Sunday 2 July 2006

Party - the unexpurgated version

I said I wasn't going to do this but in the end, since I was writing it up for the family anyway, here it is...

I think I've got all the major events in the right order but feel free to comment, add information or corrections. I'd hate to misrepresent anyone.



The first guests, Lyn and Sonner arrived early afternoon on the 22nd June. We had just finished erecting some shelves in the L shaped room and made sufficient repairs to the toilet to allow it to be left with water turned on for the duration. Compared to the previous three weeks it looked very convincing with a nice white knob on the pull and no buckets catching drips.

We tried to get pizza from the van in the village but his orders were all backed up and it would have been an hour's wait so we came home again, had some more wine and I made a pasta with pine kernels and chillies. A bit too hot for Lyn unfortunately so she finished with bread and cheese but Sonner ate his up. They set their tents up in the field where the coypus were in the winter. M. Briche had cut for hay but not baled so there was lots of cut grass underfoot. Weather was cold, a bit cloudy and damp but not actually raining.

Roy, Keif, Xtal arrived in a fully packed van and Keif's friends, Chris, Steve and Adrian followed in a car. Chris gave me a pretty miniature rose and they set up their tent in the camping field. Well, Chris, Steve and Adrian did. Keif and Xtal chose to sleep in the house and Roy had to clear a space in his van for his camping home. A few more drinks and time for bed.

Friday morning dawned clear but cold and threatening rain from time to time as clouds blew over and obliterated the sun. The next arrivals were Helen and Nick, more friends of Keif's. They were exhausted from the trip so quickly set up a tent and went for a snooze. Roy started sorting out some very impressive lights and sound with help from Paul and occasionally the others.

I was called from my shower after the sound of much revving in the courtyard, and still undressed and marshalling my french for another difficult conversation with a local was delighted to find that Mark had arrived on his magnificent beast. So hugs were exchanged and another tent found a location, this time under the pear tree. He regretted that later when pear drops kept falling on his head all night.

Chris and Martyn arrived and set their tent up a very long way from anyone else. At 1.30 I set off to Caen- Ouistreham to collect Tuppence and Lawrence from the ferry port. It was an easy drive and I arrived early, taking only 45 minutes so I bought myself some chips and watched a rather irritating school party that was milling around waiting to board the outgoing ferry. The ferry arrived and so did most of the foot passengers but I waited quite a long time before they finally came through the arrivals gate - luckily for them there was a second passenger bus to bring them from the boat to the terminal, otherwise they might have been on their way back to Blighty before they knew it.

We piled into the car and started home. Unfortunately the curse of Caen overwhelmed me again and instead of taking the Periphique Ouest I managed to get onto the link road for Est (none of this marked of course) and was over the river before I knew it. I had tremendous trouble doing a U turn and eventually gave up trying, heading back up the east side of the river towards the car ferry port and hoping to see signs for Bayeux along the way. Tupps read the map helpfully and Lawrence gave much benefit of his advice. So we found the D35 and started for home along it. On the map it's a fairly direct route but it's windy and slow with many villages along the way. By the time we got to Douvres la Deliverande Tupps was fairly bursting for the loo so we stopped as soon as we saw a bar.

There is insufficient parking in Douvres, a charming and exceedingly touristy town, with cobbled pedestrian walkways and a one way system to rival Salisbury so Lawrence and I waited, double parked in a variety of spots while Tuppence boldly tracked down a toilet. Luckily (in more than one respect) it didn't take her long and we were soon on our way again.

All went well until we reached Bayeux and this is where another technique for French navigation came in handy. After we had drilled down quite a long way into central Bayeux, again a medieval place where cars are neither welcome nor accommodated and still not found a sign for 'St. Lo' or even 'Toutes directions' I realised I did know the way home from the LeClerc supermarket. This is adequately signed all over town and within minutes I was back on familiar territory and bringing my weary guests the last few miles home. We were only an hour and half late and Lawrence assures me he enjoyed the sight seeing.

