As we celebrate Peter Faulkner’s 80th birthday and his long and admirable contributions to Morris studies and the Morris Society, I recall a festive gathering which Samuel Beckett’s friends organised for him in New York in 1965. As his first biographer Deirdre Bair informs us, ‘Jean Reavey planned a special dinner to include all the foods mentioned in his writing, ending with a grand finale of Banane à la Krapp’ (p.485). Could we then devise the Morrisian equivalent of such a literary banquet for Peter’s birthday event?
The centrepiece of our feast would surely be roasted dragon’s heart, but other meats would be available too: good foison of venison, salt pork, elk and even, albeit unseasonally, the Holy Boar of Yule (though the vegetarians among us will be happy to see girls arriving with baskets of early peas). The fish course might include a leash of fine perch, fat and red-flecked trouts cooked outdoors on a fire of sticks, and Icelandic char. There would surely be cabbage-leaves full of strawberries, and plenty of cherries, pears, apricots and wood-berries. Also curds and new cheese (meat of the herdsmen) and syllabub fresh from the farm dairy. Many different breads would be on the table: dark-coloured farmhouse loaves, rye bread, thin pipe-stems of wheaten crust, bread made of sweet-chestnuts.
All this would be washed down with ginger-beer and lemonade for the youngsters, and for the adults plenty of Steinberg wine, good Kentish mead, Grimhild’s thick murky concoctions and, naturally, some deep invigorating draughts from the Well at the World’s End (for how else can one wash eight decades away?). And as a final, non-Beckettian touch we should have Sigurd and Gunnar playing on the harp in the background throughout. Happy birthday, Peter.