Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summer Holday - England part 2 (Party!)

The day of the big party dawned somewhat overcast. Overnight the weather forecast had not got any better although the wind had died down a little so even if it rained, it would at last be vertical rather than horizontal. There was plenty of last minute preparations as we fixed up the house and the garden for the 2pm kick off.

We had arranged a hog roast and the caterers arrived at about 11am to start setting up - there first act was to set up a canopy as it had by now started to rain. I was busy fixing the bar area which we set up outside the annex to the garage so that the drinks could be kept in and around the fridge in the Annex and the wine glasses/cups/beakers etc. were within in easy striking distance. We had a table for "adult" drinks and a tale for kids drinks as well as three ice buckets (ice being the last think we actually needed as I am sure I could see condensation when I breathed out - it was not particularly warm....). I had put a couple of the boxes of champagne into the freezer so they were very chilled and we had a couple of boxes of white wine and red wine as well as a Keg of beer (picked up from Frankies) called I think "Rustic" - brewed locally as well as bottles of lager/Guinness/cider/lemonade/coke/and fruit juices. M had sourced a couple of teenagers to run the bar and when they arrived I gave them a quick run through emphasising the importance of keeping everyone's wine glass filled with champagne (I had bought three boxes of Monopole Heidsick bronze top from Majestic at £14.99 each so was determined that we make a good dent in the supply).

E, was busy with dad in fixing the house and we had already set up the tables in the Marquee (seating for around 40 in the expectation that it would be too wet to do it on the day - a correct expectation as it tuned out!) and M and B arrived to help with the final preparations as the rain started to intensify!
Apart from a slight blip when I managed to incorrectly sign the cheque for the Hog roast people (I had to sign another - it is years since I wrote a cheque in UK!), the party was terrific. It was a really lovely combination of old friends and family. Among the first to arrive was GW and M who I had not seen since they stopped off in HK to visit us around 6/7 years ago although I had been regular email contact. Last time I had spoken to him last year G had recently had a hip replacement (and was now completely teetotal and given up smoking!) and was looking very suave. They both looked really well and promised to visit us in Dubai when they next visited M's family in Oz. Also arriving early was OF and his family. I had not seen his wife S for ages and had never actually met the children - his daughter looked very like O. I regularly see O when I visit London to keep up to speed about what is happening with the old CAF football team (seems to have disbanded although they still catch up for a drink occasionally) and also the Unplayables so was able to catch up on the latest gossip. JG also turned up which was great as I had not seen him for 3 or 4 years. He now works for a college in Sussex (C and Lulu still at home so he commutes every week living at his Mother's in East Grinstead during the week) and having forsaken the law, now travels the world recruiting students - in fact had been in Hong Mong only the previous week which was a little ironic as we never saw him there. JG was a mine of interesting tid-bits including the fact that his Father is married again (to a 38 year old Pilipino ) and he now has a 2 year old half sister!

RP and his wife also arrived early - given that they have travelled the furthest (from IOM) was quite a feat and they had brought a big collection of IOM treats including beers and sweets and they were joined by RC and his family –still recovering from the Lassies and Lads v Dads game on Friday. There was some talk of arranging a rugby trip to Paris for the England 6 nations game next year so will need to follow up on that.
AL arrived a little later and it was nice to se him again (last time as in Dubai) and he had a good chat with JG.

The rain was now lashing down so everyone was either under the hog roast canopy or in the Marquee next door. The Hog roast was fantastic – we got a great picture of it before people started eating – it was an enormous pig done to absolute perfection.
The Marquee was also looking terrific with a big banner and lots of balloons and the barstaff were swept of their feet as everyone tucked into the food and drink. There were some unexpected arrivals amongst the relatives - Uncle K was their although I had understood he was away and was in fine form. R and D (with Dan but not T) were also there – R was supposed to be in Sicily but had cancelled because he could not climb. D and R were also their with their two boys (A and ?) (actually young men) who I had not seen for ages – really nice chaps and I had good chat to them about their visit to Dubai at Christmas where they had stayed at our villa and R said it was one of the best holidays she had ever had (commemorated on Facebook with a Christmas Diner with Minnie our cat taking entre stage). There was also some more unexpected arrivals including my Cousin Michael and his wife from Bognor (who I had not seen since their wedding years ago) and also his Sister Teresa (with her husband) also from the Bognor branch of the family who I had last caught up with in Killarney at Ks 60th).

The West Country contingent (A and J, and his daughter L with her family K, and the two children – the dog was banished to the study) who we saw last night also arrive bearing yet further gifts of beer and my Cousin C with his wife L also arrived. It was great to see them all and the uproar from everyone trying to speak at once in the Marquee had to be heard to be believed! K and A also arrive with S and his girlfriend H and C and D with K and O (all of whom would be attending part 2 of the party in Ireland next week). S had shares in Chapel Down vineyard and so had bought a selection of sparling wines (as well as an LP – Revolver – I had not received one of them in many years!) which we were able to add to the general stock of champagne/sparkling wine which was rapidly reducing! K. and A had also prepared a great photo album with some great shots of Mum dad Mary and me as well as some of the family (including Mum's family in Ireland). We also had J and J from next door having recovered from their BBQ or yesterday (slightly sunnier than ours!) and E's parents P and T were also able to come (although they had also struggled due to accommodation issues).

I had an absolutely great time chatting with everyone and K. gave a short speech which was very well received. M had also distributed some quiz questions about me which everyone was invited to team up with the rest of their table – the questions wee answered to much hilarity – in fact there was a couple that I did not get myself – apparently I had interviewed the Secretary of State for northern Ireland when I was at University – I vaguely remember something about that but even now cannot recall who this was {Just checked wikipedia - Tom King was Secretary of State at that time and I did not interview him - it must have been Merlyn Rees - who I did interview while I worked as Features Editor at URN. He was better known as Home Secretary but had at one time been Secretary of State for Northern Ireland).

JG won the quiz (he always was quite competitive) and as it was a Sunday afternoon and many people were working in the morning, things started to wind down at around 6:30/7pm with the last guests leaving at around 9:30pm. I had eaten my own body Wyeth in Hog roast and cake and had made a considerable dent in the champagne – although we still had a couple of bottles left to send with K and A on their drive trip to Ireland (they were setting off immediately after the party for the ferry) for part 2 in Castletownbere along with some Chapel Down.

Despite the rain (and the fact that everybody had to congregate in the marquee probably helped)it was a lovely day – a real pleasure to be part of it all and a great testament to my family - particularly M, dad and E in putting it all on. And we still had a further leg to go next Sunday at K's house in Cork!

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