate, replete with food, drink and entertainment.
After the great success of our lunch at Gravetye Manor last year, DJ asked us again for 2015.
We arranged to stay over on the Sunday night, driving down on the Sunday morning. I’m not sure whether we played tennis – I have a feeling we did play, early.
Once again it was a lovely lunch. The food is very good there. Such a relaxing place.
Somehow it didn’t quite have the magical atmosphere of the previous year, perhaps because we were doing the same thing for a second time, perhaps it was just the vibe of the place this time around.
One highlight of the afternoon was a package of photograph prints and a memory stick from Kim as a gift to Janie. The above picture is one of the hundreds of pictures from that stick; many of which will surely find their way onto the retrospective sections of Ogblog.
The weather wasn’t quite so special, the sun and the showers came and went with regularity. So rather than hanging around digesting our food in that large outhouse/arbour thing and the smaller, more outdoorsy chairs and arbours from the previous year, we relocated inside to a snug spot within the Manor itself for most of the afternoon, although the showers became less regular and passed through as the afternoon went on.
Before too long, DJ, Kima nd Micky all decided to go, so Janie and I sorted ourselves out in our room and then went outside to enjoy the now rather glorious early evening, playing some croquet and badminton on the lawn.
We drove back on the Monday in our tennis (lawners, not realers) gear, stopping off at Boston Manor for a hit. We also enjoyed the rest of our Monday off. Indeed, we did little work and had lots of fun that week, as you will see if you read on in sequence, not least the first couple of days in July.
Could it really have been 20 years? Yes of course it could, but still it sounds ridiculous when I say it.
Anyway, all of the usual suspects were there – DJ’s friends, Kim & Micky’s friends…which of course meant lots of our (Janie’s and my) friends.
There was a special guest appearance by neighbour Ken Livingstone, with whom I chatted idly for a while. Also the local mayor was there.
Never ones to miss out on a promotional opportunity., I discover that Theme Traders made a promotional video of that party, in which, if you look carefully, you can spot both me and Janie, more than once…
…which provides evidence that we were really there…
…and will aid our memories of the event, which was one of those hard to forget (because it was so spectacular) yet hard to remember (because we were enjoying ourselves so much) evenings.
The Bikini Beach Band were the headline act and jolly good they were too, as always.