I have just returned from visiting two very good friends of mine who rather conveniently live only half an hour apart. The difference between their lifestyles show when I start to pack my case.
Along with the necessary garments I have to pack their presents too as any good guest do. Over the years I have made many mistakes which have underwhelmed my hosts, so I now stick to a rather good bottle of wine which has never been sneered at!
The first friends have a beautiful and enormous house along with about two acres of land which they have turned into the most wonderful gardens that anyone would love. They spend most of their time planting, pruning, deadheading and maintaining their magnificent fish pond. Well a small lake really. So to visit them I have to pack my wellies and thermals because whilst my hosts do not feel the cold I certainly do!
When I arrive and unpack I have to be given a tour of the latest flowerbeds, the place where they allow wild flowers grow and the vegetable patch which is huge. They fight a losing battle with hares, rabbits and badgers who invade the patch and consume any tasty things they fancy but my friends are rather fond of them.
We march on and while I am slightly jealous of their green fingers quite honestly my wellies were killing me because I forgot to pack my thick socks!
Suffering from thirst we retired back to the house where my friend made a huge pot of tea. I was gasping for a large gin and tonic, but drank my tea like a good girl. Supper was a kitchen affair which I love and the food was wonderful.
After we had finished I offered to help wash up but rather than have me up to my elbows in bubbles they thought that I would like to see the films of the animals that come out at night.
Every time one of them dared to nibble even a piece of lettuce or whatever there was much muttering about taking a rifle out. I think they were joking but you never know.
I then left them and set off to my next friends who quite simply are totally different from my former hosts- talk about chalk and cheese. Arriving just after twelve I was barely allowed to unpack before a large glass of wine was pressed into my hand. It seemed rather rude not to drink it so I did. Meanwhile they were telling me the itinerary for the three days I was with them.
What a social diary they have, they go to many drinks parties and wonderful dinners. When I am going to stay with them I always pack suitable high heels and a little black number that you can wear anywhere. And I did!
The first evening was a cocktail party given by the Master of the local hunt and his good lady wife. It was a very smart affair with one of their sons cruising around topping up glasses, followed by his younger brother bearing canapés. Very delicious they were too but I am very wary of having my drink topped up all the time as I never know just how many glasses of wine I have consumed.
The next night my hosts threw a dinner party for twelve of their friends and neighbours. I never knew they had so much silver but the table was groaning with it. My offers to help were brushed away again so I was given a glass of wine and told to sit in an armchair while waiting for the guests to arrive. The food was superb and although I didn’t know a soul it didn’t matter at all, it was a very entertaining evening.
I think we might gloss over the next two days, but suffice it to say my liver was not feeling at its best and I was exhausted. It was a whale of a time, but I was quite glad to pick up the dog from the kennels and go home.
Of course I have to ask them to come and visit me which turns into a rather complicated juggling of dates. However I am looking forward to having them here. I can rustle up the lunches and dinners and with much racking of the brains I will try to find friends and family who will keep them amused.
I hope I can match their hospitality and already have plans for two cocktail parties and a couple of dinners.
Wish me luck!
by Jane Buckle