Look both ways

Time is slipping by without my being able to keep up. I’ll finish off Oxford when I can, but meanwhile here is what happened last week.

Monday night was a long awaited magazine launch reading at Foyle’s:

Seam is an excellent vehicle and the list of readers, though frightening in its length, was smoothly handled by its super-poet-editor Anne Berkeley, and we reached the break seamlessly, ha ha. Here’s the reading list (I can’t say I checked this against actual attendance but I know a lot of these people did read: Sue Rose distinguished herself, of course, and Mike Barlow was my surprise hit of the evening. I was glad as well for a chance to meet Todd Swift who has been on the edge of my acquaintance for several years, with more and more people known in common. Anyway, the other readers were: Gill Andrews, Pat Borthwick, Ken Champion, John Clegg, Chrissie Gittins, Allison McVety, Caroline Natzler, Julian Stannard, Kearan Williams.

After a bracing glass of wine, a bit of light mingling, and a chance to purchase copies of the magazine, we were treated to a second half reading by Sheenagh Pugh,

who demonstrated her position as an advocate for accessibility in poetry without sacrificing intelligence and interest. I particularly liked her ‘webcam’ poems. (Perhaps webcam poems will be the dream poems of the future?)

Afterwards some of us repaired to a Greek restaurant in Bloomsbury. What can I say: the half timbered interior was probably a pretty clear clue, but we were not in authentic Greek cuisine territory. I was curious to eat “Greek” restaurant food after my Crete experience, and it was about as unremarkable as I remembered, though filling. Anyway I needed to shoot off early to get myself tucked into bed for another day at London Food Link in the morning.

Which I did. And was there until Thursday when I finished up and went to meet Nancy to see Atonement, a well-made, grim but topical number I hadn’t been exactly looking forward to but thought I ought to see, as it’s much discussed. But I’m not a big fan of Ian McEwan, see. This film certainly demonstrated what I don’t like about his creative vision: it seems to be a matter of making each of his characters suffer as much as possible; there is no mercy and no forgiveness in his world. As I remembered afterwards, Alex’s mother once said to me that she only really wanted to see happy films anymore. I’m there too. Anyway Nancy and I took ourselves to Ottolenghi for some A-1 takeaway (the peppery gingery greenbeans, spinach and snow peas were particularly good). I’ve been following his interesting New Vegetarian column in the Guardian but was happy to see he serves some exquisite beef as well.

So that was kind of it for the week. Then I zipped off to Sussex for the weekend. The weather was beautiful: classic autumnal Englishness, clear and crisp. We went to a place called the Boathouse for lunch on Saturday, which was really hopping, with a big anniversary party on the other side of the room. But we had a sunny table overlooking the stream

which was a nice setting with pleasant staff (even in the depths of Sussex it’s the New Britain: 1 each English, Polish, Latvian and Slovakian waiter and a Chinese maitre’d). Food not so good though: I encountered an ammonia-pong skate wing. By its soppy texture I’d say it was previously frozen, if not just plain overcooked, which might explain why the kitchen didn’t notice the problem. According to your sources, the ammonia develops either as an effect of poor handling when caught, or it is a symptom of a less-than-fresh piece of fish. Whatever the reason, it’s inedible at this point, so we sent it back and I had a bit more beef which was ok, and then after a little sit down on the wall by the water

went in search of the sellers of some local free range eggs,

but they were apparently out, leaving a few chickens and a couple of dogs in charge. The church next door was cold and quiet

and after a look round and a cock-a-doodle farewell from the very fine rooster,

we left.

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