I found myself in T'North again, last night. I am currently taking rooms at a pleasant establishment with the traditional charms of the Olde English hotel - with special attention paid to 'feature plumbing'.
I much prefer this to the ghastly realms of the modern hotels - with their sterile rooms lack of minibar and atrocious food.
Having checked in, made my toilet a set abut exploring the premises. The Lounge was filled with deep armchairs which oozed long hours of brandy hazed Morpheus, but these were encumbered with a handful of commercial types talking about sales targets. I wend my way to the bar.
Keen young chap serves me with a creditable Bloody Mary. Worth mentioning that at one establishment I stayed in, the fellow had to go and look the ingredients up.
A deep draught of the hot spicy nectar revived my spirits somewhat, and my eye roved unto the menu.
Hello! Thinks I, pinching myself. I have surely died and ascended to the realm of choir invisible.
It took no time at all to decide upon Scallops with Black Pudding Quails scotch eggs, followed by Hare Wellington. Placing an order, I celebrated this by polishing off the bloody mary and ordering a large glass of claret while I perused the wine list.
Spotting a Brouilly, I asked the chap if I could see the label.
'I shall go an get it form the fridge, sir, It should just be at the right temperature for your main course then.'
That pretty much sealed it - someone who knows how to keep a Beaujolais and a menu like this. This almost made up for being away from home.
So I settled in with my Telegraph and polishing off my claret at my table in the cellar bar when I heard a polite yet somewhat loud cough from above me.
Glances upwards to behold an elderly fellow dressed in a priests garb. Lack of corduroy, and the glass of red wine indicated that there was a strong chance he was involved in Papism.
'Do you mind if I talk to you?' Thick southern Irish brogue, somewhat slurred through drink, soup stains on jacket, inaccurately shaved.
A Papist, indeed, but worse than that, he sounded a little too like 'Father Jack' from 'Father Ted' for a straight face to be maintained.
'Please Do', says I. Not wishing to make game of him, but thinking it would be rude to refuse and he may have something interesting to say.
He swayed down to a sitting position as my starter arrived.
"Have ye noticed that there are many pictures in honour of Madam Bollinger in her, sir?" he slurred wafts on claret fumes in my direction.
"No". I hadn't. (There were none at all, by the way)
"Well, sir, she is cursed by her workers, for she travels amongst her vineyards on a bicycle!"
(Uh-oh - I know where this is going…)
'"No less! And would you want to know why?"
"Indeed," said I " For I imagine a Range Rover would be more in keeping."
"She does it to catch her workers asleep, the villain!"
He has been clearly saving this corker up for suitable occasions, to dine or drink out on.
"They are her employees, though…….she obviously pays them to work."
"Well yes," he said, "but I think this underlines some of the fundamental differences between the values of certain faiths, for she is almost certainly of a Lutheran persuasion, for they are so heavily attached to work as a virtue!"
(I am now on craggy island, and I am faced with a religious question so Father Jack to Father Jack I said)
"That would be an ecumenical matter."
(Oh god, I am going to laugh, I know. Legs cross, bite lip)
He paused while he rolled the words silently around his mouth and thought he would challenge me. But then spied my newly arrived Brouilly.
"Interesting," he stumbled, "I couldn't have a spot of your excellent looking wine? Blessings be upon you"
He may well have just staggered over and said: