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I’ve not been very active on the blogging front the past week – but I have had other things on my mind. I had a one of those big birthdays with a zero on the end this weekend, and surprised myself by being rather pre-occupied with it. I really didn’t care when I was forty, but this next one got under my skin a bit. So I’ve decided that I shall not get wound up by birthdays any more by reverting to being 36 for as long as I can get away with it!

As it happened though, I had the most marvellous weekend. Firstly, I got to meet loads of lovely book-bloggers at our get-together in Bloomsbury – arguably the literary heart of London. It was so nice to put faces to names. A special thanks to everyone for not getting fed up with me for saying it was my birthday(!), and to SimonT for organising the event. We’re already talking about another one, possibly in Oxford later in the year, and we’re researching venues …

Some of us met up at the Persephone bookshop first which was a great way of celebrating the tail end of Persephone Reading Week which has been hosted by Claire and Verity.  I bought three titles, Miss Ranskill comes home by Barbara Euphan Todd; The Hopkins Manuscript by R C Sherriff; and Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple.  I did actually manage to read a Persephone book last week too – my review of Little Boy Lost by Marganita Laski will follow eventually.

*****

My real birthday treat came on Sunday though, when OH took me and daughter Juliet together with best friends Sue & Neil to Raymond Blanc’s pad which happens to be less than thirty minutes away from us.  Sunday lunch at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons was a wonderful experience, (that I hope to repeat when OH is *0 too, if not sooner). Us grown-ups ordered the full ten course Menu Découverte. I can honestly say that although I’m notoriously picky with food, I ate all but a couple of mouthfuls it was that delicious – I even ate the duck liver terrine, which came with toasted brioche, ginger cream and lemon marmalade – a brilliant combination.

My veal with asparagus, caramelised shallot and garlic cream

The food was exquisitely presented and by the end of the afternoon we were comfortably full, not to mention slightly sozzled. I also got a birthday candle on my last pudding (of three) with a sugarwork  Happy Birthday plaque which they boxed up for me as a souvenir – very subtle.

Juliet’s children’s menu was also lovely including pan-fried fish and chips wrapped in an Asterix comic.  She got taken into the kitchen (with me too of course) to choose her ice-creams for pudding which was a real treat – I recognised the chef who served her from M.Blanc’s recent TV series.   There was a big bronze head and torso of Raymond surveying his kitchens just inside the door too.  By the way I can recommend Raymond’s memoir A taste of my life, which I reviewed back here.

Service was attentive and unobtrusive, although our waiter was a real laugh; the sofas in the lounge before and after were suitably squashy – and Alastair from The Restaurant was in there too.  Afterwards we walked in the gardens which will be wonderful once in full bloom and the vegetables are well underway. To end on a bookish note, there were bronze statues everywhere including this one.

I feel very lucky to have had such a wonderful weekend, with friends both old and new.

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