This was one of my very first things I did in London, and happily I was able to do it in company, with my lovely spouse and best friend Sara. I have known Sara a year longer than I’ve known the beloved, and she’s utterly ace. She had the astonishing vision to recruit me to her all girl band, Treacle, despite my inability to sing or play any musical instruments at all. She took the view that my ability to get on with everyone was more important, as I could be taught to play the bass. Unexpectedly, she was absolutely right about this.
On my first day of doing things for the blog, I was intensely aware that a thousand things are an awful lot, so I had planned a seven hour walk around the City to chalk up as many things as I could. Sara rang me as I was trogging around, and I am ashamed to say I almost turned down her invitation because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do enough things. Sara, quite rightly told me this was a ludicrous state of affairs and told me to meet her in the Champagne Bar in St Pancras. She argued that this would doubtless count as a thing to do in London, and more importantly would enable us to catch up. I am very fortunate to have a friend like Sara, because not only is she fabulous, she is also almost always right. I learned in that first day that doing thing after thing after thing like that clocks up activities all right, but you get so tired and bad-tempered you don’t actually enjoy them. In this case, I had come from London Bridge where I had been comprehensively rained on. I turned up to St. Pancras sodden, aching and in serious danger of trench foot. Reader, a beverage was in order.
I rarely drink, but when I do, I tend to drink champagne. Spouse, Sara and I stumbled into St. Pancras, and found our way to Searcey’s. Somehow we didn’t end up at the famous long bar, which looked a bit cold and miserable. We sat outside the restaurant, having noticed there was a sign up for happy hour between 5-7pm. It announced you could get a free portion of oysters with a glass of champagne. The champers cost £7.50 a shot, and we calculated that if we shared a couple of portions of fat chips between the three of us, that would round out to about £10 a head. I also thought it would count as the poshest serving of fish and chips in the history of creation. Honestly, I might have slightly overspent, but I didn’t care. I was tired and grumbly and wanted to chill out with my lovely friends.
The oysters were different territory, mind you. I’m not great with food that looks like it did when it was alive. As the waiter brought us two oysters each, I was gripped by fear. My fabulous friend Zim had texted in terror one night from a caravan park with oyster related food poisoning, and I didn’t want to suffer the same way. This was met with all the sympathy and kindness one might expect from my nearest and dearest.
“Get it down your neck, tha’ great Jesse,” said Sara, as she and spouse gulped them down as though they were drinking shots.
I eyed my quarry. I know not if it looked back. I know not if oysters are served alive or dead, much less if they have eyes at all. But I had a moment of clarity right then and there. The reason I had chosen to write this blog in the first place was partially to make myself do things I would not otherwise do. This was not going to happen if every time I had a chance to do something new I started wittering about the health and safety implications. I held an oyster to my lips. It took a long time to get it down, and I cannot tell you what it tasted like. I mainly recall sitting there with the smell of the sea in my nostrils before swallowing down on something which left a warm full taste in my gullet to the sound of my friends’ applause. I followed it down sharpish with champagne and fat chips. I had a dicky tummy for two day afterwards, but I’m sure that’s a complete coincidence.