A Return Visit To Paradise by way of Kensal Green, 8 October 2017

No comedy moustache this time…
…nor festive cracker hats!

We returned to the scene of last year’s Christmas festivities (those December 2016 ones depicted above).

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!

Four Days In A Row At Lord’s For Either Tennis, Cricket Or Both, 18 to 21 September 2017

No, not bageled at tennis

Monday 18 September 

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.

Colin, who used to be on the Warwickshire committee and who acted as my guide at Edgbaston earlier in the season, joined us for a while, enabling some good chat including reminiscence of many Edgbaston visits passim.

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.

Here is a link to the scorecard and Cricinfo resource on the match.

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.

An Unusually Busy Day With Tennis, Middlesex/Saracens and DJ Jamming Session, 9 May 2017

Packing it all in; real tennis and ukulele jam

Following my first ever ukulele lesson last week (remarked upon in this linked concert thread), Luke the Baroq-ulele and indeed my real tennis bag are in the capable hands of Wahid for strapping/repairs respectively.

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.

Perfectionist/purist.

Dinner at the Daisy House with DJ and Steph, 7 January 2017

Daisy Garden, Spring 2014

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.

Daisy put a great deal of effort into the evening. I’m not sure the following activities were intended as research, but we did go to see Through The Wall (a rom-com with matchmaking at the plot’s core) in December – click here. Daisy also spent some time reading about panda behaviour, perhaps seeking insight into low stress lifestyles and/or marathon eating routines.

To some extent, the evening was also “tongue-in-cheek payback time” for DJ, who had hosted us for Christmas this year so lavishly – click here – I’m not sure I have recovered yet, two/three weeks later.

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.

Drinks a-plenty:

  • 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).

Daisy’s Magical Garden

Christmas Day In Paradise, 25 December 2016

You’re crackers, sir!  I said, “it has come out of one of your crackers, sir”!

It was DJ’s idea.

Paradise by way of Kensal Green is one of his favourite places; we’ve been there with DJ a few times on a Sunday.

Unusually, he, Kim and Max were going to be around on Christmas day. The idea of Christmas day with friends for once, without cooking/washing up pleased us enormously, so we were up for it.

It was fun.

I wasn’t properly up for such a stonking big meal though:

  • antipasti (prosciutto, salamis, artichokes);
  • pumpkin soup;
  • turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings;
  • Xmas pud;
  • cheeses;
  • mince pies;
  • chocolates…

Not only that, but the feast was served for six although there were five of us, as Pinball Geoff was due to be there but dropped out at the last minute. That was a shame for several reasons, not least that Geoff would have enjoyed my plastic tashe, as his group, The Bikini Beach Band once supported Sparks.  I love that Kimono My House look.

I know you don’t have to eat it all. I know you don’t need to drink half a bottle of Barolo on top of the aperitif of a big glass of white. Oh how I suffered the next day.

Ogblog readers will sympathise with me en masse, I just know they will.

Dinner At The Twits, The Vaults, 20 October 2016

Leake Street aka Graffiti Tunnel
Leake Street aka Graffiti Tunnel

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.

You can read all about it on the official web site here.

 

Ged trying to look edgy (with only limited success) on Leake Street.
Ged trying to look edgy (with only limited success) on Leake Street.

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…

cocktail-mystro-mixing-our-pre-show-cocktail
He’s got an “ology”; mixology
ged-not-so-sure-about-his-pre-show-cocktail
Ged “before”
Daisy "after"
Daisy “after”

…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.

Sting and tonic cocktails
Sting and tonic cocktails

Then the banquet itself, where the show continues and you eat a meal based around bird pie and a rather lemony trifle.

Who ate all the pies?
Who ate all the pies?

The plot of the show doesn’t really warrant extrapolation.  Ryan Gilbey of the Guardian does a reasonable job of explaining the inexplicable.  I nearly found myself in the role of a monkey ball, to be shot from a canon against one of the vault walls. Mercifully, we were rescued by a giant bird puppet just in the nick of time.

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.

fter show in the upside down bar
After show in the upside down bar

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.

Thanks, DJ.

A Lunch At Gravetye Manor With DJ, Kim and Micky, Then Overnight 28 and 29 June 2015

Actually taken in 2014, but the blustery moment looks more like 2015 – thanks to Kim for the picture

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.

I also decided on a photo-opportunity for a King Cricket piece I was minded to write about our visit to the test match a month or so earlier.

 

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, the King Cricket crowd were much to clever for me and rumbled the set up photograph – as you can see from the comments on this link – I cannot imagine how or why they did that.

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.

Dinner With DJ, Kim and Micky at Scalini, 21 February 2015

DJ very generously wanted to treat us all to dinner at Scalini. It is hard to refuse such offers.

I suspect we arranged this some months in advance; it is not so easy to get all of us together at the same time these days.

I think it was just the five of us that evening; if one or both of Max and Jo are around they sometimes join such an evening, but that night I think was just five of us.

I’m pretty sure Janie and I stayed at the flat afterwards, as it was deep midwinter and we also had a Wigmore Hall concert the next night.

I can’t remember exactly what we ate and drank; only that we did a bit too much of both and that the evening was very good in all departments.

Janie might remember more and chime in…but then again she might not.

Kim Micky & DJ For Dinner, Noddyland, 25 January 2014

My diary is not very forthcoming about this evening.

I have a vague feeling that Janie sourced a high quality capon for this meal.

This is not to be confused with the tough old boiler chickens referred to as capons that I discuss in the middle of this history piece from 1967 – click here.

In any case, you can be sure that Janie cooked a very good meal and that we all had a very enjoyable evening.

Kim & DJ, Theme Traders 20th Anniversary Party, The Stadium, 29 May 2010

This was a really good party.

Not quite as good as the Kim and Janie one in 2016 – click here – but still really good. Same holiday weekend; just six years earlier.

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.