The Saxon Mill is rapidly becoming our most regular restaurant-of-choice when meeting our friends ‘from the West’ – and today was no exception! (Either there or The Lamport Swan). The last time we met up with ‘the Westerners’ (Ian, Ann, Mags and Alan) for one of our regular three-monthly catch-ups was back in September last year. The observant amongst you will note it was actually SIX months ago! 🙄 We’re so busy being retired, this was the earliest date we could all make it! 😃
Once seated for our 12-noon booking, we were greeted with an abundance of menus! 😁, but being poor pensioners, we all opted for the fixed-price offer (£13.50 for two courses, £17.50 for three!). 😋 Rodriguez (from Mexico) introduced himself as our Server, and he did a good job of looking after us!! 👍
The food was its normal excellent quality, although it did take them a second try to get my Melting Chocolate Bomb to actually melt! 🤔
We left around 2.45 and that had given us all plenty of time to catch up with everyone’s news. Next get-together is on Thursday, June 11th at, yes, you guessed it – The Lamport Swan! 😋
Bev and Julie recommended we take a trip over to Finedon to sample the delights of Salvatore Ristorante Italiano. It opened in May, 2019, but we’d not heard of it.
We picked-up our dining-chums just after 7.10pm for our 7.30 booking and battled though the pouring rain heading for nearby Finedon. If the restaurant was to turn out to be as good as our friends’ previous recommendation (Frank’s Pizzas in Kettering), then we were in for a treat! 😁😋
Clearly, Lovejoy’s hadn’t survived, but on entering, we noticed the interior hadn’t changed too much! It still looked like someone’s lounge with all the rooms knocked through! We were soon seated and studying the extensive menu. All 100% Italian!
With our choices made, we caught up with everyone’s news, whilst the food was being prepared. It was worth the wait, as when it arrived, it looked ‘properly home-made’. It all tasted delicious, and we weren’t to be disappointed! 😁
All-in-all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience – friendly staff, a not-too-noisy environment with an authentic Italian menu offering generous portions! (My calzone was about the size of Corby!) 😋😋
And to round off the evening perfectly, we were treated to a free glass of limoncello! 😉
It was very wallet-friendly too! – Starters x4 + Starters-as-Mains x2 + Mains x2 + Desserts x2 + Alcoholic drinks came to £96 including the tip. I have a feeling we’ll be back before too long! 👍👍👍👍👍
It’s Valentine’s Day!! Usually, either I cook the meal, Ann cooks the meal, or we share cooking duties with David and Valerie and get together as a foursome.
So, with cards, flowers and gifts on display, by way of a change for this special day, the four of us left our kitchens behind and headed off to The Attic Restaurant in Lutterworth for lunch! 😁. David and Valerie had already eaten there on more than a few occasions, so we knew we were in for a treat!
Apart from the howling gale in the car-park, it turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. The service was spot-on, and the food delicious! We were seated with a great view across the Golf Course and looking at the weather conditions, we agreed we were definitely in the better place! It was still blowing a gale outside and it looked pretty cold too judging by the number of beanies being worn by the brave golfers!! 😮
The Menu impressed us! I opted for the Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup followed by the Braised Short Rib of Beef (definitely melt-in-the-mouth!)
Whilst Ann and David managed to muster-up the necessary will-power, Valerie and I succumbed to the temptation of a Pud (just!) – in the shape of White Chocolate and Cranberry Bread & Butter Pudding.
Two hours later, all that was left to do was pay the bill, head home and try not to fall asleep during the journey! 🥱 We just caught the school traffic as we got nearer to base, but were home just after 3.30pm.
I drove over to Stamford to meet up with ex-business colleague and film producer: Eric Mival. We’ve kept in touch ever since Eric shot a corporate video for Sainsbury’s (that I was responsible for) back in the late 80s.
Our venue of choice was, of course, the iconic George Hotel in the town – and more specifically, The York Bar.
We haven’t seen each other since August, 2017, and it was good to catch-up with each other’s news!
The focus of our conversation was around Eric’s semi-autobiographical book: Cutting Edge:My Life in Film and Television (get it from Amazon HERE). For me, the enjoyable read had ticked a lot of boxes – my love of the process of film-making AND the fact that Eric had worked on a lot of programmes of my youth including Doctor Who, The Strange Report and of course, the iconic, The Prisoner (amongst many more!). I knew we’d have a lot to chat about, but with the food and service its normal high standard, the time just flew by!
A slightly torturous journey home though, where a major accident on the road to Stamford just after Collyweston caused miles (and miles) of traffic congestion. Luckily, I skirted around the back roads and was home just after 2.30pm (just 10 minutes later than my original ETA).
A short tale of how, many years ago, one person influenced the career paths of three others – and today’s reunion! 😁
In 1972, I joined Sainsbury’s at their flagship store – Central Croydon as a Saturday Student – working Friday nights and all-day Saturday. By late 1974, I was still uncertain as to what sort of job I wanted, after leaving school, I started my first proper full-time job with them.
