The Listener Setters’ Dinner

This morning, tramping around Morden Hall Park, I came across two young men examining the construction of a bridge, in preparation for a boardwalk through the wetlands.  As I said, this should save our shoes and trouser bottoms.  This meant I just had to investigate that waterlogged area.  I should have tried out my new wellies, but they are in the car and Jackie had the keys.  I was, however, rewarded by meeting two surveyors who were measuring the terrain.

This reminded me of ‘Under the boardwalk’ from The Drifters’ marvellous 1963 album ‘Up on the roof’.  You can hear it on youtube.

Volunteers were tending the Tending the rose garden 10.12. (2)JPGrose garden.

The small adventure playground contained much activity.  Those playing in there were wearing wellies.

This afternoon I made a lamb rogan josh.  All my balti meals are based on a wonderful little book, Mridula Baljekar’s Real Balti Cook Book.  Jessica bought this for me in a remainder bookshop in Edinburgh on the only occasion she accompanied me to the Listener Setters’ Dinner. Balti cook book 10.12 It wasn’t her scene but she tried it out once.

I had discovered the Listener crossword puzzle when The Times took it over in the early nineties.  Solvers who successfully completed each of the 52 puzzles in a year were rewarded with an invitation to attend.  After Mike Kindred and I realised we were never going to earn our admission that way, we began to set puzzles ourselves.  Mike never did attend, but I enjoyed several of the annual gatherings which take place in different cities throughout the UK.

John Green, who, as a labour of love, checks all submitted solutions, sends all received comments to the setters.  There are many comments.  One of my proudest moments was opening a most complimentary letter of approval from Vikram Seth.  On one occasion one of my clues was inadvertently omitted from the published puzzle.  I received a plain postcard from Georgie Johnson.  It read, simply, ‘was Mordred (my pseudonym), poor bastard, really one clue short of a crossword?’.  There began a correspondence friendship.  In those early ’90s, we didn’t have computers, so we communicated by post.  Jessica suggested I should invite this delightfully witty penfriend to a dinner.  Georgie came to York.  Since we had never met, we arranged to convene in the hotel bar.  I sat waiting with a pint of beer until in walked a most elegant woman who had the poise and looks to have been photographed by Patrick Litchfield in her youth.  ‘That can’t be her’, I thought.  She looked across the room, turned and walked out.  ‘Ah, well,’ I thought.  Then she came back in and I noticed she was clutching a copy of ‘Chambers Cryptic Crosswords’ (see 12th July), which had been our identification signal.  After she joined me she confessed that she had thought ‘that can’t be him.  He must be an actor or something’.  We enjoyed a most pleasant evening which lasted well into the small hours.  In the twenty first century we continue our correspondence by e-mail.

I have resolved my PayPal problem.  Pictures can continue.

To celebrate, with our rogan josh Jackie drank a bit more of the Wickham medium white 2010, and I dipped further into the Era Costana rioja 2009.

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