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Archive for November, 2012

Uncle Wilf’s 90th

A 90th birthday celebration

I suppose these sorts of occasion will become more common as time goes on.  We are all living longer and healthier lives.  This is our second 90th in the family.  Uncle Wilf.  He was second eldest of my dad’s family – dad was the youngest.  Wilf is the sole remaining member.  My dad (Ray) would have loved to have been there. He just loved events with loads of people there!  So we felt even more obliged to make the effort.

We arrived to the usual mess of cars in a cul de sac.  You just hope some of the neighbours have been invited so that you feel far less embarrassed about your parking!  And then the polite ringing of the door bell, standing in the cold and wet, with other guests swelling your numbers…until you realise no bugger is coming, because the door is open and unlocked…


We know Uncle Wilf as Wilf.  Half of the guests know him as Charlie – which is what he was when in The Fleet Air Arm (which is the part of the Royal Navy that has aeroplanes – for aircraft carriers etc.).  And the children of children call him granddad, gramps and other versions.  This made the first Happy Birthday invocation a rather haphazard affair after the word “Dear…” in line three.  A cacophony of blurred names made it sound like we were singing for many birthdays, or politely covering up that we had forgotten who this was for…

Food.  Yes there was food.  Loads of it.  Wilf was chief meat buyer for Birds Eye Frozen Food – after qualifying as a Master Butcher from Apprentice (Doesn’t that sound wonderfully old fashioned now?  I think maybe we should revisit this, and stop calling it Modern Apprenticeships…it could still work).  Uncle Wilf asked me to make sure the chicken legs were heated properly.  I realised this had been his preparation input, so wanted them to have pride of place.  It was a pretty full on buffet – 46 guests in a through lounged 1960’s 3 bed-roomed house.  The chicken legs went first, but the pate was a close second.  The hardest thing was getting anywhere near the table.  We did have to go in polite bunches.  It was rather like one of those old plastic kids games with 8 letters in the  9 spaces.  You really had to work hard at saying sorry a lot.

An old fashioned cul de sac.  10 of the 26 households have been there since the houses were built.  Isn’t that amazing?

Wilf (Charlie) loved it.  It was quite a special occasion.  Fitting, really.

A B&B in a different class – The Ashton, Lancaster

I was running a workshop in Lancaster this week, so needed to stay away.  I asked the company to recommend a suitable hotel – and they suggested a B&B.  This always sounds like a second best alternative, doesn’t it?  The Ashton could not have been further from this supposition.  I think it is one of the best home from home places I have stayed in for a long time.  It felt nearer to being a house guest at someone you have know for a long time.

It is the little things.  The front door is shut, and locked.  You have a key to get back in.  That makes it different from ‘Reception’ doesn’t it? And James asks you if there is anything you don’t like to eat.  That’s because, like going to a dinner party, you will be presented with your dinner – no faffing around with a menu (But there is a wine list…)

Doesn’t that make it feel calmer already?  It got better.  I arrived about 3, so was greeted with tea and cake.  How civilised!  Apparently, if it was later the choice extends to wine.

The building is Georgian in style (I’m not clever enough to know if it is real or not – but it felt so).  The rooms are darkly decorated – in the style of those times – and it makes it feel very cosy and different to our light addiction.

I had two dinners and two breakfasts (Not at the same time).  First night – Moroccan chicken in couscous with a tangy vibe, and lots of little tasty morsels involved.  The salad was substantial, with grilled Haloumi cheese on top.  Healthy and tasty at the same time.  Spoilt the health kick with a sticky toffee pudding – oh well!

The Ashton

Breakfast>  A proper sideboard groaning with goodies.  Yes, I started healthy again, with mixed fruit and yoghurt.  But then I couldn’t resist the Eggs Benedict.  I should have realised as egg was plural that two poached eggs and two pieces of muffin and three pieces of smoked back bacon would make the hollandaise sauce a molten addition of loveliness – and all a bit much!  (Look, I managed it, OK)

Night two – moving to Italy or Spain – pork meat balls (finely herbed, hint of garlic, loads of pepper), in a fine sauce.  Less substantial salad, but again healthy – and I ruined it again with treacle sponge and ice cream!

I’d learnt my lesson on morning one, and asked for a half Egg Benedict.  It really was just as good, and I waddled happily to my car…

It is multi award winning – and definitely worth a try to see if you can get in.  Be warned, I may be ahead of you in the queue!

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