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Dennis and Shirley - The Lord and Lady Of Henry VIII Manor Eatery - Chapter 1

Viewed 1118 times 2018-1-18 08:27 |Personal category:StoryTeller|System category:Life

On the drive into Victoria’s high country - the Victorian Alps, from Melbourne, there is a scenic mountain road called the Black Spur or Black Spur Drive. It is one of the most popular rides for motorbikes, classic cars and convertibles (with their tops down), in Australia. It is also a great drive in a family car or bus. It is famous for being one of the most twisted roads with distractingly beautiful and spectacular scenery. It is tough to drive as a first-time driver if you are taken in by the amazing views all around - of the tall trees, hills, ferns, flowing streams and deep, steep ravines on one side, sharp cut slopes forming a wall on the other, a narrow single driving lane in each direction with no margin for error. When the mist rolls in during the cold season, it is as dangerous as it is beautiful to behold. It is better to be a passenger with a strong stomach to enjoy the ride and scenery.
After a nerve-racking, yet thrilling drive through the narrow road with torturous curves for about half-an-hour, non-stop, that demands the complete and undivided attention and diligence of the driver, many religious drivers and passengers usually say thanks to the Lord, having said fervent prayers until then.  Just surviving the drive gives an adrenaline rush to many. Many will feel they have earned a bit of rest, a drink or meal (some of those that had eaten before driving the curves have been known to eject their meals during or shortly after their exiting the ‘Black Spur’. Either way, most people are ready to sit down and refill their tanks at some inviting eatery.
At one end of this twisted stretch of highway lies the scenic town of Healesville and at the other end is a very tiny ‘town’ of Narbethong  that you can miss if you blink too long  or ask the question out loud “Where exactly are we now ?” as you drive past.
One can see clear signs saying “Pancakes” and “Scones” on the windows, from afar. 
Set among the stretches of large grazing paddocks, surrounded by hills on two sides, on one side of the highway in Narbethong, one can spot an oddly very ‘English’ looking house with the title of “Henry VIII Manor House Eatery”.

After an exciting and invigorating drive from Healesville through the Black Spur, a middle-aged couple with an older lady accompanying them pull into the gravel driveway of the ‘Manor’ across an arty garden area. They can see and sense an air of quaint, old-style English eatery.  If they pay attention, and look further down the driveway, they can see a typical Aussie looking dwelling, a variety of timber in the large open door garage and work shed.  Most will see the door leading to the eatery with the “WE’RE OPEN” sign flashing.
As they walk in through the door, a bell attached to it sounds, announcing their entry. They think they are being silently greeted by a knight in shining armour, with a lance and all, until they realise that it is all only armour and there is no person inside it. They look around and see large a room that is a mix of an art gallery and a restaurant with tables set.  There is a sign near the entrance that clearly says “If you bring in children, keep them chained to the chairs and not let them run around, both for their safety and ours. No babysitting services available.”  There is a list of the various languages and varying levels of proficiency of the host in these languages - from English to Swahili!

“Welcome folks, I will be with you in a moment!’ comes a strong male voice from the kitchen. It still has a strong hint of English accent, despite the many decades spent in Australia.
There are quirky items of wood, fabric, painting and bric-a-brac everywhere, around, on the tables, on the walls. Most of them are handmade, by the owners and local artists. There are wooden rocking horses, giant rolling pins and American made sweaters too. Parts of the room look a bit cluttered or messy. There is a lot of half-finished work lying around too.
There are handcrafted embroidery, little paintings and artwork that can brighten up any home. They all have an old-style, handmade, homemade authentic feel to them that cannot come from a factory or be mass produced.

The three guests stand at the door taking it all in.

“Oh! There you are,” a tall, clean shaven, still handsome looking man with long white mane of hair wearing a warm full-sleeved shirt and a sort of baggy track pants, walks over with a stiff gait to greet them. The man is actually about 80 years old, but has the mind and heart of a cheeky 18 year old. He does not look his age, but looks like he could be in his late sixties or seventies. He is Dennis - the Lord of the Henry VIII Manor House.