By the time we were back Candice, Steve and Judy had arrived and were enjoying their first drink in the sunshine. Introductions were made all round. Estelle and Ben arrived with the essential Drum Kit and were found tent spaces. Roy had completed quite a lot of his preparations and as the evening grew darker the lights began to come into their own. Veggie chillie and rice was served, along with meat from various barbeques for those who eat it all washed down with copious quantities of alcohol and conversation. Vanessa and Andrew roared up last on Friday and the guest list was nearly complete, just missing Bob and Alex.

Saturday morning dawned, fairly bright, a little breezy but with promise. The toilet, already suffering from one anonymous attack, was targetted again and there was much merriment while pulls were refixed for a second time and floors mopped. No one knew exactly who the culprit was but they were determined in their efforts to remove the lid and detach the lever from its socket. A notice was written, short and to the point.

Bob arrived, I'm not sure if it was before or after the toilet debacle. Once he had got his tent up he started teaching diabolo to all comers. Judy had become quite good by the end of the day and most others had dabbled enough to be called novices.

By the time breakfast was over it was clear that Roy's tiny old fridge, first commissioned when he left home for University, would not service a party of 25+ in the baking heat of the day. Lawrence generously offered to fund a new one and an expedition was mustered to scale Leclerc and But (source of hilarity for some members of the party) for more food and the necessary white good. Naturally we arrived at But just as they closed for obligatory lunch. A not particularly happy time followed as we 'did' the supermarket, decided on a fridge in the local electrical boutique and were informed that the only one available was the display model. Unacceptable. So a tiresome wait followed by a panicked rush back to But for afternoon opening. Transaction completed in record time (about 3 minutes) we hurried home to relieve Estelle who had been minding the ranch. She wasn't too distressed at missing her bike ride and admitted she'd quite enjoyed the rest. Despite reports that the fridge needed 12 hours to settle before use (from the man at the shop) the instructions suggested 2 hours would be adequate, even for fridges that had been inverted during unloading, so a countdown was started with some anticipation.

At this point we began to wonder about the evening's entertainment. Roy had brought a full PA and stage lighting set, Ben had his drums and there were a number of other instruments, guitars, saxophones and even an old synthesiser from the Selidor days but no musicians. The people claiming to have musical skills were strangely reluctant to exhibit them and the three most valiant, Xtal, Ben and Adrian had never played together before and had no playlist in common. Xtal and I decided to get the tabs for a few easy songs from the internet and see what they could make of them. We found 'creep' and some other Radiohead and Queen and the incipient band settled down to work things out.

Then it was time to turn the fridge on! What a relief when it worked. It was rapidly loaded up with the more acceptable perishables and Roy's fridge was left to house the meaty products. We are so grateful for the new fridge which has been essential in the hot weather. Thank you Lawrence.

Candice took over preparation of the evening meal for veggies and with the help of Estelle, Chris and myself turned out a huge pasta salad, a celeriac salad and piles of veggie kebabs for the barbeque which Andrew, helped by Steve, cooked for us. Chris also took over cooking some delicious tofu which kept the poor dear in the kitchen far too long but was worth it.

The evening meandered on but Paul was beginning to get quite twitchy about the lack of live music, worrying that people were bored. (They weren't of course!) when suddenly the door of the house opened and the band marched to the stage. With almost no preparation they launched into a very creditable performance of Creep. All the mamas were suitably charmed but so were the others. It was really good. The biggest problem was that it was keyed a bit too low for Xtal to sing as well as she can but that's a minor problem given all the other obstacles they'd overcome. So we had Creep a few more times and then they played about with other songs they half knew for a while before returning the music to recorded artists. It boded well for Sunday but the thunderclouds were gathering.

And when Sunday came, so did the rain. In huge stormy cloudfuls, bucketing down on campers and into the house under the front door. Anyone who could make it from their tent to the house was trapped unless they were willing to get soaked on the return trip. The lounge became an ark, full of displaced persons. So Paul and I made soup, a fire was lit and the party went on. In the midst of the downpour Alex arrived, our last guest expected and very welcome. After lunch, fortified, people decided to venture out anyway, in the hope that the rain would take the hint and go away. Some made a trip out to the Chateau at Balleroy, others took off to the beach. Some of us remained huddled by the fire. By mid afternoon the rain had cleared to the extent that outside living could be resumed. Dinner was rather less lavish than the previous two days with a mezze table to supplement the chips most had indulged in on their trips out.

