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Conversations in the Dining Room

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Emma Knytleigh: In an attempt to record the current history of Stoney Grove a number of interviews and conversations will be recorded with some of the people who have connections with the estate. Accordingly the Dining Room has been supplied with hidden microphones and recording equipment to allow the process to take place in as natural a setting as possible.  Participants are, of course, aware that conversations are being recorded.

Transcript: First Dinner in the Dining Room, hosted by Ann Simons and Simon Tinsley, guests Phil and Caroline Porkridge, EK

Ann:  I hope this goes well.  We haven't had a chance to entertain much and I don't even know them...

Simon:  Don't worry.  It'll be fine.  You're brilliant.

Caroline (entering with Phil): It's very grand, and candles too. I'm sure you eat here every night.

Ann: Actually no, you're our first guests and this is the first official meal here. The candles are really because the lights kept flickering on and off.  No idea why, they've been fine.

Phil: It's a bit posh for eating in though, isn't it? Do you have a butler?

Simon: Yes, right now Jeeves is destroying my Levi jeans and solving a tricky problem involving my old friend Biggles-Arnfart.

Ann:  Shirley and I cooked.  We have it here with plate warmers since the kitchen is pretty far away. I'm afraid we'll be serving ourselves.

Caroline: Oh, I much prefer informality. We do some entertaining ourselves. Every Thursday a different couple prepares a little something. My duck a l'orange with petit pois and steamed asparagus tips last week was considered something of a triumph.

Phil: So are you really having money troubles?

Caroline: Phil! The vegetables in the soup are enormous.

Simon: I think the money's secure in the long term, but the account's suspended at the moment because of book-keeping irregularities. This house just needs an incredible amount of money spent on it. We were a little naive when we bought it.

Ann: We've been over the house with the local historic buildings man, Chester Vyse. I think we'll need a full-time restoration crew here for the next couple of years at least. I'd also like to get a historical archaeologist to look at the landscape. I feel like we've taken on an obligation now and that we should fulfill it.

Simon: Chester was very attentive.

Caroline: It's so hard to get good help. We had our bathroom done and found a very nice man. He  wasn't cheap, but you get what you pay for, don't you? I could find you his name but he's hard to get hold of, very much in demand. Oh, what an interesting sauce.

Ann: That would be nice, though we do have a firm who specialize in eighteenth-century repairs who are going to give us a quote.

Caroline: Well, let me know. It's always better to get a personal recommendation though, I find. So have you heard from Jackie, Simon? I know you two were always good friends.

Simon: No, no time really to catch up on old friends. Phil is really the only one I called.

Ann: Didn't you get a letter from someone named Jackie last week?

Simon: Yes, well just a short note, she's up North in Nottingham.

Caroline: Well I'm sure she'd love to see you. Nothing like old friends. If my memory serves me well, and I think it does, she was your first girlfriend, wasn't she? I mean after Fredericka in Abba.

Simon: Yeah, that's right. That was before she spent five years going out with Phil.

Caroline: Well that's water under the bridge. I've never been much interested in history.

Phil: So why don't you open the house to the public? That would raise some money.

Caroline: I always think these places belong to everyone, really. Well, the English, of course.

Ann: Well, we've considered it. It would allow us to apply for some loans and grant money. We want to do this  right. Right now  we have a graduate student, Emma Knytleigh, doing some research for us.

Phil: Right, the one shacked up with the old guy.

Simon: We're hoping we can open the house 'virtually' to start with. Emma is doing some web pages so people can visit from all over the world. I think the Hermit is holding her pen.

Phil: Or the other way around, nudge nudge.

Simon: Nod's as good as a wink to a blind man.

Ann: The hermit is called Frank Churchill.  He taught English literature.

Phil: Still, if it's on the web people can come during work. Won't have to wait for their holidays. At least you won't have to worry about the loos! No need for toilets on the internet. And you wouldn't need a tea room either. Can't really have a house open without a tea room otherwise, can you?

Caroline: Well this was very nice. The strawberries were quite tasty. We've been buying the small ones from Frascati, Italy. Still you can have too much of a good thing, can't you? I think we should go to bed now though. After all it was a long drive. Phil?

Simon: Stop up a bit longer Phil. I want to show you this book on wine tasting.

Ann: Well I'm tired too. It seems Victorian, but shall we leave the men, Caroline?

Caroline: Thank you so much for a wonderful meal. I'll see you later Phil.

(note: women evidently leave, EK)

Simon: So I have this book on wine tasting. Under here, carefully disguised, are several bottles of France's finest.  I thought we could spend a tranquil evening making a serious acquaintance with the fruit of the vine.

Phil: The French are good for some things.

Simon: Now it says we should warm the glass on the candle. Damn!

(sound of glass breaking, EK)

Simon: Ok, slightly warm and then just a third full, swirl, sniff and taste.

Phil: Where do I spit?

Simon: Just swallow it.

Phil: Oh, right, very nice.

Simon: It's says you should have a Bath Oliver biscuit with it, but I couldn't find any so I got digestives.

Phil: Chocolate?

Simon: Plain. Now try this one. A delicate flavour with the hesitancy of a bloke on a first date, perhaps.

Phil: Deer caught in headlights?

Simon: This one is got a bit more oomph. Textured like sunlight through a dusty pane.

Phil: Perky yet cheesy, like the keyboards on a Doors song.

Simon: And this one very confident, like a horny hermit who's found a home.

Phil: Like the bounce and hope of a young mans fancy!

Simon: Brash and bold, Gary Glitter accompanied by the Brighouse and Rastrick colliery band.

Phil: I think we ought to get drunk every night!