As I write this blog, I am gazing about like a blinking owl. My left leg hurts and Oliver is still in bed (at two O’clock in the afternoon). The kitchen still looks like a hurricane of food has blown through it and the back garden…the less I say about that the better. I think we can safely say that the party was a ROARING SUCCESS.
I woke up horrifically early yesterday morning with a jolt. The night before had been spent cooking batches of cupcakes and I had completely forgotten to wrap Olly’s presents and so, I started the day in a frenzied search for some sellotape (which by the way, should be featured in Harry Potter books as an example of an amazing disappearing substance. It doesn’t matter how much of it I buy, I can never bloody find ANY OF IT when I need to) which I couldn’t locate and so ended up wrapping his gifts which craft glue. A great start to the day, I’m sure you agree.
The morning was spent icing cupcakes and cornets filled with sweets and decorating the shed/playhouse.
As I had decided that the food was going to comprise of burgers, hotdogs and sausages in buns the food preparation was at a minimum. This left me time to decorate the front garden and to force Tom into blowing up an inflatable banana the size of a lilo.
Time then warped and suddenly people were arriving. Family members dropped by to give cards and presents to the birthday boy in advance of the party, the entertainer arrived and then the guests started flooding in. I realised that I had no idea how many people were going to descend as I hadn’t received many RSVPs (Quick note here – please respond to invitations, it makes life so much easier for the person throwing the party) and was greatly relived that more than 3 children turned up.
The entertainer was just…brilliant. 11 is a difficult age. The disparity between the more knowing and mature girls, and the boys (who spent at least half an hour wrestling and throwing plums from the tree at each other) who are in the main, still children, means that there is awkward balance to strike. Michelle (for that was her name) managed this beautifully and the kids all got really involved in the karaoke and competitions.
So while the kids were doing the limbo, screeching Justin Bieber songs and
throwing plums at each other generally having a good time, I got on with the food.
Deciding on providing hot food was just plain stupid. Why I thought that this would lessen the load on the day is now, with hindsight, completely beyond me. Am I actually mental?
The entertainer had to leave (BOO!) and there was still an hour to go before the party ended.
There was only one option left open to me…
This worked really well until they escaped and run amok with water pistols
This was actually my favourite part of the whole day. To see these kids – some of whom have been coming to our parties since they were 5 – running and laughing and being children again was just…amazing and surprisingly touching.
And so, the time for it all to end was upon us.
Oliver blew out his candles…
The children left, each and every one thanking me for a good time.
Po emerged from his hiding place…
And I put my feet up, drank a glass or two of wine and fell into my bed in a messy mess.
This morning, Olly got a text from one of his friends that simply said:
“Your [sic] party was epic”
I am blessed in many ways.
You know those days when you think “GOD, I HATE MY LIFE! It’s nothing but getting up, going to work, working, having a lunch break (admittedly sometimes this might involve Digby) working again, coming home, eating something (maybe edamame?) watching TV and then slumping into bed”?
Well, I get those days too, and then I remember that I am truly lucky to have some friends and, even more fortunate that sometimes we arrange to have a weekend away from the drudgery of day to day life.
As 2010 crawled to it’s inevitable end, three of us went away to Herefordshire for the weekend. We were excited! We were staying in a cottage which dated back (in part) to the 17th Century, I love history and cottages (really?) and a Grade II listed building – WITH A PROPER KITCHEN and a WOOD BURNING STOVE was just what we needed before the assault of Christmas.
Then we google mapped it. Remote isn’t the word. The word would probably be “MiddleOfNowhere” if such a word existed.
A flurry of emails including the words “Axe murderer” “Certain Bloody Death” “Bodies Eaten by Rats” ensued, until we all took a dose of GRIPUP and decided we would probably be fine.
We arrived late. It was dark. Very, very dark. The headlights of my car shone ineffectually into the blackest black I have ever seen.
We were staying here
Is it just me or is this house actively frowning and bearing it’s window-y teeth at us?
We settled in, drank a little wine, ate a little food and then realised that not only were we in the middle of nowhere, but that not one of us had a mobile phone service. We wandered desperately around the cottage, holding our i-phones up above our heads, waving them around outside the front door, until we finally gave up and packed them, forlornly, back into our bags.
Bereft without our links to Facebook and Twitter we played a little Trivial pursuit.
We fed the wood burning stove to keep warm. Eventually we noticed that there was a landline phone which was unplugged, so we plugged it in, made all necessary calls and went to bed.
I was exhausted after a day of driving and fell into bed with a sigh. I switched off the light, cwtched down into the unbelievably soft pillow and suddenly I was wide awake. I opened my eyes, closed them again, opened them and there was no discernable difference between the two states of eyelid. I waved my hand in front of my open eyes…NOTHING. It was the pitchest dark I have ever encountered.
My body went mental, my ears became radar machines – I could feel the membrane on my ear drums vibrating with every creak of the old wooden beams. My heart decided that now was a good time for a bit of concentrated pumping, my adrenal gland woke up and said “HEY! LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!”, my skin prickled and all the saliva in my mouth (which I hadn’t even been aware of) decided to take a well earned break and vanished.
