What elevates an occasion into a memorable event? Is it the surroundings? Fascinating people? The food served or something that was said? Maybe it’s that single factor, self-effacing in itself, that adds the special ingredient. Whatever it is, it happened for us at the weekend when we joined renowned author Carl Uggla and his wife, equestrienne par excellence Agneta, for dinner.
We were high above upper Fyledalen and the warm, clear weather continued so we were able to sit outside and gaze across the valley and a landscape that was sunny and intrinsically Swedish. The views stretched south across pasture and wheat fields to woodland on the far side and west, to the rising ground and pine forest at Romeleåsen, more than twenty kilometres away.
Of course Carl’s oxbringa med rotmos was delicious – that’s home-made salt beef with mashed swede if you’re an east-end boy like me – but the real joys of the evening for me were the attendant grandchildren, Hannah and Simon. Now I am something of a bore when it comes to children, their behaviour and how they should conduct themselves in order to minimise the impact they have on a world made for adults by adults. In fact, it’s something of an obsession as I become unreasonably irritated by impolite, inarticulate, gadget-addicted youngsters who can’t look you in the eye when they speak and who believe, if they gave it a moment’s thought, that beds are made, food is cooked and cleaning happens by magic. Broad generalisations, I know, but not unrealistic. Meeting these two sparkling, intelligent and well-mannered children was not only a pleasure but it also proved to be the added ingredient that made the evening special for us all.
So, a memorable evening, indeed; excellent food, good Sicilian wine, friends that one would choose to spend one’s time with and a long, bright conversation with youngsters who were, put simply, a pleasure to be with. Why is it such an exception today? And such inquisitive minds – we travelled the world, spoke of places we’d been and chatted late into the night against the backdrop of a light, clear sky punctuated only by a few wispy clouds and a golden crescent moon.
So absorbed were we in good conversation, we didn’t even see it disappear.