Cock up your beaver

When first my brave Johnie lad came to this town,
He had a blue bonnet that wanted the crown;
But now he has gotten a hat and a feather,
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up your beaver!

Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu’ sprush,
We’ll over the border, and gie them a brush;
There’s somebody there we’ll teach better behaviour,
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up your beaver!

Robert Burns, 1791

John and Andrew’s Civil Partnership

Said good-bye to Graham, kilted wonderDavid and Jacqueline on Saturday morning and headed out to Great Offley for John and Andrew’s Civil Partnership. The ceremony and reception were held at Offley Place, which is a newly renovated, very smart hotel. The hotel is so newly renovated that the doors had bits of paper on them with the room numbers. The dress code for the ceremony was informal and colourful: so I wore my kilt with a t-shirt. I sent a picture message to my sister and she thought I looked like a ‘Scottish Thug’. I can’t see it myself. I rather liked the look (and it’s way too camp to be thug!)

The ceremony was mostly attended by family and was held in one of the lovely rooms in the ground floor. John and Andrew made a grand entrance dressed in top hats and tails, carrying canes and wearing cravats. Very nice! The registrar and her assistant made a good job of the ceremony: Andrew and John exchanged neck chains, and lit a unity candle. John’s daughter, Louise, was one of the witnesses and Michael did a good job of looking after one of her sons, Rory. Michael looked great in his red waistcoat, and it was very romantic to be there with him, remembering our own civil partnership 18 months ago.

Andrew and JohnMichael

After the ceremony we had Bucks Fizz and some photo opportunities. Some of the photo’s are on my Flickr set. We had a relaxing and very nice buffet meal in the conservatory at the side of the building, including some wicked mini eclairs with a dark chocolate dipping sauce, then spent the evening chatting in the front drawing room. About 11pm, Michael and I ventured out for a stroll and some fresh air, but the weather was so damp and windy that we only lasted 5 minutes before slinking back inside.

The rooms at Offley Place are lovely, I particularly liked the stylish bathrooms (so I took loads of photos’ for inspiration for our bathroom at home). We were woken up at 2.30 in the morning by two of the waitresses who wanted to borrow our key to see if they could get into one of the other rooms! A Very strange thing to happen and quite annoying at that time in the morning. It also disturbed Andrew’s sister and family who were in the room opposite. We mentioned it to the Manger when we checked out and he was speechless.

We joined Andrew and John, and Andrews family for breakfast in the morning, after a leisurely lie in bed, an extra hour because of the clocks changing!

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Nineteen Eighty Four (George Orwell)

Went with Michael, David and Jacqueline to see Nineteen Eighty Four at the ADC Theatre. It was an ambitious production by the Amateur Dramatic Club which worked very well. Ed Rice was super as Winston Smith, as was David F. Walton and O’Brien. The play followed the books well, and I had forgotten how bleak the ending is… The first half ended with the lovers being discovered by Big Brother, which was very dramatic and shocking after all the celebration of their ‘freedom’.

We went over for some nice Deuchars IPA at the Burleigh Arms

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Tour Round Cambridge

Spent the afternoon showing David and Jacqueline through some of the Cambridge colleges. King’s (and the chapel), Trinity and St John’s. The CAM Card was fantastic as the three of us got in for free everywhere. David and Jaqueline were very impressed.

Wedding Cake

David and Jacqueline. King's College

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David and Jacqueline visit

David and Jacqueline arrived about 6 after a pretty awful drive from Scotland (David left Glasgow at 7am!) It’s my first time to meet Jacqueline and she was good fun! We went out to The Peking Restaurant, in Burleigh Street for a great meal, sharing dishes and chatting to the owners. One of the owners had lived in Glasgow for a few years. The food was lovely, and came in the usual large portions! At the next table were a couple who proposed to one-another 27 years ago in the restaurant, which was very good fun. Michael arrived about 9.20, after his Spanish evening class and he was able to eat what we had left with some fresh rice and tea, so that worked out very efficiently. One of the dishes was pork with schezuan vegetables, which used the pickled schezuan roots that we normally munch as pickles on the side: it worked very well included in a cooked dish. The restaurant was filled with the smell of chillies frying at high temperatures and occasional clouds of chilli oil! Very atmospheric.

David and Jacqueline

We went around to the Free Press for drinks afterwards and Chris guessed David and I were about the same age! (He finally guessed David’s age as 10 years older than he really is!), very amusing!