With an arm so shaky that it took me three tries to get to the lamp, I flooded the room with light.
I sat up and looked around. The room stared blandly back.
I don’t want to prolong this but, basically, this is the sequence of events for the next four hours.
Light Off – *creaky noise*
Light On – *nothing*
Repeat until daybreak.
We were all downstairs very early. My friends seemed unconcerned at my tales of a sleepless night and the fact that I was sure someone was in the room with me, and after a couple of cups of coffee, I started to think I was being silly.
We decided to explore…
We spent the rest of the day in Hay on Wye which is one of my favourite places in the UK. Book obsessives and antique lovers are urged to visit (by me) and we had a wonderful time. Much food was eaten and many bookshops visited.
We also discovered a spot that had mobile coverage! We went a bit mad
And so, we returned to the cottage.
Again, we lost all contact with the outside world, again we laughed and joked about taking rusty scissors to bed. By now, I was pretty much at the end of my tether of tiredness. We sat in the front room, feeding the stove with kindling and wood we had collected
And then the phone rang. We all looked at one another.
Vicky leapt out of her chair “It must be someone who we called last night!” and she hurried to the phone..just as she reached it, the ringing stopped.
1471 – gave us the number of a received call from the night before.
So far. So coincidence.
We all sat back down, fed the fire, chatted, and then the phone rang again. Vicky The Brave got up again to answer the call. As she reached for the receiver, it stopped. That’s a bit weird.
This happened again and again, until we decided that there must be a fault on the line and unplugged the bloody thing.
10 minutes later it rang again.
(nah, it didn’t but BLOODY HELL, That would have been spooky!)
So the impenetrable dark surrounded the cottage once more.
I was, by now completely exhausted. I could barely keep my eyes open. I collapsed into bed and tried to sleep with the light on. No good.
I switched the lamp off and someone came into the room. I could feel them standing there looking at me. I switched the light on…nothing there.
I read for a while (my eyes rolled as I tried desperately to read the book and drift off to sleep) and everytime I nodded off, I snapped back awake.
So for the second night running I remained resolutely awake, despite being utterly worn out.
The next morning we prepared to leave. By now I was struggling to articulate myself in any sort of meaningful way, and we were heading for a 200 mile car journey.
There was a little guestbook which had been filled out by lots of happy guests. As I idly flicked through the comments before packing up the car:
“A little piece of paradise, so peaceful and wonderful, Jonty and Emerald caught some minnows in the river!! <picture of minnow by JONTY>”
“Amazing stay, it’s so lovely to really relax”
I realised that not one person had commented on the fact that the place is clearly haunted. It would appear that quite a lot of people had brought their children to this place.
My friend put “Lovely place, fab kitchen, Party Spanner is convinced it’s haunted”
HA HA HA! Way to scare the shit out of the next lot of guests. (I put a little amendment in saying something like “NO! It’s not haunted, kids! It’s arrrrghhhhhhh………” afterwards. *brushes off hands*)
Looking back, I can attribute most of my feelings to the fact that we were staying in a remote cottage, away from the usual light and noise of town. The comforting hum and flash of a headlight as a car passes the window was replaced by the eerie creak of a floorboard settling and the blank nothingness of complete darkness.
Do I believe that the cottage we stayed in was haunted? Yes, I think I do. I was immensely troubled during our visit, and just felt generally spooked, however, at the time my friends were very comforting and assured me that they felt completely comfortable.
It is only since we left the cottage that I have learned that they too had sleepless nights, that they too felt scared and nervous pretty much for the whole weekend.
I wonder why we didn’t all just share one room?
I have eaten 9 packs of edamame pods since Friday. It’s Tuesday and I didn’t eat any on Saturday – Saturday was the day for the Holy Trinity of Pringles, Houmous and Wine *genuflects*
It all started quite innocently a few years ago.
When I met with friends at say, Wagamama’s, we’d share a couple of portions for a “Starter”. Y’know? Just to get the party started.
That was fine – I always managed to have a main course of noodles or something. And the Edamame pods were just…well, just part of the evening, really. I didn’t even think about the fact that I’d eaten them on the way home or anything.
As I say. It was no big deal.
And so what if I started wanting to go to Yo Sushi every weekend? It’s good fun. The kids like it. Look:
And yeah. Maybe I should have worried when I didn’t want to eat the Nigri or the Chicken Katsu Curry. Maybe I should have started to think…”this is getting unhealthy IN A REALLY FUCKING HEALTHY WAY” but I didn’t.
I started scouring the internet. Looking for places I could buy the pods. Sure, sometimes I could source a Birds Eye pack of the de-podded beans at Sainsbury’s - but I’m not some kind of amateur.
