Tricks and Treats
Three little witches, two blonde and one ginger,
clutching baskets with cobweb-lace mittened hands,
their faces twinkling with glitter moons and stars,
found their way up our path on a 'trick or treat'
quest for goodies. So that's it; British summer
time was washed away in the first autumn gale as
the sun plummeted into the dark half of the year.
Usually, I become unreasonably (according to my
husband) teazy, at the prospect of months of dank,
dreary days and sloppy, slurping dog walks, but
I'm fine, so far, as I've recently marked a 'serious'
birthday - one of those that end in a zero - which
was so much fun, I've no reason to be grumpy.
The celebrations lasted
over two weekends. My
boys invited us for a family weekend in Devon,
as one of my son's home is a convenient 'half way
house' between Cornwall and London. The first treat
was being booked into a lovely country house hotel;
an elegant, mellow-stoned, Elizabethan manor gracing
an estate of acres of woodland and gardens. The
'plan' was that our sons were taking us out to
dinner; when we arrived back at my son's...surprise,
surprise... my family had transformed the room
with candles and flowers and we were welcomed with
a champagne toast and my grandchildrens' sweet
smiles shining more brightly than the candles.
The table was set and
I was told to keep out of the kitchen as we were
having dinner at home. It was odd because nobody
was doing anything and I was anticipating a pizza
delivery man to knock on the door. Imagine my surprise
when Trevor Bayfield, one of my favourite chefs,
who had managed the Restaurant at The Trelowarren
Estate, emerged from the kitchen in his chef's
'whites'... surely not a Kisso-gram! Nope. But
he was to be our 'personal chef' for the evening.
I felt so spoilt; and what a brilliant idea. Trevor
and his wife, Jane's business, 'Dine
do the shopping, cook the food, leave the kitchen
sparkling, while guests relax, enjoy great food
without paying silly wine prices and quibbling
over whose turn it is to drive.
The taxi came to pick us
up around midnight to
take us back to the hotel. We were dropped off
into what Dylan Thomas would describe as a 'crow-black,
bible black night' and ready to snuggle into our
soft four-poster as the taxi crunched off down
the gravel drive to pick up his next fare. Guess
what? The old wooden door wouldn't open. Briefly,
as we had left the hotel earlier, the manager said, "Have
a great evening. Leave your key on the board in
reception and we'll know you're still out"...
Still out! Of course, we were bloody-well still
out! There we were on a chilly, starless night,
somewhere in the depths of Devon, wearing a flimsy
top (me, not John) no phone, no car keys, everso
slightly tipsy, in total blackness. We fumbled
around feeling for a light switch, poking fingers
into any hole that might conceal a bell-push and
John repeatedly turned the doorknob as the door
wasn't locked but seemed to be jammed at the top,
while I tottered in my best heels around the grounds,
looking for a sign of humanity in the Marie Celeste
John's fuse was smouldering and
being a tad cross, gave the door a push... more
of a shove really, the sort of shove that had a
forceful shoulder behind it... and it crashed open.
It was a very
old door; the original house being built in 1086
by William the Conqueror's brother, Bishop Odo
and had been augmented over the centuries to its
present gracious state. Our percussive entrance,
removed the bolt from the architrave which had
splintered over the floor. I was horrified and
attempted in my alcolhol-addled state to pathetically
stuff chips of ancient wood back into the shattered
I couldn't sleep for worrying about
leaving the hotel open to anything/body through
the night to walk into the carved oak- panelled
hall, jam-packed with 16C portraits and antique
treasures. But hold on: a hotel that boasts about
'outstanding service' doesn't lock guests out!
Sobering up quickly, I read the Guest Information
book and there it stated. 'If keys are on the board
in reception, we will know guests are out and make
arrangements for staff to be available'. Vindicated,
we came down in the morning and told the manager,
who was already aware that the door had been vandalised;
he apologised profusely, pacified us with a 'lessons
will be learnt' speech and what could he do to
make amends! In John's defence, it does state in
the hotel's brochure, 'Push open the broad oak
door into the elegant grand hall'!
On my actual birthday, after
weeks of clandestine calls and e.mails, John had
arranged, without me having an inkling of what
was going on, for my dearest friend and her husband
to stay for the weekend. Our birthdays are two
days apart and we started infant school together,
rarely seeing one another as she lives up-country.
There she was standing in my kitchen...OMG, It's
Kay...what's does my hair look like? Have I got
enough food? What's the state of the guest room?
My darling husband had organsised everything; cleaned
the bathroom and I didn't think he even knew where
the bleach was kept, bought food for dinner, already
prepared from a local restaurant, booked lunch
at Jamie Oliver's and even a birthday cake made
for us to share.
I'm not usually sentimental, but
as cold, November rain is enforcing autumn's identity
on the season, I'm content to be misty-eyed and
mellow and a very fortunate lady.
Email this page
to a friend