I had dinner at All Souls. I hadn’t had dinner at “high table” for many, many years; and All Souls only has high table.
It was all slightly weird: lots of servants being rather obsequious, which doesn’t naturally fall within my comfort zone. The whole thing – the very grand setting, the portraits (famous scientists and politicians were the ones I recognised), the servants – made me think of a meal in Gormenghast
, or perhaps something out of His Dark Materials
I sat between my friend and an ancient historian. (She was quite young herself.) Indeed, most of the people there seemed to be ancient historians. She wasn’t particularly chatty, but since my friend was talking to the person on her right – who taught her when she was an undergraduate (she wasn’t sure if he remembered!) – I pushed ahead with a conversation.
Her speciality was twelfth century France (though I guess it wasn’t called France at that point), and much more specifically, the legal basis for various wars that were fought. Knowing nothing about twelfth century France, let alone the legal basis for wars, this was a which seam of conversation and was rather interesting.
She hailed from the mid-west, so we talked about the States, too.
The food was good-ish – chicken breast stuffed with brie (although they seemed to have forgotten the brie in mine, which suited me perfectly) - the wine, better (a 1999 Jaboulet – I can’t remember the specific provenance).
I was a little confused because my friend had said we wouldn’t stay for dessert, so I was thinking we would leave before pudding, but we didn’t. This was good, the pudding being baked pears soaked in some kind of alcohol.
We went to another, much more homely, room for coffee, where we talked with another ancient historian, this one on loan from a university in Paris. Her topic was fascinating – basically, the information systems in place following the collapse of the Roman Empire, and more specifically, how did Christianity manage to (more or less) maintain its integrity rather than collapse into a myriad of cults. (It goes without saying that I know nothing of ancient information systems or early Christianity – I know bugger all about Christianity period
aside from thinking medieval cathedrals are beautiful, awe inspiring things.) This was fascinating; her view was it all came down to gossip – the ancient version of Facebook…
I was looking for the port, thinking this might be quite special, when my friend made moves to leave. It turns out dessert
is port and a bit more food – but tends towards the pompous if there aren’t a lot of guests, which is why she wanted to skip it.
So we went off to play with her family and, particularly, their kittens