Town and country


Well, two weekends that couldn’t be more different! The only thing uniting them is me, a favourite cardigan and a vaguely disgruntled liver. Weekend the first was down in the beautiful bit of Kent, all autumn colours and wonkily charming oasthouses. We browsed an auction house – I know nothing about antiques so was happily lifting lids and opening drawers (until the inevitable panic-stricken moment when I thought I’d broken something. First impulse: force it! Second impulse: run! Third impulse: ffs, sort it out, moron. Then run). That evening some friends-of-hosts came over, including an expert/maker who runs up new furniture from cannibalised bits of other tables etc. Bit of an eyebrow-raiser, that job – it all sounded thrillingly Lovejoy-ish to me, but I managed to keep my tactless trap shut under the warning eye of my hostess.

Then the restorer mentioned that he tasted toothpaste. Not that he tasted OF toothpaste, that he actually tasted toothpaste as a part-time job. This was even more thrilling than Lovejoy. Presumably, like Eskimos with their dozen words for snow, he has at least a handful for minty. I wasn’t able to pursue it far because I was so squeakily, incredulously agog to hear more, I think he thought I was taking the piss.

Anyway, the next day featured a long walk punctuated with a picnic of sandwiches made with leftover cold roast pork. Drowsing post-prandially on a sunny bank under wind-whooshy ash trees I wondered how I could ever have thought London was all that.

Cut to this weekend. Friday: a mate’s leaving drinks in the penthouse of a hotel in Soho. As an aside, it was a boys’ magazine and there was a hot tub, but everyone turned all shy. I’m constantly astonished by how coy boys can be. For example, I have tried to persuade several male housemates to pee in the garden to deter foxes (unwitnessed, in your own time, try your best, no pressure, c’mon you’d be great etc), but they none of them seem able to squeeze out a drop. Take them on a night’s drinking, however, and the streets are awash. Conundrum.

Then on Saturday afternoon, I hoisted myself into frock and heels and hied to the Skylon Bar in the Royal Festival Hall for a birthday party. The evening kicked off with a cocktail-making masterclass, followed by dinner. I’m not a cocktail drinker. In my bleary opinion, cocktails just seem to be compiled from stitched-together memories of bad ideas. Vodka? Gin? Cranberry juice? Tequila? Tequila? Christ. Plus I was still delicate from the night before, although a bowl of porridge and a couple of inch-thick slices of wholemeal toast slathered with peanut butter had fused into a kind of digestive duvet, leaving me as ready for late-afternoon raw spirits as I could ever be. We had to be there for 5pm so they could get us trained/hammered before the evening rush began at 6. Sigh.

We were divided into three groups of three, the aim was to give us time to make one and make way for the next team while drinking our own concoction, then have a crack at a second. We were put through our inept and sticky paces by an azure-eyed Russian who actually laughed at our ineptitude. In fairness, one ‘North Star’ down, attempting a Cosmo, it was all getting a bit flail, rattle and ‘What was next?’

So. The score stands at Country 1: London 1. It’s all to play for.


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