Tag Archives: wales

Restaurant/hotel review: “The Drawing Room”, Powys

We stayed here recently and I though it might be worth sharing our experiences.

More a restaurant with rooms or a boutique hotel, the owners of The Drawing Room set very high standards of presentation, decor, comfort and cooking, without being stuffy or overly formal. If you are staying in the area and can afford it, I’d recommend this over one of the larger hotels in Builth or Llandrindod Wells, particularly if you like elegance and peace and quiet.

The rooms are decorated in pastel shades with hand-made wallpapers and furniture in keeping with the archtiectural era of the house. Sumptuously thick materials suggest no expense was spared in getting the curtains and bedcovers right. There were more pillows and cushions than I could imagine using. Bad luck meant we weren’t able to get one of the larger rooms, but ours did not feel cramped.

As for the food, starters of a sort of crab timballe and a seafood meunière were competent and tasty while not dramatically good. The main courses delivered on their promise though. I had a Tournedos of Welsh Beef with caramelized Shallot “Tarte Tatin”, Potato and Root Vegetable Pavé, Horseradish and Parsley Cream and Beef Jus with Oxtail while Mrs Monnowman had a haunch of venison with sweet potato and asparagus. Both were very good, though of the two I was glad I had gone for the beef: the shallot tarte tatin was a revelation.

Cappuccino Mousse was a very grown up (read: “not too sweet”) dessert for Mrs M. while I went for the Toasted Pine Nut & Honey Tart with poached Figs and “Glaslyn” Estate Wild Flower Honey Ice-cream: a delightful combination of flavours and textures.

The passion of the proprietor chef for good, local ingredients, sympathetically cooked, is obvious in the richness of flavours delivered without the food becoming over-contrived in that fashionably- Michelin-starred way.

Only quibbles were the request in the literature not to drink your own alcohol in the rooms (you are asked to buy their -very expensive- stuff); we could easily hear our neighbours in the adjacent room; and the hostess, when serving food, said “thank you” too often!

But these are minor niggles. We really enjoyed our stay and the food was very good: recommended.

England or Britain? A guide for Americans and too many English people

“We call our islands by no less than six different names, England, Britain, Great Britain, the British Isles, the United Kingdom and, in very exalted moments, Albion. How can one make a pattern out of this muddle?”

George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn

This BBC News article, combined with a recent visit to the USA reminded me of the misunderstanding that exists in the minds of not just Americans and others but – embarrassingly – English people about when to use the word words England and English. I should stress that I don’t believe it’s malicious; more a bad habit whose avoidance can prevent giving offence to those born in the constituent countries of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland outside England. I also stress that I’m no constitutional expert: my own qualifications are merely having been born in England and living in Wales.

Credit: Wikipedia

In short England is used wrongly to refer to the sovereign state whose formal name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This misuse went on in political circles until relatively recently, with Winston Churchill speaking during World War Two of ‘England’ when he was referring to the aformentioned sovereign state. Or was he? There’s an essay for a first year PPE student.

Recent devolution of some government powers away from the United Kingdom government and parliament in Westminster to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have served to make this issue more important to handle sensitively.

My guide for the uncertain:

  • Only use England when referring to the constituent country called England. Don’t use England if you mean the United Kingdom. If you are talking about someone or something from Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and the constituent country is relevant, don’t say ‘English’. Say Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish. If you’re not sure, see below.
  • Use ‘Britain’ or ‘The United Kingdom’, or ‘The UK’  when referring to the United Kingdom or if you’re not sure – or it’s not relevant – to which constituent country you are referring. The same goes for the adjective British.

The Council excepts no liability…

A sign in one of Monmouth’s main car parks states that Monmouthshire County Council “excepts no liability” for loss or damage to property. So if it excepts no liability does that mean that it accepts all liabilities?amelie 043

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Welsh, Waxed Jackets and Close Harmony

Autumn is here. I know this because I have started wearing my waxed jacket and turning on the heating in the car during the morning drive to work. Oh, and I suppose nature is sending the obvious signals too, like turning leaves a different colour. I expect the Wye Valley will be glorious in a week or two. I don’t resent the onset of Autumn with its leaden skies and winds as I used to: the landscape around here is still beautiful.

K and I have signed up for a thirty-week course of evening classes in Welsh, on Friday nights (yes, Fridays!). Not sure why my lovely wife is doing it: probably to humour me. I’m doing it a) to get me out of the house b) to stimulate the little grey cells and c) (this is the really pretentious one) because I’m trying to make a connection with the language that used to be spoken in these islands before the Saxons arrived. My colleagues and elder daughter think I’m mad, but I insist I’m not trying to be pretentious. A possible d) might be because, as an immigrant to Wales (by quarter of a mile or so) and as a sometime linguist, I think it’s only polite to try learn the language of the country one inhabits.

Oh, and I’ve started a course in barbershop/acapella singing with a local male chorus on Tuesday nights. I am singing “bom, bo-bum-bum bom bum” so much around the house that little A. thinks that particular phrase is one she should add to her vocabulary. The latter, incidentally, has now, at K’s reckoning, about a hundred words. Little A. will soon start putting them together in two’s! Most charming is the way Little A. says “goodbye” which varies with the person concerned. “Goodbye Daddy” is “Da-da-da-da-da-da Daddy”, while “Goodbye Granny” is “Na-na-na-na-na-na-nanny”. “Finished” is “finith” and “Here, take this” has become “fankoo”.

We are looking for a place to buy in Monmouth. Hard work as we don’t want to compromise and Monmouth is pricey. British houses are so small and overpriced! If you ever visit us and you come from another country, yes, small houses with low ceilings and tiny front lawns are the norm and no, we don’t like it either.