He decided to lure me away. Promises of a romantic night in an ancient manor house. Being wined and dined. Lazy morning (no animal checking) and colossal breakfast.
What girl could resist?
Then came the rub: ‘Well actually, I really do have to be at the national hedgelaying championships’
‘What – all day?’
‘Yess…ish. But then we’ll go home!.’ Grrr…eat.
Now I am a passionate fan of all things country, but sometimes the thought of hanging around for eight hours on a cold windswept field at the end of October can dampen the enthusiasm slightly.
Still, the pull of a night away. Yeh, I’d go for it.
We left later than intended. Hit rush hour after rush hour. Delays, more delays. Nasty accidents. The end of half term.
‘Oh Lord’ says he ‘is it worth it?’ at the fourth hold up ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. Shall I turn back?’
We battle on, for what seems an eternity, blinded by lights, bored, frustrated. Eventually we do arrive.
Not too bad. We perk up. This is fun, we’re away.
Check in. We are a little alarmed that they can’t find the right person to check us in – but hey, it’s okay. Best hotel in the district, the brochure said.
Going up to the room, we giggle a bit. Everything is very dim and has an air of grimy seediness. Our room is gaspingly hot; we open windows and try in vain to find lights that will let us see properly – and notice a puddle on the bedside table. Strange? We look up and see there’s a long damp crack gaping above the bed.
Phone down to reception, ‘Is it normal for this room to have a leak?’
No, she doesn’t think so. But, she says reassuringly, she knows why. No explanation is forthcoming so Robert asks if we could move room. Oh, really? Do we want to? Yes, we think it’s a good idea. Might sleep better if we’re not being dripped upon, with the possible added excitement of the ceiling falling in.
After some time, dithering as to whether we should wash, change or wait, we’re told that we can decamp to the other side of the corridor … if we really want to.
Dinner – I was looking forward to this: delicious morsels of scrumptious food, a bottle of wine, relax, chat and soak up the ambience in the internationally renowned and awarded Templar Restaurant.
A menu sporting lots of signature combinations, jus, reductions and roastings of chutney and marmalades; plus a diverse and unknown wine list with names like ‘Pangolin’s Blood’ and ‘Beaver Golden Hair Dawn’ really should have warned us.
We retreated, after a dozy waitress nearly tipped the pudding on my lap, both of us a touch hysterical and light headed, to our ‘executive suite’.
After breakfast, still boasting signature combinations, reductions and, oh yes…meldings? – we headed off to the hedge event…
What a tremendous affair. Hedgelayers, one hundred and fifty of them from all over the country, gathered to take part. Highly competitive, ruthlessly challenging they laid hedges in the style of Midlands, Yorkshire, Welsh, Sussex, Somerset, Devon and a few more to boot.
The sun came out and spectators flooded in. Chainsaws squalled and phutted, axes and billhooks thunked, and sweat poured as the transformation of over a mile of unruly thirty foot high hedgerow took place before our eyes.
Conversations were struck up and friendships made. It was a thoroughly inspiring event. The skill and talent of the participants, the enthusiasm of the crowd, and the beauty of the finished product made for a day to remember.
And the thing that filled the soul was that everyone, young and old, had a burning passion for the countryside and country skills.
We returned, tired but happy, it had been a very good twenty-four hours away. Very good indeed. Just one little worm-wiggle in my head. I think that the offer of romantic nights won’t come in the guise of ancient manors anymore but more than probably of an irresistible night’s mothing!