The Socks had a trip to London at the weekend, jollifying January by escaping the drear of dieting, sobriety and snow-dead aeoniums, and doing something completely different.. an afternoon at the Circus. In this case it was the fabulous flights of fancy of the Cirque du Soleil performing at the Royal Albert Hall. The breathtaking acrobatics, colourful costumes not to mention the champagne awaiting us in our box guaranteed a highly enjoyable afternoon. The Socks know how to live (when the opportunity arises).
There was however a feeling of slightly sanitised safety about the performance - which is odd considering the astonishing acrobatics and the fact that one of them appeared to be injured during a routine. Perhaps it was all just so slick they made it look a little too effortless.
The Sock remembered, by contrast, visits to the astonishing Archaos who several times performed in a circus tent at a nearby Brighton park in the early '90s.
Archaos was described as a 'punk' circus and appeared as a shambolic procession of scruffy dark-clothed street people, juggling chainsaws, fire-eating, doing amazing stunts on bikes and wires to loud discordant music. They frightened the living daylights out of the Sock, particularly when they were throwing bangers and firecrackers around, a performance which often spilled over into the audience, but they were phenomenally energetic and entertaining. The original Archaos eventually disbanded apparently not least because the chainsaw juggling and various other stunts had resulted in some serious injuries over the years.
As an aside, some of you may already know that the RHS Malvern show gardens for Chris Beardshaw's Mentorship Scholarship this year are 'Circus' themed. (Laughing already). The Sock always designs gardens in her mind for these themed events and her imaginary entry for this one is based on the Archaos circus - black plants,swings, a generally anarchic, chaotic tumbling feel and La Beardshaw juggling chainsaws in the middle of it. A sure-fire winner.
After the show the Socks went to Claridge's for some excellent cocktails the best of which was a hazelnut liqueur and pistachio paste concoction which was 'kick your shoes off' exquisite.
Then on to 'Bocca di Lupo' an excellent Italian restaurant serving authentic regional dishes. The restaurant is busy, buzzy and not the place for a romantic meal à deux - the Sock's ate at the bar where you can watch all the expert activity by the friendly staff and chefs.
The food comes in large or small portions so by sharing a load of small plates the Socks sampled a wide range of delicious dishes including an incredibly fresh and tasty 'Shaved radish, celeriac & pecorino salad with pomegranates and truffle oil' (Bedsock's favourite dish), a ' Rustic pork & foie gras sausage with farro & porcini', a zingy 'Spaghettini with lobster, mussels & ginger', and the Sock's favourite dish of 'Rabbit & pearl barley orzotto'. We skipped the Sicilian dish of 'foccacia with lung and spleen simmered in lard and smoked ricotta' although if we return we may well try it. Paying a tiny nod to our discarded diet by sharing a scrumptious Cassata Siciliana for dessert we then upped the calories with a glass of vin santo. All very yummy indeed.
As usual with London we managed to hit a discordant note at the NH Hotel we stayed at. First.. the Sock was shocked to find on flicking the shaving mirror to the other side, a horrid little homily around it...
The mirror says "I see a lot of faces and I have never seen a smiling face that was not beautiful" it may well have changed it's opinion after seeing the look on my face after reading that first thing in the morning!
There were more dotted little homilies around the hotel including one on the lift suggesting you might feel so happy and energetic you could walk down the stairs??!!!
The Bedsock had accrued a load of hotel points for this chain and we were due a free stay paying with those. On leaving the receptionist said we couldn't pay with them as the computer network connecting to their points scheme was down. When we had insisted that they phoned up instead we were told that the points scheme operators only worked from Monday to Friday. In the end we had to pay and hope we can reclaim the money from the scheme as we were promised. Unbelievable! We wouldn't chose to stay at that hotel if we had to pay for it and we certainly won't be staying at an NH Hotel again because there has always been some problem or another on checking out at this one when we have stayed.
The Socks didn't stay cross for long though because a delicious dim sum lunch at the Royal China Club beckoned and more than lived up to expectations.
It's back to the diet now and the Socks will have to wait a while before their next outing.