Veronica suffers from Ornithophobia (the fear of birds) and we have a torrid time when out and about and wishing to have coffee alfresco in the sunshine. After carefully scanning the neighbourhood, we gingerly find a place which offers a rapid escape route, either outwards or into the interior of the bar/cafe/restaurant. Invariably however, she is convinced, they (the birds) sense her presence and congregate nearby ready to pounce (or swoop) or worse still, creep up on her, usually under the table, just to appear suddenly to give her a fright. On a number of occasions I’ve seen birds approaching from behind her, and tried to will them to change course or go elsewhere, usually without success, resulting in a shriek, leap from table, upset of drink and rapid departure, away and out of range of her feathered fiends. Family stories abound of ornithophobic occurrences…
Recently we had another tale to tell in the sorry avian saga, when Veronica was sitting in Hanover House’s (www.hanoverhouse.org) pretty Victorian walled garden with a visitor, drinking coffee, when with a sudden loud thud a magpie flew full tilt into the glass pane of the conservatory on the back of the house above her, and fell closeby, stone dead. The shrieks were heard next door and her Mr and Mrs ‘Galahad’ (aka Robert & Liz) hurried round to find out what had happened. They were met by a near apoplectic Veronica, and to relieve her anxiety, removed Liz lifted the aforesaid corpse for disposal and shortly thereafter it was thrown over the bank of the rivulet Chelt, which runs along our northern boundary. Unfortunately, the creature lodged in clear sight on the far bank and this would have precluded Veronica being able to venture out of the rear garden gate onto the near bank until the corpse had been removed. Sir Galahad again stepped up to the mark and ventured round into the park on the opposite side of the Chelt from Hanover House, with our red wooden kitchen steps, and very nearly emasculated himself crossing the sharp pointy fence, to dislodge certain Magpie and send it downstream on its allegorical voyage to Valhalla.
Tonight we had the latest round of ornithophobic behaviour when we ventured out for supper to The Tavern (formerly The Royal Well Tavern) in Cheltenham, having seen a number of very mixed reviews. What was a cosy, slightly formal, charming French-style bistro (Michelin Gourmand BIB rated), is now a more brash, rough brick-walled and chunky timber furnitured cowboy-style American restaurant/bar with ‘jazzy’ music and stuffed birds around the walls. The food, although of a different style, remains beautifully cooked and the service is superlative. The birds however were the final straw for Veronica, and although we may recommend The Tavern to younger, trendier guests or Americans, the majority of our regulars – and ourselves – will probably not venture through its portals.
The earlier mention of a ‘Sir Galahad’ is of course apposite today as it is the 30th Anniversary of the invasion of the Falklands, with Argentina’s president once again trying to divert attention from her domestic problems and whipping up South American support for an aggressive campaign of vilification of Britain and the Falkland Islanders. (The Sir Galahad of course was the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), attacked and ultimately destroyed by the Argentinian bombs at San Carlos, and in which a number of Welsh Guardsmen, inter alia, died.