We had a good evening at the Italian restaurant. With five of us it was better than meeting at somebody's house. Nobody had to assume the role of hostess, which would have altered the dynamics of the group, and left the other four with a vague obligation to reciprocate, so that our get-together ballooned remorselessly to five suppers instead of one. And going out avoided the dilemma of partners left creeping about trying to watch TV while remaining invisible and excluded, or being unceremoniously evicted for the evening. One person did have to cook two lots of supper for her family before she could escape to meet us.
Pizza cooked in a proper pizza oven is difficult to reproduce at home, even if you make your own base. I don't know how the professionals manage to stretch it so thin and then move it in and out of the oven without it disintegrating, and the Aga doesn't reach those temperatures anyway. I went for one with anchovies and capers, as the Systems Administrator is not keen on either so I avoid cooking with them at home. Those who had linguine said that was very good as well. There was a narrow majority vote for pudding, and the two non-pudding eaters were persuaded to squeeze down some fruit salad. I had a crushed raspberry semifredde, which I could probably have made myself, on the other hand I've had been eating it for a week, since you can't really prepare one helping of something like that. The building is attractive, the staff are cheerful and efficient, parking is easy. It's called Lucca Enoteca if you want to try it for yourself. It's in Manningtree High Street, and for those social occasions when a restaurant is called for I recommend it highly.
It was followed by lunch today to discuss the looming funding deficit of the music society. Somebody who used to sponsor us will not be doing so in future, while ticket sales are trending gently downwards, and the society's taste in musicians has crept upmarket in recent years. We can address the latter by booking younger musicians at an earlier stage of their careers, which is very satisfying if you get it right. Long before I was involved they had Alison Balsom, who was then newly out of music college, and is now a mandatory feature on Classic FM, where a week rarely goes by without her.
The issue of the falling audience numbers produced a rather more free-wheeling discussion, where ideas thrown into the pot included doing different kinds of concert, or concerts at a different time of the year, or a festival instead of a concert. Eventually, after the treasurer had left, I managed to extract from the programme secretary the detail that to balance the books we need to sell around thirty more tickets per concert. Thirty is not such a huge and terrifying number. There must be more than thirty people around this part of the Essex-Suffolk border who like chamber music enough to go to a concert, if they knew it existed. By the end of lunch we'd agreed to print more leaflets, make them more eye-catching, and distribute them more widely. We'd also agreed to try and enlist the energies of existing supporters to attract new audience members, by dint of offering season ticket holders a free ticket so that they could bring a friend, and simply asking them if they could display posters or mention us online.
It was a very elegant lunch, in an extremely smart house with a fabulous view up the valley. My trouble is that nowadays my stomach is really not geared up for lunch. I can manage Christmas lunch, but salmon and potato and broccoli and salad and fruit is too much for me in the normal way of things at lunchtime, even though I had only one potato, and passed on the wine, the cheeseboard and the chocolate. A new recruit to the committee suggested that if every committee member brought two or three people with them to the concerts, and had a rule that you could only come to Sunday lunch if you came to the concert afterwards, that would solve the numbers problem, but I thought she must have a wildly different life to mine. I can't think when we last had anyone to Sunday lunch, or at least I can, and it was months ago, when the Systems Administrator's relations came over, and they certainly wouldn't have wanted to go to a concert afterwards, firstly because they all had long drives home, and secondly because I don't think any of them like chamber music.