Afternoon Tea With Your Dog

Photograph courtesy of ‘The Spectator’.

The Great Scotland Yard Hotel – which is not paying me to plug its attractions – is offering a Jubilee special.

Sunday afternoon tea for your dog.

This building used to be the HQ of the Metropolitan Police, a fine body of mostly men dedicated to the pursuit of vice and crime…the propagation thereof rather than prevention…to the extent that the man appointed to clean up the organisation, Robert Mark, stated that his aim was to ‘arrest more criminals than we employ’. He succeeded in that respect, and also in refusing to accept any part of London as a ‘no go’ area.

But that was back in the seventies…..now the Met Police rejoice in a shiny new HQ, have under cover officers infiltrating protest groups to the extent of impregnating members thereof and uniformed officers who run away from gangs of black men while their colleagues are dancing with environmental activists blocking the main arteries of the capital.

The force has gone to the dogs – indeed is currently in ‘special measures’ after the disastrous reign of the latest Commissioner, Cressida Dick, who clung on to her post until bribed to leave with a spectacular pension pot.

But, as every dog must have his day it is not inappropriate that their old building is offering afternoon tea for pooches.

According to Lara King’s article in ‘The Spectator’ the canine guest will enjoy a bowl of iced water, a ‘dogestive’ biscuit in the shape of a corgi, a fairy cake, a sponge cake with buttercream and added protein in the form of powdered insects, with, to finish, a bowl of organic meat and veg, and all for only twenty five quid.

I can feed my lot for a few weeks for that, thanks to the meat from casualties at the pig farm on the other side of the bridge, delivered by the young man from across the road.

Not surprisingly, you cannot just put your dog in a taxi and send him off for his treat. Each dog needs a human companion and here, courtesy of Lara King, for forty nine quid is what that companion will get.

‘Three tiers of savoury treats include mini quiches of king prawn, courgette, rocket and Montgomery cheddar; smoked salmon, asparagus, horseradish and avruga caviar on pain de mie; coronation chicken finger sandwiches; truffle duck egg mayo on briochette; and garden pea, lemon and mint gougères. Next comes three tiers of the sweet stuff: miniature scones warm from the oven and topped with Cornish clotted cream and a summery rhubarb and elderflower jam; vast globes of blackcurrant and tonka mousse decorated with sugar flowers; oat, honey and apricot primrose ‘hats’; chunks of violet battenberg; and ‘Imperial State Crown lime cookies’, which are like a luxurious lime-flavoured take on Jaffa Cakes. Created in partnership with the Queen’s perfumier, Floris London, the menu has apparently been inspired by the notes of the brand’s Platinum 22 Eau de Parfum, but it’s the presentation that really stands out, with edible masterpieces so intricate they have to be seen to be believed. We wash it all down with glasses of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut and pots of Breakfast Blend and Earl Grey teas.’ 

And you get a doggy bag for any leftovers.

Would I be tempted were I living in the U.K.? Probably not….I can almost feel the Scots soul slamming the catch on the purse as I write….but would any of my lot enjoy the experience?

They are all hearty eaters, though not averse to filling up the corners with more dainty fare if available, and I suspect they would feel that the meal was lacking in one important aspect.

Bones. They like bones. No meal is complete without a bone.

And being adventurous and confident dogs they would have gone in search of bones….right through the hotel, skirmishers Zuniga, Tinkerbelle and Tigerlily in the lead, the light brigade of Plush, Napoleon and Aunty behind, the heavy division of Einstein and Bunter following, the vertically challenged staff officers, Scruffy, Podge and Mr. Darcy beetling along to snap up any unconsidered trifles and Black Tot bringing up the rear at a pace suitable to her age and condition

Never mind not wishing to meet them on a dark night, I imagine that they would be a far from welcome sight in full cry in a hotel corridor in broad daylight, all lolling tongues, white teeth and scything tails. Pushed to the ground by the skirmishers, any unwary person would then be sniffed by Napoleon, slobbered on by Podge and walked on by Black Tot who has the same temperament as the Peninsular general Robert Crauford who believed in marching forward nomatter what the obstacle.

No….I don’t think it would be a good idea, on the whole. Quite apart from the risk that the hotel management would call the police who, after checking that there were no diversity issues and that the dogs were unarmed, would probably send out a firearms team, a sight of the afternoon tea offerings might give Mr. Darcy ideas.

He is not called Mr. Darcy for nothing. He feels himself to be entitled. He might feel that he is entitled to some of the dainties he had observed and, despite having been issued with a specialist pastry oven by Higher Authority – by which hangs a tale for another time – I am jiggered if I am going to bake ‘Imperial State Crown lime cookies’ for a short arsed French bulldog.

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A Long Time Ago

The old year sent on its way with a boot up the backside and the new one greeted with the wariness of one who has been had before, it is nevertheless a time when the past tends to creep into the consciousness.

