The other weekend was Mr WithaY's birthday. This year both of us have been lucky enough to have birthdays that fall on a Saturday, so we have both had parties. Hurrah for us.
Mr WithaY, having a Spring birthday, gets to have a partially outdoor party. We get the brazier out, and hang lanterns in the apple tree, and light the fire, and people can sit around and look at the stars in a romantic and nature-loving manner. Or, as usually happens, smoke fags, talk bollocks and sing loudly. Both are good, of course.
Mine is usually a smaller, less rowdy affair, perhaps a grown-up dinner party* or a few friends round for an elegant cocktail soiree**. Always chic and well-planned though***.
Anyhoo. The party. We took Friday off work and got the house sorted out, ready for all the guests. Mr WithaY spent hours, HOURS, tidying his study. His study has been a bit of a bone of contention for, oh, about 5 years now. It's normally a cross between a fishing tackle shop, a historical weapons exhibit at a museum, Ray Mears' Winter wardrobe, and the office of a dodgy tax accountant who never files anything to avoid trouble.
The cleaners were given strict instructions when they started with us not to go in there. Hell, I don't go in there. You never know what you might turn up.
A hand-made fish spear? Some carefully scrimshawed ox bones? A hundred five-year-old copies of Shooting Times? A large, lavishly-illustrated book on sausage-making? A filing cabinet stuffed with telephone bills from the 1990s? A Victorian chamber pot? It's all possible.
He spent the day sorting it all out, and by the time he'd finished, the place was just lovely. We had a whole new room that people could go into, sit on the futon, have a drink, listen to music**** and chill out. The carefully-placed coasters added to the total trance-room ambience, I think.
It needed doing, as we had mates staying over, and unless that room is habitable there is no bed for some of them to use.
Anyway, the party was a success, everyone had a nice time, or at least told us that they did, nothing caught fire, and nobody punched anybody else. Always a sign of a good party, that. We didn't overcater too dramatically, which was a pleasant change too. Well, I say that. I found several uneaten platters of party food in the big chiller in the garage the next day. We had them for lunch. Nom nom nom.
Party aside, what else? Very little that I've felt compelled to write about in here. Mr WithaY is in into the second week of his tree-climbing, coasteering, adventure training course, so the house feels big and quiet and empty. Not that he usually runs around it shrieking and waving his arms when he's here, but I still miss him.
I went for a Long Walk on Sunday with some friends and their unfeasibly huge dog. She is charming, well behaved and gentle, and a pleasure to be out and about with. We drove up to Heaven's Gate, walked through the woods to the amazing stones and then down the path to the edge of Longleat Safari Park.
The rhododendrons (sp?) were all out, and looked wonderful.
Obviously my photos don't do them justice, but you get the idea. The stones looked fantastic in the weird kind of half-cloud that was going on. I like this photo very much.
I didn't know that you can just walk right into the estate for free. You only pay if you want to ride the gorilla boat or go in the mazes or go round the house or whatever. We sat and had a drink at one of the cafe places there, walked around the gardens, then back over the fields and then UP the very steep hill to Heaven's Gate again.
We walked from where I took this pic through the woods and along the road in a big loop to the house (helpfully arrowed) and then back up the hill that drops away in front of the bench in this picture. By Swansea it was steep.
It was all very pleasant; despite having to practically crawl up the last part of the hill on my hands and knees, stopping to wheeze at frequent intervals, I made it to the top without collapsing. The friends I was with are both very fit. Very, very fit. The husband of the two ran - RAN - to the top of the hill, stood there for a bit, got bored and ran back down to where I was toiling up in the manner of an ant carrying an entire leaf on its back, and then ran - RAN - back to the top.
I had just about enough strength in my lungs to shout "You're not helping!" at him as he did laps of the hill. It made me feel better.
Longleat House is gorgeous. If I was Lord Bath I think I'd be very happy living there, despite the hordes of great unwashed traipsing through the garden.
The gardens aren't half bad either.
There are some excellent bits of sculpture and statues and so on.
Other news: Very little. I have not really felt much like blogging for a few days, I think Mr WithaY must be my Muse, and with him out of the house, I have no ideas whatsoever. Heh.
*shedloads of wine and hilarious shouting, often with the hostess falling asleep on the sitting room rug in front of the fire
**shedloads of cocktails and hilarious shouting, often with people falling asleep on the sofa and having to be evicted at 3am
***Not really. Too much shouting for chic.
****Trance, unfortunately, but hey, at least they didn't have to stand up to listen to it