Buying art

Roy Henry Vickers I’m on the look out for a birthday present for myself, with money collected form the family. It’s taking a long time, and for a long time I’ve been keen on Northwest Canadian Graphic Art. We’ve got a few at home. I love this serigraph by Roy Henry Vickers at Spirit Wrestler Gallery, it’s titled Tsimshian Chief. It reminds me of some of the great illustrations by Charles Keeping. Unfortunately it’s about £800, which is a bit much for a limited edition of 150 screen prints (from 1974). The Spirit Wrestler Gallery has had a recent make-over and there are a lot of other lovely prints there, tempting…

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Michael’s new job

Michael started his new job today as Business Relationship Manager at Anglia Ruskin University. Seems like he had a really good first day and he took me out to the Rice Boat for a celebration meal. It was a lovely cool evening for a walk across town to Newnham and a lovely, spicy Keralan meal. We shared the dishes:

  • Stuffed Sea food appam, A rice-paste bread with a central filling of chopped up squid and prawns in a spicy mix and two whole, tailed prawns.
  • Chilli-fried whitebait, Dried, salted fish deep fried in a chilli mix, served with a bit of rice.
  • Sour tomato & coconut curry, Tangy tomatoes in a spicy, thick, coconut curry.
  • Fried tapioca with a fish filling, Cassava/tapioca mash is moulded around curried King fish and the whole lot fried. Served with a superb, hot, relish.

All quite a bit spicier than I was expecting, which was good. We had lovely De Graal beers, a blonde for me and a dubbel for Michael. We got a a taste for this and ended up at Cambridge Wine Merchants scouring their shelves for bottles of Belgian beer to take back to drink at home. On the way past we tried the Fountain Pub, which is the distant past used to have a great selection of Belgian beers, but now has almost none.

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So how did I spend my Rugby Word Cup evening? Vit, Jay and Barrie came around for dinner last night to help us eat some more of the Midsummer Beef, which was lovely as before. Afterwards Michael went with them to the Free Press, to watch the World Cup Rugby Final–Craig had a TV out in the pub especially. I stayed at home and did the cleaning up from dinner and some useful and entertaining messing about on the internet. Eventually I wandered down to the pub, which was packed with people watching the match. I gave it a go for a few minutes, but Rugby leaves me stone cold, so I read the papers with a pint instead out of the main Rugby pack, which included a very well behaved South African. Apparently the match was a bit dull, and England did OK.

À Rebours

À Rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans starts with a preface from the translator (Margaret Mauldon) saying that only the most wicked person would choose this book to recommend to someone as their introduction Salome Dancing Before Herod, by Gustave Moreau to the 19th Century novel! Now I’ve finished it I can agree, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the book. The writing (translation) is superb, with rich descriptions that are engrossing. Here’s a description of the painting of Salome Dancing Before Herod, by Gustave Moreau:

A pensive, solemn, almost august expression on her face, she begins the lubricious dance which is to awaken the slumbering senses of the ageing Herod; her breasts rise and fall, their nipples hardening under the friction of her whirling necklaces; the diamonds adhering to her moist skin glitter; her bracelets, her belts, her rings, flash and sparkle; on her triumphal gown—pearl-seamed, silver-flowered, gold-spangled—the breastplate of jewellery, each of its links a precious stone, bursts into flame, sending out sinuous, intersecting jets of fire, moving over the lustreless flesh, the tea-rose skin, like a swarm of splendid insects whose dazzling wing-sheaths are marbled with carmine, spotted with saffron yellow, dappled with steely blue, striped with peacock green.

Totally absorbed, with the staring eyes of a sleep-walker, she sees neither the trembling Tetrarch nor her mother, the implacable Herodias, who watches Over her, nor the hermaphrodite or eunuch who stands, a terrifying figure, sabre in hand, at the foot of the throne, the lower part of his face veiled, with his eunuch’s breasts dangling like gourds beneath his orange-striped tunic.

The image of Salome, which so haunted the imagination of poets and artists, had obsessed Des Esseintes for many years now.

and my favourite section, mentioned in the Wikipedia entry, describing the grotesque garden that Des Esseintes collects:

The gardeners were bringing in yet more new varieties; this time they simulated the appearance of fake skin scored by artificial veins; and the majority, as though eaten away by syphilis and leprosy, exhibited livid flesh marbled with roseola and damasked with dartres; others were the bright pink of scars that are healing, or the brownish tint of scabs in the process of forming; others were blistering from cautery or puffing up from burns; still others revealed hairy skins pitted by ulcers and embossed with chancres; and then, finally, there were some which looked as though they were covered with dressings, plastered with black mercury ointment, with green unguents made from atropine, or sprinkled with the glittery-yellow dust of iodoform powder.

Grouped together, these flowers dazzled Des Esseintes, more extraordinary than when he had unexpectedly come upon them, mingled in with others as if in some hospital, within the glassed-in wards of the hothouses.

‘My God!’ he exclaimed fervently.

On the less positive side the book is full of long, long lists of things: Novels the main character likes and dislikes, same with painters, music etc. Overall, very memorable though!

“Against Nature (Oxford World’s Classics)” (J-.K. Huysmans)