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The wry smile that says it all

December 30, 2013

There really is no other place than England to be in the world when it is sunny, as long as you exclude anywhere south of the Isle of Wight. It was a beautiful sunny crisp day yesterday, so after the customary walk around the South Downs, the reward was to visit some English pubs and to sample their real ales.

First up was the still disappointing Swan at Fittleworth. It is seldom that The Nice Lady Decorator and I disagree about pubs, but I did not like the decor, the painted beams or the banquette seating in places. She likes the place, probably because she likes anything decorated (maybe even David Golding DFC who we met later on), oh, and bass players. The pint of Doom Bar was decent but I was anxious to try another pub about which we had been told over Xmas.

flooded fields

The flood plains of Arundel

I find it hard to believe that I was not aware of a pub that was within 3 miles of Arundel, so wanted to visit Holly Tree at Walberton, which despite its somewhat alarming decor in places is a proper local pub unlike the unprepossessing Swan. I will be angling to try lunch there soon.

Returning to Arundel to dump the car, I felt overcome by a thirst that required immediate attention and so we popped into the Kings Arms where The Decorator bumped into the Decorated. It could easily have turned onto a lost afternoon but we had been invited to the right side of the river for drinks last evening, so were determined to pace ourselves. This could be Currencies Direct new client territory. Our hosts were the charming unsuspecting chaps who, when we met then in a pub on Christmas Eve, must have had no idea that we were from the left bank.

After a siesta, and a good deal of scrubbing and preening, we ventured across the river to mix with local gentry. I met a charming lady who has a house called Rats Castle. She told me that when Arundel was a working port in the 18th century, the riverside was a typically squalid port area, that her house had been one of ill repute, and this was when I made my first mistake. It was meant to be a joke, but I can see now in the cold light of day that suggesting that it might still be a house of similar repute was a mistake. For some reason she abruptly finished the conversation and I was left to find someone else to annoy.

That would have been easy but I reined myself in and resolved to try not to upset anyone else, but fear I failed due to a surfeit of red wine, port and even a cigar. It was billed as drinks from 5-7 but I do not recall returning home until the early hours. I do recall sitting with our hosts, the saintly and beautiful Anne and rather less saintly Clive, clearly outstaying our welcome, until midnight at least, drinking wine and port and generally making a nuisance of myself.

It had not started well. I thought I had chosen well to take a bottle of 2005 Chateau Musar, a Lebanese wine of some repute, but our hosts son is a sommelier (well, obviously living in the right side of the river one simply must have a sommelier on hand). When I handed it to him, I thought I detected a wry smile, the sort of smile that I reserve for any house guests that might turn up with, say, Lambrusco or Liebfraumilch. However it was when he said that I should keep an eye out for the 2003, I knew I had somehow made an error of judgement.

Eventually, close to midnight and after a lot of yawning and the appearance of pyjamas, we took the hint and left, with promises to get together again very soon. I suspect they will now change their number and be unavailable for the foreseeable future.

Chris France

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