Saturday, June 19, 2010

More Out and About in Wight

Well, the sun has come out again in Wight these last few days, and it has been a favourable time to awaken dear old RedFred from his rain-drenched torpor and get him to rev up and rumble out onto some of the Island’s often rather raddled roads…
Yes, these last three days, I’ve been out and round and about.

Thursday was a trip to Newport. Now, Newport is not exactly one of the Island’s beauty spots. It’s a rather sprawly and messy conglomeration which I’m inclined to avoid. But it is the island’s biggest centre, and when one has Serious Shopping to do, one often ends up going there. I had Serious Shopping to do, because tomorrow, Sunday, there is a big birthday happening in this house. Charlie Holmes will be nine years old. And he very much wants an electric guitar …
Well, as we know, its occasions like this where adopted great-uncles come in handy…

From Newport, we drove out to Cowes: a first for me, as the traffic and parking situations there had always made me stop short, at Osborne House. It seems like a busy place, full of the little and not so little yachts that have made its fame. My adventure of the day was to cross the Medina River by the chain ferry – a barge which chunters across a few watery metres -- rather like the one I went on recently in Dresden!
We stopped for lunch at the Folly Inn, a large hostelry hidden away at the end of an impossible bit of broken roadway, and perched on the banks of the river. It is apparently a favourite with visiting yachties, and the scars on the tabletops are made, so I was told, by the shoes of the inebriated watermen who can be seen every Friday night making youpi up there. I was glad it wasn’t Friday, the place was calm and enjoyable, and I put away a trencher portion of cold chicken, pressed ham, grand cheese, brown bread, piccalilli and pickled onions, all washed down with Fentiman’s fine ‘ginger beer’…

Friday, I set out on another mission. I decided that I had to go back to Bembridge and revisit my favourite Wightisth restaurant from last year: just to make sure my memory wasn’t playing me tricks. So, Fred and I sped up across Brading Downs, and back into the narrow street of the seaside village of Bembridge. First of all, I popped in for coffee with my friend, Tiffany, at her delicious B&B (‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’, of course, where I stayed last year), and then on to Fox’s. It’s still the same. It still looks a bit like a caff from the outside, Nicola is still there serving cheerfully and husband John in the kitchen. I took a table in the sun, on the neat green lawn out the back, and ordered my lunch. Now, Fox’s is one of those restaurants that have a small menu. Perfect! You know everything is going to be fresh, not unfreeze-microwaved. But it also means you mustn’t have too many dislikes ... and you know me: no chips, no lettuce, no broccoli.



Today the soup of the day was broccoli and pea. However, remembering John’s wondrous sea food soup from last year, I determined to try. Well, it’s the best broccoli soup I’ve ever had, but I’m still not keen on broccoli and, you know, since Bohemia, I’ve got new ideas about peas too. To follow I had a delicious, if slightly unplump lightly pan-fried plaice with spuds and veg. It was obviously not a plump plaice day: I checked out the grand wet-fish shop next door afterwards, and the day’s catch were all pretty Twiggyish. But never mind! Small is good. Small and nicely cooked is good. Small and nicely cooked and fresh is excellent.



And one can always rely on that at Fox’s. Fresh and nicely cooked. But next time, before I drive across the island, I’ll check that the sea-food soup is ‘on’ and broccoli is ‘off’!
Oh. I should add that the two-course lunch was ... seven pounds and 75p. Value for money, did I hear you say? You bet.

Saturday was an early start. For Saturday was the Round the Island Boat Race, and the enterprising Winter Gardens complex (remember my big piece on its dubious and fading charms last year?) were doing champagne breakfast on the balcony which overlooks Ventnor Bay. So Debby and I made a brunch date, and Fred and I duly scaled the cliffs down to the Esplanade.



More than seventeen hundred little and large yachts filed past (even at 8.30am we were too late for the biggest boys who, the French at their head, had already passed the winning post) in a shattering of white sails. Normally, it is a multi-coloured sight, but today the wind was coming from an awkward northerly quarter and all the colourful spinnakers were, thus, stowed away until the other side of the island was reached!



An extremely pleasant morning with old friends and new passed by in the wriggle of an hourglass .. and then, after a quick visit to Goodman’s very interesting delicatessan to construct myself a Sunday picnic (fennel sausage! dear old Cantal cheese – in my French days our ‘cheapie’ now 20 pounds a kilo! -- and .. oh look there’s a bottle of Ch√Ęteauneuf du Pape!), Fred and I waddled back up the steep slopes to our eyrie on St Catherine’s Downs..

A gentle evening, I feel, is in order, given champagne for brunch and the Big Birthday tomorrow.
Do you think the Ch√Ęteauneuf du Pape will survive until tomorrow’s picnic? Sigh of contentment. I would say the chances are infinitely small…

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