He goes up straight to the middle-aged lady as if he has known her all his life.
“So nice to see you, Dear! I am glad you decided to pay me a visit. So you could not keep away from me for long. I see you have brought along your lovely sister with you,” Dennis says looking towards the older woman, who is both stunned and flattered. He bows and takes hold of the middle-aged woman’s hand.
He then looks at the older woman and introduces himself, “I am Dennis, the lord of this manor - at your service,” with the gallant expression of a knight. The women start to smile and then laugh out aloud.
“Come on in, Dears. I shall lead you to your table. And you Sir, Did you lose your way and wander in? Or have you been following these lovely ladies around? Is he bothering you?” Dennis asks the middle-aged man as if he just noticed him.
For those that are not quick-witted, it takes a few seconds to ‘get’ Dennis. Some men laugh tentatively, but some get him in an instant. The women giggle and chortle like silly little girls.
“He is my husband, Ron,” says the middle-aged lady.
“Oh, that is alright, dear. We have all made mistakes,” says Dennis.
“And that is Doris, Ron’s mother,” says the middle-aged woman.
“Oh lovely Doris!  My sympathies to you too.  As I said before, we all make our mistakes. It is OK,” says Dennis looking pointedly at Ron.
Ron is laughing at the sheer audacity of the old man. Doris too cracks up.
“And that is Silvia, my daughter-in-law,” says Doris nodding towards the middle-aged lady.
“Ah! So that is your real name, Dear. You told me something different when we last met,” says Dennis, still holding her hand.
“So, do you flirt with all the women that come through here?” asks Silvia. Somehow she cannot take offense at this avuncular looking old man who is outrageous, yet charming.
“No, only with the good looking ones that fancy me,” says Dennis.
“And do you insult all the men who come through?” asks Ron smiling.
“Aren’t you the lucky one to be married to this gorgeous creature?” says Dennis. He then continues-“Let me guess where you are from. Doris and Ron, do I detect a trace of Geordie? And you, Silvia Dear, is there some Dutch in your background?”
They are all surprised and impressed and share a bit more about themselves.
Dennis has been around the world and travelled widely in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. It seems like he can pick up even faint accents accurately. Even if he really cannot always get it right, it does not matter, he brings out people’s desire to share and talk about themselves.
“So, when are you going to seat us or offer us something to eat? How long do you plan to keep holding Silvia’s hand,” asks Doris.
“Oh! Where are my manners! I am sorry, I could not help it. Once I look into your eyes and hold your hand, time stops for me,” says Dennis.
He then leads Silvia by the hand to a chair at a table.  He pulls out the chair for her to sit, while still holding her hand.  After she sits down, he lets go of her hand and turns to Doris and Ron.
“Come and sit down here,” He says pulls out a chair for Doris. He puts his arms around her shoulder and loudly whispers, “That Silvia is taken and I am heartbroken, but can I ask you if you are single and available, dear?”
Doris and Silvia are laughing and giggling now.
“So you did not miss a beat when Silvia broke your heart just now and you have moved on quickly,” taunted Doris.

