It’s been an amazing summer so far. The last seven weeks have been spent in sunny Devon and now we’re back up in sunny Scotland again. Time goes so fast when you’re having fun.
Much of the Devon time was taken up with party planning.
It’s surprising just how much planning is needed for a party isn’t it? Well, this party certainly.
Many of you will know about the party because many of you were there. Sixty of you actually, well fifty eight to be absolutely accurate. But for the purposes of this blog I will assume you know nothing about the event and give you a guided and illustrated tour of what happened. Because that’s what I do.
The event was my mother’s eightieth birthday. Her birthday was actually in May and she celebrated it then by going out for lunch with my brother Tim. She also received lots of presents and wonderful flowers and generally seemed to enjoy herself.
Last summer while down on our annual visit I casually suggested the idea that to celebrate her big birthday in a bigger way we could have sole hire of a youth hostel for a weekend and invite the whole family. I thought Ma wouldn’t want to do this but I was wrong. She thought it was a great idea and within moments we were discussing it with the extended family and picking possible dates.
We chose August because the boys and I would be down there anyway, Tim had a small gap in his incredibly busy schedule and most other people would be about to start their own summer hols. Actually we originally booked the weekend before last but the hostel was double booked and so we had to move it on a week. The previous weekend was very hot and very sunny. Last week was…er… changeable. Ah well. The rain and hail and thunder ended up being a bit of a feature and it all mattered far less than we feared it would. And we did get enough sun to get a few outdoor photos, so all was far from being lost.
And so exactly one year ago we started planning and organising. I contacted family and sorted out numbers and accommodation and financial stuff and found a hog roast man and paid a deposit for it all and confirmed things and double checked it all and emailed people and worried a wee bit and then didn’t do very much else for several months.
In the new year I focussed back on it all again and did a bit more organising of finances and hogs and people and such and then put it aside for several more months.
And then it was nearly the summer again and we were making plans to travel south again and I panicked a wee bit about the party and started buying disposable plates and napkins and cups and bowls and cutlery, as you do. And also, being a bit of a geek, I started making notices about things and laminating them. I love my laminator. Strange but true.
Once we were back in Devon again this June, Ma and I set to with the lists. SO MANY LISTS.
We made lists of food, lists of people, of rooms, of equipment and of more food. We listed what needed to be made, what needed to be bought, what we could ask willing ‘volunteers’ to help with and anything else that needed to be on a list plus several things that didn’t.
Next we decided to do a recce to help us plan what was needed. So one sunny morning we packed a picnic and, with the boys, drove up to Gloucester to Slimbridge youth hostel where we spent several hours sussing out the place, looking in kitchen drawers, checking out the bedrooms and making more lists. It was the most useful part of the whole planning process by far.
The next several weeks went by in a haze of meringue cooking, soup making, label printing and secret cake baking, until we could do no more and we finally stopped and waited for the party weekend to arrive.
I’ll stop yakking now and just show you some photos of the party.
This is one of the piles of stuff we accumulated as we prepared for the party. It’s bigger than it looks.
And this is Tim attempting to get it all into his car. I don’t know how but he managed to do it. Just.
And this is him getting it all out of his car at the other end. There were a LOT of boxes and bags.
Slimbridge welcomed us…
And we welcomed everyone else.
People brought lovely flowers.
We put up a noticeboard to show where everyone was staying.
And labeled each room so in the night no one got lost. Ours was the Scottish suite. We also had a West Country Suite, a Yorkshire one, a Wessex, a Halifax, a Northern one, A White Horse, a Long Boat, a Devonshire and a Maple Leaf Suite. Each intended to have a link with their occupants.
And placed welcome bags in every room, containing Devon fudge, weird name badges made from a jigsaw I found in a charity shop and a card featuring the in-house star Bruce the Goose.
The card gave details of the itinerary for the weekend
Bruce the Goose was extremely popular with everyone, especially the young. He was chatted to constantly and fed croissants on more than one occasion.
The rooms were excellent. More like hotel rooms than hostel ones for many of us. Two dorms however had ten and twelve beds respectively. Lucky our lovely cousins all get on so well.
The food proved plentiful, despite our concerns that people might be left hungry. Friday’s pot luck supper was huge and many people took home bags of spare food on Sunday.
Jess and Lizzy did an amazing job of the table decorations which looked stunning.
Saturday was Hog Roast Day. Shaun and his assistant did a great job. It was really delicious and extremely efficiently done. First class service from them.
And for those who preferred the vegetarian option, a veggie lasagne. My first actually. Great moment to try out a new thing. No pressure at all.
During the afternoon, Tim, Lizzy, Jess and I made several discreet but focussed visits to the classroom where between us all we gathered together and decorated all the secret cakes people had kindly helped make. The pressure began to get to us after a bit and hysteria set in. It was hilarious.
Between four of us (Tim, myself, Jess and Ruthie) we made eight cakes, not counting the failed ones made using the recipe I initially gave everyone, which proved to be exactly half the size it needed to be. We reckoned that between us we’d used just shy of eighty eggs in total. An appropriate number considering the birthday they were being used to celebrate I suppose. Those chickens gave their all in the making of these cakes. But it was worth it in the end I think.
Here is the finished garden mosaic cake, with integral gnomes and a sad rabbit and a happy mole, hiding there on the cake top right, next to the tree which shortly was felled as the icing trunk finally gave way under the pressure. I know how it felt.
Martin was instructed to distract Ma while the party assembled around the cake. He then brought her in and made a wee speech, thanking her for being such an amazing wife and mother and everyone else for all that had been done for the party. It was perfect.
And now for lots of photos of people enjoying the party. Here we have Tim, Lizzy and Jess eating pudding.
And here are some of the young ones having fun. Ruby, Jakey, Olivia and Megan.
And even younger ones having breakfast. Olivia, Lola and Florence.
Some had their own individual ideas about what constitutes fun. Little Michael being a transformer I believe.
Beth looked lovely in her new dress.
Tim, Robert, me, James and Martin.
Ruth and Neil
Molly, Ruby, Megan and Eloise
Colin, Josh, Matt, Jeremy and Margaret
Tony, Matt, Jess, Lizzy and Ray, who had travelled all the way from Canada for the party.
Heather, Barbara and Margi
Ann, at 91, was our oldest attendee.
Sisters Ruthie, Ray, Margi, Ma and Liz
Rhiannan, Léonie and Eirwen
Theo, Michael and Little Michael
Sisters Rachel, Alex, Emily, Louisa, Beth and Jo with Jakey, Lola and Florence
Helen, Liz and Paul
Andy, Jakey and Margi
And the birthday girl herself with Lizzy and Tim
HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY MA
You don’t look a day over thirty seven. Honestly.
PS I apologise that not everyone who was there has been captured in the photos above. There are more pics to come once we’ve swapped around with each other a bit. Watch this space. Or another similar space.