Even the dull weather this morning could not conceal the autumn beauty of the Surrey and Sussex countryside on our drive to Upper Dicker Village Shop (see post of 12th May) to visit our daughter-in-law Tess. Greens, golds, and bronze glowed through the drizzle. We stopped to admire the view from a high point on the A22.
We were delivering the birthday present I bought on 17th October (see post). This is a large ceramic bowl bearing a tasteful peacock and floral design hand-painted in Jerusalem.
Tess was in the kitchen when we arrived and, after greeting her, ordered Big Dickers, chips and coffee (unlimited refills of large cups for one outlay of £1). The Big Dicker is their brunch, a substantial fry-up with top quality ingredients, including sausages which would grace a first class restaurant. Today’s special was cowboy baked beans, cooked from scratch with authentic spices. The cafe section was thriving and customers came in and out for provisions, one young man being trusted with a tab. The counter assistant asked Tess whether this credit was acceptable and she, knowing the customer, readily agreed. While her staff member sought a piece of paper on which to write the amount, Tess laughingly offered the envelope which had contained our birthday card. Several people come here regularly for their weekly shop, and stay for coffee. The range of good, local, produce on offer is quite astounding. Food can be eaten in or taken away.
Interesting, unobtrusive, international music played gently in the background. En route to the WC are, among other items, racks of greetings cards to suit all tastes. The walls of this elegantly presented convenience are adorned by a Ray Charles poster; a photograph of Nina Simone; what looks like a wartime poster encouraging people to ‘Get Hot’ with hard work; an Aubrey Beardsley illustration; and some original contemporary drawings. A similar range of artwork, including original paintings for sale, decorate the dining area. There is a cabinet displaying the merchandise of a local jeweller. Tess Flower has transformed her establishment into a veritable hub of village life; exactly the kind of enterprise to be encouraged in order to keep our rural communities alive.
After spending some time with Tess, who rejoined us just before we left, we went on to visit Matthew in their home before setting off for West End and The Firs.
Mat, Jackie, and I chatted over a three-way game of Scrabble. To celebrate a friend’s birthday a group of the village menfolk had chartered a boat for a sea-fishing trip. They managed to catch one fish which lay floundering in a bucket whilst its captors tried to identify it. ‘I think it’s a cod’, said one; ‘no, a pollock’, exclaimed another. The matter was referred to the skipper who came with the boat, and seemed as likely an adjudicator as any. ‘It’s a pouting’, was the verdict. ‘It looks like its a-gasping to me’, said Mat. This ranks alongside his pun mentioned on 31st August.
Having run out of milk, in order to make tea and coffee, Mat took a pint out of the freezer and put it in the microwave. Noticing it had been spinning therein for some time, I suggested he had a look at it. It was safe enough, and still cooking nicely, but it had reminded me of a bottle of wine. Jessica’s brother Simon Pearson, who had once managed a Wine Bar of the Year in Victoria Street, and now owns Shampers in King Street, parallel with Oxford Street, had recommended 50 seconds in the microwave to bring a bottle of red wine up to the required room temperature. I have used this method ever since, although metal screw-top bottles do present a problem. One evening years ago, I set the microwave, placed a fine bottle inside, turned it on, and forgot about it. After about five minutes, ‘Dad’, asked Mat, ‘how long did you set the microwave for?’…….. I had set it for 50 minutes. It needed a spell in the freezer to make it potable.
Another hour and a half saw us in The Firs, where we decanted some items, such as yet more plants, and, Elizabeth being out, repaired to Eastern Nights where we enjoyed excellent curries, Bangla, and Cobra; and the proximity of a family including a laughing baby who would have been a hit on youtube.