Monday, 30 December 2013

Two Sawyers Christmas Party

Every year us drammy folks get together to celebrate a year of (hopefully) theatrical success by drinking and eating ourselves into a stupor.  It helps for developing our stage presence, or at least makes it easier for the audience to see us on stage.  Ahem.    For the last couple of years our venue of choice to desend upon en-masse has been the Two Sawyers.
It is a little off the beaten track, outside of the city walls and not the most obvious location for a party, but it has one very distinct thing going for it.
It serves chips at the buffet.  Hot, steaming, crispy yet fluffy chips.  The type of chips you burn your fingers and tongue on as you are too impatient to let them cool down before you stuff your face.  At a buffet.  For us, this is genius.
This is the main reason we come here for our Christmas shindigs! Of course it is not the only reason.  It is also warm and friendly and when I called to book they remembered us and said that they didn't mind how long we stayed for - the front doors could always be locked as long as we didn't mind the landlord hanging around in his pajamas.  Can't really ask for more than that!
Recently I seem to have stumbled into the role of adhoc social secretary for the Players.  It's a relatively easy role as we don't really need a lot of arm twisting as an excuse to come out and play and just really involves remembering to remind people about our monthly social and organising our Christmas party.
A lot of people thanked me afterwards for sorting out our little get together and I felt like such a fraud for accepting their thanks as it really was the simplest thing in the world!  All it involved was calling the pub, setting a date, getting some cash off people, give the cash to the pub and show up.  Damn, if this is all it takes to be an event organiser I should have switched careers years ago!

We are a pretty chilled out and relaxed brunch normally but at this time of year the Christmas spirit (and the Christmas beer and the Christmas wine and the Christmas gin) was flowing and everyone got a little more sparkly than normal.
I mentioned the chips but the Two Sawyers does a mean hot buffet for groups.  There is a mountain of food and it just keeps coming; from duck and hoisin spring rolls to prawn wonton's, beetroot and goats cheese mini pies to jacket potatoes complete with cheesy beans.  It is a glutton's paradise.
Desserts are even better and there may have been a couple of platters that (not so discretely) disappeared onto individual tables!
It is the last chance for us to gather before the Christmas season gets into full swing so everyone is taking advantage to dish out cards and well wishes and stock up on the gossip for the next couple of weeks.
The Two Sawyers is a lovely little pub for this type of occasion.  It is warm and intimate with a brilliant selection of wine, cider and ale behind the bar (a selection that a few people were determined to work their way through).
It is another oldie but goldie; there is mention of a Two Sawyers in Ivy Lane in 1784 and you can trace publicans back to the 1800's.  It had a facelift in 2012 (when they got rid of the jukebox - something I was devastated about as many an evening had been spent in here, pouring money into it and singing at the top of our lungs.  Come to think of it, we may have been the reason that they got rid of it).
It appeals to locals and is a popular haunt for the college kids down the road.  Sawyer is an archaic term for someone who cuts wood to length and if you look closely around the pub there are subtle tributes to the pub's nomenclature.
There is a nice little beer garden to while away the summer days in but in my mind this will always be a winter pub.
It just seems to work well with twinkling lights and board games by the fireplace.  It has its own resident dog as well that will happily wander around and beg for bar treats.
I suppose it is only inevitable when a group of us get together but talk soon turned to our up and coming productions.  For some of us (Steve, RV, Sinead, Ben, Stella and myself as well as quite a few others) rehearsals for our next play, Hobson's Choice, start in early January so we all chatted about how little line learning we have actually done and the state of our turn-of-the-century northern accents.  We are on in March at the Playhouse in Whitstable so I have 3 months to crack the vowel sounds!
John was keen to promote his musical debut with one of the other companies in Canterbury, the Canterbury Operatics.  They are in the middle of rehearsals for Sweeney Todd at the moment, going on stage at the Marlowe in May and John is playing Anthony.
I'm looking forward to seeing that!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas; The Extended Cut