I need the sprinkle of sea salt on the pod…
The roughness of the pod suddenly juxtaposed with the slippery smoothness of the bean. The nutty flavour. The way the bean breaks in two…the mindlessness of the action…
I suppose the roots of all this stem from the peas that grow on the vegetable patch at the end of the garden
I was an only child, and lived next door to 3 boys on one side and 3 girls on the other. We spent hours at the very end of our gardens (where the peas grow) talking over the fences, playing french skipping and arguing. We would eat the peas straight from the pod, and that was the only way I could eat them. Cooked peas? Jesus, what are you? some sort of pervert? When you cook a pea the texture changes from one of squeaky pleasure to foamy ick. The sweetness intensifies – and not in a good way. Even the colour changes from a beautiful, tasteful, elegant Eau De Nil to either a khaki sludge, or..or…those frozen ones! They look like they have been grown in radioactive soil, greener than green as they are. Still, as great as peas are, they sure as shit ain’t no Edamame Pods.
It was all OK, I could handle it. Until last week.
Last week I went, innocently, into Marks and Spencer to buy something for lunch.
There, nestled among the sandwiches and shaker salads containing quinoa, lentils and butternut squash (very delicious actually, despite it’s horrifically hippy/vegan vibe) – were fresh edamame pods for sale. Pots with even a little section with Anglesey Sea Salt in…
I only bought one pot that day…God, was it only a week ago?
I enjoyed them. They were really good. I went back the to M&S the next day and bought two pots.
I ate them both. I didn’t bother with the SuperShakerHippySalad.
By Friday I was buying four pots.
My shame was complete on Saturday when I asked someone else to buy me five pots, as they were going near M&S…I handed over a bedraggled fiver. The last five pounds in my purse.( not really, don’t forget I had to buy pringles and houmous and wine *genuflects*)
I really tried not eat the second pot today. The first one? Yeah…that’s fine, they’re GOOD for you, but everything in moderation and all that.
I went for a walk in my lunch hour. Took my camera. (Thought about the pods) Took some photos.
I made friends with a completely potty Dalmation, (Thought about pods) which was all well and good before she plunged into the river (thought about pods) not so great after her dip in the rancid water and then came running back over to me wagging her Pod, covering me splashes of River Pods. I walked to the shops (thought about pods) Bought a new pair on SunPods and walked back to the PodOffice. Had a cup of PodTea, and wrote a list of Things To do, got the Podulator and Podular out and…
I wasn’t very excited about the recent(ish) Royal Wedding. I wasn’t one of those people saying stuff like “BOO! TAX PAYERS MONEY! BLOODY ARISTROCRACY” or anything, I just couldn’t really summon up much enthusiasm.
That was until we decided to invite my Nana to come and stay for the week.
Suddenly, I was effervescent! YAY! ROYAL WEDDING!
I decided that I was going to bake a cake, we were going to have a “spread” and champagne and watch the coverage on the TV and have some champagne and tie up bunting outside and have some champagne.
The cake I decided to bake was from the lovely book by Lorraine Pascale called “Baking Made Easy” which is from her BBC TV series. I really fell a little bit in love with Lorraine while watching her cookery series, and was delighted when I received her book for my birthday (a week before the wedding) There isn’t anything much nicer than a brand new cookery book to flick through, and despite being on a permadiet, I especially love drooling over cake recipes.
Her website is http://www.lorrainepascale.com/ (HOLY SHIT! Did I just make a link? WOW!)
Anyway. The cake I wanted to make is a plain chocolate sponge with inches of buttercream and chocolate cigarillos around the outside. You can fill the top (there’s a gap between the top of the cake and the top of the cigarillos) with anything really…flowers, fruit, sweets…anything, and I decided that I wanted two tone cigarillos, white and milk chocolate and to bring the cake into the patriotic theme, I filled it with fresh strawberries and blueberries.
I got the cigarillos from http://www.chocolatetradingco.com/chocolates/ingredients/cigarellos-curls?gclid=COm_pKqnqakCFQNP4Qod1iIHLA (Getting flash now) and they arrived really quickly.
We put bunting up outside the night before the Big Day (and I must confess that it is still hanging forlornly from one end of our down pipe – *SHAME*) and bought in some nice party food from the high street.
We were up early and settled down to watch the coverage – and thoroughly enjoyed it.
By the way did you see this:
I made that cake. Pretty amazing, yes?
So, we watched the wedding, popped the champagne when they came out of the church and the crowd roared and…ah. It was lovely.
Ma had actually bought special “Celebration” glasses to drink the champagne from
So, we drank some more champagne when they emerged onto the balcony.
And a little bit more when they kissed
And a little bit more when they kissed again
And we laughed when Prince Phillip clearly went “RIGHT! I’ve had enough of all this, let’s go and eat!” (like Frank off Everybody Loves Raymond) and they all shuffled back inside.
And then I made Nana try on my original 50′s glasses
And then I had some pink wine (I think)
And we watched Prince William (um, Duke of Cambridge or whatever his name is now) drive the beautiful Kate back home in that car and it was brilliant…and then I had some more wine.
And then I forced the boys outside to take a photo of them and Nana and the bunting
And then I think we had some more food and we definitely had some more cake. Oh did you see the cake?
And we had a lovely day and it was great.
(And even though we had to call an ambulance for Nana at 1 O’Clock in the morning because she was very poorly and that bit was really shit, but she’s OK now, it was still a Good Day)