I won't drop anyone's name, including yours, Your Majesty
Published 31 August 2008 News Review 789th article
Michael with Joseph and Alison Petitjean at Brockencote Hall (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)
I'm fed up with readers writing that I never go north of Watford. This is the fourth review this year of a northern place. With at least three more to come.
I'm also fed up with readers telling me I'm a name-dropper. So are you. You talk about the people you meet. Mrs Betty Twiddle the shopkeeper, Elisa Birdwalk the lawyer, Rog Makepeace the used-car dealer, Mr and Mrs Plod your neighbours. They're names. You drop them. I live my life among famous people. That I mention them when recording my wanderings is no more name-dropping than you.
I'm in combative mood today. Also, don't write to me asking for restaurant telephone numbers and addresses. Haven't you heard of directory enquiries?
Apart from that, you're all wonderful. Including those who write insulting letters. We get lots of letters saying how marvellous I am (sweet of you, I know) but they're less entertaining than the ones slagging me off. Many of those, after vitriolic abuse, end with: "Keep up the good work, best wishes".
Now to Chaddesley Corbett near Kidderminster in Worcestershire. I had to be in Birmingham for one of my police ceremonies, honouring DC Michael Swindells, who was stabbed to death on a canal pathway. Nobody in their right mind stays in Birmingham. So I chose Brockencote Hall hotel, which is nearby.
Unlike the horrific Slaley Hall hotel near Newcastle, Brockencote was fantastic. It's a beautiful building, which the owners claim dates back 300 years. That means there may be a stone somewhere from 1700.
It's set in 70 acres of glorious parkland. More importantly, it's very classy, owned by lovely people, Alison Petitjean and her hubby Joseph, who used to be the chef.
The bedroom (they have no suites; build one for me in case I return) had 18th century-type French wallpaper, lovely prints, dried flowers in an old fireplace.
The dining room is exquisitely furnished with tasteful chandeliers and wall brackets, nice view over the gardens. So why spoil it with piped music? It's not a fairground or an amusement arcade. Also the bar is grotesque. Modern, ghastly beyond belief. Why, when all the other rooms are so well done? Rip out the bar and put something in that matches the style of the house.
The food was fine. Not historic, but very acceptable. I started with Perigord duck foie gras, armagnac and salt flour. The waiter, on delivering it, recited what it was. That's really irritating. They do it all over the place. Pompous nonsense. I ordered the stuff. It wasn't so long ago I've forgotten. I don't need some twit telling me what the food is. I can see it. It's in front of me.
I'd also noticed that a table of three who came in after me got served their starter before I did. Perhaps my waiter was rehearsing his delivery of what I was to get and forgot to bring it.
My main course was fillet of Brixham plaice, compote of onions, broad beans, girolle mushrooms and almond oil. "It was pleasant," I dictated onto my tape.
I dictated my opinion of the entire meal and everything surrounding it. Geraldine said, "The fact I have to sit here and listen to this is unbelievable." I dictated that onto my tape too.
Another good thing: they served superb Malvern water. Not the ghastly Hildon, Blenheim or Tufa water. They're all dreadful. Malvern water has the royal crest on it. They supply it to the Queen. What's good enough for her is okay for me. Lovely woman.
When Richard Kline, my Hollywood cinematographer, came over as my guest he wanted to see parliament in action. They were on holiday. So I rang Edward Young, assistant private secretary to the Queen, and said, "Can I come round the palace state rooms, please? I can't queue because I'm crippled."
Edward said, "We know that. The Queen followed your illness closely."
"Goodness me," I responded. "Her Majesty followed my progress when I was ill?"
"She was most concerned," said Edward. That's nice, I thought. Very nice.
I spent two hours hosting Her Majesty when she unveiled my National Police Memorial. My high opinion of her rose to stratospheric. Even though I called her "Darling" three times. She either didn't hear or tactfully ignored this disgusting breach of protocol.
The state rooms of Buckingham Palace are a fantastic outing. Sadly no tea or cakes were served. Although I have had a cuppa or two (with biscuits) in the palace with Edward Young. I've never seen so much gilt as I saw in the Buck Pal state rooms. Actually, I did once, at the Kremlin. Both great places to gawp at. Visit them. You'll love it.
PS: Corporate Catering Solutions of Birmingham did our reception after DC Swindells's memorial unveiling. They were very good. Lovely sausage rolls, sandwiches, cheese straws and cakes. Thanks, fellows.
I hope you're not mellowing. You wrote, "The dining room of the Mas de Pierre is modern elegant and chi-chi but I can understand people liking it." Since when have you deluded yourself that views different from yours could have merit? Come on, man, if you don't get a grip, I'll have to change newspapers!
Norman Hodgson, Tyne & Wear
I object to your suggesting La Colombe d'Or raise its prices. I have modest means and it's a treat to go there. You can afford debts, even brag about them. You're just messing things up for us.
Jeremy Child, Hertfordshire
A stranger approached me and said, "You're Michael Winner!" I'm not sure if this gratuitous insult was directed at you or me. I'd send you a photo of myself, but I don't want to spoil your week.
Stan Condon, Northamptonshire
Like Mrs Froomberg last week, British Airways lost my suitcase. They paid £776 compensation citing the Montreal convention. I'm taking them to court for an extra £1,500 for luggage and £500 for distress, work, etc. BA's solicitors say unless I withdraw I'll have to pay their costs which they estimate at £4,404! Is that bullying or what?
Caren Saville Sneath, London
After seeing Mamma Mia!, my wife asked what Abba meant. I told her, "Anyone but British Airways".
Michael Joseph, Manchester