Fifty Special Things – Longthorpe Tower

When: 04-05-2015

Where: Longthorpe Tower

Price: £6 for two adults £4 for a guidebook

 

Review: Very popular – it was cold the day we went but there were still a number of people there.

Tip: Opening is restricted – limited to weekends and bank holidays – check the English Heritage site before setting out.

This hasn’t been open long, I found it had opened in 2013 by Dr Janina Ramirez (famous historian and TV presenter)

We were determined to go see it because of the well preserved mediaeval artwork. We visited on a bank holiday monday – one of the few that it opens during the year – don’t turn up on a weekday.

We have been National Trust members for a while but haven’t yet stretched to being members of English Heritage as well. If you do a lot of ancient building exploration joining would be worthwhile.

Patience is the order of the day if you want photographs of the walls inside the tower. It was very popular the day we went. I imagine that remains true throughout the year due to the restricted opening times.

Second Floor

The address is Thorpe Road, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE3 6LU. However parking is in St Botolph’s church car park. This is no particular hardship as long as you are reasonably mobile. However bear in mind that access to the tower is up a set of external stairs.

The tower is the only part of the site that is accessible as the rest of it is still in private hands. Whilst I’m sure it’s lovely to live in such a prestige location I’m not certain about lots of visitors traipsing past your door every day.

The tower was apparently originally built by Robert Thorpe who was a lawyer. It was an addition to an earlier house.

The tower is a solar tower – added around 1300 but is unusual in that they were usually added to grand houses – possessed by nobles – rather than someone from the legal profession.

The tower or solar contained Thorpe’s private apartments, the second floor contains Thorpe’s bedroom. Thorpe was a Steward of Peterborough Abbey which at the time owned nearly all the land.

As an official of the cathedral Thorpe would have been a well-respected professional in his day. However he is the mediaeval equivalent of a man made good (from humble origins). Thurstan De Thorpe was still a (villein) serf to the manor at Orton Waterville until 1200 (or thereabouts).

However by 1226 his son William was able to buy the manor at Longthorpe. No one seems to have dug too deeply into how they got their cash…

This site however speculates that with education it was possible to elevate yourself (even in an era when to pass yourself off as gentry was illegal).

The family seems to have loved that habit of naming the son after the father: William begat William who built the manor house and the church whose car park you used on the way in. Originally St Botolphs was on the edge of the village. It was for the use of the manor originally but now is the parish church.

Second William begat Robert (which would be easier only Robert then begat you guessed it – Robert).

First Robert is the one we have to thank for the solar – it is a scaled down version of a similar construction more frequently found in castles. Robert became enriched through services to the nearby abbey. However by 1320 was working directly for Edward II. (He received a knighthood).

Second Robert became a steward to the Abbey like his father and the wealth continued. It was he who commissioned the paintings, which were painted around 1330.

As a defensive building it is sadly lacking (Robert was attacked there in 1327 and held to ransom). It was designed to show off the owner’s wealth and status – this it does rather better.

It is likely that connections with the Abbey allowed Robert access to artisans with significant skills (such as those commissioned for work on the 1st floor). However the skills are somewhat variable as some paintings are better executed than others.

Sadly it wasn’t to be for the Thorpes – although the building remained with the family, the final Thorpe – William – died without children in 1391.

Thereafter it was a second home for a while for John Whittlebury. This family retained the house from 1391 and sold it  to the Fitzwilliam family in 1501.

The Fitzwilliam family retained the house thereafter – the tower alone was gifted to the nation in 1948. This was probably because it required some quite expensive structural work which was taken on by the then Ministry of Works.

It is a great shame that the adjoining buildings can’t be viewed as well. After all that history one would imagine that they are magnificent.

The ground floor is unpainted and historically would have been used for storage. (The painted room is on the first floor). But you can’t get into the ground floor in any case.

The second floor is also unpainted but has some interesting displays including this helmet.

On the day we went (probably for everyone on reflection) we were invited to lift the above helmet to discover how heavy it was.

It is extremely heavy, how a mediaeval knight managed this together with a suit of armour I do not know – they must have been very hardy types.

This is the stone seat of a Garderobe – this is a basic form of mediaeval toilet.

Given it’s on an outside wall and would have been exposed to the elements I couldn’t help wondering why the seat wasn’t wood faced as it must have been very cold in winter.

Apparently a good cure for moths was to hang clothes in the Garderobe as the smell deterred them.

The word wardrobe apparently has its origin in this practice of hanging clothes in a small space.

As you can see mediaeval rooves were not hot on insulation the tile pegs can be clearly seen here. The house might be impressive but it doesn’t seem to have been cosy.

All the windows have been glazed over but historically glass would have been very expensive indeed. Certainly areas like the Garderobe were often left open to the elements in order to dispel the odours.

Rooftop views of adjoining buildings to which sadly there is no access.

The existing access is provided by a timber stairwell up through an enlarged former window. Originally the access would have been through a door (now blocked) to the adjoining hall. Additionally there is no direct access from the first floor to the ground floor storage area – access originally being gained through the adjoining building.

The adjoining hall is Grade I listed like the tower.

The narrow stairwell to the first floor.

It is best to avoid people on the way down – passing on those stairs would be challenging.

I didn’t find the rope of much assistance. Pushing against the wall whilst muttering “steep stairs piggin’ steep stairs” in the end being much more efficacious.

An arrow slit on the main stairwell – now glazed.

How on earth did servants get up and down these stairs whilst carrying things? I’m not clear if Thorpe liked to dine in his chamber but the kitchens were elsewhere in the site so it would have involved some trek if he did.

Small room off the recess in the second floor probably originally a latrine.

The First Floor

And so at last to the first floor, this is what the fuss is all about. After the paintings became unfashionable the walls were whitewashed over (around the time of the reformation). The paintings were thus hidden from view for centuries.

After a period of lease to the Home Guard in World War II the tower became part of a farm again in September 1945. The farmer (Hubert Horrell – a nicely alliterative name that) was prepared for decorating. He discovered sufficient of the pictures to make him believe that the tower was of importance.

He notified the owner (Captain Fitzwilliam) who thankfully recognised the importance of the pictures. He decided to fund an expert examination. He spoke to The Society of Antiquaries of London. Eventually a wall-painting specialist, Edward Clive Rouse was determined to be the man to start releasing the paintings from the layers of whitewash.

It took years – until 1948 – to reveal all of the paintings.

It is now regarded as one of the best preserved wall decorations of a mediaeval domestic building (in England if not in Europe).

Sadly the paintings are much faded now but are said to have been very bright indeed on discovery.

They were painted onto dry plaster using pigments including red/white lead, chalk or vermilion mixed with egg and oil. There is also evidence that some of the paintings were gilded.

Some of the depressed lines were made in the plaster whilst it was still wet.

Some of the detail that was evident at their discovery in 1946 can no longer be seen . Thankfully Mr Rouse was an excellent record keeper creating a small scale watercolour of every painting as he found it.

Potentially I assume this could mean that they could be restored. Something that has been done to great effect in some of the Egyptian tombs I notice.

This first floor room is believed to have been the great chamber for the manor.

It probably had several uses including dining room or reception room. The paintings were therefore for the purpose of impressing guests.

The West Wall

This is the Left hand side of the west wall. The west wall consists of a large alcove with a tiny window offset to the right hand side.

This leaves a large expanse of wall – now painted.

However remember that the paintings date to some-time after the building was erected.

Nonetheless this design seems to indicate that painting the walls was always in the plans. Otherwise why leave this large expanse of wall space and such a small window.

The tower has suffered subsidence in the past which lead to some alterations although it is believed that originally the North wall looked similar in construction.

The above picture shows 4 figures on the arch which are identified as the labours of the months – only 4 can be seen here starting with January at the bottom and moving up to April.

The months have an inscription (where this survives). January is said to be a man warming himself by the fire. February is too destroyed to be certain. March is a man digging. April again is damaged but it is speculated that he may have held flowers. This is in common with depictions at the time of rural people and what they were doing in each of the months.

The only other month that remains is December (the other side of the arch).

Close up of the lower left hand side said to be a pecking bird and the upper part of the door in the South wall that used to lead into the great chamber but is now sealed.

The upper picture is said to be St Anthony. Part of the inscription survives. St Anthony is the figure standing praying – asking how to find salvation. Opposite him is an angel sitting making a basket (working) and an angel behind stood (praying).

Overhead – now largely lost was the head and shoulders of God watching from above. The answer to his question – you can find salvation by praying and working.

The inscription read “do thus and you shall be saved” (apparently SIC FAC ET SALVUS ERIS) apologies to anyone who actually understands Latin.

St Anthony was the patron saint of basket weavers which is perhaps why this was the illustration chosen of work.

Alternatively Peterborough is considered the gateway to the fens and basket weaving has for a long time been considered a Fenland craft.

Two rabbits can just be seen behind Saint Anthony although these are less well done – appearing more like Disney Rabbits than real rabbits.

The border below is quite faded but apparently represents textile. It contained images of a lapwing and owl and a parrot apparently although you may find it difficult to pick those out now.

The two large figures are said to be a teacher and a student with perhaps the teacher wearing a doctor’s cap.

To the left of the teaching scene, on the walls of the recess. From the bottom of this picture: a square niche in the wall, above it a Heraldic Shield, above that a creature (mostly lost) and above that a heraldic banner.

Continuing to the left of the teaching scene, further up the wall on the same side. On the right hand side of this picture can be seen more heraldic banners, to the left a figure (unidentified).

On the West wall the lancet window is small and to the extreme right hand side (North). The window was apparently placed so that painting could be presented on the remainder of the wall. This is an alcove to the right of the window – 2 figures and an inscription which is now hard to make out.

The figure on the left wears a garment with a hood, the figure on the right is said to be a child. The hooded figure is saying to the child “Our Lady will absolve us from sin” (NOTRE DAME NOUS ASOUDRA DE LA PECHE)

This is the Right Hand Side of the West Wall said to be representations of a Bittern and of a Crane. (The Bittern is the uppermost picture). These were apparently not often painted from life but from representations of such creatures found in a bestiary.

The left hand side of the window in the West Wall this is said to be Saint Paul In his right hand a sword in a scabbard.

A close up of the same image.

The East Wall

In the upper part of the wall two figures address one another. The one on the left has been almost completely lost (some of the foot can be seen The figure on the right is complete. He is holding gloves and has a dog standing behind him, however the inscription which would have told us what this meant has now been lost.

Below him is a person in a crown standing behind a wheel. This is called a wheel of five senses and originates with Aristotle but found this form in the 13th century. The rim of the wheel has on it a Monkey, a hawk, a spiders web, a boar and a cockerel – of which the monkey (though partially missing) seems the best done.

These had the following meanings:

Monkey – taste

Hawk – smell

Spider’s web – touch

Boar – hearing

Cockerel – sight

The artist made a mistake with the cockerel and his first attempt can be just seen above the current version.

At one time the wheel would have had inscriptions which indicated what it meant – these are now lost.

It is believed that this means the five senses need to be regulated through reason and restraint.

To the right are two damaged creatures said to be hounds and to the left a damaged creature said to be a squirrel.

It can be seen here that the Boar is not very well done (could easily have been an overweight dog). The remnants of one of the damaged hound pictures can be seen.

Above on the ceiling is a representation apparently of an organ player (a mobile or portative organ with 16 pipes).

Close up on the Spider’s web which could as easily be a dartboard I suppose or given the date more likely an archery target.

Above the doorway can just be seen a very faded set of pictures said to be of the apostles.

This image is in the recess for the current doorway (which was a lancet window). It was enlarged to make space for the current doorway.

This picture appears above a doorway that would have led to a latrine. It is a picture to remind the viewer of mortality and was popular in mediaeval times.

Baased on a 13th Century poem originating probably in France. The legend is that 3 men meet with 3 dead and the 3 dead urge them to repent. The poem may have first been told by Baudoin de Condé a minstrel attached to the court of Marguerite II, Countess of Flanders in the 13th Century.

In this representation the first king is now lost, the second has a red crown which you might be able to see, the third is the one speaking with his finger raised.

The three dead startle the three kings and the kings rebuke them for this. But the dead state that they are the king’s ancestors and question them about why they have not said mass for their souls.

The message is designed to point out how fleeting is the existence of man and hence provide a moral message.

The three next to the king with the upraised finger are now in black but the pigment was lead which has oxidised with time, originally they would have appeared as in white shrouds. The last though is without a shroud – naked – and covered in maggots.

Above the current entrance door there is an aperture cut in the 1940s to expose the remnants of the original lancet window. The current entrance was enlarged in the 17th century and is now back in use. It uses a wooden staircase constructed in the 1940s. The hole which you can see here (when viewed from the correct angle) shows the original construction.

The figure just before the hole is said to be one of the apostles. (The Halo is visible – potentially at one time having been gilded).

To the left of the apostle above is this image of an apostle on the same wall. There is no indication as to which apostle is which. This one appears to be writing I think. Traditionally an apostle writing is generally thought of as St Paul – after his letters to the Corinthians and so on…

Facing the current entrance (I.e. looking towards the east wall) there is a niche just inside the door on the left hand side.

It is of a bearded man teaching three pupils the only discernible word when uncovered in the 1940s was apparently OREILLEZ which may mean “hear me” in old French.

The North Wall

This is the Right Hand Side of the North Wall, uppermost is the second half of the “seven ages of man” the last figure is the easiest to see with a crutch he is decrepitude above him is old age (said to show a man with his life savings).

Above you can see the entire seven ages of man of which a great deal is lost. It starts at the left hand side with an infant; above this is a young boy with a spinning top; above that is adolescence but of which little can be seen.

In the centre top is a youth with a hawk; descending the right hand side is manhood – with a sword; old age – with life savings and decrepitude – with a crutch.

Beneath the 7 ages of man is a depiction of the nativity which has been partly encroached upon. (The window was widened in an attempt to counteract subsidence).

Originally it would have been a small window as for the west wall seen above. However what remains is Mary seated on a chair with Jesus. The missing part would have shown the crib , the ass, an ox (parts of these can still be seen).

The ceiling above the North Wall upper left of this shot is a partial figure believed to be a cymbalum player.

In the other quarter of the vault is the Eagle of St John and beneath that the figure of St David. To the right a Psaltery player.

The South Wall

This is the left hand side of the south wall. Above is a coat of arms said to be that of Edward III.

The border was originally of the Thorpe coat of arms and at one time was gilded – not that you can see it now. Apparently fleur de lys were once visible here – but you need better eyesight than mine to make then out now.

Below the border is an alternating checkerboard pattern said to be painted to look like a hanging cloth. It is likely that this once was behind a high-backed chair that sat against the wall in this position.

This is the right hand side of the South wall uppermost is the arms of Edmund of Woodstock. He was the Earl of Kent and a half-brother of Edward II. He was executed following a planned rebellion against the regent Isabella (after the king was deposed).

The Earl is considered to have been Robert Thorpe’s landlord and so it is likely this is the reason for the inclusion of this coat of arms.

Beneath this something which is much more fun, it is a Bonnacon. You can just see the arm and bow of an archer and the rear of a beast that appears to be ejecting poo in his direction.

Apparently you would be foolish indeed to shoot upon this mythical beast which despatched its victims with flaming ordure expelled from its behind with some force.

The Tower

This is one of the buttresses – showing that the knitting together of the walls is no longer that exact.

Buttress and wall look close to separating here – further evidence of subsidence damage probably.

Here you can see external cracks visible in both North and East walls.

Above the current entrance – the outline of the former lancet window which was enlarged to make this entrance can be clearly seen here.

Visible subsidence cracks on the exterior – work to attempt to remediate these resulted in thickening to the north wall and a change to the window aperture.

This is further up the same wall showing that the cracking extends up to the Battlements.

It is a fascinating place and I have had plans to revisit. Indeed given the gradual fading of the artworks (and no obvious sign that they are to be restored) it might be as well to visit sooner than later.

If you are not of the historic nature (but your partner is) you can indulge them and chill afterwards in Thorpe wood which is nearby.

On that day on May it was beautiful and I have no doubt restful at most times of year.

 

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Fifty Special Things – Cambridge Gin Laboratory

When: 18-02-2017

Where: Cambridge Gin Laboratory

Price: Free – It was a gift

Review: excellent way to spend a few hours, several different courses available

Tip: take the bus, and then you can spend the rest of the day in the bar next door.

I remember when I was thinking about how to make the fifty special things work that one problem was always going to be budget. Having made the decision to try to make my fiftieth year a special one, how do you afford it all?

So it was with great delight that I received a gift of a gin tasting session at the Cambridge Gin Lab.

It turns out that it is very popular, the day we went it was full up. I imagine other days are not dissimilar.

Gin 1

The Cambridge Gin Laboratory is at 10 Green Street, Cambridge.

Gin 2

There is a board outside to confirm location and a sign on the door.

At the time I was convinced that I was going to rule the world via the medium of blogging – such that there is quite a strong pictorial record.

Gin 3

Gin 4

It was around the time of this visit that I began to comprehend just how fashionable gin had become and just how many people were keen to get in on the act.

Gin 5

The lab is downstairs and is laid out with all kinds of gin-related paraphernalia.

Gin 6

Prior to the gin sampling itself there is a very interesting talk on gin and the history of gin from which I made a few notes.

Gin 7

Note the picture of the black Labrador on the wall, said to be the reason why it is called the Cambridge Gin “Lab”.

There are various events available including a tailoring option to create a unique gin.

Gim 8

Gin is actually juniper-flavoured vodka. The predominant flavour must be juniper. The juniper “berry” is used (which is technically a cone). No sugar.

The nose of gin is often described as “piney”. Juniper was used for medicinal purposes for a long time. However claims that drinking gin is healthy are sadly untrue.

Gin 9

A monastery used to distil wine and float botanicals in it and used this as a treatment. Drinking this though was not tasty so they started to sweeten it.

Gin 10

Traditional gin was produced in the Low Countries (Dutch) in the 15th Century. Jenever was their name for juniper.

Gin 11

The English fought the Dutch in the 30 years’ war. Soldiers began to be given alcohol before they went into battle – it became referred to as “Dutch courage”.

The English then started to make their own gin. The gin craze was between 1720 and 1751.

This could be thought of as the first drug war. In the poor areas of London 1/3 of households were making and selling gin. However there was lots of methanol left in it which is poisonous. Some sellers cut the result with turpentine which is poisonous.

They were drinking 80% ABV in pints – like beer. They became very addicted.

The Gin Acts 1751 started to legislate gin production.

William Hogarth 1751 creates two paintings Gin Lane is political propaganda intended to encourage people to switch back to beer (Beer Street).

Gin Lane
GinLane

Beer Street
Beer Street - Calle de la cerveza

Beer Street and Gin lane
Beer-street-and-Gin-lane

Gin was still allowed to be drunk however.

The theory is that Hogarth was paid by the beer industry to encourage people to drink beer.

The Gin Act was passed. After crop failures and attempts at alternative beverages – they eventually got better at making gin.

Alcohol fermentation, involving yeast processes on sugar, produces heat, carbon-dioxide and ethanol (together with other alcohols).

ABV (ethanol by volume) the maximum that fermentation achieves is 15% ABV. (You can heat the result to make it stronger).

To distil – put the alcohol in a still – heat it. It starts to boil and evaporate. The outlet tube is cooled in water (it is coiled to increase its surface area).

Simple distillation apparatus

Different compounds boil at different temperatures:
Ethanol 78.4oC
Methanol 60oC (ish)

You track the temperature and collect the low boiling point liquid and dispose of it, this is referred to as the “head”.

You collect the middle boiling point liquid and keep it.

You collect the higher boiling point liquid referred to as the “tails” and dispose of it.

In this way you get to concentrate what you want.

In vodka you remove a lot of the impurities, this produces 96% alcohol. In whisky you keep some impurities by retaining a greater heat range, this affects the flavour.

Gin started to be recognisably gin in the early 19th century – juniper is added during the distillation. Juniper flavour becomes incorporated into the gin.

They also started to use continuous distillation – here a huge still uses plates to draw off the distillate at the correct temperature range.


CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Gin now starts to taste nicer – it becomes fashionable to have unsweetened gin.

London Dry Gin became fashionable – today this is a subcategory of gin.
London Dry Gin started in London but not made there anymore.

It is dry – not sweet – you must use real botanicals – these must go into the distillation pot and not be added afterwards.

Gin – is a shortening of jenever the Dutch for Juniper. Today other botanicals (plants) are used e.g. rose petal, cherry blossom, coriander seed, juniper cone.

These react differently to heat – the heat is high so the botanicals are added at different times – this is like adding ingredients in cooking.

You treat each botanical with the level of heat that suits it. The boiling point is related to atmospheric pressure – reducing pressure reduces the heat needed for boiling.

1 botanical is added at a time – you distil different botanicals. What comes out is not a gin, it is a flavoured distillate. Then you blend the distillates.

However it needs a basis of London dry gin. Therefore you can blend your own gin.

The distillery has 100s of distillates. It is tailoring gin to individuals, bars, and restaurants. You can use delicate things in gin e.g. cucumber.

Hendricks add the flavour afterwards – you can make a lot more gin this way – but not a London Dry Gin.

1 gin run takes 1 hour – there are 4 people in the company.

When we arrived we had a gin to start with which was a standard London Dry Gin with a fever-tree tonic. I rather liked this.

However we also got to use atomisers to spray gin directly into the mouth (well after some practice – the first squirt was directly into my eye). Atomisers contain the same spirit as the demijohns on shelves around the walls. They are used to allow tasting without consuming a lot of gin.

Brands feel it is important to be traditional – to have this as part of their brand.

Wheat is the basis of gin, potato potcheen (Poitín). Gin must be a neutral spirit – the basis does not have to be wheat, however if it is not wheat or potato then this fact must be listed on the bottle. Potato vodka is slightly oilier. Rye is slightly spicier (to a trained palette).

To make comparisons involves a system for tasting gin which needs consistency and needs a standardised language. Tasting is an ability that develops from training & experience. Room temperature is best to identify botanicals.

After the initial gin on entry and trying the atomisers there were 3 gins to try, these were sat on the table protected by glass lids.

The first apparently had rose and violet petals in it. The sequence is first mouth feel – it should feel somewhere between milk and water – medium. I have the palette of a straw bale I established.

There is no sweetness added – when you distil – sugar does not carry over, hence the distillate from pineapple has no sugar. What you can have is associative sweetness – this reminds you of sweet things for example florals gives this effect. (It’s all in the mind in fact).

It also had blackcurrant leaf – which gives a fruity flavour and basil, angelica, rosemary. Angelica is very common in gin – it is slightly spicy. In tasting you want to linger a little not too short.

You don’t have to prefer one that wins awards – as this is a measure of how well it is made rather than if you like it.

The Cambridge Distillery make different gins for different bars – Midsummer House has a herbal garden – we use those herbs in their gin.
Pint shop – Peas Hill we use peas in their gin.
College graduation gins – they forage for flowers in their garden – buy the gin which is unique to that year. Usually you have to go to the venue to taste their unique gin.

Japanese gin has become a retail product (this is the second gin that we tasted).
Nobu in London wanted one. It was made with a team of chefs inspired by botanicals used in Japanese cooking. This is light in intensity, the spirit is the same though. The botanicals are different, Juniper, cucumber, sesame, schiso leaf, almonds (it is marzipany), sanshō pepper (a bit perfumy), yuzu.

Botanicals are affected by the weather and are used seasonally. Each year there are seasonal gins. The ones in spring/summer are lighter. The ones in autumn/winter are more warming.

Each gin is therefore non-re-creatable. 100 bottles of each one are made and these sell quickly.

Autumn/winter gin contains bergamot. It has fennel in it, bergamot, rosemary, blackcurrant leaf, and juniper. It can manage a punchier tonic. They tend to use fever-tree as a good “go to” mixer…

The Dog – the black Lab is the lab dog Gin 12 he/she is why this place is called a gin lab Gin 13.

They capture the lightest 1% of stuff that evaporates referred to as the angel’s share of gin. They have made an angels share gin at £2000 a bottle.

They produced about 6 bottles, all sold quickly.

In addition to the tasting which we attended there is also available:

  • Histories and mysteries of gin session
  • Make your own bottle
  • Themed tastings

Given how great our session was these will also be worth a try.
Afterwards they give you a voucher to try a cocktail in the bar next door (accessible underground). The bar is on Trinity Street.

This is at 2648 Cambridge. Great cocktails which may make you want to stay.

As I say take the bus there…

Gin 14

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Prezzo St Neots

When: 01-01-2017

Where: Prezzo St Neots

Price: Free – it was a gift

Review: I find Prezzo to be reliably good whenever I go there

Tip: Wise to book – it can get busy prior to film showing times as the cinema is next door.

This is an old blog post that never got put in the correct place. This dates from a time when I saw the future as reviewing those experiences I was able to take in.

Shortly afterwards I determined that the time for the experiences took away from the time for writing the blog.

This and a few like it will have to stand as memories of that aim.

The last such post is here: https://magic-phil.co.uk/2017/02/20/fifty-special-things-thanh-binh-restaurant-cambridge/.

I had concluded that I would write no further reviews. That was until fellow blog writer Anthony reminded me that the 50 Special Things did not officially have an end. Two years later it would now be 52 special things in any case so I have plenty to review.

You can catch Anthony here: http://unofficialcambridgefilmfestival.blogspot.co.uk/ or tweet him here https://twitter.com/theagentapsley

It had been a few months since my resolution to fill my 50th year with as many fun things as was feasible.

The visit to Prezzo St Neots was my suggestion. http://www.prezzorestaurants.co.uk/restaurant/st-neots/

The purpose: to celebrate my 50th birthday with my family. The event was coming somewhat after the actual birthday date.

If one believes in horoscopes I was born under the sign of Libra. (Which should give you a clue).

The original resolution for “50 special things” was before my birthday in a meeting with my counsellor . (However it was embellished on my birthday whilst eating in a resort restaurant with my two friends Jacqui and Jon. (We were in Gaya in Malaysia). I suspect in some not too distant blog entry details of that will emerge.

The idea of 50 special things was to dispel the belief that a birthday is limited to one day per year. Limiting celebrations in this way is likely to be disappointing. Allowing the celebrations to last all year circumvents that problem.

The idea came through talking to my counsellor. In my experience counsellors are often the source of great advice.

I’m certain that not all great recommendations come from counsellors but in my experience many of the good ones do.

This is quite an awesome responsibility when deciding to embark upon the journey towards being a counsellor. (How do you come up with these good ideas).

As a volunteer counsellor myself I am not certain that I can measure up to that expectation.

A 50th birthday celebration at Prezzo. This was in the hope that gluten-free means less stomach aches the following day.

Prezzo have a pretty extensive gluten-free menu (other restaurants take note). This menu means that I have eaten there many times.

St Neots is the usual Prezzo venue due to the familiarity I have with eateries there. (I live within easy driving distance of St Neots).

(I seem to be a creature of habit who would like to be a creature of adventure).

Prezzo is usually a place that is highly-populated due to its proximity to the St Neots cinema. It has a hubbub akin to a football stadium.

New Year’s Day and all I needed was to sleep (after a night in an Indian restaurant – the site of our New Year’s Eve celebrations).

Prezzo 1

An Indian restaurant some bottles of wine a need for sleep the day after. (To anyone of average intellect that would not have been surprising).

So I am sat half-asleep in a restaurant with a surprisingly muted hubbub. Perhaps I was not alone in my post Chilean wine indulgence.

New Year’s Day certainly seemed to bring a falloff in demand for Prezzo culinary expertise.

It was hard to get enthusiastic when consumption of unsuitable food the night before meant a tsunami stomach ache. Besides enough gas to replenish the North Sea pipeline.

Prezzo 2

Despite this malaise I noticed that the service (by three waitresses) was excellent. They seemed to cope with a deficit of staff (no doubt brought on by the holiday season) without noticeable decline in delivery or positivity.

For some reason the menu was not filling me with joy (as it has on previous occasions). I wondered if there had been a recent redesign or possibly it was feeling green that did it.

When you’re trying to avoid incompatible-with-IBS foods risotto is usually a good standby. That is apart from those establishments that insist all risotto must contain peas.

Prezzo 3

Peas are great if you fancy spending a day or so on your own fumigating a greenhouse. With a stomach that feels like a space hopper with an overweight and restless kid on it.

Sadly my choice was only slightly less tolerable as it contained leek. Leek is fantastic for post-food onion-orientated fragrances (as beloved by no one).

King prawn risotto following a starter of gluten-free bread with balsamic onion dressing. I love onion but onion wages outright war on me. It starts with the intestines and continues on down.

For an IBS-sufferer like me rice and gluten-free gets my recommendation.

Fortunately I have not developed a dairy-intolerance. If you are unable to take the cheese in the risotto there are a few gluten free pastas. I do not tolerate tomato well so eat these when I’m feeling quite well before hand.

Prezzo 4

Desserts of ice cream are well-tolerated by me (with peppermint tea). (This means I get to socialise otherwise going out would be taxing – finding foods that don’t make me ill.)

After all of these precautions I opted for the chocolate drink. In my defence I read recently that dark chocolate helps stay the commencement of Alzheimer’s. (Dementia has been a theme in my family).

Prezzo 5

I would recommend Prezzo as a place to go if like me you tend to tolerate some foods poorly. The menu gives some options that I don’t see at other nearby restaurants.

Although Prezzo is busy the service tends to be swift. The staff are pleasant despite having a huge number of tables to attend upon.

I tend to visit this restaurant every few months. So far the only down side is that the background volume in there can get elevated. In other respects I choose Prezzo over the alternatives.

 

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Things You Really Will be Doing Now You’re 50 – Part Five

Following on from part four of the things you are going to find when you’re 50.

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-four

Ten more items from the same list:

  1. You can’t see road signs so you get glasses. You can’t see to thread a needle, so you get glasses. Any task involves juggling eyesight correcting devices. You develop a facility for recognising different varieties of fuzzy as objects.
  2. Just as you get to like something you find that the shops stop stocking it. Years ago you just moved on. Now you find yourself scanning auction sites, second hand stores, junk shops in the hope of continuing to use that thing you have a fondness for.
  3. Suddenly everything in the past seems more pleasant than today. You forget the shoddy brakes on your first car and wish you still had it. You forget the unpleasantness with the neighbour and consider that everyone was much friendlier then. Constant rain showers are dispelled in memories of long summers of unbroken sunshine. You have entered the nostalgia zone.
  4. After a long time of dismissing it as boring you find an hour of Gardeners’ World quite relaxing. You get drawn in. Before long you find that you are making way too many visits to garden centres. Eventually you start listening to Gardeners’ question time…
  5. You meet up with some friends that you haven’t seen in a long time. You know that you haven’t changed but you are shocked at how old they look…
  6. In conversation someone remarks that you have a lot less time to go than you have already had. After the message has had time to sink in you realise that actually you don’t mind about that. You wonder if that means there is something wrong with you.
  7. Whitening your teeth sounds a great idea. Surely this would improve your appeal to other people. However you realise that your mouth now contains more amalgam than tooth.
  8. Snoring will start to punctuate your night time hours. You will find no explanation for this. In order to avoid being murdered by your partner you take to the sofa.
  9. Your body formerly lived a halcyon existence of cooperative equanimity. Now the disparate parts engage in a war with one another. If one area is dry an adjacent area is greasy. If one is jittery due to inactivity another is tired out from exercise. Whilst one feels fit another feels damaged. Every action is punctuated with either fatigue, itching or little stabs of pain; apparently to remind you that this dispute is underway.
  10. Other people have now moved you from a position where you might have been appealing to some kind of universal parent figure. Your role is now to listen and support; to give advice (which they will ignore). This enables them to go on with their lives; in which it is never suspected you could be involved.

That’s the 50 things that will happen to you now that you are 50, I’d welcome any comments (unless of the trolling variety. If you like this blog please subscribe by email and you will get updates as I post new stuff.
If you missed part one you will find it here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50
If you missed part two you will find it here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-two
If you missed part three you will find it here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-three
If you missed part four you will find it here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-four

That’s it for this series.

Things You Really Will be Doing Now You’re 50 – Part Four

Following on from part three of the things you are going to find when you’re 50.

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-three

Ten more items from the same list:

  1. Visiting a stately home seems a great idea. You’re persuaded that joining the National Trust/English Heritage will be fun. You find yourself visiting more and more stately homes. After a while you realise these places have only two kinds of visitors: harassed looking young adults with little ones or those moving at the speed of continents. You notice that you do not have any small people with you…
  2. It seems to you that you are on top of this technology business; you worked out how to use Facebook. WhatsApp turned out to be not so difficult. You are concerned though that you keep finding new technology that you’ve never heard of. The speed with which you’re supposed to learn new things seems laughable.
  3. It is cold; it always seems cold. You want warm, you want fashionable you choose Thinsulate…
  4. You’ve sailed through 5 decades with the odd nose bleed and a scraped elbow. Now every minor snuffle lays you low for weeks on end. You start considering flu jabs as a great health investment.
  5. Embracing new things has always been you; every new thing; especially TV programmes. Surprising then how often you find yourself watching David Attenborough, Columbo or Murder She Wrote.
  6. Food is a source of experimentation for you. You’ve tried them all; from sushi to witchetty grubs. Nothing is too wild for you. Recently though intestinal complaints have been so violent you require compensatory plumbing. Oatmeal seems a really tasty idea suddenly.
  7. There’s no way that age can be a barrier to music appreciation. After some diligent listening to chart music you determine that one or two tracks are actually quite enjoyable. When you tell people about this they think it is hysterical.
  8. There is someone gorgeous on the street. A part of your mind reminds you that they could be your child or worse still your grandchild.
  9. Since the age of 18 you’ve been the same weight. Clothes fitted nicely. You could eat what you liked. You felt comfortable in your body. Now you notice the belt is tighter. The scales reveal a depressing story. The weight hangs around your waistline like an accusatory life-preserver.
  10. When you were younger you scoffed at all the silver hair; swearing you would dye it before it got to that stage. Now you realise there is a race between it falling out and changing colour. You become grateful for any hair whatever its colour.

If you missed part one you will find it here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50
If you missed part two you will find it here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-two
If you missed part three you will find it here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-three

Watch out for part five here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/30/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-five