Trouble was, Mum and Dad’s plan was for me was to do a ‘posh job’ – first choice: join the Civil Service, or maybe a Bank (job-for-life in those days!) or an Accountancy practice. But, in true Palmer fashion, I rebelled, and they weren’t impressed at all!! 🙄 They felt I’d deserved something ‘better’ after going to a Grammar School, better certainly than ‘working in a shop’!!! In spite of acquiring an appreciable bundle of O-Levels together with two A-Levels and already passing the entrance exam for the Civil Service, I really felt JS might be the better more enjoyable career for me 😍. From my side of things, I’d thoroughly enjoyed the physical and mental challenge of it all, having worked through the Summer Holidays at JS pretty-much full-time. A great working atmosphere, fab teamwork and lots of interaction with people.
At the time, Central Croydon was their largest (but small by later standards) in the newly built ‘Whitgift Centre’ (Branch ‘332’ since you asked) off Wellesley Road – and one of the first stores to open there (Boots, next door, being the first). Opened in JS’s centenary year of 1969, the management there were all hand-picked, as being the best in the company. The store went on to become a ‘pass-through’ for rising stars of the organisation, and in turn, that always created a fantastic buzz about the place. Yes, it was hard work… really hard work… but exceptionally rewarding!
During that time, I got to know a certain Grocery Manager, Mr Ken Barden, then in his mid-20s, really well. And as expected, he went on to command some very senior positions across the brand.
My Early Years
‘Rewarding’ it certainly was! From a humble Saturday Student earning less than 30p per hour, I joined the trainee management scheme (a recommendation by Ken) briefly at ‘332’ and then onto their store in Orpington (Branch 747), and completed the scheme in a record 11 months. Mum and Dad finally came round, and supported me all the way from there! Phew! 🥰
Next stop? Into junior management in Bromley (Branch 464) and after about a year, I joined the Area Training Team on secondment. My two-year secondment lasted around 4 years (!!!) and then came the BIG promotion. I was appointed Area Training Manager based in Romford (house move and divorce adding to the mix!). And finally, a spell at head office managing the company’s customer care programme and liaising with all the other training departments across the organisation.
The unrivalled grounding that JS gave me in terms of training and development, provided me with a great insight into the importance of ‘people skills’, leading me to shed a tearful farewell in March 1989 – to start my own business training others in guess what? Yes, ‘people skills’.
Finally, the Reunion
By coincidence, Ann, and our good friend Sally, had learned, through separate casual conversations, that they too, having all worked for this mighty food retailer, had also crossed paths with Ken at different times. He had strongly influenced their career path too! – what are the chances ehh??
So, fast-forward (in my case 45 years!) and today was to be special in a number of ways. Although we’d all lost touch with Ken many years ago (although Ann and I had seen Ken briefly in the intervening years at a JS ‘do’) the three of us decided it would be good to catch up, with a view to reminisce about those heady days working for the champion of food retailing – and most of all, to thank him for pointing us in the right direction. We all realised, without his influence, we wouldn’t have been where we are today, nor enjoyed our careers so much!
I tracked Ken down through Facebook, and we all agreed to meet up at his, and then on for a spot of lunch. After a quick coffee and a natter, meeting Carol, his wife and their dogs and cats, we headed off to the Pub for 1pm!
Well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Pub so busy! The food was excellent, but for once (for me) that didn’t matter at all! We had so many years to catch up with, individually and collectively and I don’t think we stopped talking (and laughing) for the whole time we were there! And surely, it was a good sign that we didn’t leave the Pub until just after 3!
What a fantastic day! We’re certainly going to do it all again sometime with Ken – there are so many more stories and experiences to share! We dropped Sally back at hers and headed home.
We met Chris and Gill at theirs and headed over to the Theatre in time for a spot of lunch followed by the performance at 1.30pm. (The lunch incidentally, was superb!)
I wasn’t familiar with this production at all, but any performance that features a live food-fight (warning those in the front-row that they ‘may not escape the fallout‘ gets my vote! 😄).
On a more serious note, it’s billed as: ‘a tale of a nation in turmoil that vibrates with modern resonance‘ and tells the story of John’s turbulent reign from 1199 to 1216. Now that sounded like something worth seeing! 😁
So, what of the production itself? If you like your Shakespeare productions on traditional side, then this most definitely WON’T be the one for you. And unlike many of the Bard’s other works, there’s no well-known characters in this, nor any famous one-liners to hang onto!
But overall, none of this really mattered!
For me, although the plot was difficult to follow (no change there then!) the acting, costumes, lighting, music and stage were all definitely something to remember! Everyone gave an excellent performance, and the very wacky production design didn’t distract at all. In fact, the ‘dad-dancing’ (yes, really!), the additional short dance routines, the fight scenes and the encouraged audience participation, made the aforementioned food-fight feel quite appropriate! And yes, some the audience will have had a cleaning bill! 😮
Quite a lot of blood too! 😫
In conclusion, a thoroughly engaging production but not one for the traditionalists
and maybe it was just me, but the fact that they brought on two Henry vacuum cleaners to clear up the stage during the interval made me giggle – ‘Part 1’ and ‘Part 2’ perhaps???? 😂