A mistake is to commit a misunderstanding

Monday, 17 September 2012

"Bloody brilliant party, Mr Floyd! And excellent nibbles, thank you.  Shit! Here comes that woman with the frightening criminal haircut.  Quick! Everyone inside and hide in the cellar. Bring the sausages with you."

In the mid-nineties, Edward and I were expats in a place I rather disliked and which was the utter opposite of the bucolic, lush, verdant English countryside in which we had courted and for which we longed.  One leave, Edward rented a fantastic thatched house for us on the Dart Estuary in South Devon.

Though far from cluttered, it was perfectly furnished with rustic, rescued treasures.  Hand-thrown mugs for our coffee, which we sipped in the bright summer mornings, watching the river bustle noisily past the end of the garden and feeling exactly like sleepy animals from Wind in the Willows.  The chairs were mismatched and perfectly comfortable in the way a chair can only become after it has borne witness to the theatre of life through a thousand bottoms.  The kitchen featured ancient freestanding cupboards filled with a charming, chipped and chic assortment of china, enamel, pottery and copper.  I fell completely in love with it and couldn't wait to entertain all our friends whom we hadn't seen in a year, and whom I had invited down from London for some fun.

None of them turned up.  I rang them from the call-box on the corner of the lane and wondered why they sounded stilted and distant.  Their excuses were insultingly crap and I felt a bit annoyed. I wandered back along a sun-dappled road past an Inn that I realised with star-struck greed was run by the garrulous and hilarious TV chef Keith Floyd.  Well, at least we would eat well this holiday.  I popped in to book a table and was met with absolute indifference.  Added to my mates dumping me and a particularly disastrous haircut I was still coming to terms with, I was pretty narked off.  Especially when Edward went off that afternoon in the car to buy logs.  In bloody August.

I remember vividly sitting in the garden reading the fabulous Island in the Sun by Alec Waugh, a haunting, salutary tale on the dangers of taking events at face value and believing you know what others are thinking.  When Edward got back, I had made Pimms and was lost on a 1950s Caribbean plantation with all its undercurrents of politics, danger and racial tension.

That night, he proposed to me, by firelight.  Of course I said yes.  The Ceylon sapphire he produced had been hidden in his sock drawer after a business trip to Sri Lanka, about which he had been uncharacteristically secretive, thus getting right on my wick for several weeks.  He had called the London chums before we few home on leave and told them in no uncertain terms not to come to Devon as he had other plans which they'd all bugger up, and not to say a word to me about it.  He'd already booked the table at Floyd's Inn, and been equally forthright with the staff, knowing I was bound to go in and spoil things by booking another table.  We went to dinner there, the food exquisite, the grumpy patron less so.  He appeared at our table, bizarrely, with a teddy bear, and told us that marriage was over-rated.

I was reminded of all this earlier this month when I listened to an old interview with the late, much-missed Keith Floyd, who said that during his time running that Inn, he'd been broke, overworked and deeply unhappy in, I think, his third marriage, his TV star on the wane as his producer had dumped him for Risk Stein and was battling bowel cancer.  I just thought he was rude.

I am sorry that, as I have done so often, I leapt effortlessly to a quite erroneous conclusion.  I suspect it won't be the last time though.


26 comments:

  1. This is quite true, a mistake is to commit a misunderstanding. Always remembering we might be wrong is a good thing, except in business, where one always has to forge ahead regardless.

    The proposal story is very, very, very sweet.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think it was Bob Dylan wot said it, the old oracle. Yes, I agree, though in business I often felt that I couldn't admit mistakes as the whole thing often seemed like a high-stake international game of 'don't blink first.'

    Yes, it was.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are an artist with words.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lovely, happy tale with plenty of "food for thought" thrown in!
    SCBA, k'Port

    ReplyDelete
  5. "The chairs were mismatched and perfectly comfortable in the way a chair can only become after it has borne witness to the theatre of life through a thousand bottoms."

    Give me a chance to breathe. I just re-upped on your blog and you are killing me with your words already. The last berry picking one left me breathless. Sigh.

