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Thursday 20 March 2014

The Methuselah factor

Old people are good at organising; self-defence, really.

We needed a good, long-established restaurant where we’d eaten before. The Stagg at Titley (The Tit At Staggley?) met all three criteria. Plus a bed to avoid a 45-minute taxi home and the possibility of a Ukrainian driver agonising about the Crimea.

We arrived yesterday at six; dinner at eight. More careful organisation saw pink champagne delivered to our room. Thus we paced our consumption, licking up the last drop at 19.59. Pink champagne is comparatively new to me, a different beast, more expensive, wasted when drunk out of a stiletto-heeled shoe.

The amuse-bouche was the Stagg’s home-made crisps with a balsamic foam dip. For starters we both had scallops with crab bisque, followed by lamb chops/shoulder with kale (VR) and belly pork (me). I finished with three differently flavoured crème caramels and VR had rhubarb with rhubarb jelly and ice cream.

The red was a real find, Director’s Cut shiraz from the Barossa Valley: a restrained and mature Oz (Sounds like sarcasm, doesn’t it?). Digestifs: a Remy for VR and a Nicaraguan rum (obviously a first) for me.

Ordering which required some money and some experience. But I’ve missed out one thing far more important. Old people are not necessarily good at organising conversation. Fifty-year marriages aren’t always a torrent of well-chosen words. And anyway the more abstemious may believe we were too pie-eyed to care (Not true, actually.)

A meal can survive bad food and bad drink but not bad talk. Yet when all three elements happily combine the result is more than a meal. It’s a window on civilisation. OK, I contributed but I still feel lucky, left to reflect on an unpredictable decision taken back in 1959. Certainly beyond my powers of organisation then.


  1. Many congratulations, and the venue and meal sound marvellous.

    Callow and cynical onlookers who know nothing often interpret the relative wordlessness of long married couples as boredom and lack of things in common, whereas it's really the opposite. Pink champagne, however, may well alter things.

    Love to you both.

  2. Happy anniversary, Mr. and Mrs.

    Hope you have as many more as you could want.

  3. I shall look forward to the Methuselah factor if it looks like that. How absolutely marvellous and heart warming. Congratulations.

  4. The double nickel eh? I was four and still free from the burdens of school. Glad you've had a good time.

  5. Oh! Congratulations! Ahh, the marvellous Methuselah factor.

  6. Bravo on the organization!
    Don't you agree with whomever said that silence and the unsaid can be very nourishing and cause no ripples?
    May the roads you and VR have traveled together remain good to you.
    (I think I am getting closer to understand the meaning of "Renounced West Riding birthright in 1959")

  7. ALL
    O dear. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima.culpa. How I've misled you all. And yet how grateful I am to you all, nevertheless. No evil intent, I assure you. Pure accident leading to what is, in effect, an ironic comment on my core subject - the byproducts of old age.


    I started composing this post, as I often do, in my head in bed. Normally I get up at 6.30 and start writing but obviously that wasn't possible at The Stagg. The net result was I lay abed two hours longer than usual and as I arose I had the whole 300-word post swishing around uneasily in my cerebellum.

    But it was some time before I could get to the keyboard. First I had to drive back to Hereford, drop in at PC World on the far side of the city, and pick up a copy of Windows 8.1 for Dummies (of which more later). By the time my fingers hit QWERTY a vital second paragraph had slipped through the slots of the drain cover that protects my memory.

    Thus the post should have started like this:

    Old people are good at organising; self-defence, really.

    But occasionally a flash of sunlight helps. VR, who's on the same 2/5 diet as me, but two months further on, said "Try weighing yourself in the morning. You're lighter then." I did, and the light streamed in, blissfully ennobling me. Five unexpected pounds lost! I felt lissome (Whatever that is.) Even gorgeous.

    Leading to something else rather different.

    What did appear was true, except it wasn't our anniversary. Actually it was quite clever of you all to conclude it was. It was VR's birthday. But I hadn't wanted to write about that, rather to continue the theme of how old folk use organisation to protect themselves. But I was in a hurry, had lost the thread, improvised, tried to disguise the birthday, and ended in a muddle. Other fish to fry - from perch to manta rays. Sorry about that. My next post will be about flowers. As symbols of apology.

  8. Oh for goodness sake, tu t'exagére!

    Wedding anniversay, VRs birthday, the Rs having a splendid meal at a lovely hotel, RR being lissom and gorgeous, whatever! We can congratulate you anyway can't we?

  9. Belated congratulations for all of it: birthdays, anniversaries, no-particular-occasion outings and the writing about it. Why you'd want to conceal the birthday puzzles me but then I'm a literal type.

