Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Follow-up from the last Post

My regular followers (I use the term in its technical, geeky blogspeak sense, not to imply evangelistic fervour) will know that I write a regular column for The Journal, a daily newspaper published in the North East.

Yesterday I told the story (embellished further in the post below) of my encounter with three diet-busting restaurants in the space of one week. What was supposed to be a jocular meander through my culinary guilt turned into a rather mordant, even truculent attack on one of our great northern eating institutions, Seaham Hall's White Room restaurant. I concluded that, despite its Michelin star, it has, quite simply, gone off.

In today's Journal my fellow columnist Keith Hann, who has been the victim of quite a few of my posts in the past, decided to base his column on mine. Here's an extract:

Few things are better calculated to lift the heart on a Monday morning than the emergence of a new North East winner. Though in truth what grabbed my attention in yesterday’s paper was not so much the Government’s carefully stage-managed leak about the expansion at Nissan as the unveiling on this page of our very own Michael Winner, Tom Gutteridge.

First there was his remarkably acerbic restaurant review, closely mirroring Mr Winner’s weekly contributions to the Sunday Times. Part of this at least earned a smug nod of agreement since, not so long ago, when I was lamenting the demise of GNER’s excellent restaurant cars, Tom sent me a spirited defence of the maintained quality and superior convenience of the National Express at-seat service. I was glad to read that he now agrees with me.

Always a generous host, Tom was once kind enough to treat Mrs Hann and me to one of those South Indian meals about which he wrote so enthusiastically yesterday, and it was indeed delicious. However, it seems only fair to add a warning that this cuisine can have less than desirable after-effects for some of us. I struggle to think of a way of describing these without causing offence, but if the “save the planet” cash-in merchants had erected one of their turbines in our vicinity, the Hann family could probably have powered a reasonably sized village for the next 24 hours.

But all this pales into insignificance compared with the statement that Tom is soon to get married wearing a cream suit a size too small for him. Not so much Four Weddings and a Funeral, then, as a comedy remake of Saturday Night Fever with Mel Smith in the title role, in the regrettable absence of Benny Hill. Time to think again, surely. Let me put on record that I am more than willing to lend Tom the black morning coat I bought in John Blades’ retirement sale for my own wedding. This would at least have the virtues of being appropriate wear for an Englishman and just about fitting him.

Now I had hoped that my review have been closer to the style of A.A. Gill than the proudly pompous Mr Winner. Michael once invited me for lunch at his favourite restaurant: some steak and oyster place in a smart street. I'm glad he paid, because it's certainly not my kind of food.

Behind the bluster I find Winner quite a jolly chap. However, I wonder why he mentions his money all the time, which he does, even with other wealthy people, at every opportunity. What innate insecurity makes a man presumably perfectly comfortable in his own wealth boast incessantly about the size of his mansion? Presumably his inability to take himself any more seriously than his readers is a virtue - it probably equates to a kind of perverse modesty. Maybe deep down lies a lonely, vulnerable man. But the success (or perserverance) of Winner's Sunday Times column is at least something to aspire to.

Not Benny Hill's dress sense, though. How can I politely tell Mr Hann that I would no more wear his morning coat to a wedding in 90 degree heat in California than I would go naked to the Savoy? Even if Mr Winner joined me. In my cream suit I suspect I shall be somewhat overdressed. Besides, I could always have worn my own morning coat, complete with tails and gold lining, which I purchased for my last wedding. I suppose I should have dusted it down and joined the other penguins at Keith's own wedding, which I described in detail in one of my earlier posts. But I was afraid the suit might have brought him bad luck -- my own marriage ended after just a couple of months, making it a very expensive bit of schmutter indeed. Besides, the new and last Mrs Gutteridge knows I carry far too much baggage with me already than to add to the load with a piece of old-fashioned, fusty clothing I know she would utterly detest. Rightly.

No comments: