An English afternoon tea

I appreciated the way we were able to sit for a few hours talking, even if the chairs were on the uncomfortable side. But if you charge the going rate for a hotel afternoon tea outside London – around £30 since you ask – you need to do more than call it afternoon tea. The taste and quality of what you offer should be at least passable, and the way you serve it, and when, is worth considering.

Or was the fact that we weren’t turfed out after a couple of hours a sign that not too many people were clamouring for our table? I mean, they knew what we didn’t.

Tea corner at the Randolph

I don’t know whether to feel embarrassed admitting to having gone twice, in two days. The first tea was sufficiently acceptable, and I enjoyed chatting to my friends in an unhurried way, which is why I booked a table for my next meeting, the following day.

And yes, I did get – partly – what I was looking for and again, I loved seeing people and talking for hours. But that was down to me having nice friends to meet up with, more than the tea or the service.

Day one the non-English head waiter was polite and pleasant, if not good at getting a tea order together. I forget the number of times we had to ask for milk. Meanwhile the tea stewed and got blacker and blacker, and the sandwiches dried. That’s what I thought, anyway. Until…

Day two the same non-English head waiter needed to have his sleeve pulled after a search to find him, when the placing of an order for tea got quite urgent. There is only so long you want to wait. Tried the Earl Grey in the hopes of less black tea, but that didn’t work. I.e. the tea was as strong as the previous day, and lukewarm. Later on when we asked for more hot water we were rather alarmed to discover the waiter wanted to simply pour it into the teapot.

The sandwiches were dry. It’s the only description for them. And the fillings had been sparingly applied. For £30 they could afford a bit more egg, say. And clingfilm to cover sandwiches so obviously made well in advance.

Would I go back to the Randolph in Oxford?

Maybe. The hotel is well placed for meetings. The room is pleasant enough. In fact, if you consider the cost of the tea more as a fee for a corner of the room we sat in, then yes, it’s OK. Just about. And I have no problem with non-English waiting staff, as long as they know how to serve an English afternoon tea in a vaguely English way. With milk.

(It can’t have been the wheelchair, can it? The second day? The first day they even wanted to hang our coats for us, while the second day we had all that time alone, putting the wheels away, and waiting for service. Surely not?)

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NCIS – Sight Unseen; 350 and counting

After 350 episodes, they decide to ‘celebrate’ by having Abby not know how to break into a mobile phone? Is she not the genius forensic scientist who has hacked her way into every techy item she’s been brought for the last fifteen years?

I ask, because at times maybe it was made to look too easy, but in fiction we don’t mind this, when it’s someone we love. What’s more, after the difficulty of accessing the information hidden on this phone, it proved to have almost no relevance, but was mainly a way of using up screen time for Abby.

If this is her level of [in]competence, it’s easy to see that they will need to replace her. But please God make it someone other than Ducky’s friend from a few weeks ago! I liked the actress well enough, but once the scriptwriters have ruined her character’s personality, it’s too late to make a first impression again. Hugging everyone in sight is not a prerequisite for a forensic scientist. It’s an Abby thing.

I can’t help but think back to the 100th episode, or the 250th, and the pride we felt at having supported NCIS this far. Compare that with my reaction on reading that season 16 had been given the go-ahead. I wished they hadn’t.

And was that some possible true romances for Bishop and Torres, or were they merely making each other jealous? We don’t need more team romantic entanglements.

Abby’s last kiss

Wanting to ascertain more definitely whether the problem between Pauley Perrette and Mark Harmon stems from Mark’s dog’s attack on a crew member, I will only say that it’s a strange coincidence, date wise, if it isn’t something to do with Dave.

And we know what Gibbs says about coincidences.

Also, sixteen stitches is quite a lot. Especially if it’s your body.

My research has taken me as far as season 14, episode 7, which was screened on 15th November 2016. Home of the Brave it’s called, and it’s a pretty good one, with the possible exception of Quinn’s odd behaviour. It’s also the first episode – if you watch season 14 backwards, as I’ve been doing – that seems completely normal.

Abby and Gibbs interact as always, for about as long as you’d expect, and there is a kiss. The first one during my research viewing. Still no offer of a Caf-Pow from Gibbs, although there has been the odd drink from the others, when they call in at Abby’s lab. Because that’s the thing; as long as someone asks Abby about what she’s found, it takes a while to discover it’s not Gibbs doing the asking.

So I’ve been looking for normal conversation lasting reasonably long, Caf-Pow and kissing.

