Saturday, 20 September 2014

Eat Here Diet Home

Last Sunday Mr V had a mad moment.  It was ‘mad’ because it didn’t have anything to do with Manchester United, who had recently been signed by Manchester United, who was rumoured to be signed according to the Red Café forum, or anything to do with Alex Ferguson – the latter of whom my husband still sorely misses.  Nope, it had nothing to do with any of that at all.  Instead my husband turned to me and said, ‘Do you fancy me taking you out to lunch?’
          Mr V found himself talking to thin air – I was already in the car, engine turned over, revving expectantly, not daring to procrastinate in case the telly went back on and a sudden football match just happened to be playing somewhere in the country with a TV camera trained on the players.
          ‘Don’t you want to spruce yourself up a bit?’ my husband asked as he climbed into the passenger seat.
          ‘Nope,’ I said reversing the car smartly backwards and heading out to the main road.  ‘These shorts and tee are decent enough, and I have some lippy in my handbag.  I’ll put some on when we arrive at–’ I paused and glanced at my husband.  ‘Where exactly are we going?’
          ‘Ah, now that’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question,’ he smiled indulgently.
          ‘Ooh, is this some sort of fabulous last-minute surprise?’ I asked, suddenly anxious about the shorts and tee.  My brain did a quick check through which month we were in.  Was it our anniversary?  Or Mr V’s birthday?
          ‘No, I just fancy us having a drive out.  Let’s drive to the countryside.’
          I bulked.  My husband’s words reminded me of my grandparents many moons ago doing a similar thing on a Sunday afternoon.  I wasn’t quite ready to emulate my grandparents.  More and more recently I’ve noticed my husband slowing down somewhat.  The days of having a brisk walk have turned into an amble.  He’s exchanged powering down the ski slopes for strolling around a golf course.  And here we were suddenly tootling off for ‘a drive’.
          ‘We’ll go to Westerham,’ I said as the car steamed along the M25, ‘there are some nice restaurants there according to my sister.’
          ‘Oh no, not there, I really like the idea of getting lost in leafiness.  Come off at the next junction,’ said my husband.
          ‘But that’s Sevenoaks, I’m not sure how leafy–’
          ‘Yes, yes, quick, take a left before you drive past it.’
          So we took a left.  And drove, and drove, and drove a bit more.  There was indeed lots of leafiness but not a restaurant in sight.  As pavements disappeared and roads became little more than lanes thickly edged with trees, my stomach let out a huge rumble.  We’d been driving for about forty-five minutes now.
          ‘At this rate we’re going to miss lunch altogether,’ I complained.  ‘And look,’ I pointed to a sign, ‘we’re now heading towards Westerham.  I knew we should have stayed on the motorway.’
          ‘But isn’t this wonderful?’ said my husband contentedly.  ‘I just love driving out and getting lost.  It clears the mind.’
          I stared grimly through the windscreen concentrating on the meandering narrow road which was doing nothing for my mind whatsoever.  We were in the heart of National Trust walking land.  I’d much have preferred to be out there, hiking boots on, with pooch straining at her lead.
          ‘Fantastic houses round here,’ Mr V pointed towards an ancient low-slung building with higgledy-piggledy windows and a crooked slate roof.  ‘Full of English charm.  That place wouldn’t look remiss on a box of chocolates.’
          At the thought of chocolates, indeed any form of sustenance, my stomach let out another growl of hunger.
          ‘I’m stopping at the first restaurant we come across,’ I warned, as a pub swung into view.  Result!
          ‘It’s a pub,’ Mr V protested.
          ‘Yes, but with a bit of luck it will also have pub grub.  If we don’t stop and eat soon, I’ll faint.’
          I swung the car through a pair of rustic gates.  The wheels crunched over golden gravel, and I slotted the car into the last available parking space.  The place might be in the middle of nowhere, but it was clearly popular – the car park was packed.  To the side was a large woodland garden made all the more bucolic by a huge golden sun pouring its warm rays onto cream parasols dotted around wooden trestle tables.  Terracotta tubs exploded with geraniums, lavender and giant daisies while bees buzzed lazily around them.  I passed a sign that said ‘Dogs Welcome’ and was astounded to see a number of dogs sitting obediently at the feet of families who were tucking into Sunday lunch al fresco.  I offered a silent prayer of thanks heavenwards that we hadn’t brought the pooch along.  Glancing around, the doggy crew consisted of well-behaved Labradors and Retrievers.  There was absolutely no way the folk here were ready for an over-excited food-obsessed beagle hell-bent on mugging the waitress for a platter of roast beef and Yorkshire pud.
          Inside we were shown to a table-for-two and given menus which boasted all the produce was fresh and locally sourced.  With great gusto, we duly tucked in, which just goes to show that sometimes my husband’s mad moments are really quite delightfully sane and civilised.  Which reminds me.
          A husband and wife were dining out.  Having finished their mains, they decided to have ice-cream for dessert.  ‘What flavours of ice-cream do you have?’ asked the husband.  ‘Let me think,’ said the new waitress in a hoarse voice, ‘there’s vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate.’  Trying to be sympathetic, the husband asked, ‘Do you have laryngitis?’  ‘No,’ replied the new waitress with some effort, ‘just…um…vanilla, strawberry and chocolate…’

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