There’s one good thing you can say about this cold: it’s full of surprises. Up one day, down the next. Nearly better, just a few renegade sniffles left, then WALLOP, and you’re back in the zone. Dry cough, tickly cough, phlegmy cough, wheezy cough, chesty cough: there aren’t enough brands of Benilyn in the world to cover it. Also, it’s always worst at weekends, i.e. when you can’t even grant yourself the compensatory luxury of a Sick Day.
OK, so going to a Goldfrapp gig with Neil, drinking five pints of lager (of varying strengths), and prolonging the “catching up” session with Alan until 1:00 this morning was never exactly going to flush it out of my system. And, um, I might have had the odd cigarette or two along the way. Just to be sociable, like. But f**k it – if I’m going to be ill anyway, then I might as well imbue it with a sense of purpose.
The upside of this hideous affliction is that it gives me absolute carte blanche to make crap, rambling, semi-delirious blog posts… because at least I’m Making An Effort, and can therefore be granted immunity from criticism. After all, it’s the one immunity I have left to my name.
So I might eventually regret telling you this story. However, as I’m in no condition to judge its appropriateness, I shall plough on regardless.
But first, in best Ronnie Corbett fashion, a preliminary digression. Please feel free to cast me in Golfing Casual wear, hunched forward on a Parker Knoll, fiddling with my glasses.
We had a rather random Saturday night. The plan was for K and I, OldEngland, “Bob” and Mrs “Bob” to grab an early evening pint and a simple bite to eat, somewhere we hadn’t been before. OldEngland had been tipped off about a place which sounded perfect: tiny, traditional, great beer, simple home-cooked game pies and stuff, in the Good Pub Guide, etc etc.
About ten minutes into the drive, we finally got round to mentioning the name of the place to “Bob” and Mrs “Bob”. At which point, “Bob” let out an agonised gasp.
“We can’t go there! It’s officially the worst pub in the world! Everybody I know says so!”
“But it’s supposed to be traditional…”
“Well, yeah. Traditional as in basic, scruffy, dog-rough, inbred, hostile, intimidating…”
Luckily, I had an Emergency Plan B. So we ended up in Longnor instead.
Longnor is a small place, but with four pubs in close proximity, and a chip shop. God knows how they manage to sustain so many. Maybe they just like their beer in Longnor. We ruled out the Robinsons pub, and the rather forbidding looking place with the steamed-up windows, and headed for The Horseshoe at the far end of the main square. Oh, oh, oh! Best Pint Of Marston’s Pedigree, Ever! Seriously! It’s my favourite beer anyway, but this was just perfect.
Next, we crossed the square to the Crewe & Harpur Arms. (I’ve grabbed a screenswipe from the “virtual tour” section on this link, as it shows the exact very same table where we sat.) This has been recently taken over and refurbished, with a smart formal dining room, a large, cosy bar, and an uncommonly welcoming and hospitable landlord: fresh out of the RAF (as of two weeks ago), full of infectious enthusiasm, and with major aspirations for the place.
The food, my dears, was sublime. I knew we were onto a winner when I tasted the lettuce which came with the chicken liver starter: proper, fresh, just out of the ground stuff. (This has been my big gastronomic discovery of the summer: the simple joy of the freshly plucked lettuce. Who knew that they had so much flavour? Or, indeed, any flavour at all?)
As we dined, the landlord revealed that he was also a professional calligrapher, and was there anything that we’d like him to inscribe? Still chatting, while almost absent-mindedly whizzing his nib across a piece of folded-up cartridge paper on the bar, he knocked this up for us in scarcely less than a minute:
And then, by special request:
But this was not the end of his talents, oh no. After our meal, he hopped over to the adjoining piano, and led the whole bar in a rousing rendition of Dame Elton’s Your Song, followed by Let It Be and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Traditional sing-songs round the old Joanna, no less! We Peak District folk still know how to make our own entertainment! You can keep your new-fangled “jukeboxes” and “disc jockeys”. It was jolly. We’ll be back.
The following afternoon, while I was pruning the honeysuckle out on the street, and K was doing complicated “putting to bed” things with the lawn, a couple of familiar faces swung by on their afternoon constitutional. Pleasantries swiftly exchanged, the husband cut to the chase.
“Chaps, I’d like to ask you something. Do you actually find penises attractive? Or are they just, you know, a means to an end? Because I can’t see the appeal.”
(I can’t be 100% certain that he actually said “means to an end” – but if he didn’t, then he certainly should have done.)
Placing my secateurs and trug on the verge, and resting my hand lightly over K’s shoulder, I stood up straight and proud, and looked him in the eye. Man to man.
“That’s a simple question to answer, and I am happy to answer it. On behalf of us both, and indeed of our whole community, I can confirm that… yes, we LOVE cock.”
It was only at this point that the four of us glanced hurriedly round to check that there weren’t any children in earshot. (There weren’t.)
“I think it’s the fact that, if you get close enough to them, they change their whole shape. An outward visual manifestation of an inner state of desire. Most alluring. Beautiful afternoon, isn’t it? We’ve been trying to decide on next year’s tulips.”
I love village life, I do. You just don’t get the same quality of discourse on the streets of Nottingham.