Monday, 31 August 2015

Lunch with the Girls

I wouldn't like anyone to think that I've given up on my social life - and blogging - while I play obsessively with my new camera. I admit that I threw many hours at it - too many - but I finally arrived at the custom settings that suited me, and, with that accomplished, I can lead a normal life again. So here is a post on a few hours spent with my local friends Jo, Sue and Maddy three days ago.

The pilates class had resumed after its summer break, and Jo, Sue and myself were there, all of us keen. We'd missed the weekly discipline. Despite good intentions, neither Jo nor myself had exercised very hard during the break, and because pilates is actually pretty tough on your muscles, we found last Friday's exercises stretching in more than one sense. Sue, though, has a young dog called Molly, and had been able to put in 10,000 steps a day taking her on brisk country walks, which had kept her fit and supple. This Molly is a very engaging little dog. She's a cockerpoo, a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle, although the combination - to my eye - looks like neither.

Anyway, we were all looking forward to a nice lunch after pilates. Jo had booked a table at The New Inn, a dining pub in the centre of Hurstpierpoint. They were fine about Molly (or indeed any well-behaved dog) coming in.

Hurstpierpoint, though not far away, is not a village I stop at very often. I usually just drive through, on my way to somewhere else. So I'd never been to this pub before, and had no idea it was notable for its food. But Jo had been there very recently, and was eager to try it again.

So here are Jo and Sue, as we were placing our orders and enquiring about the wine options:

We tasted three possibilities before settling on which bottle to drink. We chose our starters and mains with the express idea of everyone pitching in and sharing the whole lot - just as we had done three weeks earlier, at Bill's in Lewes. First up were these fish goujons. Very hot and very delicious:

Then the various main courses to be shared between us. A goat's cheese tartlet, on salad leaves and different types of beetroot - really yummy:

A spicy beef and chorizo burger with chips and dips:

And Chinese spare ribs, with its own salad:

It was hard to say which tasted the nicest! I thought the tartlet and the spare ribs were exceptional.

Having lunch like this, and chatting, was a very pleasant way to fill a couple of hours. In the ladies loo, there was a chalkboard on the inside of the my cubicle door, and some girl had written this:

There you go. Vive la France!

Afterwards we walked up the High Street to a clothes and gift shop called Vanilla, where Maddy was helping out, and we all said hello to her. Once the children are back to school, and the summer holidays are over, Maddy will be freed up to join us more often. Here she is, the Compleat Shop Manageress:

Jo and I tried various thing on. When we were in Lewes three weeks before, I'd suggested looking in Darcy's (an upmarket boutique) and we ended up going nowhere else that afternoon. Sue and I had been the big spenders back then. I'd invested in stylish black trousers and a loose fitting green-and-black shirt, both by Masai. They will see service down in Devon during September. This time, Jo was the one who spent the money, on a couple of items by Seasalt. 

Having made our fond farewells, we next went into a very posh men's shoe shop called Bradshaw and Lloyd. It wasn't such an odd thing to do as you might suppose. Jo and Sue both had husbands who liked nice footwear, but never made shopping their priority. Both friends now chose casual slip-ons for their husbands, although the price of them was anything but casual! I have to say, the shoes were all exceptionally well made. The owner explained that they had until recently been online-only, but the chance to open a shop came up, and they took it. They stocked only the better makes of men's shoes, such as Loake, Sanders, Sebago and Tricker's, as well as making their own. I'm afraid these names meant nothing to me. But now I do know, and if I encounter a man who is wearing Loake shoes, say, I can appear cool and knowledgeable, and tell him what a upmarket fellow he is. 

Some of the shoes on display were most attractive, such as this tan Oxford brogue, which was Loake's 'Edward' shoe. Ah, any man who habitually wore shoes like these would surely be a sound, dependable, mellow kind of chap. But a pair would cost him a princely £215:

Just for an instant I felt like asking whether a unidexter could have just the one shoe for a more reasonable £107.50, but thought better of it. In any case, what is £215, when you consider what a woman might spend on decent luxury boots for the colder months? £300? 

Molly was as good as gold. Sue had asked the owner whether she could come in the shop with her dog, and he had not the slightest problem about it. It got him two sales, at any rate. Molly was very docile, and never made a sound. In fact on the two occasions that I've met her, I can't recall her either barking or growling, which is quite unusual for a dog! But she was very alert:

I am constantly being asked why I don't get a dog. But (a) I'm useless at looking after people, pets or plants; (b) a dog would tie me down too much, and seriously inhibit where I could go, and what I could do; (c) the costs of food, grooming, insurance and the vet would ruin me. Solid reasons why not, I think. But people persist in advocating a dog to me. Well, they suit a lot of people - but I'm sorry, not me. I'm quite content to enjoy the company of other people's dogs and leave it at that.  

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