I’ve no idea when an episode goes live, how long it has been after it was recorded. Depending on a variety of facts, I imagine at least a few weeks, in which case a mid-November screening fits in with having been filmed maybe up to a month before.

The Dave incident happened ‘last week’ according to about four different reports in the press, all dated 26th October 2016.

Whether any of this relates to the flipping of episodes eight and nine, I have no idea. But it’s as annoying now as it was then; with Reeves and Torres chatting perfectly normally in the Thanksgiving episode, and being introduced to each other in the next, a couple of weeks later. Also, there is talk of an election in episode nine, which is surely wrong, when you vote in early November, but this was on one month later.

All this is too late to undo, now that we are about three weeks off Abby’s departure. It’s not just season 15 suffering from the split Gabbs scenes. Most of last season had it too, the decline gradual but palpable.

Watching the ‘next’ episode, i.e. no. six, brought home to me how very normal it was. And I remembered how we used to say that Abby seemed to have been sidelined after Quinn and Torres joined the show. Strikes me now her role was made smaller for another reason. We believed it was the new situation with the other agents to get used to, and the loss of DiNozzo.

I wonder what Michael Weatherly would have done about Dave?

Who dunnit?

Really?

Almost fifty years on, I didn’t remember either the plot or who the murderer was. For that reason, I quite enjoyed the latest BBC version of Ordeal by Innocence. I feel as long as you don’t expect much, these period Agatha Christie rewrites are fun enough. Just not very ‘real.’

It used to be that screen scripts weren’t very true to the book, but since when do you have to change who the killer is? If you have so much better an idea, why not write your own?

I did wonder whether Bill Nighy was going to be the usual nice guy or if they were going outside their comfort zone and have him bludgeon his wife to death. And son Jack seemed quite unpleasant to begin with.

Considering what the theme for some of the reasons behind this dysfunctional family’s problems were [supposed to be], I’m not surprised they felt the need to reshoot all the scenes where the original actor might have an unpalatable sexual past. Or not.

But I felt the changeover worked well. Yes, you could see how cold it was in January, when it should have been summer, but that was all. The car radio scenes were more inaccurate, but I suppose people are too young to know.

So, yes, I enjoyed it. Even Matthew Goode being a bit bad. He’s a disturbingly good kind of bad.

But the satisfying television ending rings a bit hollow, when you consider how it was meant to be.

Bye bye, Lill-Babs

Lill-Babs, aka Barbro Svensson, died this morning. She was 80 and had been one of the most popular singers in Sweden during all of my life, and she was still performing. I read an article about her only last year, about her and Lill Lindfors, another ‘old’ singer, and how they were still going strong. But even strong has to come to an end.

What I discovered in that article, was that in the 1950s as she was a rising star, she could finally afford a new better place to live; a two bedroom flat in Stockholm. She shared it with her mother, her daughter and her three brothers, because that’s how things were in those days. I was interested to read it, though, as it was the same street I lived in during my first year.

Maybe people were scandalised that Lill-Babs was a single mother at sixteen. Maybe not. I never was, as it seemed natural from my point of view.

She was a good performer with a good voice, very versatile, and she worked hard all her life. I believe we all thought of her as the girl next door.

Tack, och hej då!

He rocked on the left

And now he’s left us. Jerry Williams was – if not one of a kind – then definitely one of few. He might not have been Sweden’s answer to Elvis. Jerry – really Erik Fernström – who died on Sunday at the age of 75, rocked. But perhaps not that way. He was cooler. He was more your leather jacket and motorbike kind of man.

We have had a few of those. What made Jerry stand out was his political convictions, starting out as a communist, and remaining a communist all his life. Some people forget where they came from, once success finds them. From what I hear, Jerry stayed true and relatively unspoilt all his life.

Jerry Williams, Varberg

I only saw him in concert once, about twelve years ago, when he came to Societetsparken in Varberg. He was as great as I’d expected him to be, the children liked him, and everyone else I spoke to seemed to be big fans. Usually when you chat to people, you find some who don’t share your taste. Young and old, they all loved him.

Roger’s 82nd

Roger Whittaker 1

I hope there will be some cake for Roger Whittaker to enjoy with his tea today. No need to put all 82 candles on, or there might not be room for the actual cake.

We don’t hear anything from Roger these days, and that’s really the way it should be. If you’ve retired, then you have the right to stay quiet and to rest and to enjoy life.

Happy Birthday, Roger!