I went to Le Manoir Quatre Saison for lunch. Beautiful day, wonderful inspired inventive food (perhaps not as bizarre as Heston but more cuddly creative, if there is such a thing, (no wine as I was driving and the M25 was awful, and my car showed I had a flat tyre, something wrong with the engine, and I needed more oil every time I turned a corner, and didn't when I was on the straight and narrow - so thank you up there who was looking down on me today for getting me back in one piece) and those gardens. The wonderful herb garden where everything has grown so much this year they told me, the summer menu may last longer than usual, actually everything may last longer than usual.
There is a scarecrow that resembles George Clooney but it is in fact supposed to resemble Raymond Blanc who commissioned it and kept asking when it would be ready. Folk lore (or the woman tending the gardens) told me the artist consequently made the scare crow look like Raymond. It's a sexy looking scarecrow but it doesn't scare the birds away (she says). There's a glorious statue of a stag and deer, although the deer do not invade the gardens thankfully - although they did once, coming as one would, through the front gates and raiding the gardens. They must have thought all their Christmases had come at once. Some guests had seen them enter but perhaps they thought it was some stag do... Well, it was funny at the time.
Which reminds me, when you walk into the gardens before or after or during your meal, between courses, speak to the gardeners. They are so interesting, knowledgeable, thoughtful and polite. There's a statue of a woman holding a basket of peppers called 'Our Sarah' which I had a pix taken with. She's the florist there and she arranges all the flowers in the rooms and on the dining rooms tables, and in the sitting room. There is a wonderful Japanese garden there with a lovely pagoda and statues, including a great idea of a giant walnut under the walnut tree - which I may pinch as I've got a lovely walnut tree in France. Or perhaps not. There it seems right. My place it might be pretentious.
Le Manoir really is very special. Each time I've visited it's been special and with someone special. This was someone v special. Amongst the other guests were loads of anniversaries and birthdays and the lyrical names of the rooms, Emily (who she?), Hollyhock and another one in the main house - can't remember name of - are charming. I have stayed in the adjacent rooms, think it was Provence or Provencial, with huge patio windows opened up into a courtyard. Split level, very sexy, stayed there with Tom when he was three. So not quite so sexy. He was given posh fish 'n chips, so posh, he didn't know what they were.
I've also taken part in a cookery course there (got certificate to prove it and my name is writ same size as Monsieur Blanc's!), and learnt to make saffron spider crab ravioli from scratch. Totally useless but at least I always remember I made it ONCE.
And I interviewed Monsieur Blanc a few times, the first being over breakfast there, when Edwina Curry was throwing everything she had at people eating eggs. RB was furious with her discouraging people from eating the egg which he considered a masterpiece amongst other foodstuffs. He was talking passionately about the egg as I was starting to eat mine. 'Ze 'umble eag eez ze purrfekt proteine' he said raising my soft boiled egg to my lips and kissing it (the egg that is not my mouth). I have never thought of soft boiled eggs in the same way again.