July 2018, Early on is my son Patrick’s birthday. He now has his own little family so they spent the day together then we had dinner with them in the evening. It is astonishing how quickly he has matured now that he is a father. The middle child, Patrick was always frivolous with his money, but once he and his fiancé had their son he realised things had to change. We are so proud of the man he has become.
Every year, usually in July, my husband and our youngest son go off on a boys holiday to Germany. Vern loves Bavaria and the mountains in particular so they go across to France on the Eurostar, then drive for twelve hours or so across to Germany. They always stay with a family in Wallgau who rent out their flat upstairs to tourists. One year when my son was unable to go I went along to see for myself why they loved it so much. The family is lovely, the flat is on the top floor of their beautiful wooden Alpine lodge and has a balcony where you can sit and listen to the cow bells chiming in the distance. The area is stunning but unfortunately I am not good with heights so the prospect of taking a cable car to the top of a mountain filled me with dread. When the boys go they relish climbing in the mountains and visiting six or seven different countries during the week, so I leave them to it. I actually look forward to a week by myself, although I do miss them after a few days.
This July we celebrated my mums’ 70th birthday. She had tasked my sister and I with organising a party for her. She wanted a traditional English tea party for all her friends and family on a strict budget. We began months beforehand, hiring a hall locally and mum picked the date – July 15th. At the time we didn’t know that this was the date of the World Cup Final, nor did we know that England would do particularly well this year! All the preparations were going swimmingly but, as England got through round after round we began to get twitchy. Then, just a week before the party the owners of the venue told us that they needed the social club back on that date for the football. They made it clear that we would not have full use of the facilities if we went ahead with our booking. Mum steadfastly refused to change the date as there were people coming from other parts of the country so my sister and I searched frantically for another venue. By some miracle, a friend of my sisters who owns an equestrian centre said we could use her barn to hold the party in. It is huge and is used for wedding receptions most of the year so everything we needed was there. We hired vintage china and cutlery from a local business but did everything else ourselves, catering all the food, making bunting to hang around the barn, fashioning a photo booth in one corner and baking a huge, tiered birthday cake. I baked scones and cupcakes and Em made beautiful centre pieces for the tables with sunflowers. It looked gorgeous and mums face when she walked in was a picture. We enjoyed organising the party so much that we decided to go into business ourselves. We now have a fledgling china hire business which we run together.
July ended on a high with my birthday present from Vern. He had managed somehow to get tickets for us to see Damien Rice in Spain. We flew out to Barcelona on the Saturday and spent the afternoon by the pool in scorching sunshine before heading to the beach for an evening meal. Then on the Sunday we spent the day exploring before making our way to Castle Roig, which stands proudly on top of a hill, overlooking the sea, for the night concert. I have been a fan of Damien Rice for years and had always wanted to see him live. It was an unbelievable evening, he was on top form and I will never forget it!
August 2018, We were invited to the chairman’s barbecue, hosted by Vern’s boss, at his beautiful home in Oxford. I was especially nervous about this as I am socially retarded (my own definition) and don’t cope well around people I don’t know very well. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and we were collected from our home for the hour-long journey. When we arrived we were greeted with waiting staff holding trays of champagne and canapés. I was so worried that I would fall over or say something stupid but thankfully the time passed without a hitch, although there were no sausages or burgers on the barbecue, rather a huge marquee with waiter service and yet more champagne. I felt like a fish out of water but I survived!
At the end of the month the builders arrived to begin work on the orangery. They demolished our old conservatory within a day but the reinforced concrete base proved trickier to get rid of. The poor guys had to chip away at the solid concrete and cut out the metal grids for almost a week. They then had a few days to get the walls up and secure the building before we were due to go on holiday.
