Verulamium, just north of Junction 22 of the M25, is a fascinating borough. The M25 wasn't, of course, built by the Romans - it's not straight enough. Quite sensibly the burghers of the town, once having thrown off the Latin yoke re-named the town after a poor unfortunate who was beheaded because he was a Mormon.
Would you be up for a be-heading, castration, broken on the wheel or other assorted nasties death-wise if you were offered sainthood? Frankly I'm not convinced, I'd want to have a fully guaranteed first class entry ticket to the Pearly Gates signed by St Peter himself before losing my head. But I digress.
St Albans is a very nice town. It's extremely well provided with large, well built houses with massive gardens. It's 30 minutes from the centre of London and appears to have a thriving consumer economy - all those professionals. Which explains why it's highly attractive to people like my friend Peter and his (new wife) Sue: see earlier post but one.
Yesterday, I made my way via the M11 and M25 to St Albans to visit my friend Peter. By way of thanks for my exceptional performance at his wedding on the 19th April, I was to be allowed to chose a bottle of Scotch from his step son's Gin Palace in one of the more gentile shopping malls of said town.
I arrived at the select cul de sac in which their house is situated, parked, then camouflaged, my scruffy 2006 Vauxhall Astra and headed up the avenue that led to their front door. I was greeted not by the butler but by my old mate.
The first hour of my visit was taken up with the tour of their gardens, and an opportunity to bring down some big game that roamed the savanna that is their back lawn. After a look at the allotment/orchard and hearing plans for planting 100 acres of native apples we moved back into the house. The mistress of the baronial home had descended having completed her toilet and I was treated to a trip around the major renovation works that were being overseen by Historic Britain.
Sue and her sister Judy were planning a raid on the unsuspecting retail outlets in St Albans. Peter decloaked his equally shabby 2005 Astra as the Scissor Sisters took off in an extremely tasty BMW. We lost them in the multi-storey car park: Peter's ancient HTC phone unable to summon up enough signal to traverse the 300 yards that separated us.
Not discouraged, Peter and I set off for his step son's Tomoka Spirits Boutique.
I'm not sure that St Albans, or the rest of Blur, would be happy with this den of sensuality and temptation being located in the heart of his town. It looks from the outside like an AA stop over, but once inside: well it's Whiskey Galore and More. Boutique by name, boutique by nature.
Gin appears to be a specialty - local stills from Hackney, Peckham Rye, which is somewhere in South London, and tiny, tiny islands off the West Coast of Scotland produce gins that defy your taste buds. I didn't realise that guano was such an important ingredient in the beverage. They are the added fertiliser that ensures the herbs used are stellar.
I was driving and Peter's step son and his partners needed to turn a profit, so my tastings were extremely limited. That didn't stop me encouraging the other shoppers who, I think, were slightly intimidated by the choice, to push the boat out.
I chose a stunning gin from the Isle of Islay and Peter gave me an extremely drinkable single malt.
I was surprised they sold cigars as well. But people are happy to pay £15 a tube!
After a quick nosh at Cartolucci's it was back to Peter's baronial pile (the builders worry me) for a cup of coffee and a massive back tracking over our 40 odd years of friendship.
Except, of course, we couldn't remember very much.