After the excitement of our adventures in France, we now have a week in UK before heading off to Ireland. First up is my big birthday party (part 1) for UK based friends and relations which E and my Sister M had been plotting for some considerable time.
The day of our return from France had been wet and windy. However, the next day (Saturday) was sunny and dry - perfect for putting up the marquee that we were using to forestall the vagaries of England's summers. We had all been looking forward to the erection of this edifice with some trepidation - mainly based on our experience a few years earlier of the challenges of putting up a gazebo for our annual UK BBQ and also some concerns about the likely weather given a somewhat dire forecast for the whole of the weekend. In the event, whilst a little breezy, the Marquee was put together in bright sunshine under the expert guidance of Ms friend (who was lending it to us) in a little under two hours which was excellent going although did require a team of 7 (including Dad and also J from next door)working pretty much full time.
The first challenge was to see whether it fitted in to the top garden (K my cousin had been confident that it would not). However, with a little bit of manipulation and the judicious removal of some (small) branches from the apple tree we were able to fit it so that the main opening coincided with a step down from the patio which allowed ready access to the hog roast station and allowed M and B's gazebo to provide cover from the house to the Marquee (the weather forecast really was that bad..). It also meant that the kids would have free range to play in the lower part of the garden, weather permitting. By coincidence, next door were also having a BBQ(but that afternoon) and so B dad and I helped put up the gazebo next door so a good example of a community support scheme!
A number of guest for the party had travelled up from the West Country a day early and were staying at various camp sites and hotels in the outer environs of the Maidstone area. We were therefore joined by Dad's Cousin J who had come with us a few years back to the rugby in HK and his daughter L with her family and Dad's other cousin who used to cycle a lot. We had a great meal and learnt at first hand about the problems of getting accommodation in Maidstone this weekend - it was apparently proving very difficult as the "Rambling Man" prog-rock festival was on-going at Mote Park which had caused every hotel and B&B in the Maidstone and outer areas to sell out). Given the rather chilly evening we decided to use the marquee as the venue for our meal and whilst it was nice to be outside we made an easy feast for the midges that congregated inside - this of course did allow us an opportunity to do something about them before the main event tomorrow but at the cost of some rather painful bites.
It was nice to catch up with part of the family who we very rarely see and the kids enjoyed playing with their young cousins as well as M, B and N and J who also came along and a good time was had by all.