Last night at supper, talk turned to the topic of thank you letters. I have just received a particularly effusive one from a friend of Horatio's: a real pleasure ... incredibly kind of you to provide such a feast both for supper and for breakfast ... no better place to be ... etc etc. This was regarded as both a very good letter to send to a mummy AND as a little over the top (but probably because it was written several weeks after the event.
Lucius was having none of it: Not interesting ... no point in writing a letter if it didn't say something ... bah humbug.
Here's his idea of a letter worth writing (mine too, although I don't think it would do as a bread and butter letter):
No.3 Commando was very anxious to be chums with Lord Glasgow, so they offered to blow up an old tree stump for him and he was very grateful and said don't spoil the plantation of young trees near it because that is the apple of my eye and they said no of course not we can blow a tree down so it falls on a sixpence and Lord Glasgow said goodness you are clever and he asked them all to luncheon for the great explosion.
So Col. Durnford-Slater DSO said to his subaltern, have you put enough explosive in the tree?. Yes, sir, 75lbs. Is that enough? Yes sir I worked it out by mathematics it is exactly right. Well better put a bit more. Very good sir.
And when Col. D Slater DSO had had his port he sent for the subaltern and said subaltern better put a bit more explosive in that tree. I don't want to disappoint Lord Glasgow. Very good sir.
Then they all went out to see the explosion and Col. DS DSO said you will see that tree fall flat at just the angle where it will hurt no young trees and Lord Glasgow said goodness you are clever.
So soon they lit the fuse and waited for the explosion and presently the tree, instead of falling quietly sideways, rose 50 feet into the air taking with it ½ acre of soil and the whole young plantation.
And the subaltern said Sir, I made a mistake, it should have been 7½ not 75. Lord Glasgow was so upset he walked in dead silence back to his castle and when they came to the turn of the drive in sight of his castle what should they find but that every pane of glass in the building was broken.
So Lord Glasgow gave a little cry and ran to hide his emotions in the lavatory and there when he pulled the plug the entire ceiling, loosened by the explosion, fell on his head.
This is quite true.
Letter from Evelyn Waugh to his wife, 31 May 1942
My nephews, who are staying, now face the prospect of writing two letters each, so that they please us both.
These not cheese puffs are what we ate with pre-dinner drinks, very good. It's from a recipe in yesterday's Guardian mag by the baker Dan Lepard; he calls them black olive gougères
175g drained Kalamata olives
1 large clove of garlic
1 tbsp chopped thyme (rosemary would do too)
50ml olive oil
150g strong white flour
75g grated parmesan, plus more when reheating
Blitz the olives, but stop before they turn to a mushy paste. Meanwhile, bash the garlic to a paste. Put this with the herbs and oil into a saucepan, add 125ml water and bring to the boil (no time at all). Tip in the flour, beat until it forms a ball, then add the eggs one by one, beating thoroughly each time. Lastly beat in the cheese (I used very strong Cheddar in the mix, parmesan to finish).
Using two teaspoons, scoop balls of the mixture onto a non-stick baking sheet and bake in a hot oven 200C (180C fan) for 15-20 minutes. Cool on a rack. Plate them and sprinkle with a little finely grated parmesan and leave until you are ready to put in the oven to warm through. (I found 120C wasn't quite warm enough to melt the grated cheese, so turned the oven up a little.)
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