Various contingency plans were made by people who had to leave early in the morning, Candice and Steve slept in the owl loft to allow their tent to dry before packing, Mark moved his tent into the near tractor shed, Tupps packed herself up and decided to sleep on the sofa.

The band resumed rehearsals; rather than scare themselves with a formal performance, they continued to perfect their skills under the working title of "No Pressure" and with various guest singers practised Oasis, Radiohead and Cure songs. Nick took over guitar and Xtal became lead singer. Eventually they pronounced themselves ready for the main event and played their entire repetoire to much applause. A lot of pictures were taken which I'm hoping to obtain copies of. It really added to the party to have live music.

A chilly evening so a lot of the older folk retired indoors, where Martyn provided accompaniment to a drunken singsong that lasted until 3 a.m. The younger contingent stayed outside and had a bonfire. And so to bed.

Well, it would have been for most of us but there was still quite a lot of hubbub from outside and people slamming in and out of doors for the loo. As Paul and I had to get up at six to get Tupps and Lawrence back to Ouistreham for the ferry, we eventually lost our tempers and insisted everyone went to bed. Which was a pity, but with all that space there were other places to have late night chats and no need to be quite so offensive when asked to keep the noise down. A bad end that I would rather have avoided.

Monday morning the weather had reverted to terrible and the drive to the ferry was horrendous with sheets of rain and water logged roads. We quickly dumped Tupps and Lawrence at the entrance to the terminal and headed out again for home, but the rain didn't really stop until we were nearly back in the forest. During the morning most of the other guests packed and left for home leaving Roy, Keif and Xtal still to pack up for the evening ferry and just Estelle and Ben, Bob, Alex and ourselves to celebrate Paul's birthday. Cards were opened and admired and plans made for a posh dinner which Estelle and I went off to buy. Roy started his take down rather slowly with Bob helping him and by 5 o'clock it was clear that packing would have to be speeded up. So it was and in a supreme effort everything was packed away in less than hour while Paul and Estelle took a bike ride to the village. The posh dinner was transmuted by exhaustion into a rather scaled down affair but we had gluten/tofu sate (with some sausages on the side for the meateaters), cheeses and veggie pate and Candice Cake, all washed down with an excellent Champagne, a rather nice Beaune and some Sauternes so we went to bed contented.

Tuesday Estelle and Ben had to pack and leave, and after cooking Alex a full breakfast Bob also packed his car and went on rejoicing. Paul and I left Alex to his own devices for a bit as we took a siesta but later that day we all trundled off to the beach, paddled and had chips in a bar before coming home to sit in the yard, drink Alex's Gingered Beer and watch for owls. Unfortunately just as they were about to arrive (we could hear them coming) I had an awful coughing fit and probably scared them off. Which was a pity.

The last day with a guest was Wednesday, a week after it all began. We watched Alex pack and gave him lots of good advice, as you do, before waving him goodbye and collapsing back into our bed. Partied out.


Niles said...

Wow -- what a weekend! A lovely time was had by all, I'm sure, certainly by me.

Anonymous said...

I had a fantastic time! As first arrivals Sonner and I had choice of tent pitch so picked the nearest to the house, for obvious reasons! Unfortunately we didn't notice the midges until later than evening, but by that time we didn't particularly care :-)Stocked up on supplies at the LeClerc supermarket in Bayeux with Chris on Friday. On Saturday we ventured back to Bayeux to visit a small garden which was beautifully laid out and in full bloom, and followed that with a trip to the beach where we dipped our toes into the briney, collected a couple of shells and mooched around the town. On the way we found a small garden centre where we bought small housewarming gifts for our hosts - blueberry, tarragon and parsley plants, plus a small John Deere tractor as an additional birthday present for Paul.
I'd like to thank the hosts for inviting us and also thank Sonner for doing all the driving and all our (meat) cooking. I felt totally spoint all weekend and it was good to catch up with so many friends :-)

Anonymous said...

Or spoilt even! Tsk....