Friday 12 September 2008

You can take the boy out of the North East ...

No idea; 12.0 units of alcohol yesterday evening; 1,242; National Express East Coast.

You know you’ve had a good night when you wake up with a start, as I did at 2.45 this morning, with absolutely no idea where you are. I ran through a series of routine checks, like a pilot preparing to push back for take-off, and quickly established that I was in a bed, on my own; and that the bed wasn’t suspiciously damp or smelly. Then, by progressively eliminating all the other possibilities, I worked out that I was in my London club. After which I went back to sleep feeling more than a little relieved.

For lunch, I returned to the restaurant where I had finally bought my friend his 50th birthday dinner last night, and took comfort from the fact that no-one pointed or laughed at me as I walked through the door. My lawyer guest turned up about 15 minutes late, clutching the empty document case which seems to be the favoured prop of my friends when lunching pointlessly with me, since it helps to convey the impression to their colleagues that they might be going out to a serious business meeting. He followed my example in ordering a remedial Bloody Mary, but swore that he was not going to drink any wine at all, as he had two meetings and an important document to get out that afternoon, so I ordered a mere half bottle of white wine to accompany my own meal. Imagine my delight when the waiter asked him if he’d like some and he nodded his eager assent.

Unfortunately he did not get on anything like as well with the young lady taking his order for food. I had raved a bit about the absolutely superb roast grouse I had enjoyed for dinner last night, so he decided to have that, too.

“Certainly, sir, an excellent choice. Would you like it pink?”

“No, I’d like it well done.”

“The chef wouldn’t actually recommend that, sir. Being game, it may be inclined to be tough if he cooks it too long.”

“Even so, I’d like it well done.”

“I’m afraid that there would be delay of at least 25 minutes …”

“Oh, all right then. I’ll have something else. Can I have a burger?”

“Of course, sir. And how would you like it?”

“Well done.”

Which just goes to show the truth of that old adage: you can take the boy out of the North East, but you can’t take the North East out of the boy. Even if you send him away to an expensive boarding school and Oxbridge, in a belated and clearly ineffectual attempt to lend him an air of sophistication.

He muttered for a bit about not coming out to a restaurant to be made to feel common because he liked his food cooked properly, while I studiously refrained from revealing that my sympathies were entirely with the chef. Though I suppose I have blown that now. They finally brought him something that looked like a round lump of rubber, perhaps carved off a tractor tyre with a jagged knife, then cremated. Judging by his expression and the number of fragments of it that he delicately removed from his mouth and carefully laid on the side of his plate, I fear that it must have tasted pretty much like that, too. I toyed with the idea of counting them all up with that rhyme which begins “Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor …” But I realized that I could not remember the words beyond “thief”, so my knowledge would have been hopelessly inadequate.

To look on the bright side, at least I had another superlative meal. And even he enjoyed his starter.

I caught the 17.00 train to Newcastle, where I was shocked to find that it was raining yet again. Indeed, conditions on the A697 heading north were only marginally better than they had been a week ago, during the epic downpour which produced the great Morpeth flood. Is it ever going to stop?

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