    Thank you. Don't stop

    ReplyDelete
  6. James - lovely man what a gorgeous thing to say. Thank you.

    Anon - thanks and yes, I did get a bit thoughtful when I heard the interview.

    Beren - breathe....

    ReplyDelete
  7. I remember when Dougie proposed to me, we had gone on holiday to Greece and the ring must have been burning a hole in his pocket as, no sooner as we had put the key in the door of the hotel room, he had whipped it out. Gave me quite a shock, I can tell you.

    Did I tell you I was hob-nobbing with John Torode last summer in Portugal? He was staying with his family in our hotel. I tried very hard to remain cool whilst having a good nose at what he was eating and ordering the same.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Trish that's hilarious, poor man he must have been in a right state. Er, not you didn't. I have a horrid feeling that should I eve fall through the portal and find myself a contestant on Masterchef, that to my utter shame and disgust I would try REALLY hard to impress JT.

    So? Did you speak? What did he eat??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish we had spoken but, unlike my recent bravado, accosting Quincy Jones looky-likeys in Sweden, I must have been rather shy last year.
      If I remember rightly he had the fish...but it was a fish restaurant. His younger children, like most kiddies, had pasta.

      Delete
  9. Replies
    1. Thank you! And welcome. Please feel to stop by whenever you like, though you may wish to turn a discreet eye if I ever mention gardening. You may weep.

      Delete
  10. I'm sure Keith Floyd was a decent cove, and his awkwardness even from one so practiced at being a sleb chef, was quite endearing. But clearly the quaffing of you name it helped him get through the shoots. I seem to remember reading that he died quite happily, having found his final soul mate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I loved that mixture of nervousness and irascibility. I often shout 'Clive! Over HERE!' when I'm cooking on my own. Glad he found the right one in the end. bless him.

      Delete
  11. My dear I want to thank you for your kind email regarding my blog. I have ventured here several times to say so...and each time I get so enraptured in reading yours... I am devoid of time to say so. I have made the comment box my first stop this time...before allowing myself to delve once again into your delightful writings!

    Your kind words met me yesterday on a day when I was questioning the merits of my blogging... What a timely gift your words were to me. The sharing and connecting on life's journey...that is what is in it for me...so thank you ever so much for doing both. Now I must return to reading yours...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tamera, I am flattered and delighted - you are welcome here on the blog-of-gloomy-drizzle any time your California sun gets dull...

      Please keep blogging - I have passed it on to several friends who face similar times and they have been inspired.

      Delete
  12. Dear ELS - I'm so very pleased you left a comment (& such a nice one too) on my blog so that I could be introduced to you. I marvel at your writing and I adore your sense of humor. I know reading your blog will be great fun..& to think you are a Scot too!! My husband is from Aberdeen which is why (obviously!) we are here. So lovely to meet you and thanks for the great read. BTW, sounded like my kind of cottage.
    Cheers, Deb

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Deb, thanks for such lovely words, I really appreciate the feedback - am also fascinated by the name of yours..

      It came through a company called Toad Hall Cottages, they specialise in UK waterside properties and honestly, they are heaven. If you need a break from the stern and flinty beauty of auld Aberdeen..

      Delete
  13. Dear Els,

    It happens to us all....

    Kind thoughts and a slight wince from similar memories of my own.

    Cheers,
    Sam.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh, doesn't it? I try very hard to be all Eastern and zen and not second-guess people but sometimes there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day to gently reach a kinder conclusion. Not in the checkout in Sainsburys at least.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Jesus Henry Christ, you gotta way with the words, gal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. God All-sodding-Mighty, so do you.

      Delete
  16. Ok. This was good. Now what's on tap for tomorrow?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't think for one moment I haven't rumbled you...

      Delete
  17. Between you and Doc Martin I have such a hankering to visit the UK now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Come!!!!!! I'll even wear sticky-out ears and mope about gloomily between diagnoses.

      Hurry up, the weather is perfect and I've just boiled the kettle.

      Delete

Please leave a comment if you can be remotely bothered - anything you have to say is valuable and I absolutely love hearing from you all. Elizabeth