Back To The Future

You learn something new every day, the epergne is the decorative thing with fruit on it


For anyone whose heart sinks at the mere thought of dining in a clattery minimalist space with hard surfaces everywhere, I can recommend a trip back to nineteenth century Edinburgh. The spouse and I joined friends for a very nice dinner last night, at the home of a friend who is a design historian and collector and who likes to live right in the midst of his amazing collections. Patterned rugs on the floor, heavy brocade fabrics draped everywhere and objets covering every available surface make for the perfect acoustic setting for chat. This is just as well for the hearing impaired, since the authentic 19th century dining experience also requires low paraffin lighting, several blazing candelabra at face height and a towering epergne table centrepiece, which you get to eat during the cheese course (apart from the tulips).

A fabulous time was had by all, and I was even able to burn off a few calories from the very delicious pudding as I leant to and fro from behind the epergne to catch the quieter bits. No such trouble with the spouse though, his welcome foghorn tones were clearly audible, even without a face.

At the end of the night, the train back to Glasgow returned us straight back to the 21st century with a bump. A couple of boozed-up 14 year olds in the next seats treated us to an extremely tinny selection of their favourite tunes played at maximum volume on an iPhone. They even waved it around at arm’s length, so that we could continue to enjoy it when the noise of the train threatened to drown it out.

A polite request through gritted teeth to turn it down a bit failed, rather predictably, but I felt a warm glow as I reflected that in the 19th century, the young whippersnappers would have been sent up a chimney.

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