Published 27 October 1996 Style Magazine 173th article
On a roll: Michael Winner tests a hot dog in Dorset, left (Vanessa Perry), and Vanessa Perry holds, briefly, onto an ice cream (Arnold Crust)
It was a tricky choice. Should I have the "jumbo" hot dog at £1.50 or the "small" one at 80p? I asked Linda Attrell, in her caravan-type booth, the difference. There are two sausages in the jumbo, one in the small, she explained. Should I go mad and have a fried-egg sandwich for £1? Or a sausage sandwich for £1.20? At moments such as these you need your wits about you. I was on the fringe of a car park in Highcliffe. We'd walked from Chewton Glen Hotel to the sweeping Christchurch Bay, very English, with severe scenery, little houses and small blocks of ﬂats facing the sea. "There's people with ice creams," I said to Vanessa, seeing specks on the cliff top. "Let's investigate.”
We'd turned down Sunday lunch at Chewton Glen, beignets of cod cooked in beer batter, roast striploin black Aberdeen angus served with Yorkshire pudding and a light jus, and much more. I climbed the steep, stony path. At the top was an old-fashioned double seat looking out to sea and to the car park. And two stalls, one for ice cream, the other I now faced. "I'll have a jumbo frankfurter hot dog," I said. "With or without onions?" asked Linda. "With," I replied. I filled it with tomato ketchup. It was a nice hot dog. Not as good as Nathan's in New York, but very serviceable.
The problem was that members of the public kept coming up and asking to be photographed with me. It's difficult trying to look suave putting your arms round someone's wife, when you're halfway through a messy hot dog. I acquitted myself well.
When I'd finished, I was on a roll, Figuratively and literally. What the hell, I'd have a sausage sandwich. "Is it toasted?" I asked. " 'Fraid not," said Linda. So I got two bits of white bread with two pork sausages sliced in between. I filled that with mustard. Even more messy when people came to take a piccy-poo. That completed, I turned to the dessert booth. I chose a whippy soft ice cream. Tacky, no real quality, but a splendid experience. For aficionados, it was made from Long Life Cornelle Icecream Mix. John Davies showed me the canister. I was about to wander along the cliff top when I spotted another type of ice cream, New Forest, "small child's 70p". It is made in Lymington, up the road. Local produce, I must try that. I chose a mint choc chip. Sadly, it was very disappointing.
We were about to go, when Vanessa decided she hadn't got a photograph of herself with an ice cream and wanted, most properly, to capture this moment for ever. Another whippy ice cream was purchased. I'm ashamed to say I ate half of that as well. Then even I was defeated and we put the remainder in a bin. We returned to sit on the elegant terrace of Chewton Glen, facing the croquet lawn. Vanessa had sandwiches, I had a rather past-it melon. We both had earl grey.
My mind wandered to a previous ice cream investigation in the town of Santa Margherita, on the Ligurian coast near Portofino. This is where I was arrested by the port police for parking in the wrong place. They sent an officer back with me to the Hotel Splendido to see I didn't escape. The following year I took my article to show the arresting officer, Sabini Stefano. I drove down the picturesque harbour to the police station, a lovely old shuttered building. But Signore Stefano was no longer there. I was shown into the commander's office, where a large number of port police stood behind him as he read the account of my arrest. It was like a scene from Bilko. Everyone grouped round sarge. After they'd finished, I said: "By the way, mind if I park outside the station?" This produced a unanimous roar of laughter, which I took to mean "Yes". When I came back from buying ice cream at Slurp, the world equal best with the Harbour Bar, Scarborough, there was a ticket on my car! I was enraged! I drove out of the port, which now had a barrier pole manned by a policeman, I remembered him from the station, so I took the ticket, did a terrific imitation of an infuriated Italian waving his arms about, and gave it to him. He took the ticket graciously and I heard no more. Thereafter I travelled to Santa Margherita by speedboat for my Slurp crema di riso, cioccolato bianco or cocco and fiord soia. All incredible. Far better than Gelateria Il Portico a little way down the seafront road. These are gems of information you only get here. Remember them.
All I wanted was a cup of coffee. I was the second person in the National Gallery's Sainsbury Wing brasserie after the doors opened at 10am, and was greeted by one of about six staff members. I then watched them chat and giggle, coming and going from the kitchen. At 10 past 10 I walked across to one of the bar staff and asked if it was possible to order a coffee. He said "yes" curtly and continued to fiddle with his paperwork. Finally, a waitress came to take my order. I complained about the service, for which she seemed genuinely apologetic. However, as she returned to the bar, a colleague said to her, so clearly that I could hear him across the restaurant: "Don't worry about her. She's obviously got problems." What impression would tourists go home with after an encounter like mine?
Lynn Picknett, London NW8.
Do other companies have problems booking their office Christmas celebrations at this time of year? As a small public relations consultancy, we decided a dinner followed by dancing at a prestigious London Hotel would be suitable. The Savoy, however, our favoured option, refused to send through the menu unless we confirmed the booking.
Angela Oakes, Oakes Bacot, London W1.
Keep smiling, Michael, it always makes you look so jolly and people wonder what you've been up to. My, this young fella does bear a strong resemblance, doesn't he?
Cherry and Brian Tomkins, Letchworth, Herts.