Mediocre Meals; Men’s room Mobiles; Merry Music.

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Today was one of mixed impressions. We began by setting off late this morning to visit my mother in West End. En route we stopped for lunch at

The Royal Oak, Hilltop

The Royal Oak at Hilltop, near Beaulieu.

Among the gorse along the roadside , donkeys and a pony dozed or grazed within sight of Fawley power station.

Ice and oak leaves

Ice had formed in the car park puddles, trapping some of the fallen water-bound oak leaves.

The ambience inside was good and the service most friendly.

Beer glass

However, the beer lacked spirit and was served in murky glasses suggesting there was something awry with the dishwasher. Our very young waitress apologised for this and said she would pass on my observations.

Steak & Ale Pie and Ploughman's meals

My steak and ale pie appeared to have been prepared earlier, then overheated, with the result that all the wrong bits of the meal were crispy. Jackie’s ploughman’s lacked the usual ingredient of cheese, but contained a small portion of pat√©, and a preponderance of pickles. The crusty bread had been put through a slicer some time before. There was no butter.

Pickles

Leaving a quantity of the pickled elements on her plate, Jackie observed that “there is only so much pickle you can eat”.

I approached the till to settle the bill, wondering how I was going to do this politely. In the event, I was helped out by the not quite so young woman I took to be the manager. It is not unusual for pubs and restaurants to add what they call optional or discretionary gratuities to the bill. I always ensure that these will go to the staff before paying them. Otherwise I tip in cash and settle the rest by card. It is not usual for the person taking your money to open the conversation with the statement that you don’t have to pay this if you don’t want to. This is what this woman did. I asked her who received the money. She said the staff were the beneficiaries. I said that in that case I would pay it, because the service had been excellent, but the food was not, and I had already shown her colleague the state of the glasses.

I claimed that my meal had probably started life in a good condition but had been microwaved so that all the wrong bits were crispy. She replied that they didn’t microwave their meals, but heated them up in the oven. “In that case”, I replied, “this one ¬†spent too long in the oven”. I didn’t think there was much point in the methods both Jackie and I learned from our mothers of putting the plate, with a lid on it, over a pan of boiling water.

I also spoke of the preponderance of pickles and other aspects of Jackie’s meal.

We won’t go there again.

Before visiting Mum, we stopped at Haskin’s Garden Centre in West End. I visited the Gents’ Toilet. There was just one vacant urinal at which I took up my station. I glanced to the left of me and noticed a gentleman scanning his mobile phone in his right hand with his somewhat extended member in the other. I glanced to the right of me. Another gentleman was similarly engaged. “Now I’ve seen it all”, I ejaculated. Two mobile phones were pocketed, and two somewhat reduced members stuffed back where they belonged. Two urinals became vacant.

I do hope that is not considered too much information.

We then spent a pleasant hour with Mum before moving on to Margery and Paul’s annual Christmas sing-song. This was as hilarious and chaotic as ever; with some very meaningful conversations taking place in the break during which well prepared tea and Margery’s legendary mini mince pies were served. Our hosts and Mary, the pianist, were in fine form as we muddled through all the old favourites.

This evening we dined on a spic pizza and plentiful fresh salad. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Minervois.