Yesterday we went to Lord's for the Oxford and Cambridge Tennis Match. Cambridge won the (real/royal) tennis (boo), Oxford won the speeches (yay). The long-standing Cambridge postgrad blues (one man has 14 tennis blues, another nine) have played their last varsity match; next year the competition looks as if it may be more interesting (the Oxford team are currently all undergraduates).
The catering, however, was magnificent. Lunch was a rolling buffet for players and spectators. Ham, pate, salmon on rye, an asparagus tart, with good salads: the coleslaw was jewelled with red cabbage. Two potato salads, Lucius was in heaven. Puddings changed all afternoon; we were fortunate enough to arrive at the treacle tart moment - unusually these days, it was made with a measure of treacle as well as golden syrup, the tart dark enough to be mistaken for chocolate by some ... but much, much better - chewy gooey and with a dash of lemon zest.
Dinner was in the Long Room, one of those hallowed spots I never thought I would ever visit (remember the fuss when Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, the England women's captain, was denied the courtesy of MCC membership?). These days, however, women are welcomed (although I seem to remember that the MCC only capitulated when threatened with loss of public funding). There were over 200 of us, so I wouldn't have been surprised if dinner didn't live up to the glories of a well-produced simple lunch. But it did.
Smoked Scottish Salmon with potato and chive pancake, creme fraiche, sorrel and a quail's egg
So pretty: the salmon & creme fraiche was in a cross-cut pinwheel about 7 layers thick, covering the pancake, decorated with finely shredded sorrel and egg halves.
Rump of lamb with puy lentils, button onions, Dauphinoise potatoes and baby leeks
Again, beautifully presented. We couldn't really have had any other sort of potatoes, it was the French Dauphin who insulted Henry V with his gift of tennis balls, a scene recreated by Shakespeare:
"Enter Ambassadors of France
KING HENRY V
Now are we well prepared to know the pleasure
Of our fair cousin Dauphin; for we hear
Your greeting is from him, not from the king.
May't please your majesty to give us leave
Freely to render what we have in charge;
Or shall we sparingly show you far off
The Dauphin's meaning and our embassy?
KING HENRY V
We are no tyrant, but a Christian king;
Unto whose grace our passion is as subject
As are our wretches fetter'd in our prisons:
Therefore with frank and with uncurbed plainness
Tell us the Dauphin's mind.
Thus, then, in few.
Your highness, lately sending into France,
Did claim some certain dukedoms, in the right
Of your great predecessor, King Edward the Third.
In answer of which claim, the prince our master
Says that you savour too much of your youth,
And bids you be advised there's nought in France
That can be with a nimble galliard won;
You cannot revel into dukedoms there.
He therefore sends you, meeter for your spirit,
This tun of treasure; and, in lieu of this,
Desires you let the dukedoms that you claim
Hear no more of you. This the Dauphin speaks.
KING HENRY V
What treasure, uncle?
Tennis-balls, my liege.
KING HENRY V
We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us;
His present and your pains we thank you for:
When we have march'd our rackets to these balls,
We will, in France, by God's grace, play a set
Shall strike his father's crown into the hazard.
Tell him he hath made a match with such a wrangler
That all the courts of France will be disturb'd
With chaces. And we understand him well,
How he comes o'er us with our wilder days,
Not measuring what use we made of them.
We never valued this poor seat of England;
And therefore, living hence, did give ourself
To barbarous licence; as 'tis ever common
That men are merriest when they are from home.
But tell the Dauphin I will keep my state,
Be like a king and show my sail of greatness
When I do rouse me in my throne of France:
For that I have laid by my majesty
And plodded like a man for working-days,
But I will rise there with so full a glory
That I will dazzle all the eyes of France,
Yea, strike the Dauphin blind to look on us.
And tell the pleasant prince this mock of his
Hath turn'd his balls to gun-stones; and his soul
Shall stand sore charged for the wasteful vengeance
That shall fly with them: for many a thousand widows
Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands;
Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down;
And some are yet ungotten and unborn
That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin's scorn.
But this lies all within the will of God,
To whom I do appeal; and in whose name
Tell you the Dauphin I am coming on,
To venge me as I may and to put forth
My rightful hand in a well-hallow'd cause.
So get you hence in peace; and tell the Dauphin
His jest will savour but of shallow wit,
When thousands weep more than did laugh at it.
Convey them with safe conduct. Fare you well.
This was a merry message.
KING HENRY V
We hope to make the sender blush at it.
Therefore, my lords, omit no happy hour
That may give furtherance to our expedition;
For we have now no thought in us but France,
Save those to God, that run before our business.
Therefore let our proportions for these wars
Be soon collected and all things thought upon
That may with reasonable swiftness add
More feathers to our wings; for, God before,
We'll chide this Dauphin at his father's door.
Therefore let every man now task his thought,
That this fair action may on foot be brought.
Exeunt. Flourish "
The King's speech is littered with punning references to tennis, none of which I understood when I studied Henry V at school, and which only begin to dawn on me now, after watching my husband and son play countless times. In view of Shakespeare's splendid enactment of the England/France rivalry, you will not be surprised at the keen interest many took throughout dinner in the progress of the France-England rugger match (England won, 13-24, whooppeeeee).
Glazed lemon tart with vanilla ice-cream
Two puds in one day; I rarely eat pudding, and to be given my two very favourites ... well, how lucky am I?
Better luck next year, Oxford.
Winter Evening in Bull's Wood - linocut and cards - Last year's festive season was only just out of the way when I was contacted to talk Christmas Cards for 2014! It was a request from Suffolk Wildlife Trust...
19 hours ago