Two Forms Of Soaking And Two Friendly Gatherings In One Day, Uxbridge and Southwark, 13 September 2017

I’m not sure I’d seen Fran Erdunast (formerly Weingott) since the build up to my somewhat eventful house party in 1979, but we have been reconnected through Facebook for some time and discovered that we share an enthusiasm for cricket, not least Middlesex.

Fran likes to go to Middlesex out-ground matches, so we hatched a quasi-plan to meet up at the four-day game between Middlesex & Hampshire at Uxbridge CC late season.

Both the weather and my work commitments seemed to be conspiring against this idea, but the forecast for the afternoon of 13 September was, in the end, rather encouraging (sunny with a small chance of showers) and I realised that we should get to see a few hours of cricket at Uxbridge between my morning meeting and the early evening wine tasting in Southwark.

That was the plan…

…and the early part of the plan worked. I got to Uxbridge just before the start of play after lunch and saw a figure who was unmistakably Fran sitting conveniently near to the Gatting Way entrance. She introduced me to Simon, who turns out to be equally keen on county cricket, albeit a Yorkshire supporter (he hails from Leeds). They had arrived about 5 minutes ahead of me and were sorting out some well-appointed seats for the three of us.

After two or three overs, we felt a few spots of rain, which seemed to send the umpires into a tizzy and the players all came off, much to the disgust of the tiny crowd.

A light sprinkling and covering before the deluge

“I think the umpires and ground staff must know something we don’t”, I said, suggesting that we head for the pavilion before the deluge.

Deluge it was. Lashings of proper, wet rain, for about 20 minutes or so.

In an intriguing echo of the “Ian turning up over-dressed” story from 1980, which emerges from my other recent BBYO reunion with Mark Lewis, I realised that I was ludicrously overdressed for the Uxbridge pavilion in my business suit.

I was even more ludicrously dressed for slogging through the sludge of Uxbridge CC after the rain. I rolled up my trousers to avoid mud on suit misery. Jeff Coleman threatened to take my picture for the Middlesex or MTWD website, which I actively encouraged, as I thought it must look very funny, but Jeff kindly relented in the interests of my dignity.

On the way back to the slightly less soggy patch where our seats were now drying in the sun, I decided to have my one “Thatcher” 99 Whippy ice cream of the year, offering to treat Fran and Simon, who both declined politely.

Fran described the intricacies of the dental work she does while I ate the ice cream, presumably to ensure that I was not tempted to try any further sweet treats that day. Simon tried to avoid fainting during this conversation. I tried to put Simon at his ease by admitting to being squeamish when Janie talks about some of the intricacies of her podiatry work, at which point Fran demonstrated her considerable medical knowledge by explaining the difference between mouths and feet. When Simon and I both showed signs of imminent fainting, Fran stopped talking about medical procedures.

Ice cream at Uxbridge on a cold day brought to mind my previous visit to that ground, which Dumbo (my Suzuki Jimny) reported on King Cricket – here.

We watched the ground staff try to remove ludicrous quantities of surface water from the pitch, ably assisted by Angus Fraser and even some of the players. The efforts looked futile and indeed after about 30 minutes of sunshine and hard labour, the umpires came out and concluded that it would be impossible to get anything going again today.

Fran kindly invited me back to her place in Pinner along with Simon for some tea. It would be a chance to continue our chat about the good old days, cricket and cricket in the good old days, which is exactly what we did.

Fran hardly seemed to have changed in the decades since we last met. I am consistently surprised when I reconnect with friends from my teenage years how little they have changed in essence. Fran articulated it well in a note later that day:

…bemused by the surreal vision of grown up Ian Harris sitting on my sofa…[t]he 16-17 year old version I last saw kept reappearing ghost-like during the afternoon.

Fran displayed Essex beating up Warwickshire as background entertainment on the TV; it was clear that both Simon and Fran follow county cricket avidly and know a lot about it. Simon mentioned that Jack Simmons was one of his favourite cricketers; coincidentally Janie had spent a long time chatting with Simon’s hero when we were at Southport earlier in the season. I forgot to ask Simon why, as a Yorkshire supporter, his hero was a Lancastrian. Perhaps Simon will chime in with the answer to that conundrum.

16:30 came around ever so quickly and Fran very kindly insisted on taking me to Pinner station, worrying that I might otherwise be late for my 18:00 wine tasting. Indeed, by the time she had picked a couple of pears from her garden for Charley The Gent Malloy to sample next week (I’ll report back on how the Pinner Conferences go down with pear specialist Charley), even I thought I might have cut it a bit fine for Southwark.

I had forgotten how quick the Metropolitan Line is and hadn’t thought about Southwark, on the Jubilee Line, being a simple hop of a change from the Met line. Once I entered Pinner Station, of course, my brain went back onto automatic from all those visits out that way in my youth, to see Simon, Caroline and others at the Pinner club.

Still, I was surprised when I emerged into the Southwark sunshine at 17:20, a full forty minutes early. Time for a coffee and (sorry Fran) another somewhat sweet treat for fortification (pain au raisin).

Then to the Mousse wine tasting, which this time was on Lebanese wines. Janie arrived only a tiny bit late…

…but much earlier than this photo which Janie took quite a bit later in the evening:

Say “halloumi cheese”: Ian, Helen and Donna

We got to try a few different wines; Chateau Musar (naturally), a top notch wine from Chateau Kefraya plus several excellent wines from Massaya, with which Janie and I were unfamiliar. Helen also served a couple of French examples by way of comparison.

Massaya is less than 20 years old, so didn’t even exist when Janie and I visited Lebanon, tried Musar and Kefraya wines aplenty and also went to the Ksara caves to taste wine:

Tasting Wine at Ksara, Lebanon in 1997
He’s at Ksara…not the Massaya, he’s a very naughty boy

If you want to see the full stack of photos from our 1997 sojourn to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Eilat, click here.

My favourite wines from the Mousse wine tasting evening were a couple of the Massaya ones; Le Colombier (entry level but very gluggable) and the Silver Selection wine which I thought was cracking good. I also really liked the Marsanne-based Hermitage white which Helen served by way of comparison. I have never been much taken with the Lebanese whites, whereas Leb red can hit the spot more often than not.

Janie asked us all to look natural, so of course…

Janie’s attempts to photograph several of us by asking us to look natural were naturally more likely to fail than succeed. The picture above was the best of the bunch. If you want a laugh at the rest, feel free to click through here.

Helen always gathers an interesting, eclectic crowd for her wine tastings, so you don’t just learn a lot about wine, you do so in very agreeable company.

Janie and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening, which we rounded off with Maroush shawarmas and a bottle of Asti Spumante.  (OK, I made up that last bit).

Preview of Switch House, The New Tate Modern Building, 15 June 2016

View From The Top
View From The Top
Events At The Bottom
Events At The Bottom

After doing Shakespeare’s Globe, we thought that 15:00ish would be a good time to see the New Tate – after the lunchtime crowd and before the “knock off work a little early” crowd. We were right; a bit of a queue, but not too bad.

We started at the bottom and worked our way up slowly, having been warned that the lifts would be a long wait. At the very bottom, a few small exhibitions in The Tanks, such as a weird video room where you lie on cushions and look at videos of naked young women screaming and shouting. Another was supposed to react to the noises we made but seemed unresponsive to our noises. Also down there, a musical event (see picture above) of musical instruments powered by air tanks and other geeky-looking gadgetry.

Then we wended our way up, having a quick look at the new exhibits. We were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t see the macaws in the Brazilian exhibit for “animal welfare” reasons, which clearly don’t extend to keeping the birds cooped up regularly per se.

We were especially taken by one exhibit with “lie down in a cage” potential – in my case because I liked the idea of a lie down at that stage; in Janie’s case because she saw it as a big-time photo opportunity.

Well comfy
Not so easy to get in and out of though



Then we carried on to the top, taking a quick look at the restaurant (which looked a bit “uti” for its price) and then the stunning viewing gallery.

One view
One view
Another view
View From The Top
View From The Top

After the Tate, we went on to one of Helen Baker’s Mousse wine tastings. This one was fairly impromptu and well-timed for us as her place is just around the corner from the Tate Modern.

It was mostly roses: Les Mille Vignes Rose 2014 and Domaine Malmont Rose 2015. But actually the highlight was a most unusual white: Les Mille Vignes Muscat Sec 2014 – the most interesting dry muscat I have ever tasted.

As usual some really nice interesting people there – mostly the firm of architects who work in the building. Naturally the conversation turned to the referendum at times. We were unquestionably in with an in crowd.

Alexander Calder at the Tate Modern, Followed by a Mousse Wine Tasting, 23 November 2015

This was one of those coincidental days that worked out ever so well. Janie and I had run out of steam on our previous visit to the Tate Modern (to see The World Goes Pop) but wanted to see the Alexander Calder exhibition properly. We had a booked a day off for 23 November, as we had arranged to spend the weekend in Bristol with Hil, Chris and the family, so that day seemed a suitable date for the Calder.

Meanwhile, Helen Baker at Mousse Wine invited us, at relatively short notice, to a wine tasting that very evening, just around the corner from the Tate Modern.

So, on the day, we enjoyed a decent game of tennis in the morning, a light lunch and then off to the Tate Modern.

We really enjoyed the Alexander Calder, finding his sculptures soothing as well as interesting and pleasing to the eye.  There’s a good Tate stub on this exhibition with all the details – click here.

The wine tasting focussed on Nebbiolo wines – mostly Barbaresco and Barolo – here is the list of wines we tried:

Nebbiolo tasting 23.11.15 invite list np

This was Janie’s first (and my second) Mousse tasting. Not only does Helen put on a very interesting tasting but the small group of people she attracts are a pleasant, interesting bunch too.

A most enjoyable way to end a day off.


Mousse Wine Tasting, Rossi & Brunelli di Montalcino, 28 September 2016

About a week ahead, I was invited to a wine tasting by Helen Baker, a friend of Gerry Goddin who was thinking through setting up independently in the wine business:

I was wondering if you would be able to make it to a tasting?  This is the first of a series of four to be held fortnightly on a Monday, starting at 5.30 pm/6.00 pm. These first four will concentrate on Rosso/Brunello and Langhe Nebbiolo/Barolo.  I have a few older vintages and interesting comparisons, so it should be fun as well as interesting and all the wines are top notch.

As luck would have it, I was in the City that day and had no evening engagement planned, so it would have seemed churlish to turn down a chance to try some amazing wines.

I met some interesting people and tasted some superb wines at this tasting. A list of the wines we tasted is linked here: Mousse Montalcino Tasting 28 09 15

Helen very kindly let me take a couple of half-finished bottles home with me, warning me though, that the really fine Brunelli would not be at its best for much more than 24 hours.

When I told Janie what she had missed, she made a point of popping in to the flat on the Tuesday and having a quick slurp. She enjoyed both the Rossi and the Brunelli but agreed that the Brunelli was especially fine.

This new found understanding of Brunelli came in handy just a few days later in Southend-on-Sea – I kid you not. Once I have written up that visit (3 October), there should be a pingback link below.