I am now in Edinburgh—cold, gray and rainy, and just the way I remembered it when I once lived here for five months (the worst five months for this town: November-April). But I’m warmed by the memories of fine comestibles yesterday.
And below is the Oundle School for well-heeled Brits. Tuition there is well above tuition at universities like Cambridge and Oggsford (the Oundle School is of course for younger students). It’s not quite in the class of Eton, but is up there, and was disgorging male students in coats and ties, and females in equally spiffy garb.
(UPDATE: A reader below has noted that this is where Richard Dawkins went to school. That was news to me.)
Observing Oundle is thirsty work, so we drove a few miles north to a fine pub, the Shuckburgh Arms in Southwick, with a thatched roof and a lovely fire. Another wonderful feature is that pints—good pints of real ale—are only two pounds each, all day and seven days a week!
Here’s what was on tap:
The two on the left are from a local brewery, Neen Valley (we visited it afterwards), and I had the BSA (Blond Session Ale), which was a wonderful pint. I find myself shying away from very hoppy beers these days: American microbrews tend to be too hopped, perhaps since American brewers equate hops with quality, and I’ve been put off by overly bitter beers like Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Give me a well-balanced session pint any day!
The menu was extensive, featuring local game (click to enlarge):
Guess what I had? (Answer below.) While waiting for lunch and quaffing a pint, I enjoyed another British tradition: PRIME MINISTER’S QUESTION TIME. This occurs for half an hour each Wednesday, when all the members of the House of Commons get to fire questions at the Prime Minister. It’s very lively and also funny, as the members growl and make other low sounds, snickers, and noises of disapprobation during both the questions and answers. I’d like to see this in the U.S.:
(To my left is a wonderful fire in a nook underneath the beam.)
My lunch: partridge (with a potato cake, sauteed leeks, broccoli, and cauliflower). The publican told me that his father-in-law had shot the bird on his property. It was my first partridge! I tried to eat it with a knife and fork, but that was a bad business, and I finally picked it up and gnawed off the meat. The publican told me that was the way to do it!
It was a delicious bird, juicy but not gamey (I like gamey), and a substantial lunch. We then visited the very small Nene Valley brewery, talked to the brewmaster, and picked up a few bottles.
After that the rain worsened and we repaired home, later to consume a delicious homemade dinner of pasta shells with cheese, spinach, and tomato sauce, washed down with a bottle of Italian chardonnay (not shown) and a very fancy Valpolicella, which was inky black and brimming with raspberry fruit and hints of mint:
Because of the flooding yesterday, many roads were closed this morning and I barely made my train to Edinburgh. But I have arrived in Auld Reekie to speak to the local humanists—tomorrow evening. In the meantime I plan to visit the National Museum of Scotland and scrape up a pint or two and some local grub. I’ll be glad to receive suggestions for pubs in the center of town.
Details of my talk in Edinburgh are here.