It seems my Exmoor post was a little premature. My final evening proved to be one of the most entertaining of my short stay.
Let me rewind the tape.
This time of year Saturday evenings are dominated - at least in my home - by Strictly Come Dancing. I had considered setting my recorder, but what if it failed? Perhaps I could just watch the results show on Sunday? No, that wouldn’t work. Although I’d be home in time I’d arranged an evening out. No, there was no choice. Dinner had to be delayed.
As the final results were in I nipped downstairs. Vince and Co were waiting. “Have you been watching Strictly?” he asked. I shan’t attempt his French accent. There was no point in denying it, guilty as charged. Ten minutes later and the manager threw the same question my way. It seems my punctuality in the past was noted and tonight’s absence was also matched against the Radio Times.
I dived into the menu. There was only one option that suited today’s theme - Mushroom Soup. I hoped the chef hadn’t wandered around Prescott and that his mushrooms would definitely be on the ‘good’ side.
My delicious meal was accompanied by the finest of entertainments. The previous evening a party of eleven, plus an unruly Jack Russell had dominated the restaurant. It was obvious most were friends, but it seemed there were a few newbies in their ranks too. They were late starters that night and my Strictly delay meant we were destined for a collision this evening.
I relish eating in a restaurant alone. I know some people can’t face it, and I don’t judge them. Usually I take along a book for company. It’s more for the comfort of the other diners than me. I’m very happy to be engrossed in their conversations and have become adept at turning the pages regularly, giving the impression that I’m reading, not listening.
This visit my book of choice is the non-fiction Marley and Me - from which the hit movie is based. It’s an excellent account of man’s best friend and has all the elements of a page turner - humour, pathos and dog vomit.
As I reached my main course and the chapter where Marley disgraces himself on Dog Beach (I won’t spoil your dinner), the party of ten arrived. There was no explanation as to where Messrs Eleven and Russell were, but as their friends weren’t worried, I didn’t let it ruin my evening.
How to describe this group? Seven men and three women. The women were, I assumed, partners of three of the men. The remaining men seemed to have wives - but weren’t with them.
So what happens when you mix men of a certain age with alcohol? Jokes about Lamb Shanks and Cockney rhyming slang seemed to get them through the ordering stage. One of the group reminded me of John Culshaw, the TV impersonator - no, he doesn’t impersonate televisions, he appears on them. I couldn’t decide if his hair was dyed, eventually I thought not. His frequent visits to the loo provoked a few comments, most mentioned lamb shanks.
Jokes about lesbians, vicars, socialists and dead dogs then followed. This was good material. I’d finished my meal, but couldn’t tear myself away. After all, Strictly was the best of Saturday night viewing and I’d seen that. No, I wasn’t missing this so I ordered more wine. “Would you like to move somewhere quieter?” asked the waiter. Not on your life! My only regret was that I didn’t have a notepad. Never mind, I turned the pages of my book at regular intervals - I hoped my memory would serve me well.
When I spotted that I was the only other diner in the restaurant I decided it looked a tad obvious what I was up to. As I left I was showered with apologies. One even mentioned that I might be a writer. Little did he know that within minutes our encounter would be on the World Wide Web - lamb shanks and all!