Sunday 14 February 2010

A lot of foreigners around here

15st 4lb, 7.0 units. St Valentine’s Day: which traditionally vied with Christmas Day for the honour of being the absolute nadir of my year, as I yet again surveyed the bleak emptiness of my mailbox and jealously imagined the wonderfully cosy and romantic time being enjoyed by all my contemporaries. Completely failing to appreciate my joyous freedom from the nightmare of attempting to obtain a restaurant table on the busiest night of the year, and from eating surrounded by other couples desperately trying to keep up the pretence of being romantically interested in each other, when most of them would undoubtedly prefer to be doing something or someone else.

Surprisingly, I was spared organizing a candlelit night out with Mrs H because she preferred to have a lunch in Manchester with her family instead. We limbered up for this by going to “Family Communion” at the church where we were married, now transformed into a building site by a project to level the floor, the pews having stood on slightly elevated wooden platforms for the last two or three hundred years. At the end of proceedings I asked Rick the Vic if this prefigured a move to services “in the round”, with the congregation clustered around a central communion table on comfy DFS sofas. He denied this, though admittedly mainly because there was no spare cash in the budget to buy the sofas. The spur for it all, he claimed, was Elfin Safety, with the step down from the pews now deemed to constitute an unacceptable “trip hazard”. It sounded daft enough to be perfectly credible.

I was glad that our own marriage service was safely behind us; the churchwarden had to make an appeal for volunteers to help make the place presentable for a wedding in two weeks’ time, when our own anniversary falls. Still worse, the vicar confessed that the couple were only getting married in his church after their first choice of venue fell through because it was getting the builders in.

For lunch, which extended to teatime and beyond, we gathered in an Iranian restaurant in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, which sounds a lot posher than it is. Luckily Mrs H had done her research and established that, although the place did not hold a liquor licence, customers were welcome to bring and consume their own wine. So we did. The food was remarkably good.

In my admittedly limited experience, no Persian meal can be considered a complete success unless everyone leaves the table barely able to move, and swearing that they will not eat again for another month. Against which criteria, this lunch was an absolute triumph. The only disappointment was the absence of my brother-in-law’s new girlfriend Gwawr (Welsh for Dawn, apparently). None of us had a clue how to pronounce her name but The Baby has been making a noise remarkably like Gwawr for several weeks now, and I had hopes of this skill finally coming in handy.

On the plus side, we all had the pleasure of my Iranian father-in-law observing the flow of humanity along the pavement outside, and concluding that “There are a lot of foreigners around here”. Truly, you could not make it up.

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