“Well, as you can understand, at our age there is very little time left to mope,” says Dennis.
Ron pulls up a chair and sits down, chuckling.
There are sounds emanating from the kitchen of an utensil landing on a hard surface.
“Damn rats! I should have sprayed the poison more around the kitchen. Darn the pests!!” says Dennis. The looks on the faces of the guests is priceless.
There are more sounds of pans and pots rattling, water falling in the sink in the kitchen.  From the kitchen a woman’s voice rings out, “It’s alright. All fine.”
“Who is that?” asks Doris.
“That is the pest in the kitchen,” says Dennis in a loud whisper.
“I heard that, Dennis!” comes the voice from the kitchen again.
And as the three guest sit and look at the menu card displayed on their table with a very short menu - Pancakes, Scones, English style tea or Coffee, Roast dinner (In the evenings or call ahead) and “Ask if you want anything else, we’ll make an effort”.
Ron laughs and asks, “So what would you recommend?”
Dennis smiles and pauses for a minute when everyone is expectantly waiting for him to say something new and outrageous. He knows it.
“Personally, Sir, I would recommend the scones and pancakes.  Nothing frozen or from the fridge is served here. Everything here is made fresh from scratch. We have just harvested the wheat and milked the cows. The service is terrible, but we don’t charge for it,” he says.
“What is that last item on the menu? I am scared to ask but did it anyway,” says Doris, smiling mischievously. She is in a good mood now.
Dennis smiles broadly and pauses for effect and feigns surprise, even though he has been expecting this. He had added that last menu item on purpose.
“Well, my dear, you just ask for anything. I am willing to do anything for you. If you want to run away with me, we will have to give ‘her’ the slip,” Dennis says pointing towards the kitchen.
He turns to Ron and continues, “In addition we can serve some tomato and cheese on toast. If you want roast, mashed potatoes and veggies or a chicken roast, we can do that too, just takes a little longer. We just planted potatoes”
“Well, I will have the scones and English tea,” says Silvia. Doris orders the pancakes and Ron asks for the same with coffee.
“Doris, what would you like for a drink, dear?” asks Dennis.
“Tea, please!”
“We serve tea English style, with hot water and tea bags, sugar and milk, you can make it to your liking. There is enough to serve three or four,” says Dennis.
Dennis then shouts the orders to the kitchen from where there is the same female voice acknowledging the order.
“Shirley will be bringing you your orders. I will go and fetch the tea for you now,” says Dennis.
“Oh! Won’t you be serving us?” asks Doris, teasing him.
Dennis, looks at her and smiles widely.
“Oh, I will serve you any way I can. Can I tuck in your napkin for you?” Dennis says in a delighted tone, moves forward to pick up the neat white, folded cloth napkin, spreads it out on her lap as she sits shocked. He pretends he is ready to tuck in the napkin at her waist while she, Ron and Silvia are all sitting with their jaws dropping open.
“Just let me know when you want me to stop serving you, Doris!” says Dennis smiling.
Doris is flushed pink and she realises that he has only been teasing her and not made one inappropriate move. He has paused and is waiting cheekily smiling.
“I think I can manage from here,” she says.
Dennis stands up, goes over to a nearby table and picks up a little bell. He hands it to Doris and says, “You keep this with you, dear. I am at your beck and call. Just ring the bell whenever you want me. I will come running to serve you any way I can,” says Dennis shuffling off. He walks off slowly with a limp.
Ron cannot help himself, he says laughing but kindly, “Are you sure, you can come running Dennis? You look like you would find it hard.”
 Dennis stops and turns around pretends to be offended and looks around for sympathy.
“Oh, that is just the youth in their sixties speaking. Wait until you get to my age young man! The body cannot always keep up with the mind,” he says and then suddenly cups his mouth with his hands and smiles mischievously pointing looking towards Doris and whispers loudly, “I hope she did not hear that!”
He then says speaking loudly towards Doris, “Don’t you worry dear! Not all of my body has aged as much as my crook knees. We will be fine!”
“Dennis! Come here and get the tea tray,” comes a loud order from the kitchen.
“Coming, Dear!” says Dennis.
He continues to look at Doris fondly and says, “I will be gone just a minute, dear. I will miss you too.”
Everyone is just laughing at him now. He has not moved an inch towards the kitchen.
“Dennis!! Where are you? The tea will get cold. Come right now!” the voice from the kitchen sounds more demanding.
“I am coming, darling!” says Dennis in a surprisingly timid voice.
“Tough boss, lady eh?” says Silvia.
“She is the sweetest thing you can imagine,” says Dennis, while making gestures to imply she is a wild demon like creature.
“I saw that!” they hear from the kitchen as a stocky, well-built woman, middle-aged woman, about Silvia’s age, comes through in an apron with a large rolling pin in her hand. She raises the rolling pin in mock threatening fashion and advances towards Dennis.

“Here is the sweet angel I was telling you about,” says Dennis without missing a beat.
“Don’t beat me, Darling! Don’t beat me! I am rushing as fast as I can to the kitchen,” says Dennis, limping and shuffling a bit more than usual, striking a sorry, pitiful image.
Ron, Silvia and Doris are all now laughing helplessly at this drama.
“Hello and welcome! Has he been yakking and flirting and doing nothing useful?” says Shirley brushing herself and going from the menacing pose to a warm and welcoming one.
“Go and get the tea tray,” says Shirley to Dennis who goes off, stops near the kitchen door and turns towards the guests.  He fakes a strangling rope around his neck and blows a raspberry at Shirley who is asking them the details of their order and what else they would like with it. Ron, Doris and Silvia cannot help smile at him.
It is all part of the ‘experience’ at ‘Henry VIII Manor House Eatery’.

Photos credit and copyright (c) KIyer 2017
All rights reserved

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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  • The Christmas Spirit 2019-8-18 08:34

    SEARU: Welcome you being back on the forum! Your topic is interesting! We bloggers should post more writings with unique fresh ideas to reader-friends.
    In C ...
    thank you for your comment Searu! warm regards!

  • The Christmas Spirit 2019-8-16 15:42

    Welcome you being back on the forum! Your topic is interesting! We bloggers should post more writings with unique fresh ideas to reader-friends.
    In China people waste too much money on friends who have to organize a banque at restaurant for kinds of reasons. (Such as kid‘s birth,  entering university or wedding, death of parent, and so on.)  I think colleagues should care and help each other with real heart that pure relationship can not be measured with banknotes!

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