14 February 2011

Men, Money & Chocolate (February column)

Men, Money & Chocolate is the delicious title of a new book by my friend, Menna Van Praag. Menna considers these three luxuries the most primal desires of every woman. As a roaming Shakespeare scholar, I don’t know much about money, but I certainly have opinions on the other two, especially the English varieties!

What is there not to love about an Englishman? He’s well read, knows how to dress, can hold his own in a conversation, has impeccable manners, knows which fork to use, isn't afraid to be romantic or cry, and enjoys a good laugh.
My very own ‘Darling English Boy’ is an apt example. A few months ago, his folk duo performed for the Barford W.I. After their performance, a fellow WI member made a beeline for me. “Aren’t you lucky?” she exclaimed breathlessly. But instead of praising his musical talent, or his boyish good looks, she was enthralled by how, during the performance, he had removed his jumper and placed it neatly on his chair - after first folding it with great care.

Last February, I was a guest on Annie Othen’s radio show for Valentine’s Day. After indulging in a massive chocolate fountain, we were treated by a visit from “Mr. England”- Andreas Kattou.
Annie asked Andreas (a handsome, Warwickshire lad from Nuneaton) if there might be “a special someone” to whom he’d like to send his love? Andreas set dozens of hearts and the in-studio phone alight when he responded affectionately: “My mum.”

That’s what we love about Darling English Boys. They love their mums, and know how to handle cashmere!

A university chum of mine, Meggie, grew up in what she described as a “very English” household in Muswell Hill, where her father got up and made tea for everyone each morning. I spent a lovely weekend with them and, true to form, every morning there was a light knock on my door: Meg’s dad with a cup of tea. He whispered softly, “Good morning”, as he placed the cup on my bedside table.
I have no doubt that this experience shaped my thoughts about men, and Englishmen in particular. Meg’s dad became an archetype of the sort of man I hoped to find in later life.

Before Meggie’s dad there was “Mister Rogers" – an American children’s TV presenter. Although he wasn’t English, he seemed very much so to me. He was caring and tidy. At the start of each show he came into his house, changed out of his outdoor shoes, hung his jacket up on a hook, and wrapped himself in a cashmere cardigan. He personified gentleness and quiet strength. At the end of each show, he smiled warmly into the camera enquiring: “Won’t you be my neighbour?”
Without a doubt, I was brainwashed at the age of 5. Mister Rogers and cashmere - my life would never be the same. Now, after years in the wilderness, I have finally found this sort of man in real life.
And, yes, he even brings me a cup of tea each morning.

Not to forget the chocolate…
Sweet As - “Passionate about Chocolate”, 7 Warwick Place, Leamington Spa                               Tel. 01926 330073                                                                                                               www.sweet-as.co.uk
Special Valentine’s chocolate treat for Warwickshire Life readers! Mention “The Shakespeare Diva” and receive a £2.00 discount on a Sweet As cupcake box of two (normally £5.00). 

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