  10. Lucy: No, no, no. Suppose you set out specifically to write East Coker and you found it had emerged out as Ode to a Nightingale. The verb débrouiller comes to mind, doesn't it? Not that I'm not pleased to share the good stuff with you.

    Natalie: This isn't the first time, is it? Those stories for which you demanded resolutions, the sonnets you needed explaining. When I've time I'll send you a Mode d'emploi, for the moment just accept I'm the central character in an appropriately named novel by Thomas Hardy.

  11. I once did a teaching practice at a school where a very large and well-endowed lady called Mrs Titley taught a class of rambunctious top juniors. Surprisingly, her name didn't seem to be a problem; I suppose they'd got it out of their system by the end of the first week of the autumn term.

  12. It’s probably tragic, RR, that the comment that I’d decided against making has now been prompted by Lucy’s ‘Mrs Titley’.

    First, my original response to your post:

    As a mature ‘Oz’ arguably approaching the need for being restrained, RR, I’d like to congratulate you and VR on the occasion, and you specifically for a charming post.

    As for the conversation element, the opening lines of Jaques Brel’s ‘Les Vieux’ cover that:

    The old people don’t talk any more,
    Or only sometimes from their eyes…
    Even rich, they are poor,
    They have no more illusions,
    And just one heart for two.

    Mind you, Brel takes ses vieux somewhat downhill from there...

    As for Mrs Titley, I was told years ago by an expat copywriter about a merger between two London ad agencies. The first day that both creative staffs came together, one art director introduced himself to his new colleagues thus: “Hi, my name’s John Thomas, and you’ve only got the rest of today to get that out of your system.”

  13. Damn. The reason I’ve developed a tendency not to comment anywhere on anything is that I always want to change stuff after I’ve hit the ‘send’ button.

    My translation of Brel’s second line was one of quiet desperation.

    And now my partner, la féministe d’une certain rage, has suggested that ‘Ou alors seulement parfois du bout des yeux’ possibly refers to the expression lines beside older eyes.

    Why can’t these damn poets say what they mean, preferably in plain English?

  14. Lucy2: In the James Bond novel, Goldfinger, Pussy Galore is introduced without any comments about her name. Innocent times. The movie, made years later, evisages a more cynical, sarkier audience:

    James Bond: Who are you?
    Pussy Galore: My name is Pussy Galore.
    James Bond: I must be dreaming.[

    Later PG says: You can turn off the charm. I'm immune.

    But of course Bond is more than a match for the genes, the chromosomes, the nature vs. nurture arguments and the rest. Quite offensive, really.

    With Mrs Titley there's the further twist in that it's a surname she chose to take on. I wonder if she decided on the basis that it would be character-forming. At my school, more particularly in my class ("The scugs' class," my father used to say), where intellectual diversion was hard to come by, I can't see the name being worked out of the communal mind. Rather handed down from generation to generation, as a precious gift. Lord Of The Flies was right.

    FigMince: Well "charming post" is a step in the right direction towards restraint. But love you as I do I remain a teeny bit nervous.

    The Brel is remarkable; I know nothing about him (although I've obviously heard the name) and I didn't think he was up to "one heart for the two". More than that it's a case of Mon chapeau! to you for the translation. Did I mention I'd gone through the picture show of your island home; it's clear you are profiting from regular transfusions of tranquillity and (this is harder to define) an understated though recognisably beautiful island-wide environment.

    But I need to clear up one further matter and it does me no credit at all. In fact I have no option but to resort to plain English. I tried to be too elliptical with the final part of the post not wishing to dwell on the banality of a mere date. What I intended to say was that although there are no guarantees that couples will continue to talk to each other as they get older, VR and I are lucky in that this still happens.

    Others have quite legitimately misread this. But, given the quality of the responses, I can't do what I normally do and tinker with what's written.

    Your visits are rare but I must say you always give good value.

  15. I didn't think the last para was elliptical...the reference to 1959 WAS re your wife/ marriage, correct? I think that's where the anniversary confusion came in.

  16. It all sounds delightful, RR. However your mention of the bed prompts me to ask about its clothing. Linen sheets and blankets (which tuck in around you), or duvets (which, for me are always much too hot and leave you exposed when you turn over)?
    You will have guessed at my preference - very rare in hotels/B&Bs these days unfortunately.

    (I note that the "anti-robot" number I have to enter is but 3 digits below my army number - which we never forget!)

  17. Well, there are some advantages to being late to the party! Congrats to VR on her birthday and to you for being an appreciative and loving husband for a long time. Sounds like you celebrated in style; here's to many more birthdays, anniversaries, happy mornings, picnics, stilettos, old recordings, memories, late nights, new-to-you wines.