The wood is shy


The Mem and I realised with a little “ooh” that we have been married for 16 years. If our marriage was a person, it would be old enough to have sex. Which is an odd thought.

We decided to treat ourselves with a couple of nights at an “OMG – how much?” expensive hotel. Put the socialist tendencies to one side, dig out the best bib and tucker and have a shave.

And so it was that we found ourselves in a delightful English country hice (that’s how the posh set say “house”) which was considerably older than the American nation. Sipping G & Ts in the drawing room before fine dining on a prawn in a puddle.


That’s when we saw her. She just didn’t fit, in so many different ways.

At first glance, her face was as smooth and unlined as a sixteen year old nun who washed daily in holy spring water. Not that I know many sixteen year old nuns. Or many nuns. Or even many sixteen year olds.

But then I noticed that her face didn’t move all that much. It seemed to be made out of the stuff that Victorians used for dolls’ faces. Porcelain or alabaster or somesuch. My perception changed. I was no longer thinking about sixteen year old pious sisterhood. Now my mind’s eye was fixed on those vaguely terrifying white-coated cosmetic androids who guard the front of Department stores. You know the ones – all foundation and products that end in -er. Highlighter. Blusher. Mascara … ahem … er.

Long hair of wavy gold. Or a similar metallic substance.

Then … please forgive me … a pair of boobs of such architectural magnificence that I could not take my eyes off them. I know that we blokes shouldn’t stare at bosoms, but these things had a magnetic presence all of their own. They were like the human equivalent of black holes – immense gravitational bodies which was sucking all male matter into their orbit.

There was something not quite right about those breasts. She had skinny hips, an angelic little face and in between these immensely pillowed mammary creations which seemed like the airbags from an E class Mercedes. It was as if someone had squeezed her from her legs to her bottom like a human equivalent of a tube of toothpaste and all the stuffing inside had been pushed up to her chesticles.

There was something of the star quality about her. It was perhaps the easy confident way she held herself. The silver and sparklies that dripped from her wrist. Or the exuberance of that superstructure. I couldn’t help feeling that I knew her from somewhere.

Her companion didn’t seem to belong. Where she was glossy, he was dull. Where she was immaculately dressed and coiffed, he was in scruff. Her body was honed in a gym, upthrusting and pointy. He was the human equivalent of Rodin’s less known statue, the Sloucher. She was made for television, he was made for watching television.

Jealous, moi?

I couldn’t work out their relationship. Man and woman in a posh restaurant normally indicated a romantic liaison of some kind, but they seemed so different that I was searching for some other explanation. He didn’t look rich enough to have hired a companion from the murkier end of the Yellow Pages. He certainly wasn’t athletic enough to be a footballer, although she had more than a little of the footballer’s wife about her. Agent? Manager? Pimp? Brother?

Then the wine waiter arrived and the fun began. I had already chosen my tipple for the night – a cheeky little Chardonnay of which the wine list proudly told me that “The wood is shy”. Whatever that means. Something about a surreptitious erection, perchance?

Our starlet orders confidently, but Mr Comfy Trousers has a look of panic in his face. The restaurant is at that level of classiness that can sometimes be intimidating. You feel that your membership might be withdrawn at a moment’s notice if you use the wrong spoon to eat your kumquats. Surely, everyone knows that kumquats must be eaten with a size four pickle spoon in one’s left hand with pinkie extended, except when there is an R in the month when one uses a silver cocktail stick with just a pinch of salt.

Waiter: “Have you chosen your wine, sir?”

Him, frightened: “Oh yes please. I’d like some.”

Waiter: “Red or white, sir?”

Him, terrified: “Of course.”

Her, helping: “Maybe a red.”

Him, not so secretly grateful: “Oh, yes, a red please.”

Waiter: “Any particular red, sir?”

Him, wishing a hole would open up and swallow him: “Um, what would you recommend?”

Waiter: “That depends on sir’s tastes. What does sir normally drink? Do you like a merlot or a pinot noir?”

At this point our hero was squirming as if he desperately need to go to the little boy’s room and do a weewee. He was no doubt expecting some good nosh followed by a night of passion with the starlet. The last thing he wanted was to be quizzed about his knowledge of wines. Or lack thereof.

You could almost hear the cogs aclunking from across the room. My heart went out to him. I almost wanted to tug on his sleeves and tell him to just choose one. Merlot or Pinot Noir. Either would be fine. And if you don’t know what the names mean, you’ll be just as happy with either.

His indecision seemed to go on for an age. Then from some deep recess of his mind he dragged out “Rioja” to rhyme with Majorca.

Waiter: “Of course, sir.”

The look on his little face was a picture. It was part relief and part immense manly pride. He had met the wine waiter’s Minotaur in hand to hand combat and won.

From thence to the meal. We were served a selection of foams, quenelles, soups, jus and powders. Each dish was a blob of something which used to be food, next to a blob of something else which also used to be food, drizzled with a jus of … you guessed it … something food-flavoured, and topped with a crunchy powder. The star of the show was a shoulder of pork which was about the only thing that was recognisably part of an animal.

Afterwards, the Mem and I retired to our room to discuss the evening’s entertainment. That is, the entertainment that the evening had provided up to that point, and not the entertainment which may or may not have taken place afterwards.

It was at this point that my good lady wife displayed yet another of her many talents by providing a name for the delightful if somewhat top-heavy creature who had lit up our evening. It was XXX XXX, a star of the silver screen who had initially found fame and fortune by besporting those assets that had so caught my attention.

And in a very small way that made me feel a little less guilty for having noticed.

The wood is shy.


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