The charms of a weekend in the country have largely eluded me over thirty years as a Londoner, mainly because I feel safe in these smokey streets. So when invitations to go there began to arrive, I thought long and hard.
Beautiful Boyfriend is from the countryside. My first nerve wracking country jaunt was to his very own natural habitat and I unexpectedly found it suited me rather well. I was happy to gaze at the green open space, I rather enjoyed the changeable weather and I very much liked the warm and welcoming people that live there.
On this visit, it came to pass that I met Z; blonde, vivacious, brain like a bandsaw. She is a long-standing family childhood friend with BB’s interests at heart and upon meeting an ostensibly arriviste girlfriend, had every reason to observe me carefully. As it turned out we got along fine. Z is not just sassy, smart and slightly scatty but also a successful self-made businesswoman, linguist and party animal.
Before too long, we received an invitation to her cottage in the country. This particularly picturesque panacea to London life is nestled in the Cotswolds, somewhere as yet unexplored by Fortewinks and therefore, of interest. More compelling still was the idea of a weekend with Z, who did not disappoint.
Our glamorous chauffeusse collected us from a misty station at the appointed hour and before long, we drew into a tiny drive. Her immaculate cottage had been thoughtfully crafted to squeeze the last millimetre out of its nooks and crannies, the result being spacious, elegant and deliciously luxe.
Saturday brought a trip to the nearby market town with its traditional shops purveying everything from sweets to suits, shirts to shotguns. Z pointed out the sights and airily waved her arm across swathes of hill and dale confiding that numerous A-listers had discreet places nearby: Ruby Wax, Kate Moss, The Camerons et al.
We visited delightful delicatessens and bought food for dinner that night; we were due to dine with Z’s neighbours. Rest assured, well connected though our hostess happens to be, our guests were none of the above but instead we were treated to the company of a remarkable, interesting and witty couple.
The Neighbours were academics: artistic teachers with well-honed, informed and utterly logical opinions on education, sculpture, technology, literature and the future of the generation destined to look after us in our dotage. Perhaps one day they will have the opportunity to impart these visionary views to their political neighbours. One can hope
Sunday involved wellington boots and dogs.
Those that know me even slightly will understand my brevity and tone here. Reader dear, the dogs were lively and outside was damp and muddy with bracingly cold air that wrested from my eyes tears of pure Sauvignon from the night before. But wait! The skies were blue, the grass super-green, the air fresh and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed our traipse through the fields and lanes of Oxfordshire. Indeed, I loved spending time with Z and my two and a bit days in the country. As luck would have it, another invitation was to arrive on the horizon within a few short weeks.
This time, it was K, another vibrant, smart, sassy, self-made and enterprising friend who extended an invitation to her country hideaway. BB and I drove out on a Friday afternoon to this most comfortable of cottages nestled into the Suffolk countryside.
Our first evening was spent chatting together at table, with soup, cheese, bread and a good bottle of Chianti. BB and I were installed into the “guest wing” of this tardis hideaway, our bedroom atop the narrowest stair that rose from our very own snug, itself attached to an en-suite bathroom; luxury indeed. Saturday morning arrived with blazing sunshine, blue skies and the most splendid views across fields of long undulating grass.
The afternoon that followed a lazy lunch in Aldeburgh was slow and mellow; we arrived back at K’s to find her wrist deep in ingredients for dinner to which were invited her friends from round about. This particular party of brains hailed from the world of enterprise: design, finance, publishing and media. The food was a joy and the conversation joyous, vivacious, interesting, challenging, funny. As K’s non resident guests peeled off into the night we too dispersed to our beds, happy and exhausted.
Sunday brought bacon toasties, coffee and newspapers. K and BB embarked on some ambitious gardening, ably assisted by your narrator, watching from under a woolly blanket, on the sofa within. Oh happy day.
Garden duly nipped and tucked, we drove to Orford for a bracing quayside walk before setting off on our return journey to The Smoke. As we wove our away through the lanes and byways of Suffolk, I felt a little wistful.
I also wondered at our luck in finding ourselves guests of two clever, independent, social and intellectual meteorites, who were happy to share with us their stimulating friends and beautiful country cottages.
When, I wondered, should we introduce them to each other … ?
Reader, I shall keep you posted.