Such are the vagaries of life: one minute you're (ahem, hypothetically speaking) sitting in your pyjamas, half-watching Countryfile and marking a pile of essays on Bronte's presentation of Heathcliff in chapters 1-7 of Wuthering Heights; the next you're having to juggle two impossibly desirable events in one evening.
Event number one: official party to celebrate the re-opening of the Green Tea restaurant on Burton Road in West Didsbury. This pocket-sized eatery has undergone a full refurbishment in recent months, and has transformed into a sophisticated grotto serving high-class Chinese food; indeed, we hardly recognised the place (although the red carpet outside was a bit of a giveaway - nice touch).
We'd never eaten here before, but had heard very good things since the reopening. The menu has seen a radical overhaul, pared down to a small but perfectly formed selection of specials, including the belly pork stew - meltingly tender and just the job for a wet Manchester evening. Other dishes attracting murmurs of approval included the beef with coriander and the Fire Cracking Chilli Chicken - a small group of excited boys was clustered around this particular dish for most of the evening - but to be honest EVERYTHING was good. I ate some tofu by mistake and even that was nice.
The Green Tea girls - impossibly beautiful in gloriously good evening dresses (WITHOUT food down the front - note to self, must emulate) - were on hand all evening with drinks and goody bags, clearly proud of their gorgeous restaurant and the overwhelmingly positive reaction to their food. A tier of dinky green tea flavoured fairy cakes courtesy of Airy Fairy Cupcakes was the crowning touch, particularly when it appeared that a small firework had been attached to the top (rocket-powered cakes; now I've seen everything.)
Unfortunately, we had to leave early. There was just time for me to be interviewed by a nice girl who was clearly too polite to point out that I no doubt had small filaments of spare rib between my teeth, and we were whisked off by a waiting boy to see Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah as part of the Manchester Literature Festival. We were late for this, and had to be marched into the Whitworth Gallery in disgrace, shoved unceremoniously into chairs right at the back where we couldn't see a thing.
Things worked out for us, however, as they always do; the people in the naughty seats at the back are the first to get to the book-signing table, where they can confidently hobnob with famous novelists in the carefree manner that only several glasses of free wine can bring. Both ladies tolerated us with great magnanimity, answering our childish questions with much patience; I can exclusively reveal that Val McDermid "doesn't yet know" if Charlie, the star of her latest novel, will become a regular character. So I think you'll agree, my work here is done: dinner, a literary scoop, AND a goody bag that included a chocolate lollipop with "Green Tea" printed on it. My husband has already eaten his, so if you'll excuse me, I'm off to guard mine with my life *growls*
- Green Tea restaurant is at 222 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester M20 2LW; tel. 0161 445 5395; www.greenteadidsbury.com.