The Challenge


Pomport war memorial 2.13‘Les Hauts de Hurlevent’ is the French title of Emily Bronte’s awesomely tragic masterpiece ‘Wuthering Heights’.  Last night I watched the film version in English with French subtitles.  Tom Hardy is a magnificently brooding and vengeful Heathcliffe; Charlotte Riley a perfect, spirited, Cathy; and Sarah Lancashire a strong and motherly Nelly.  Everyone else was well worthy of their place in this gripping dramatisation from the screenplay of Peter Bowker.  Catherine, I cannot resist reporting, was played by Rebecca Night.

Clad in a warm dressing gown, under a duvet, reclining in bed with the Wordsworth biography in my hands; a cafetiere and cup on the bedside table; I thought of my late friend Ann.  It is my custom, on solitary mornings, to read in this manner until the coffee is consumed.  Realising that, in this room which has not yet received whatever sun may be on offer during this freezing season, I have only been half-filling the cup, I remembered Ann’s tale of her and Don’s trip to Norway for her son Ally’s wedding.  There, the natives only half-filled coffee cups so the drink would be at least tepid before it was finished.  This must have been at the back of my mind.

Swollen ditch 2.13Setting off up the D17 to Pomport I reversed the loop discovered on 3rd.  Perhaps it was something I said: the donkey virtually ignores me now.  rue Cailloud 2.13Before I had left the village, a vicious Auster tearing up rue Cailloud bit my fingers and sent the ubiquitous maple leaves bounding alongPomport church 2.13.  After the usual half hour my hands were warm and I’d raised a sweat which cooled and dampened my shirts.  Yes, I’m back to the four layers.

This time the downward stretch tested the knees.  I had to lean backwards and apply my brakes, especially after I paused to take a photograph and couldn’t help but start off at running pace, such was the incline. Downhill from Pomport 2.13 Fortunately, before descending steeply, the path flattened out enough to make this possible.

A trio of deer scutted, one after the other, between the bare vines.  Since it is always three I see together in the forest in Minstead, I wondered whether, rather like one rule of planting, that is the requisite number for company.

Mistletoe 2.13Clusters of mistletoe clung to their hosts.

This was a most pleasurable walk on a beautiful morning.

The hearty vegetable soup in Le Code Bar was just what I needed.  It was followed by an absolutely delicious kind of spring roll made of warm, moist, leek wrapped in thin layers of lightly crusted ham topped with melted cheese.  The main course, piled on a platter for two, consisted of three tender turkey thighs and a section of the neck with a mound of glistening pasta.

Now, Majid and Shafiq, the manager and chef of the Akash in Edgware Road, have for years been upping the ante in an effort to make me sweat with the heat of the chillies.  I swore I had a cold on the one day they managed it.  Today’s meal came with a challenge from Max in the kitchen.  Fred told me he had said ‘if he eats everything I want to see that’.  Always up for such a test, carefully removing them from my plate and arraying them on the empty platter, I returned the bones.  Max came out to see for himself.  It was then that I realised I had been closely observed by all the assembled company, who demonstrated their appreciation in the customary manner.  I hastily informed them and Max that, as usual when I’d dined in Le Code Bar, I would eat no more today.  And I had had no breakfast.


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