At around this time last year some dear old friends of my husband – let’s call them Mick and Bianca, for they exude the same sort of glamour as slightly louche 70s rock stars – grandly announced they were giving up city living in favour of clear skies, wide open spaces, a Georgian pile and a septic tank they could call their own.
The Fates conspired, term time got in the way and various trips abroad got in the way of us going to visit. In the end, Mr Y gave me the hairy eyeball over breakfast one Monday and said either we go there or they should come here. Believe me, the thought of tidying up the spare bedroom, relentless cooking and entertaining had me eagerly skittering telephone-wards to accept their latest invitation like a teenager setting up a first date.
“Is there anything I can bring?” I trilled and was told that everything was in hand (champagne and chocolates it is then) and that it would be a bit of a house party and wouldn’t it be fun if we all dressed for dinner on Saturday night and would we mind picking up Rachel as it’s only a slight detour…
Now, as you all know, I am no stranger to a weekend away. Show me a brochure for a spa hotel and I’ll have picked and planned my treatments in the time it takes the average person to peruse the first page, and then I pack accordingly. This, however, was an entirely different bucket of snakes. Knowing the other women who had been invited, I realised that my ancient Barbour which had seen me through the last few years of Pony Club (yes, it is that old and still has fossilised Polo mints in the torn pocket to prove it), would no longer cut the mustard; neither would my desiccated wellies. Dress for dinner? I could barely get the day kit together!
I duly purchase the required clothing and realise that I’ve just spent the equivalent of a weekend spa break WITH treatments before doing the school run, with no discernible improvement to my complexion. By Thursday Schloss Yeager looks like Widow Twankey’s Laundry. The progeny will be going to my Mother’s so needs a weekend’s worth of clothing, school uniform needs to be laundered for the following week and I cannot decide between several dinner frocks now hanging on the outside of wardrobes like so many sad and drooping flowers.
I’ve had to get the ‘Big’ suitcase out of the spare room (it still hasn’t made it to the loft since the Summer) to pack all the kit we are going to require for a 48 hour stay in someone else’s house…sigh. We arrive late on Friday night after the usual slow M road exodus to the country for the weekend; it is pitch black, freezing cold and there is a note pinned to the front door telling us to get back in the car and meet them in the pub a couple of miles down the lane. We get to the pub and have two packets of crisps to assuage our hunger and to help sop up the gin.
Back to Cedars Lodge and we are in one of the larger bedrooms; it has a double aspect, a bathroom en suite, a canopy bed…and no central heating. It is now my turn to give Mr Y the hairy eyeball.
As I wearily unpack, I wonder how my lovely frock will look worn with a thermal vest and a pair of my husband’s woollen shooting stockings. Who knows, it may spark a new trend; after all, the dress and vest are basic black and the stockings are maroon and will match my nose.
We ended up having a fabulous weekend with good food, fine wine and the warmth of old friends, but a weekend in the country is my limit.
Edith Sitwell once said “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth…it is the time for home.” And I couldn’t agree with her more.