Christmas Day is peaceful and quiet.  Steve and I celebrate it on our own, exchanging presents in the morning with fresh brewed coffee, munching on smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.  After we have managed to wrestle the last of the wrapping paper out from between the cat's claws, Steve gets on with cooking Christmas dinner which is devoured by me and then we try and feel better about it by  going for a really long walk through the countryside, hip flasks filled with brandy in hand before curling up on the sofa together to watch some comedy, all washed down with copious amounts of champagne and wine.
It is quiet and relaxed and low key and rather alcoholic.
Boxing Day, less so.  Apart from the alcohol.  The second you walk through my parents front door a glass is pressed into your hand and filled to the brim with fizzing champagne.  I felt quite sorry for Steve and Gary, the two designated drivers for the day who were both on soft drinks!
We normally visit Steve's folks the weekend before Christmas so Boxing Day is spent with my parents at their house.  They are often a little hungover from the previous day but ready for Christmas Take 2.  This year was a little different as Mum and Dad were flying to Africa the next day which meant we had to condense the party into 6 short hours before being booted out of the house.
Boxing Day at my folks means lots of food, lots of alcohol, lots of chocolate and lots of noise.  It is not just us, my extended family is also there.

I grew up with Jan - she lived across the road from me with her parents and her mum would take us and my sister to school in the mornings, then my mum would pick us up in the afternoon and Jan would hang out at our house until about 5.30 when her mum would come and collect her.   We played games, rode our bikes around the neighbourhood, roller bladed up and down the close, watched films and became adults together.
We followed this same routine for 12 years and Jan and her parents became our extended family.  To this day they still spend some of the Christmas period with my mum and dad, only now Jan is married and has a small one of her own!
Having Kian around makes Christmas a lot more interesting.  He is now at the age where he gets properly excited about opening presents and he instantly spotted the shiny packages when he came into the house! 
Of course he wasn't the only one excited about more presents!  My mum has a habit of going completely overboard with Christmas and this year was no exception - I was thoroughly spoilt by her!
The Chilli Vodka was a gift from my sister.  Now I like my heat, but boy does this thing have a kick!  I licked the cork and had a coughing fit.  This is possibly the hottest thing I have ever tasted.
Oh, apart from this one.
This one belongs to my mother.  Mine is 100,000 scovilles.  My mum's is 250,000.  My mum can take more heat than anyone I have ever met and she is quite happy to sip this slowly.  I took one sip and pretty much burst into tears.  This is hotter than anything I have ever tasted and consequently I now want my own bottle!  In the meantime I'm looking forward to trying Bloody Mary's and Drunken Noodle Pasta with the 100,000 chilli vodka.  I'm guessing it is really going to spice things up a little!
After presents had been torn open it was time to head through for lunch.  I always love the festive table mum sets - it looks warm and sparkly, covered in chocolate coins, mini gold nuggets, baubles and a centre piece made of glass globes and candles.
Cold cuts and leftovers are, for me, one of the best parts of Christmas.  I just love the food, served with my mum's special yellow fried potatoes (an old family recipe, handed down from my grandmother that I will share one day), sweetcorn, pickles and chutneys.  To this day I cannot eat cold meat without fried potatoes and sweetcorn and my sister always calls dibs on the sausage meat stuffing.  It is a completely relaxed affair - help yourself, go up as many times as you want and pile your plate high.
Once settled around the table for a while conversation is quiet as people tuck in and then it turns to all manner of things under the sun as we catch up with each other and I hear the stories of the games people played drunkenly the day before.
Throughout the whole dinner Spiderman was there to make sure no dastardly villains could steal away the food (and to eat all the pigs in blankets himself) and also to dig for the gold (nuggets from the table his grandfather hid around the house for him to go looking for).  I think Spiderman is considering a career change to a prospector.
Once dinner is over and the last mince pie has been devoured it is time for more food; cheese and wine by the fire.
Unfortunately the numerous bottles of empty wine and champagne does mean that getting the group shot of everyone took far, far longer than it should have done and this was the best we could come up with. 
I completely blame the champagne.  And the wine.  And the vodka.
It was shortly after this that we were booted out of the house so that mum and dad could get ready for their early morning start.  We set off and I promptly fell asleep in the car on the way home, completely worn out by a 3 year old.
Don't let his innocent looking face fool you.