September 2018, After a very stressful, dusty and noisy few weeks we were more than ready for a break. We flew off to Greece, leaving our son to look after the house and our three dogs. We travelled to Kefalonia where a taxi was waiting to take us to the port, about an hour away. We then got on a local water taxi for the short trip across to Ithaca. The sea was very choppy and our party of British holidaymakers soon felt a little queasy. I tried to focus on a landmark in the distance to stop the nausea but twenty minutes into the journey we were diverted to another water taxi which had broken down. We picked up their passengers, thankfully only two people but five large suitcases and they squeezed into our tiny boat for the rest of the crossing. By the time we reached the island I felt like kissing the rocky landing dock, I was so glad to be on dry land! Our rep was fantastic and gave us all water and sweeties, we must have looked a fright. Once we found our little villa we quickly settled in and spent a glorious two weeks basking by the pool and exploring quaint little villages. Ithaca has a Monastery, high up in the mountains. It is a gut-wrenching, bottom-clenching car ride on treacherous roads but once you are up there it is undeniably beautiful with stunning 360 degree views of the island. It is a very spiritual place, I definitely felt peaceful up there, almost in the clouds. It was an unforgettable day. We also took an early evening walking tour to the supposed ruins of Odysseus’s Palace which was fascinating. I studied Homers work at school and much of the ruins match his descriptions. We ate delicious food, swam in the warm sea and fully unwound. The only downside was that Ithaca is home to some vicious wasps. We were both stung and the results were quite unpleasant!
When we returned the house was still standing and both son and dogs were still alive so work resumed on the orangery and the aforementioned son started his exciting new job in banking.
October 2018, Not much to say about this month. The building work continued, delayed slightly by several leaks in the roof. I also decided I needed a change and spent the whole day at the salon having my hair coloured bright red, orange and yellow, autumn hues to ring the changes. I loved it so much that it is still those colours now. My stylist Louise was accepted by Wella onto a Master’s Degree Course in colouring on the strength of the pictures she submitted of my hair, so we were both happy.
November 2018, a fairly quiet month. Preparations for Christmas were underway and the orangery was almost finished. The plastering had been done and the decorator was ready to paint the walls. I made a special cake for a friend who was turning 50 and began thinking about how I was going to celebrate my milestone birthday next year. We decided we needed a very large dining table for the orangery so that we could fit the whole family around it and, after an intensive search, we found someone to make one to our specifications. It is solid oak, almost three metres long and very beautiful. We ordered six leather aviator style chairs and two dark blue, velvet Carver armchairs to go around it. Exciting stuff!
December 2018, the final month of this eventful year and the busiest. Our gorgeous grandson Jason celebrated his first birthday. The day started with a cake smash photo shoot as is the trend these days. The pictures were so cute, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of my favourite one in a frame for Christmas. In the afternoon, my son and his girlfriend took Jason to see Father Christmas and he didn’t cry. He is fascinated by beards, he loves to grab handfuls of Vern’s beard when he comes to visit so seeing Santa’s lush white beard must have been, well like Christmas for him!
The following day we had a party for him. I spent hours making a birthday cake in the shape of a number one. I went to town with the decorations and I was really pleased with how it turned out. Jason had a ball in the soft play area, he is just walking and loves being around other children. When the time came to cut the cake we all gathered around with our cameras and phones while Jason sat in his high chair eyeing the cake. His mum cut a big slice and put it on the tray of his chair, whereupon he snatched it up and jammed it into his face, blue icing and buttercream covering his hair and everyone standing close to him. Everyone fell about laughing and Jason thought this was hilarious. He is such a dearly loved little boy, I especially enjoy our time together when his mum is at work and we get to play or watch Paw Patrol. Being a nanny is the best thing in the world.
Christmas was upon us in no time and I worked on a showstopper reindeer cake for Christmas Eve when all our family plus my sister and her family gather for a party. We play silly games, eat too much food and have a few presents. It’s my time to connect with my sister and my beautiful niece. My son’s girlfriend is Portuguese and they traditionally celebrate Christmas through the night of the 24th so they took Jason home early to celebrate with her family, then they returned on Christmas Day to have lunch with us. The giant table was a great success, we could all fit comfortably around it and it was a very special day. Jason kept us all entertained, toddling around and causing chaos. It was the perfect end to a spectacular year and I look forward to what the next one will bring.
Happy New Year and thanks for reading. xx