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Friday, June 4, 2010

Houses of Parliament

I do realize it may seem from previous entries that all me and Mr K ever do together is drink, but in fact that is only partially true. Beyond this blog, I for example am a reluctant swimming addict and amateur travel writer / photographer. Mr K, by contrast, is an avid runner, cyclist and Roman history buff. We both also really, really like Scrabble. And between all these many and varied extracurricular activities, we somehow even manage to both lead fairly successful professional lives as well.

Mr (or should I say Major) K, for example, is a military man, and having been an associated member of the armed forces since practically before I was born (ahem), has now risen to the ranks where he can pull off military jollies that I as an associated SWAG (Service Wives and Girlfriends) am fortunate to be able to accompany him on. We kind of look like this (except that I’m blonde and he’s pushing fifty…).

Of all the culinary events I am most annoyed at myself for not having properly photographed in my pre-blog existence (my one and only visit to La Degustation / several more to SaSaZu / my Cambridge Graduation Dinner and May Ball / all food I ever ate anywhere in my travelling days etc etc), the regimental dinner at the Houses of Parliament, recently organized by my very own talented Mr K, probably has to top the list.

See, here’s my invitation to prove it:

And here’s Mr K and I with our glad-rags on for the occasion. Me being more foodie than fashionista, Mr K literally had to frogmarch me out of the flat to find an appropriate dress beforehand (luckily for me we landed on the perfect one in the very first shop we went to, Orsay, priced at only about 1,200kč to boot). My mother commented that with my blonde hair styled up and Mr K clad in full military regalia, we looked a bit like an English Eva and Juan Peron.

I think that was overstating the case just a little bit – still, it was admittedly rather ego-boosting to be paparazzied maniacally at the entrance to the Palace of Westminster by the overexcited Japanese tourist contingent, clearly labouring under the delusion that we were all important dignitary type people on the way in to dine with the Queen or something.

Once through security, the dinner itself was preceded by drinks and a private tour of the Houses of Parliament, led by our hosting MP (who had a family member in the regiment, I believe). We weren’t allowed to take any pictures, so I nabbed these from the official government Flickr page. Please don’t prosecute me Misters Cameron and Clegg – after all, I did vote for you (or at least would have done if I hadn’t somehow managed to bollocks up my postal vote by supposedly missing out one tiny little part of the form, that is).

Unfortunately the tour in my case involved a minor breach of decorum in that my feet were absolutely killing me after having been cut up all day while shopping / sightseeing round London all day and then uncharacteristically forced into very high heels by night, so I discretely left my shoes in the corner of the drinks room and in the end mercifully conducted my personal tour of the hallowed, centuries-old seat of government that is the House of Lords and House of Commons walking round in nothing but my own two bare feet… Needless to say, it was all duly impressive (even if we did only see a small section of the Palace), but at 8pm there then came the call into the neighbouring Churchill Room for dinner, with our entrance being accompanied by marching music performed by a traditional military brass band in the corner.

Grace was said and toasts duly made to the Queen and Princess Anne, before dinner was finally served. The menu played it relatively safe and traditional, with a delicious roasted spiced butternut squash with root vegetable crisps to start, a filling braised game topped with puff pastry lid served with mushroom smoked garlic mash and rainbow carrots for the main, and finally a classic crème brûlée for the dessert, with everything being dutifully rounded off with coffee, petit fours and port at the end of the night.

I would have loved to take some photos of the food, but unusually for him Mr K for once put his booted / spurred foot down and bluntly told me to put my bloody camera away and stop showing him up in front of his military superiors by acting all starstruck. Well, I for one am not about to contradict a man in uniform… ;-)) For the very same reason, I was also placed on strict wine rationing for the night to ensure I didn't inadvertently pull off one of my infamous alcohol-induced narcoleptic tabletop episodes in front of regimental top brass. Still, the wine that I was permitted was nice at least… And in the event, I did for once actually manage to successfully present a demure, elegant, and educated front for the entire evening, though to be honest sudden uncharacteristic shyness at meeting all these eminent military types in such formal surroundings had for once rendered me pretty much politely mono-syllabic anyway...

This is us anyway enjoying our dinner (the two photos I have posted are actually the only two of us Mr K would permit me to take – just as well the smiley faces on top really, as of course Sod’s Law would have it that I obviously came out looking a bit of a mong in both of them).

A final post-port toast (I forget this time to whom) rounded off the dinner as a whole, with most of the party then heading back to our London accommodation for the night, namely the enduringly old-school Naval & Military Club on St James Square (think gold-plated Greek style columns, big models of boats in glass casing, portraits of long-dead Indian viceroys on the walls, absurdly strict dress code etc), for a final few rounds of after-dinner drinks in the Club bar.

Having behaved myself impeccably over the whole course of the evening, Mr K finally now saw fit to reward my good conduct with free reign on the champagne, clearly judging that I wasn’t likely to do too much damage this late on in the evening, and besides, all his colleagues were by now pretty much on the way to getting bladdered themselves as well anyway…

Which all in all pretty much wraps it up for the Houses of Parliament really, a truly unforgettable evening and probable once-in-a-lifetime experience – unless lightening strikes twice that is, it's not like I'm realistically ever likely to get invited back any time soon... In which case I guess, it’s back to my longstanding prior plan A then, which is namely to muscle my way back in at the next election to assume my rightful, pre-destined role as next great Iron Lady, once I'm in office brushing aside all froo-froo preliminaries and setting about enacting my unforgiving plans to bitchslap "Broken Britain" back into shape. Believe me, it’s just a matter of time, people…

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