The bug had well and truly taken me by the throat; if speaking was bad, swallowing was well-nigh impossible. Still, sitting around wasn’t going to help. “What about the Druid?” As good an idea as any under the circumstances.
We drove through the hills, heading farther and farther away from the towns. Passing through the picturesque village of Stanton and skirting the moor where we knew there were stone circles, neolithic cairns, and legends of druids, we drove on to the near-deserted village that was our destination.
We were too early, so wandered up the silent main street and explored the forest pathway for a while until my companion checked the time. We headed back, under the baleful gaze of a black-feathered watcher, searching for the entrance; the Druid wasn’t making it easy.
Once inside, we found ourselves in a small, low ceilinged room redolent of woodsmoke. The place looked as if it had seen better days centuries ago. Still, the Druid Inn was our kind of pub. A bit quirky, with buildings of nameless age huddled together and tacked onto each other. The menu was somewhat unusual and written with both mystery and humour, but as it was only lunchtime, we just went for a couple of sandwiches. Mine was ham and mustard. I might, I thought, at least be able to taste the mustard.
Proper English mustard is something of an institution and, along with Karashi, is one of the hottest mustards in the world. Its brilliant yellow colour should be enough of a warning. You treat it with care…and respect. With ham, you need no more than a discrete smear; anything more is pretty much guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes.
Apparently, no-one had told that to the chef.
I bit… the roll oozed and dripped mustard. There was enough on there to repoint the masonry of a small cathedral. I was right…I could certainly taste it. I couldn’t feel my mouth for very long, but I could definitely taste the mustard. I persevered, eyes watering, while it did its worst, magically unblocking every airway and effectively numbing my entire sensory nerve network from the neck up.
I have vague memories of my great-grandmother making mustard poultices and mustard baths for the feet. I would not have given such remedies credence had I not been on the receiving-end of her chillblain remedy…a paste made from Bay Rum and soap-flakes… that actually seemed to work.
Apparently, mustard is a good old-fashioned cure for colds, flu and especially for sore and swollen throats… probably because it strips them of any flesh and burns away every nerve ending with the devil’s own fire. Whatever the cause, by the time I had eaten the thing, the Druid had, at least temporarily, cured my throat of all ills and we were ready for an afternoon of adventures…