Only Mrs Banks failed to be delighted at the sight of me pounding away at the laptop keyboard on Saturday evening when I ought to have been showering and sprucing myself up for a date with Her Divineness.
Iain the chef/landlord at the Red Lion in Milfield, on the other hand, was ecstatic. “Yikes!” he had emailed to me fifteen minutes earlier, while Her Ladyship was showering. “The phone has been ringing non-stop since you published the latest Voice of the North two hours ago.
“Thanks for the advertisement! Could you do me another favour and proof-read my takeaway menu for me? I’ve a lot to do if I’m going to launch my takeaway service in the coming week and I’m running out of time.”
Our readers, too, were excited, particularly those in far north Northumberland (‘Godzone’ to you and me) who dine regularly at the North’s best gastropub and were dismayed that the Red Lion, like all of Britain’s pubs and restaurants, had fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic and had closed its doors to diners and drinkers.
And we here at VoTN were over the moon: within two hours of being posted, my column detailing the Red Lion’s community-minded marketing ploy had been read by more than 300 readers (and at midnight that number had swelled to 526 individuals logging on).
But Mrs B. was not amused. “What are you doing sitting there in your T-shirt and slippers and those awful track suit pants when we’re supposed to be on a date? Have you even SHOWERED!!?” She glowered at my unshaven chin and my grubby, tubby body. “OBVIOUSLY NOT!” (She often speaks in capital letters. . . )
We were meant to be having a ‘date night’, you see. Our daughter’s idea: “While you’re self-isolated in that tiny cottage of yours I just KNOW (like her mother, she talks in occasional capitals) you’ll both be slobbing around in track suits, T-shirts and gardening shoes instead of dressing properly to face the world.”
She wasn’t wrong, we decided. So we agreed to follow the example set by Tash and her husband: shower and dress for dinner, slow-cook a gammon joint in fruit juice, add the trimmings, pour aperitifs and break open the white wine and settle down for a candle-lit supper just like the youngsters were doing.
And then the Red Lion rang to reveal the world was going mad for takeaways. . . thanks to a simple column at VoiceoftheNorth.net !
Naturally I felt obliged to help finish what my well-meaning column had helped start, so shower and titivating had to wait while I corrected Iain’s menu (great chefs make rotten spellers!).
Anyway, all ended well. The missus and I had the sort of romantic meal we would normally have enjoyed at the Red Lion, Iain got his menu checked and I heard nothing more. Until early this morning. . .
“You wouldn’t care to advertise the Red Lion’s actual takeaway menu, would you?” asked the bright-as-a-button gastropub boss (didn’t he realise some of us had lost an hour’s sleep when the clocks leapt forward?). “Only, there are dozens of people itching to place orders, thanks to your column!”