“Nelson (Cricket) – The name, applied to team or individual scores of 111 or multiples thereof”.
Yes, it’s difficult, isn’t it, once we’re all grows up, to keep dates for what ought to be a regular ‘coming together’ of family? Life gets in the way. Prior engagements, responsibilities…I get it. I don’t have them, but I get it. What you need are some tenuous grounds – grounds too tenuous for anyone to object – to get a little crazy. A healthy period of notice is obviously useful, as is a Bank, or Labor Day Holiday; a crash mat onto which those with dependents can fall in the aftermath, either to have their hair stroked or to lick their wounds, to rest and rehydrate before resigning themselves to a host of pre-arranged, compensatory domestic chores. Foundation for such opportunity can be a little ‘chicken and egg’, of course, and the very reason why the brothers and I celebrating our Centenary (our cumulative 100th birthday) over a hot and sunny weekend next-the-sea a few years back was a masterstroke. It created a precedent. A table around which to conspire. Back in February, at Stow on the Wold’s Eagle & Child, the penny dropped. For the six months between May and November this year, we’d be 111. Hello Nelson, goodbye short-term memory.
The domestic TwentyTwenty finals day at Edgbaston provided the setting for Day1. Try as it might, while rain interrupted the cricket, it couldn’t stop play. An initial and misguided circumnavigation of the ground took in frogs, a chicken deep in conversation with a couple of rabbits, and a barely-released, blinking Beirut hostage with a tongue like a salamander. Six or seven plastic pots of black and amber piss were despatched through the covers before, having sat through two finely balanced semis and one mascot steeplechase, we threw over the final in favour of a change of scene. By now the all male cheerleader troupe fannying about on a nearby podium were starting to sour the taste of an otherwise sensational picnic, (among which, incidentally, the sweet stuffed bell peppers were the tits) and we were beginning to feel quite self-aware about the amount of exposure Sky television’s cameras had given us already.
Getting ourselves hence to a haughty Hotel du Vin we figured, in light of the occasion and the surroundings, that cocktails were in order. Sceptical one of two mojitos mightn’t have arrived sans rum, and mindful Big Bentz was mincing too much around his margarita, we yammed what was left of the laid-on salty snacks and went to Bacchus.
Buried in the vaults of the Burlington Hotel, Bacchus is a Nicholson joint and duly juxtaposes a reasonable beer selection with an atrocious carpet. Always a minor mystery to me why some pub operators will undermine the overall aesthetic of their often passable premises by laying any old shit on the floor. Never really got any further toward figuring out why, either, beyond the assumption garish colours and swirly patterns are low maintenance and disguise sick better than seagrass.
To Jamie’s Italian. First go at one of these and, I must say, it was pretty good. A beautifully appointed, rustic yet modern space serving very good, very keenly priced food. Delivered somewhat nonchalantly. Someone had obviously told our girl she was good at this, anyway, and she had believed them. She read us the day’s Specials in much the same way she might leave her number as part of an answerphone message. Didn’t hear a word. The food was really tasty though, as I say. I had a Buffalo Ricotta Ravioli (£7.25) to start, and a Tuscan Boar Sausage (£11.45) on lentils to follow. The lads called Mushroom Fritti (£3.95), Prawn linguine (£12.50) and a Burger Italiano (£11.25). All perfectly portioned save for the burger, the price of which should have included fries, but, all in, a really decent diffusion concept.
The following day can be catalogued more generally under ‘Misc.- Tear Up’. Lining our stomachs with a predictably sub-standard, over-priced and error-strewn breakfast at Warwick’s Lazy Cow (we thought we’d give them a second crack of the whip. Doubt they’ll get a third…) by 12.30am we’d sought the more-than relative sanctuary of Stratford’s Church Street Townhouse. This place knows service even better than it knows how to sell you things. Pooh-poohing a more than reasonable offer of Bloody Marys in favour of a string of pints and steel buckets full of brilliantly dirty bar food, we capitalised on the charitable suggestion we leave our tab open for our inevitable return, and decamped to the louche upstairs of some big screen gaff to watch Man Utd rape Arsenal by 8 pots to 2. Bentz’ celebratory shuffle after ‘PARK!’ made it six or seven was an undoubted highpoint.
Trousering a Purity Gold, among other things, in the so-so One Elm, we returned to our open check and live piano at the Townhouse. Piri-Piri prawns, an edge-beckoning, pupil-dilating Muscadet, and a sing-a-long-a ‘Sweet Caroline’ provided the spirited setting for some healthy, inebriated, family-orientated chat. The kind that boys sometimes need beers to broach. A brief, ‘we okay?’ word in each other’s ear before congregating back at the coal face of a carve-up which, even if we do say so ourselves, and in spite of the white threatening temporarily to derail us (well, me), was paced to pleasantly-pissed perfection over its 11hour duration.
Less a critique of the various venues visited, then, than an endorsement of the importance of weekends like this, spent in this environment. Family is and always will be fundamental to me. To get periodically FUBAR in their company, if that’s your wont – and it is indisputably ours – helps restore balance and banter where day-to-day shit and a circumstantial shortage of regular reco’s might threaten to muddy the waters. We had a fucking great time. None of which scratches the surface of the 5 point, chauffeured pub crawl a break-away faction of us failed to resist come that aforementioned, supposedly arse-ache alleviating Monday. No shame, some of us. No shame. No shame, no gain…