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Cnut and Emma of Normandy, from the Liber Vita...Did the Vikings eat pizza or pasta?  Not that I know of, but  ask  Ask, the Italian restaurant which is well and truly ensconced in Godbegot House, High Street, Winchester.  This erstwhile manor belonged to Emma, our Saxon queen, who was married to Cnut, last of our Viking rulers, according to Neil Oliver.

This was the first English stone house to be built outside a religious community and it had glass windows and real chimneys, which, admittedly did not draw too well.  The solar, chapel, bedchamber and treasury room were upstairs.  Don’t tell Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces, or she will be up there like a shot, dressed as Gunnhild, Emma and Cnut’s daughter.  Any excuse!

Oliver ranged around Scandinavia and Scotland, shedding light on our links with characters such as Harold Bluetooth, Swein Forkbeard, Henry, the Holy Roman Emperor and others.

Neil oliver windsor quay (cropped).jpg

He also went to a Viking restaurant and manfully admitted that testicles had never before passed his lips.  But our brave Jarl is no craven troll-like Andrew Marr, so down they went, along with liberal portions of air-dried, rotting offal and putrid, buried shark.

I was grateful that I only had to consume a modest portion of acceptable sea-bass at Ask.

Neil obviously takes his paternal role seriously and disciplines his children so that they will control any baresarker tendencies.  He commented that he always insists that his offspring try any new food, before being allowed to reject it.  This was his opportunity to demonstrate do as I do; not just as I say.  Poor guizer, he wasn’t even offered a Danish pastry for afters, for clearing his board.

Let’s face it, for anyone who has digested haggis, rancid blubber is a complete dawdle and any Viking brat would have been lashed to their high stuhl with elk sinews and have been force-fed northern lights* before they had a chance to utter the universal, complaining phrase:  I don’t want it.  It would have made the Diet of Worms-okay, I know this is nothing to do with anything culinary- appear like an enticing platter of amuse bouches.

More surprising was Neil’s admission, albeit accompanied by the slightest sardonic simper, that England-yes, ENGLAND, was far more progressive than the rest of Europe, owing to its advanced coinage and commercial organisation.  The man is turning soft and obviously opposes devolution.  Alex Salmond- isn’t that name of Norman derivation?-will have his guts for garters, let alone starters.

The next gobsmacking sight was Neil striding down the nave of Winchester Cathedral, in search of ossuaries which contain the scrambled relics of Emma, Cnut et al.  You’d have thought he’d be on the side of the Roundheads, who were responsible for the vandalism and general mayhem, but, instead we had a cavalier flick of the hair, an ironic twinkle to rival the Pole Star and his verdict on the Parliamentary iconoclasts:

Bunch o’ killjoys!

Attaboy, Neil.  Keep eating the testicles and see you at Up Helly Aa!

© Candia Dixon Stuart and Candiacomesclean.wordpress.com, 2012