Twice in our lives we have followed the path to make a small fortune:  start with a middle sized fortune and buy a restaurant. Won’t make that mistake again.

But it did leave me with a wealth of experiences and stories. Like the one about…… well let’s call them Sebastian and Seymour. One of the gentlemen involved has since died – old age, not our cooking – and anyone who knows or knew them will easily recognise them from the descriptions below but out of respect I will keep names and places vague :o)

They are/were artists, well-known and very well respected.  Sebastian is considered very collectable in certain high blue-blooded circles.  Seymour was primarily known as an illustrator, particularly a collection of very famous novels with his work on the covers. Though he should not just be remembered for that, particularly in trompe l’oeil.

When we knew them they had been together for decades – in fact they lived together for 70 years in total.  They lived in a riverfront townhouse across the square from us. The village we lived in was/is knee-deep in people involved in the arts, jornalism, etc. and also is very close to a university so it was the perfect place for them.

Their house parties were the stuff of legend though I have no first hand knowledge as I am pretty sure I didn’t fit the criteria to be on any invite list.  Story has it that Sebastian in particular liked to add a little something to his glass of champagne and I don’t have the right equipment.  But I would see Seymour around the square from time to time and greetings were always very affable and charming.

One day I was setting up our restaurant and Seymour wandered in and asked if it would be possible to book the place for a little intimate luncheon (his words) for about a
dozen or so of their friends with a couple of provisos.  One: preferably no female wait staff and two, no other people in the restaurant, they had to have the place to themselves.

He explained that due to some unfortunate misunderstandings Sebastian had been banned from most of the local pubs and restaurants which quite limited their choice of venues.  We had already heard the tales, though in competition with each other most restaurateurs do actually know, like and socialise with their peers.  One of Sebastian’s reported habits was to approach any man in a pub or restaurant who happened to take his fancy and if the man was with a wife or girlfriend, Sebastian would proclaim ‘Ditch the bitch and I’ll show you a good time.’ Didn’t always go over that well. :o)

I happily made the reservation and on the day a pretty good time was had by all, copious amounts of food and drink was consumed and after several hours the party departed.  At which point Seymour wove his way up to the bar and explained he had forgotten to bring his cheque book and apologised.  He then suggested that perhaps I could  ‘Send your pretty little husband round tomorrow and I am sure we can work out something to cover the bill’.  I smiled and replied ‘Ah, but Seymour, I own 50 per cent of this debt…. er… restaurant… so somehow I don’t think your suggestion would quite work out.’  He came back with a brilliant line ‘That’s alright sweetie, you can come too, I swing both ways!’.

He dropped the cheque off the next morning. He was a delightful man and I am so glad I had the honour of knowing him.