Yesterday, on my way to Brighton to see the publisher of this esteemed organ, I met up with Chloe an old school friend of mine whom I had not seen in nearly three years, in of all places the quaint little town of Seaford in East Sussex.
Rather more years ago that either of us would care to admit Chloe and I were once closeted away together in a minor all-girls’ boarding school on the South Downs where the main preoccupations of young ladies of our vintage en route to ‘O’ levels at the age of 15 or 16 were fashion, ponies, make-up, fluffy toys, Adam Ant, The Diary of Anne Frank, pashes on the PE mistress, kittens, David Cassidy, crocheting, Daisy Duke (actress Catherine Bach) from the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard and boys – though not necessarily quite in that order.
On one memorable occasion for an adventure Chloe and I had saved our pocket money and, on an otherwise free afternoon, caught a bus down to Seaford – the nearest town – in order to see what we could find.
It was more a case of walking around the town looking in shop windows, ice cream cones with 99s sticking out of them, buying and smoking a pack of 10 Silk Cut and a lot of hanging around outside a fish & chip shop near the cliffs practising our techniques of being chatted up by the local spotty-faced teenagers – but let us draw a veil over the last of these, especially the bit where at one point Daffers disappeared up a small lane at the side of the fish & chip shop for a snog and thereby had her first experience of a tongue attempting to push itself down her throat …
The atmosphere was friendly, clean and inviting – three attributes that Daffers always finds positive if not essential when she is at the trough – and the hubbub of conversation at the slightly-cramped tables as we arrived informed me that this was not only a place of quality but one of considerable local repute.
I shall not trouble the reader with a re-hash of our catch-up conversation covering everything from our kids’ progress to the declining state of health of our parents and friends, other than to observe that, in all my time of knowing Chloe and her other half as well as I did before their break-up, I would never have put Roger down as the type who would take to cross-dressing in his mid-forties and end up running a dry cleaners shop in Hastings.
It’s one of life’s little ironies that my dining companion, who when we were at school seemed to exist on a diet consisting exclusively of sweets, doughnuts, chips and Toulouse sausages, has had her own life-change [no, not that one!] and turned into a vegan or vegetarian … anyway, someone that avoids all meat of any description and drinks nothing but funny-coloured, exotic-sounding tea leavened with soya milk.
I opted for the Eggs Royal, which came in the form of a muffin with smoked salmon, two poached and the usual accompaniments, and – as the wine on offer didn’t take my fancy (I’m not a fan of elderflower) – I broke new ground by accepting a glass of a Real Ale with the slightly unfortunate brand name [in these days of #MeToo and female-solidarity little black dresses at red carpet events] of Bishop’s Finger – of which, I can assure Rust readers, this was a first for Daffers.
I was pleased to note that my muffin was fresh, the garnish a delightful supplement, the hollandaise home-made and scrumptious and – a key signal for me of a proper cook at the helm – the poached eggs unadulterated by the blight of having been cooked in a dash of vinegar.
I was just finishing my plate by enjoying the last finger-tip of my ‘Bishop’ when the only downside of my visit to the venue occurred.
Almost from the time we arrived the next but one table had been occupied by a male threesome – one slim and rather dishy sporting a pork-pie hat, the others a pair of portly elderly gentlemen of public school-educated City fat-cat appearance with loud, boorish voices who were holding forth with self-satisfied glee on three or four topics for the ‘benefit’ of everyone in the room.
At one point, whilst they were discussing the unedifying sport of boxing – I know this because their domination of the communal air molecules had made it impossible for the rest of us to avoid their conversation let alone hear our own – in what at the time seemed about three milliseconds (I kid you not) some form of altercation took place, the one with his back to me stood up, waved his arms about, lost his balance, tripped over the stair and inadvertently propelled himself like a sack of potatoes into the side of our table.
This incident aside, my visit to this landmark in Seaford enhanced what had already been a rewarding catch-up lunch-date.