Wednesday 14 October 2015

Task 35: Swallow an oyster at The Gallivant restaurant

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Just 4  days to go until the Worthing Seafront 10k fun run - not sure if I can beat 
that 60 minute target but I'm gong to try my hardest! I shall be wearing my
 Alzheimer's Research UK top with pride - donations can be made via my 
JustGiving page at  

When Jonathan and Liz were married last October, they held their wedding at The Gallivant - a gorgeous boutique hotel by the sea at Camber Sands. One of the canapes on offer that day was a large platter of oysters. Andrew made a beeline for them - and his eyes gleamed when I told him that he could have my share with absolute pleasure as I had never tried them before and I wasn't intending to do so.

When I started compiling my list of 60 tasks, it occurred to me that I was taking a very blinkered approach towards oysters. Was it fair to draw the conclusion that I didn't like them if I'd never actually attempted to swallow one?  It seemed only right and proper to confront my prejudice against them.  And the prejudice? That frankly to me they look can I put this delicately.....the contents of a sputum pot.

And so it was that on 11th October, exactly a year since the wedding, we returned to The Gallivant with Jonathan and Liz for Sunday lunch in the bistro to complete Task 35 and raise a celebratory glass to their paper anniversary.  Our friends Anita and Tim agreed to come with us to monitor The Swallow (Tim has had the honorous responsibility of being Jonathan's godfather for the past three decades - I blame him for nothing of course). Oysters weren't on the menu that day, so Jonathan and Liz made special arrangements for a dozen of them to be imported to Camber Sands for the occasion.  

The oysters arrived. The platter looked magnificent - the oyster shells were nestling on a bed of crushed ice, adorned with small seashells, lemon slices, fronds of greenery and a tastefully carved starfish. The oysters sat resplendent in the shells like glorious globules of......well, you know.  I tried not to look at them.

The waiter gave us jugs of shallot vinaigrette, worcester sauce and tabasco.  I doused the first oyster in the vinaigrette. Liz and Tim had their phones at the ready to record my virgin attempt. I had already worked out my exit strategy to the washrooms (thank you Will at Toni & Guy for that little tip). Andrew demonstrated the oyster swallowing techique with, it has to be said, consumate professionalism. Then it was my turn. I threw my head back in a bravado gesture, tipped the shell towards my mouth, the oyster tumbled in......and I swallowed.  Down my throat it slipped....and it stayed down. Hurrah!  Liz took a slo-mo videoclip, but Blogspot is refusing to download it (phew) so here's the evidence in a single frame.

After that, there was no stopping me. Anita and I had an oyster each.  And then Anita, Tim, Andrew and I all swallowed one each in unison. Wow - so liberating!

Andrew went on to gulp his way through at least another half dozen oysters. I made my excuses and stopped. Was I converted to oysters?  In truth, no, I really don't get them at all. To me, they just taste of vintage seawater. I asked Andrew why he loved them so much. His response was to direct me to a column in the Guardian by Jay Rayner, in which Mr Rayner declares that if you don't like oysters, you'll never be a grown up.  Looks like Andrew will have to carry on being the grown-up in our relationship then. But in my defence, even if I never swallow another one again (no offence oysters), at least I can now express an opinion about them in a vaguely informed way. 

The rest of our lunch at The Gallivant was brilliant - the bistro serves great food and the fact that it was Jonathan and Liz's first anniversary made the whole occasion truly memorable.  

A big thank you to our lovely anniversary couple for sorting out the oysters/sharing part of their special day with us, and to Anita and Tim for being very fine oyster companions - they made Task 35 a lot of fun. I think I'll leave the last word to The Gallivant, who did a little blurb about us on Instagram afterwards.

I'm doing the sixtyat60challenge to raise funds for Alzheimer's Research UK. For further information or to make a donation please visit my JustGiving page at  

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