A nice day on St Aldates, Oxford
I followed David Tennant‘s career since Early Doors, then Shameless, and his film career including Last King of Scotland and I even tolerated Wanted…hang on, a colleague has just pointed out I’m thinking of James McAvoy. Oh well, David Tennant is okay, too.
A friend’s daughter (Stateside) seems fond enough of him, though. Her dad, a photographer I met at the Meet Rack (and who shot the otherwise unacknowledged photo of me during my CNN interview for the 30 Pack Marathon), used the ‘Buy Me A Beer’ page to put in a compelling request for assistance for her birthday present. Needing someone with access to Royal Mail, I was tapped to send the SASE mentioned in this letter:
The Helen Mirren Stamp is the £1.88 overseas postage; the other is domestic 1st Class and just added on for the birthday girl
Knowing this guy, it could just be for a stripper. In fact, I rather hope that’s the case (he says her ‘mother’ is going to shoot some video). In the meantime, I don’t really care since he sent along enough Paypal pounds to buy the office supplies and postage and a few beers (the first one of which, at the Bear, Oxford, can be seen just above the souvenir stamps…I threw in the Dr. Who stamp of Tennant and kept the rest for my own use).
Pre-lunch half pint of Chiswick for the Doctor (that is to say, me)
So we can call it at 11:55 British Summer Time the 19th of June 2013, the request and supporting materials were posted to the Victorian postbox on South Parks Road. Godspeed.
The pub seemed a bit rough so I didn’t take any interior photos, but the music was surprisingly good and the crowd, obviously completely bored with one another, welcomed the wasted stranger with the exotic accent and made the pint last a bit longer than it might otherwise have. One off-duty barmaid said it was her birthday today (27) and I added that it was also mine (51), which for Trowbridge might make me older than her granny. Dives are always the best places, though.
*For my 6th birthday, grandma put a crisp dollar bill in a card and instructed me to go get something I really wanted. The then 3-year-old release of Bringing It All Back Home was on sale at Woolworth for 99 cents, and I really wanted Maggie’s Farm; this amused mom no end as she thought I would by a model or a giant bag of army men. For this year’s birthday run, 45 years hence (yeah, I am now 51 years old), I loaded a shitload of Dylan on my mp3 player and headed to Trowbridge.
The route was simple and not too much of it off the paved surfaces, as you might be able to tell better from this link
than from the copy of the above map. A hard rain was forecast but for those lucky enough not to be expecting rain it was still not dark yet (but it was getting there)…there’s three paraphrased Dylan quotes in one sentence for those keeping score.
“My names Danny, aged 45, looking for married or single ladies for discreet [sic] adult fun 07751-497085″
Don’t forget that the country code is 44 if you ladies seek to contact Danny. This was sighted at the Swindon Bus Station.
The above bridge was between Woolverton and Rode or, more importantly, between the Red Lion and the Cross Keys. The one below is in Trowbridge where the stream is a little more decorative.
There wasn’t a lot of graffiti, surprisingly. The one below, spotted on the way out of Trowbridge, was a brief amusement; however, it was time for my boot heels to be wandering.
Released 24th of March, 1973…40 years ago today (and that same year on my birthday my cousin, Chuck, gave me the first of many copies I would wear out through use and abuse…and on the covers of which literally pounds of pot would be liberated from literally thousands of seeds and bin loads of stems). I’m loading the mp3 player with a little of the Floyd as I write….
“I can’t think of anything to say except…
I think it’s marvelous!” from Brain Damage, DSOTM, The Pink Floyd
Other birthday greetings are also appropriate. A visit to the George VI Rex post box on the corner of North and Western Streets a few weeks ago saw this one on its way to a long-lost acquaintance back in the States:
“Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it.” ~ Anonymous, but completely appropriate as I reached my 50th birthday on May 30th.
As usual, the most recent prior set of wine notes are here: Getting a taste for it — Wines for May Part 2
Going into the final third of May we had an impending trip to see Little Steven and his backup band (some up-and-coming kid named Springsteen sings lead) and Jackie had just finished an I.T. course trying to jumpstart a relatively stagnant job search. A mild celebration was in order and you can’t get any milder than a store brand Cava. Sainsbury’s brand is nearly as cheap as club soda and only a little more challenging but it is quite dry and has a little flavour and you can get it on sale for less than four quid:
The next couple of days we drank some repeat wines, depleting the stock before our trip. In Amsterdam, we got settled in our housing then returned downtown for some food in Chinatown (which I really desperately needed after a stop at the Gelderse Coffeeshop and another delay at a bar up the Zeedijk from our restaurant). Some of the Chinatown restaurants require you pass through the kitchen to get to the seating and Nam Kee has only the most rudimentary partition–this inspired confidence in the food which was well deserved. The hostess barely spoke English, but we were able to get a suitable red wine (Marchais Merlot) with our rudimentary Dutch:
For a country where you can still buy and use soft drugs in most of the land, the Netherlands has some funny liquor sales customs. You can only buy it in slijterijen (bottle shops) or, at a steep mark-up, some night markets. The slijterijen tend to open in the afternoon after a day of closure and close early almost everyday. We let time get away from us on Saturday in Maastricht and missed out on the evening’s distilled spirits–and the slijterijen were closed until Tuesday for the Pinksteren (the Dutch celebration of the Pentecost). We doubled back to a grocery store and scored a nice enough Cabernet.
Still booze-less on Sunday, we ordered some takeaway from a Greek restaurant–a fish platter for two that could have fed four fairly easily. With the spices and no way to chill a white, I grabbed this very light bodied but complex Chianti before dashing back to the hotel to gorge:
Changing trains in Roermond for the trip back to Amsterdam, we stopped in the main square and chose a terrace seat at De Romein for a pile of nourishment. I was disappointed to see the rosé wine pour up when I ordered house red but it was refreshing and complemented the meal marvelously:
The day after returning from the trip, Jackie asked if I got “thirsty” around lunchtime…you can get used to ordering a carafe of wine (or two) after a week on holiday and the house wines we had were very good if anonymous. Here were some of those…
Happy China, Diemen: we ate here a couple of times during our original residence in Holland and famished after the long bike ride around the polders and forests decided to see how it has changed. If anything, the place has improved with some treats like my chicken in mango sauce (and served in the mango):
Casa Pino, Amsterdam: The best thing was the wine. These guys were not Italian and they served up abominations against Italian cuisine (but as Dutch food goes, it wasn’t half bad).
The staff of Napoli, in the Markt Plein Maastricht, were Italian and the food was ever so slightly less Dutch…pasta a bit past al dente (more like al sensitive gums) and a bit gooey but the fish bits in mine were fresh and firm.
On the way to the music festival we stopped off in Heerlen and found a pizza place to take a bit of the hungry edge off. The pies were fine, the wine better than you would have expected and dirt cheap, and the service unusually attentive for Dutch places.
Safely home late on my birthday, we chilled a nice Chardonnay, pulled a bit of leftover pork roast from the freezer and steamed it in some fish broth until it shredded on contact, added a can of black beans and some cilantro, and made some simple and delightful wraps with the last of the tomatoes we left before the trip. Yum.
The final third of May included these wines:
Antichi Borghi Chianti
And, a host of anonymous house wines, a liter at a time.