Today we drove out to a country pub we'd never been to before - The Blackboys Inn, just the other side of Ringmer on the B2192. It's quite a quirky place, with lots of little nooks and crannies, and a couple of exterior barns/function rooms - one Moroccan-themed and the other painted bright red with wacky modern art on the walls. We ate our lunch in the main part of the pub, which is fairly traditionally decorated and cosy. The staff were evidently still recovering from a big wedding there the day before, and things were a little frantic behind the bar. I chose one of only two vegetarian options offered - a sweet potato and zucchini (or courgette) risotto. It was well presented, and looked promising, but turned out to be disappointingly bland. At £10.50, I would have expected something much more flavoursome and imaginative. Even more upsettingly, it was spiked with very finely chopped celery, the one vegetable I cannot abide. I thought I would give the puddings a go, in the hope that the kitchen might redeem itself, but after waiting for 15 minutes I decided to cancel my order.
We didn't want to miss the start of the gig for which we'd specifically come to this neck of the woods, which was being held in the barn (the red one), known as 'The Room', next door to the pub. We'd come to see Ben Parker (left), of Ben & Jason fame, who was doing an acoustic set as part of a monthly programme (called 'Second Sunday') at the venue. After a couple of excellent warm-up songs from the host, DrBoKarma, and his daughter, Ben started his set with an old Ben & Jason number - reducing both Ant and I to tears instantly. B&J's second album Emoticons was very much the soundtrack to the 'courting' era of our relationship, and hearing music from it evokes some deeply emotional memories for us. The rest of the show was a mixture of new solo material and other B&J stuff, all delivered with the same spine-tingling gusto that we've come to expect from this incredibly talented and charismatic musician. It was wonderful to see Ben on top form in such an intimate setting, and his breathtaking performance more than made up for the bad lunch beforehand. He also very kindly gave us a (now quite collectible) 7" single of 'Romeo & Juliet' after we told him that it was 'our song' - what a sweetie. Come back again soon please, Mr Parker.
For more info on Ben Parker, visit his myspace page: www.myspace.com/benparkermusic. And if you don't already own Emoticons, go and buy it now from Amazon - every record collection should have a copy.