Greg's Occasional News & Views

21 October 2018

Welcome back! Whew, we’ve been busy.

Thursday week before last Ms Playchute and I took ourselves to Birmingham for the Grand Designs Live show. We got ourselves on the train in Banbury and headed up to the show to see what we might find and learn looking forward to our new kitchen extension which we hope to commence building next spring. I wanted to specifically look at bi-fold and/or sliding patio doors as well as all the kitchen appliances and new and fancy gadgets – always good fun. We also looked at a plethora of kitchen designs and layouts, especially counter tops and cupboards and all those other important things. A good day out.

Thursday also marked the inaugural film of the new season of the Moreton Pinkney Film Nights and Penelope and I trotted across the road for a screening of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which was a lot of fun. I guess most everyone will have read the book and in this instance the film version is very true to the novel. The cast was a “Who’s who?” from the Downton Abbey series – Lily James (Lady Rose in Downton) plays the lead and Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley) and Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil Crawley) round out the other main female characters. I don’t imagine it’s going to win any Oscars but, as always, the fish & chip supper was worth the price of admission alone and the whole evening was good fun. If you haven’t read the book do so and if you have a spare afternoon or evening on a damp, drizzly day give the film a go.

Friday afternoon we set off for our weekend adventure with our friends Sue & Stuart and Dave & Sue on the south coast near Brighton. Friday night’s main attraction was a show by Dara O’Briain at the Dome Theatre in Brighton. Our American reader(s) may not know him but he is a well-known Irish stand-up comedian who does quite a bit of television as well as these annual tours. And he is very funny indeed, about two hours of side-splitting laughter – how do these guys do it?

On Saturday we all set off for a visit to Standen House and Gardens, a National Trust property about 45 minutes from Sue & Stuart’s. It was built in the 1890s for a wealthy solicitor and his family. It was designed by Phillip Webb and is “a fine example of Arts and Crafts workmanship.” Webb was, apparently, a friend of William Morris and the interior is decorated with Morris carpets, fabrics and wallpapers, as well as Morris-designed furnishings. The house is set on a terrace at the top of the hillside and has fabulous views over the Ashdown Forest – a lovely day out.

Saturday evening we wandered up to the Fig Tree restaurant on the High Street in Hurstpierpoint, about a five minute walk from Sue & Stuart’s, which was absolutely delicious. Not quite a two-starred Michelin meal (see below) but very tasty and very well presented. While living in Moreton Pinkney has numerous advantages in lots of ways, having a high-quality restaurant within walking distance takes some beating. Wouldn’t it be nice if the pub across the road would re-open and provide us Moreton Pinknians with similar fare?

We always have a wonderful time with Sue & Stuart whenever we get together. These visits provide a much needed opportunity to engage with friends of similar minds and collectively rant about the world’s current idiocies and stupidities.

And speaking, as we were, of eating at fine restaurants, on Tuesday of this week Penelope and I sauntered down the motorway for lunch at le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton south of Oxford. This was a Christmas/Birthday gift from Nick and Lucy last year and we’ve only just managed to get around to going. Oh my goodness!

Le Manoir was created by celebrated chef Raymond Blanc OBE, and is one of the country’s most cherished manor house hotels. It received two Michelin stars in 1984, the first year of its opening, and has held them ever since.

Surrounded by lawns, flower borders and orchards, the setting is postcard-perfect. But beyond the eye-catching displays are vegetable and herb gardens that provide the kitchen—and the acclaimed Raymond Blanc Cookery School—with ultra-fresh, organic produce. They guarantee the restaurant remains at the cutting edge of culinary excellence.

The meal was absolutely exquisite. We opted for the seven course set menu, les Saveurs du Manoir (the Flavours of the Manor) and those flavours were pretty damn nice. It’s all a bit pretentious, of course, but everything was perfectly prepared, fantastically presented and majestically served (complete with an excellent description by our waiter of each course and how it was prepared).

Les Saveurs du Manoir

Smoked haddock soup, seared scallop

Confit of smoked trout, cucumber, horseradish & dill

Hen’s egg, watercress purée, Jabugo ham & toasted hazelnut

Suckling piglet, celeriac, orchard apple, prune & walnut pesto

One cheese served in three stages of maturation

Fraicheur cappuccino

Compressed apple fraçon Tatin, vanilla ice-cream

And, to finish, coffee and a delicious selection of petits fours.

Penelope and I both agreed that the smoked haddock soup with scallop was simply outstanding and was probably the best course on the menu but that’s splitting hairs – all the courses were sensational. Ms Playchute even had a bite of the scallop before passing the remainder on to me – shellfish in general is not her thing.

After lunch we wandered the gardens for a bit – a magnificent vegetable and herb garden, a 15th century fish pond, a mushroom valley, a decorative Chinese garden and an extensive heritage orchard all with a variety of sculptures and other art installations scattered throughout. All in all a magnificent experience which we thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you Nick and Lucy!

Yesterday Lady Penelope trotted off to London to participate in the latest People’s March for a Vote on the final Brexit deal (if the politicians ever get around to finding one). We both went to the last one but I stayed behind this time to provide the necessary transport logistics for Adam and Ava.

It’s been a bad week for the government in the Brexit negotiations. Essentially, everyone has slated Theresa May’s plans and at long last the UK government seems to have finally heard the message – the arrangements that you’re proposing simply will not fly.

Someone on Facebook had a nice metaphor for the British position. It’s rather like we are members of a golf club and after many years of membership we decide that the fees are too high and the dress code too rigorous. So, we decide to resign our membership. We agree to pay the outstanding fees due but, at the end of the year, our membership ends. However, although we are no longer paying any membership fees and no longer wish to abide by any of the club’s rules, we’d still like to come along and have a weekly round of golf for free.

Not surprisingly, the golf club tells us to piss off.

And this was doing the rounds on Facebook – a simple explanation for why the loony Brexiteers are so keen on leaving the EU:

Finally, there was a lovely photo collection in the Guardian earlier in the week – a selection of photos from the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.

You can see some more and the winning entries here.

Love to you all,




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