We had these grand ideas that when Rory started University Dougie and I would be able to travel more. In truth, work commitments and moving my aunt up to Lincolnshire (plus all the recent complications regarding her hospitalisation) have meant that so far we have only managed very short breaks away. Thankfully these one and two night mini-breaks have proved to be excellent for re-charging batteries.
Take last week, for example. A trip to London. We seem to have done this a few times over recent months and its proving to be a real tonic. In December you may remember we had a super couple of days there to coincide with the Statoil Masters Tennis tournament. This time we were there to visit Dougie’s tailor. I kid you not. Thanks to an over-enthusiastic waving of hands at an auction during a charity cricket match in the summer, my beloved husband bid for a made-to-measure suit. He has never done this before but when we see the results of the suit fitting in six weeks time, he may think he can’t possibly go back to any old off-the-peg whistle.
Arriving in London the day before the suit fitting, we had no set plans so turned up in Leicester Square in the middle of the afternoon to see if we could buy some discount tickets for a show that evening. There was no queue at the TKTS booth when we arrived at 3pm and we managed to secure two decent discounted seats in the stalls for Jersey Boys at the Piccadilly Theatre for that evening. Friends had been telling me I should go and see this musical so I thought it was about time I listened to them.
Rather than return to our hotel (more on that in a separate post but it was St James Court in Westminster and was excellent) we passed the time having a pre-show meal in Chinatown and a mooch around the National Gallery. This has become something of a habit of late – my own favourite paintings are by a couple of Georges: Whistlejacket by George Stubbs and Bathers at Asnières by Georges Seurat.
For a change, we also nipped next door to the National Portrait Gallery. Why have we never done this before? We didn’t have time to see all the collection so concentrated on the contemporary works and found them to be fascinating. One or two were so detailed it was hard to know if the composition was a photograph or a painting. Our favourite was a black and white portrait of Nobel prize winner Sir Paul Nurse by artist Jason Brooks. I had to put my nose right up against it before I could quite believe it wasn’t a photo.
Jersey Boys was, as my friends had told me, quite brilliant. Slick, funny, mesmerising and, oh my goodness, the music. I didn’t think I was a particular fan of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons until I watched the show and then heard hit after hit, the tunes so familiar. If you haven’t been to see it, let me now be that friend and tell you…go, go, go!
The following day, shopping around Piccadilly, we walked past Matt Nalton who plays one of the Four Seasons, the honey-voiced Nick Massi. Subtle as you’d expect, I pointed him out to Dougie saying, “Ooh there’s a Jersey Boy!”. Matt turned round and smiled so I took the opportunity to tell him how great he was and what a magical production we had seen the night before. This is Matt’s debut in the West End so I’d like to think he was chuffed to be recognised. I didn’t do the selfie-with-celebrity thing so you have no proof of our meeting…sorry about that, folks.
Our final treat during our swift visit to the capital was a launch party. I had been invited to attend the launch of a new luxury magazine, Whisky Quarterly, and, as it happened to be on the same night as the suit fitting, I said yes and asked if I could bring my own whisky connoisseur along. Dougie thought all his dreams had come true – spending a very pleasant few hours supping his favourite beverage in the Assembly Hall at Church House, Westminster. The stunning circular hall is the location for the General Synod of the Church of England but when not in use it becomes a very versatile conference centre.
|The ice sculpture whisky luge|
Whisky cocktails were available all night so I tried a rather delicious St Lawrence (Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon shaken with pressed apple juice, maple syrup, lemon and Angostura bitters). The doctor prescribed himself Penicillin (Chivas Regal blended Scotch Whisky shaken with honey, fresh lemon and ginger, inoculated with Lagavulin) and, in order to ensure it would be effective, he required another dose. The doc also tried out the whisky luge, as the ice sculpture in the centre of the room became the conduit for more alcohol. Dougie couldn’t quite decide whether the taste of whisky which has been poured down the rear end of a winged lion is improved or not but he wasn’t complaining.
If its parties are anything to go by, the magazine is sure to be a success. By the end of the night a wonderfully diverse group of people of all ages, suitably refreshed and relaxed, were dancing in a very loose-limbed manner to the live band whose repertoire was perfect for getting everyone moving. You’ll be pleased to know we were there in the thick of it, strutting our stuff with the whisky fraternity.