September 15, 2020
Not too long ago (if you consider the amount of time within all of time, for sure) I had a couple Cocktail Talks from a book by Martha Grimes called The Man With a Load of Mischief, a book I liked pretty well. Not sure why (as this often happens) I didn’t search out more books by Martha G at the time, but, well, I didn’t. However, recently (being at home more and thereby reading more) I was scouring the shelves for a book to re-read, and I picked up said Load, and liked it again. It – as it seems all her books starring Scotland Yard’s Richard Jury – is very pub-focused, which I also like (pubs, that is! and pub-focused books), and so decided I’d keep my eyes open for more. And, low and behold, with open eyes I found one, called The Dirty Duck. Now, Grimes in the book-back blurbs gets compared at times to Agatha Christie, and while she isn’t anywhere for me as good as the best Agatha, she may not be as bad as the worst Agatha either (cause when Agatha goes off the mark, it can be far off). With that said, The Dirty Duck isn’t a bad read. It’s a little, oh, lazy at times, and a little dated for being 1984 (though that was, now that I think about it, a ways behind us in time), but it’s also a lot of fun, has some pretty neat twists and a good mystery, and is very readable. Best of all – it takes place in Stratford Upon Avon! At least for the main, and you probably can guess that means lots of Shakespeare, which I’m always for, and also the main pub (the Dirty Duck pub, that is) is one I know, and one that features mightily (under the name The Mucky Mallard) in the tv show Shakespeare and Hathaway, which I am mightily (two “mightily”s!) fond of. If that wasn’t enough to get you going, the Thomas Nashe poem “Litany in a Time of Plague” provided key clues, and is not only a swell poem, but incredibly apt right now with our own plague. And if that wasn’t enough, there are some good drinking quotes in the book, starting with the below.
One of these Americans, Miss Gwendolyn Bracegirdle, who had never had more than an ounce of sweet sherry at a time on the veranda of her huge pink-stuccoed house in Sarasota, Florida, was standing with a friend in a shadowy corner of the terrace getting sloshed.
“Oh honey, not another! This here’s my second – what do they call it?”
“Gin.” Her companion laughed.
“Gin!” She giggled. “I definitely couldn’t.” But she held her glass in a way that said she definitely could.
–Martha Grimes, The Dirty Duck
September 30, 2008
Just flew back in from a U.K. vacation (and I have to say, boy are my arms tired. No, really, I had to say it. I was forced by the lame jokes union, who said they’d cut off my supply of Strega if I didn’t use that particular line), where I not only had the brilliant pleasure of seeing the almighty Mighty Boosh live (a show I suggest everyone see before they shuffle off unless they’re very, very lame), but also had some fine drinks. The drinks came in the cocktail, highball, cider, and beer varieties, depending on the place and time and situation. The trip started in London, and started heavier on the cider and beer sides of the bar. I’m a large cider lover (take that as you will–there are what, at least four ways to take it), and the U.K. is an ideal spot to try out members of the cider species, including Aspalls Suffolk Cider, which I had at the Royal George Pub (in the Charing Cross neighborhood–I think), a punkish pub suggested by pals Stereolad and Schtickergirl, who came along for this U.K. adventure and who know their London spots. The Aspalls was “light, dry, and flouncy.”
Wife Natalie was a bit pooped by the time we hit the George (we’d been doing the London market experience all the live-long day), and went for an old reliable: the ice-cold Peroni, which is good no matter what country you’re visiting.
We also went in for the Pimm’s multiple times during the trip (and even brought back a bottle of Pimm’s No. 3, which is the brandy-based winter version, and hard to get over here in the WA), which only makes sense, with Pimm’s being an English standby and a favorite on warm days, which we had plenty of–who says the U.K. is cloudy and rainy and gothic-novel-melancholic 365 days a year by the way? That’s crazy talk. We had a few fine Pimm’s Cups, but the absolute finest, the tip top Pimm’s Cup, maybe in all of the U.K., but definitely in the parts we visited, was discovered at the White Bear Hotel, in Masham, in the Yorkshire Dales (a part of the country we spent some lovely days hanging out within). Masham is a nice village, with a market on Wednesday, a couple good hotels, quaintness to spare, and (like any English village) plentiful pubs on every street. Maybe my favorite Masham pub was the Bay Horse, which had a great veggie Ploughman’s Lunch loaded with 7 kinds of cheese, a meal I consumed while being watched by a little dog named Hank. Oh, but back to the Pimm’s at the White Boar (I start to go tangential, like a monkey flinging through the forest, right after a vacation, cause I miss every bit of it so much). They gave us the option of having it with lemonade (which is lemon soda) or straight soda, but every glass was packed with strawberries and grapes to go with the Pimm’s and mixer, and then topped off with the traditional cucumber slices.
A delicious bubbly treat, indeed. We also had an assortment of cocktails to swoon over at the Lonsdale in London, but I’ll hit those up later in the week.