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Which way Whychwood?

June 1, 2013

According to Nigel “mad As A Box Of Frogs” Rowley I was once held ostrich . No, I cannot remember in which context he cracked that joke, but it was after a very agreeable 2003 Cru Bourgeois Medoc and then a delightful but still somewhat youthful 2008 Margaux, both of which were uncorked to accompany an exquisite lamb tajine, prepared by the equally delightful Leslie at Dryhill Farm, set in the shadow of the Iron Age settlement just above. This is Gloucestershire at its best. We were denied what looked at one stage would be a spectacular sunset due to a typically perverse English bank of cloud, that rolled in to obscure the sun, just as the second bottle of wine was about to emerge from its prison, but I did manage to take this picture of where it would have been if the English weather had been prepared to cooperate.

We had arrived in this lovely county in bright sunshine and feeling warm and, after a brief flirtation with a pint of Speckled Hen at the Air Balloon at Birdlip, we arrived in late afternoon at Dryhill in expectation of a sundowner. I am not sure if you, my reader, made the same immediate connection as I, but Birdlip and Speckled Hen seems the sort of material upon which Tommy Cooper could have dined out, as in “did you give that Birdlip?” , with some clever riposte, which I cannot put my finger on, involving hens with speckles. Obviously this column is too well written and clever for the author to consider the comedic possibilities of combining them both to come up with a joke, so unless you are very far sighted and are able to appreciate the humour of Tommy Cooper, look away now. Oh, to late, I have already cracked it.

Before the wine had flowed, we had walked along the top of the escarpment, with simply stunning views as far as the Malvern Hills and even the Brecon Beacons in(thankfully) the very far distance over the border in Wales.

Today is forecast to be splendidly sunny but I am prepared to bet that, by the time we get back from playing hippies, a cloud will appear from somewhere or a factory will catch fire or something and the sunset will once again be obscured. Before that, as I have said, the hippy thing will take precedence when we pop down to Cheltenham to see John Otway and many others perform at the Wychwood Festival. Whilst That Nice Lady Decorator and I have form when it comes to attending festivals over the years, including the wettest Glastonbury ever, Nigel has no idea. Doubtless I shall have to intercept him for a wardrobe check before we leave. I am not sure that his silk smoking jacket, silver topped cane, panama hat and spats are quite the attire one normally associates with a pop festival. I bet he has even considered a bath chair and a couple of porters.

Dinner tonight at Dryhill (in place of some beans warned over a camp fire at the festival) will be a riotous affair, attended as it will be by a mad dentist called Roger Moore (yes, his real name). I shall be reminding him and Nigel of a particular occasion several years ago when they were visiting our house in the south of France. It involved a windsurfer, my swimming pool, a garden chair, a distinct lack of clothing and a compromising photograph . It will be in this context that I expect to be able to secure another client for Currencies Direct and further to confirm the details of that wholesale order for 60 more copies of my book, The Valbonne Monologues, to place in the library of, and each fabulous house and apartment at Medina Palms, Nigel’s development at Watamu on the Kenyan coast. The book order is almost a certainty as both miscreants who were involved in the incident have very impressive careers behind them and I suspect that they would rather like the full details not to emerge. I like to think of this as character protection insurance rather than that ghastly word, blackmail.

Chris France


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