This could be because no government offices are open to plague us, shops close for all of half an hour, the internet slows to a crawl while everyone tries out their latest iProd and the best that the television can offer is a hideous pastiche of Benson’s Mapp and Lucia novels…false teeth figure largely, homosexuality has to be broadly signalled in a manner quite foreign to the original and novels that were masterworks of delicate observation have been perverted into Merchant and Ivory costumed slapstick.

Thus, there are some moments when thoughts of the past can creep in unobserved.

Christmas Day only became a holiday in Scotland in the late fifties…so the Christmas fever never really caught on with me. The birth of the Prince of Peace was just that…not an occasion to throw financial caution to the winds and splurge on a mountain of presents, decorations and food while averting the eyes from the bills due in January.
Not being too well in the run up to Christmas this year I was looking for diversion so turned on the T.V. and was presented with some woman decorating her house like a tart’s boudoir and an Italian themed Christmas party presented by another woman continually tossing her hair, pushing her bosom into the camera and licking her fingers while looking roguish. Must have been the tart for whom the other’s boudoir was designed.
Tchah! and Pah! Off with the box!

The arrival of Christmas card from a friend reminded me of our student days in London where we managed to miss the sexual revolution, LSD and anything even remotely swinging. It may well all have been happening, but not round our hall of residence it wasn’t.
I tried smoking a cigarette ( twice) and decided that wine was a lot more pleasurable, as evidenced by observing my tutor, having drink taken, attempting to descend the ascending escalator at Holborn tube station.
The student union bar…that place of suspiciously sticky carpet and dim lighting….falling into silence as the T.V. in the corner was turned on for the weekly emission of Noggin the Nog.

Later, visiting ex student friends, the same reverence would be shown for the Sunday afternoon post pub emissions of The Clangers…

Let all mortal flesh be silent.

The sailing club’s annual wrecking trip to the Norfolk Broads….usually wet and cold, encased in inflexible yellow oilskins which did nothing to enhance the wind reddened complexion, where the main aim was to reach Potter Heigham and get to the pub with the most remarkable collection of gins I have ever seen.
Getting back aboard could be interesting but at least you no longer cared that your bunk was a strange triangular shape which had you touching heads with the other occupant of your compartment while your frozen feet diverged to hit the bulkhead at the far end.
Potter Heigham’s other attraction was its medieval bridge. Not just for the bridge itself, but for the possibilities of mayhem that it offered.
If the water levels were high some of the high sided motor cruisers could not get under it. Some of the v necked pullovered skippers of said high sided motor cruisers would try anyway and get their craft firmly wedged under the arch, the strong current playing merry hell with their attempts to reverse as the men from the nearby boatyard gloomily launched their rescue craft.
Yachts had to lower their masts….the safe thing to do was to moor up alongside the bank, lower the mast and secure it before deploying the quants – long poles – casting off and attempting to line up on the bridge so as to go straight through.
Most sailing club skippers, raised on tales of Horatio Hornblower and Captain Morgan, would claim that it was easier and safer to line up on the bridge, lower sails and mast while under way and shoot it with the aid of the current. This took a crew with split second reactions who had not had drink taken the night before and usually ended in the men from the boatyard gloomily launching their rescue craft.
potter heigham bridge
The sailing club was just that…it sailed.
sailiong yachts norfolk broads
No engines, so you could spend a day tacking backwards and forwards in the face of a stiff breeze from the North Sea while high sided motor cruisers steered by gentlemen in v necked pullovers merrily passed you by, the wash of their boat knocking you back about another half an hour of tacking.
However, at some point in the trip one member would always manage to ram his bowsprit through the window of a cruiser rash enough to cross his bows – and with any luck it would prove to be the loo compartment with someone trapped within.

Warning…if you play this video apply the mute.

The Norfolk Broads might not have been swinging London…but it had its moments.

Back to London in term time we would frequent a Chinese restaurant off the East India Dock Road in Pennyfields…..I cannot remember if it was called Old Friends or New Friends but it was cheap (even on a student grant), offered good food – the first time I ate squid – and the pot of jasmine tea was continually refilled. I gather it is now called Noodles and is frequented by the sort of noodle who works in the Evil Empire of finance which has taken over Docklands and changed it from a place where the toil was honest into a lair of vampires sucking the blood from the world economy.
Tchah again!

Not far away in Coldharbour was a pub called The Gun.
the gun pub
Here on singing nights bearded young men armed with squeezeboxes and wearing aran sweaters would foregather to sing sea shanties…
aran sweaters
Most of which were culled from the pages of Stan Hugill’s masterwork ‘Shanties of the Seven Seas’ because if you had asked any of these bearded wonders to undertake a voyage on a Cape Horner to the flaming coast of Chile in the guano trade they would, in that unforgettable phrase used by journalists of ‘The News of The World’, have made an excuse and left.
cape horner

Mark you, they’d have been right.
‘They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters’ have always had a hard and dangerous life and it’s not one I’d have liked to have had to endure….

So as the Christmas cards go into their box, taking the past with them, it’s back to the present, to the calls for cups of tea, the noise of the cane cutting machine and the Costa Rican sun….with just one last blast from the past.