Fat Tuesday

Last night we made an unexpected visit to the Cotswolds. Husband couldn’t find his passport and, since we’re flying out to the States on Saturday, decided it was worth driving out to see if it was at the cottage. It was, and so we happily retired to the wine bar for a quick glass before the dinner he bribed me with to get me to drive out with him.

It was a mellow night, welcome after last Friday’s conclusion to the Fat Boy lunch. R. the barman was on duty having long since been relegated to Tuesday nights from his previous post on Fridays. R. has been a constant in our Cotswold life. He was our original welcome wagon, and we spent many quiet Friday nights last year perched at the old bar talking with him before we got a Chinese takeaway and drove up to the rented cottage in G.P. He has a thick head of greying dark hair, a pink face, and smiling eyes. When he’s working he wears an apron over a checkered shirt, when not a leather waistcoat and a flat cap. Once I saw him across the lawn of a posh hotel party wearing a cravat. He calls himself a Zionist, is a Catholic Anglican, and his favourite book is Gordon Is a Moron. It was good to catch up with him and watch him break all the house rules, including serving “a pound’s worth” pours and letting the lovely labs, Fing and Inch, wander around off their leashes.

M. was there briefly, looking much more stable on his feet and much less red in the face than when I left him on Friday evening. E. also made a brief appearance — all the people who work in the wine bar seem to drink there too — long enough to update us on the success of her bird plucking business and to find out she’s disposing of all the feathers in a big hole at the bottom of her new boyfriend’s, a.k.a. Boy Racer, field. (I don’t know why I need to know things like whether sheep sleep indoors or what she does with all the feathers, but I do). R. had a brace of pheasants hanging on the coat rack, ready for her to take away. And G. was there, a permanent background presence nursing his customary two glasses of red.

There were a few new people as is always the case even after a year of evenings in the wine bar. I met the charming wife of twenty years of one of the Fat Boys, which was something of a relief since the majority of people around here seem to be divorced. A man came in to order a case of wine and stopped for a glass. Within five minutes I knew his ex-wife was a Roosevelt, a result of the potent combination of the Oxonian effect and the license to be gauche to which I’m entitled by nationality. The former refers to the phenomenon in which someone who went to Oxford will tell you they went to Oxford within the first eleven seconds of your conversation with them, which I’ve found extends to all kinds of things besides Oxford (like being related to Roosevelt by marriage, even if said marriage is now defunct). Of course the Oxonian effect helps make the wine bar the wine bar, and without it things would undoubtedly be less fun.

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