Furnishing a home is something most people do in their twenties and thirties. At least, they used to. I suppose more people are like me, now. I’ve furnished many different homes and apartments in many parts of the world, mostly on my own, and now Bernard and I have to accommodate each other’s taste and still end up with something we both like. It is fun, but stressful, and the result is never as perfect as I’d like. This time, we’ve got a house built in 1635 to furnish. We are obviously not going to make it historically correct. This is a cottage, nothing fancy, so we don’t need silks and satins and gilt furniture. But we don’t want uncomfortable wooden benches to sit on, either.
We’ve been looking for a comfy, small sofa to place near the big, rustic fireplace. Unable to find the perfect one in the stores around here, we decided to go to Duresta, the English manufacturer of very good sofas and chairs. The trouble is, it is up in Nottingham, some 4 hours drive from here. We decide to combine it with a visit to Oakham, a medieval market town in Rutland County, and have a night away from home.
The weather is dismal when we leave, drizzly and dark. When we arrive in Oakham night has fallen. The streets are shiny with rain. What I can see of this medieval market town looks interesting and pretty, but now all we want to do is get out of the car. We park near The Lord Nelson, the small hotel we have reserved. Its restaurant is called Nick’s, and is reputed to be very good. It is family run, closed until 6:00 pm, and it is now 5:30, so we have a short walk to stretch our legs.
THE LORD NELSON and NICK’S
At 6:00 the door stands invitingly open and we are shown to our upstairs room, the Emma Hamilton. I’m afraid I won’t live up to Lady Hamilton’s reputation for dancing naked and other wanton behavior, at least not tonight. Instead, we hang our clothes in an ornately carved oak wardrobe, rest a few minutes under the canopy of our four poster bed, then freshen up before going down for dinner. The waiter shows us to a comfortably furnished sitting room with a nice fire and brings us a pot of delicious chicken pate to nibble on, as well as herbed black and green olives, while we order our dinner.
The Table D’Hote Menu gives you two courses for 22.95 BPS. The starters include Goats Cheese Parfait with White Raisin and Caramelised Fig Puree and Fig Sorbet, which tempts me, Ham Hock and Foie Gras Terrine with Grape Jelly, which tempts Bernard, Tuna Tartare with Citrus Fruits and Carrot Ice Cream, Chicken Liver and Foe Gras Parfait with Plum Chutney and Brioche, all of which sound delicious, but both Bernard and I opt for Cured Chilli Salmon with Beetroot Sorbet and Herb Vinaigrette.
You choose from among 5 main dishes, also interesting. I order Roast Skate Wing with Capers, Tomatoes and Parsley Fondant Potato for my main course, and Bernard has Crispy pork Belly with King Prawns, beansprouts, bok choi, and oriental jus. The first course is exquisite, with a harmony of flavors which isn’t easy to achieve. The herbs are fennel, marjoram, maybe a little coriander, and made the salmon sing. The Skate Wing was good, and Bernard’s dish too, but the first course was divine.
If you ever find yourself in Oakham, Rutland, UK, I recommend the inn and restaurant. It’s family run, they have frequent jazz nights, and their Christmas and New Year’s menus are superb.
We spend the next morning wandering around the town. It is a beautiful day, cold but sunny and bright (see Weather!!), perfect for seeing a new place. There is a big limestone church which is 12th century and very grand, testifying to the prosperity of Oakum and the Duke of Rutland many centuries ago. A spacious market square near the hotel has an open shed dating from long ago, and a great hall from Norman times stands nearby. There are also lots of interesting little shops. Bernard and I find gifts for the grandchildren in one, which at first looks like a junk shop, but holds hundreds of fascinating treasures, including old books, balance scales with weights, and old cradles.
We buy a hand knit beanie, beige with a white knitted flower, on which the tag says, BABY BEANIE. Our newest grandchild, a girl, is as yet unnamed, the perfect name having not manifested itself. Hence, nameless child is called BEAN 3," bean" being the affectionate name the parents have given to each unborn child.
Our appointment with Duresta is for 1:30, and Nottingham is 45 minutes away. We skip lunch as we both had a full English breakfast at the hotel. That means sausages, black pudding, bacon, eggs, roast tomatoes, mushrooms, and in this case, potatoes, although usually they are replaced by baked beans. I asked for a half portion, but it was still so much that we weren’t hungry for lunch.
Duresta is outside Nottingham in an industrial "estate". We are greeted amiably, then a woman takes us up to the showroom. There is a huge floor of sofas, chairs, and ottomans, and we are left to browse until we need help. We are able to sit on everything to our heart’s content, measure, go through fabric swatches, compare sizes, ad infinitum. Finally, after two hours, we have narrowed our choices down to two sofas, 4 fabric swatches, and definitely one ottoman. Now we will go home to put newspaper templates on the floor to check the sizes, and ultimately, order what we want from the store which will give us the best deal.
The drive home on English motorways is excruciatingly long. At home we just about can get a meal together before we fall asleep. Now we are at the final stage (we hope), and in 6 weeks, we might have a sofa.
- OFF TO URUGUAY