Yesterday afternoon Jackie drove us to Leatherhead for what has become an annual family trip to see a Pat O’Connell Gilbert and Sullivan production. This year it was ‘The Gondoliers’. Jackie’s cousin Pat is a freelance director. The Godalming Operatic Society are clearly satisfied with his work because they keep asking him back. As usual, we were entertained by a polished performance from this amateur group. There are some real stars there; good voices, with stage presence. The costumes were splendid. The sometimes elaborate choreography worked well, and the customary introduction of up-to-date jokes rewarded close attention.
As usual we ate first in the Italian restaurant nearby. The G.o.S. G. & S. members traditionally dine there. Our table included Pat, Christine, Shelly and Ron, Helen and Bill, and Jackie and me. Pat and Christine’s daughter Olivia, who normally attends, was herself performing at the Manchester University Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s presentation of ‘The Grand Duke’. Her father quipped that she either had had to be a singer or she didn’t eat.
The restaurant had a pulsating atmosphere; the service was friendly and efficient; my minestrone soup was delicious, and originally presented in a bowl made of pizza bread; my sirloin steak was succulent and cooked to perfection; my vegetables were overcooked; my chips were limp; the house red wine was very good. Maybe I should have chosen a totally Italian meal. Last year a problem was caused by the waitress having forgotten Shelly’s meal. This year Shelly wasn’t provided with a wineglass, although she was to share the bottle of white wine. We considered that a small measure of progress.
Leatherhead’s Travel Lodge, just around the corner from the theatre, is basic but comfortable and reasonably priced. We had a good night’s sleep there, then the eight of us assembled in the foyer and repaired to Annie’s cafe for the traditional breakfast. On the way up to the little cafe that looks very like an old-fashioned tea parlour, with small lace-covered tables, a man we recognised from last year stood in the centre of the road and told us that there was a car coming, but we would be okay.
This gentleman we now know as Michael entered the cafe whilst we were there, stayed until just before we departed, and left having exchanged banter with another isolated customer. On our previous visit Michael had stood in the centre of the room and engaged us all, severally and individually, in conversation. It was only when we were leaving that we had realised he was blind. The two other individual customers today, one with a guide dog, were also unable to see. One woman in particular, who did not wear the dark glasses sported by the dog owner, looked very careworn and troubed as she entered, pushing her basket through the doorway. In her later conversation with Michael, in which I joined, she proved herself to be lively and witty. These customers were all well known to the waitress. I speculated that there must be some sort of care facility for blind people nearby.
After breakfast we all went our separate ways, in our case home to Minstead.
This afternoon Elizabeth came, as arranged, to make a selection from my blog photographs, for potential use on her website. If you knew my sister you would know that something would delay her arrival. This time it was the fortnightly antiques fair at Minstead Hall. It would have been impossible for her to pass it unentered. She arrived with a broad smile on her face clutching a balalaika she had just purchased. Well, you never know when one might come in useful. And she thought it looked beautiful, which it does. Not only that, but she might learn to play it.
After tea and scrumptious carrot cake she had bought from the village shop, we got down to the business of trawling through hundreds of pictures. She made quite a collection. Added to those of her own she is considering, that should normally ensure another twelve months deliberation before the final choice is made. Unfortunately she only has twenty four hours.
Of her choice she has picked out three for specific mention. The convulvulus, taken at Morden last summer, has appealed to Elizabeth because she has fond childhood memories of picking the blooms and squeezing the bottoms so they popped out. These grew profusely along the railway path (see 11th May last year) alongside Stanton Road.
We searched a long time for ‘New Forest pines’. I was puzzled because I hadn’t noticed any. This was a picture Elizabeth had chosen from a recent search through my posts. That was how she had deciphered her own note. She was unable to read it clearly and passed it to me for my opinion. ‘Pines’ became ‘ponies’, and the photo was found. I had realised that the problem had been compounded by my not having included ‘New Forest’ in my title.
Despite the last picture having been clearly labelled ‘Dawn across the lawn’, Elizabeth’s notes had referred to ‘sunset’. That was another that proved difficult to identify. Eventually the error dawned on us and we were able to find the relevant illustration.
While we were engaged in this exercise, Jackie produced one of her excellent soups, followed by delicious roast pork with perfect crackling, and a choice between bread and butter pudding and rhubarb crumble. The chef drank Hoegaarden and Elizabeth and I shared a 2011 reserve Cotes du Rhone.
Having watched the beginning with us, Elizabeth left Jackie and me to finish episode 6 of ‘Call the Midwife’.