Friday, 22 July 2011

The Big Bash

For those of you who have been wondering where I'd disappeared off to for the last couple of months, I've been a bit busy!

I've NO idea why it keeps leaving a big blank space here - if anyone has any advice on blogger's idiosyncrasies, please let me know! :)

A couple of years ago my beloved(?!) daughters realised that their 18th and 21st birthdays would happen 9 days apart in the same year ....not necessarily good planning on our part although it was deemed to be an excellent idea for a joint party! :P They then worked out that our Silver Wedding anniversary (25 years) and my dad's 80th birthday would also happen in the same year therefore we just HAD to have a HUGE party, at home, in a marquee, self-catered, with live music, space for camping and all our friends here to share in such a momentous occasion. A few weeks before the Bash we also realised that my wonderful Parents-in-Law would have their Golden Wedding anniversary 3 days before the party and, although they were playing it down, we counted them in too!
Great idea two years ago! Quite a good idea last year. Still a moderately good idea as we hit this New Year, but hit my traditional pre-party 'whose stupid idea was this and why on earth did I agree to it?' panic in March!

What did I do? Did I succumb to the desire to get caterers in? Think that an iPod and some manky speakers would be the perfect music option? Pay a small fortune for a fully erected, bedecked and ballooned marquee? Nope ........ I made lists - lots and lots of lists!!! Then I put my head down and got on with it.

Lists are vastly under-rated things. You can do lists for just about anything. They keep you organised and focused AND you can have the thrill of 'crossing things off' when you've done them ....and, if you're like me, when no-one's looking you can quietly add new things on as you do them - just so that you can cross them off again 2 minutes later safe in the knowledge that that job has been done! I LOVE lists!

There were various comments that I should have a list of my lists because they included:

  • guest list

  • menu

  • food to make

  • food to buy

  • food for others to make (quite a small list that one, but I owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to the other cooks!)

  • jobs to do in the house

  • jobs to do in the garden -general

  • jobs to do in the Japanese garden

  • jobs in the vegetable garden

  • things to buy

  • things to borrow or scrounge

The combined guest list came to around 130 people aged from 8 to 80 - hence the reason it became known as 'The Big Bash'! Okay, I thought - I can cater for that many for one night ..... then various friends and family (9 of them) said that they'd be coming on Friday to help and First-Born announced that all her university friends would be coming for the whole weekend (another 10!)

I turned into Mission Control. I was the Flight Director and CapCom combined AND I had the lists! I called in a few favours. I persuaded bored teenagers to do some gardening for me. I borrowed tents, chairs, serving dishes and camping fridges from friends. I scrounged crockery, cutlery and mugs from school and had a free glass loan from the local supermarket (Sainsbury's, if you're interested!) and I cooked ....from May to July, I cooked. I can't help it. I'm from Yorkshire. It's innate. People are coming - we cook! I could feed an army for a month just from the normal contents of my pantry and freezer, but for that many - mass catering. Yo! Bring it on! Good job I've got big freezers!

I also borrowed a couple of mess tents, 10 tables and a load of benches from the local Girl Guides - and the weather turned just as we got them home. It threw it down for 24 hours.

The day we put them up was glorious.....

but the forecast for the weekend was dire - cold wet and windy. NOT what you want for an outdoor party in July!

So Friday saw Himself, the Wonderful Pete, Ower Dave and Last-Born's boyfriend - the Drummer Boy, building a structure that would have been worthy of Scrapheap Challenge! (Why did they stop making that series? It was great and I developed a bit of a thing for Dick Strawbridge! Oooops - did I just admit that out loud?!!!)

Using only what we had around the house and garden, they produced two 10 foot high
frames (I thought they were building gallows when I looked out of the window!), which they then covered in a range of awnings and tarpaulins fastened down with rope and tent pegs, but held together with clothes pegs! It worked.

The finished structure covered all the area between the 2 two mess tents and stretched across to the potting shed (the bar) and the black shed (the food 'hall') to keep us warm and dry.

It bucketed it down overnight and only finally stopped raining about 2.00pm on Saturday, but it was still a slightly chilly evening, so the 'extension' was worth all their work ...thanks chaps! :)
Friday also saw us erecting 'tent city' ...or 'Chesterbury' as it became known! There were 12 tents up there in the end - the joy of a big garden!

Friday night's tea for 25 in the tent - moussakka, followed by gooseberry crumble and ice cream!

Saturday night finally arrived - and so did the guests.
Ower Dave gave a bit of a speech

and Himself brought in the cake (Thanks Linden, you did a fantastic job). The girls had a hat each, we had a bouquet of white roses, dad (a retired painter and decorator) had a painter with all the tools of his trade and Himself's parents had gardening related things. It was beautifully done and made me quite teary-eyed!

After the speeches and cake, as the singers got ready to do their bit, (they're the couple behind us in the next photo) we were taken completely by suprise when our best friend - J went totally off-list and presented us with a combined present from many of our friends. They'd all clubbed together to give us a wopping cheque to buy a carpet or something of our choice when we go to Marrakech in a few weeks ....I cried!

A huge thank you to all of you ...we are so lucky to have such great friends :)

Last-Born sang us a beautiful song before handing back to the singers again.

There were people everywhere - in the gazebo.....

up in the tea house....

but mainly dancing to Rachel and Mark, the singers, in the tent. They should have done 3x 1/2 hour slots, but they were having such a good time that they just carried on singing most of the night ....nothing to do with the food or wine they had, honest! :D

They were fantastic and the range of music was perfect for dancing - not sure my grass will ever recover though! :P

Around midnight they turned it into a karaoke. Sadly, I have an appalling singing voice but when First-Born's friends called on me to join them in a song, I did my first-ever karaoke session in the knowledge that the lads were actually all worse singers than I was!!!!

We finally went to bed around 3.30am for about 4 hours before doing bacon butties for 40 for breakfast. We don't do things by halves here!

It was a wonderful party and an amazing weekend, surrounded by a huge bunch of fantastic people of all ages - not a party to be forgotten in a hurry .... nor one to be repeated at any point in the foreseeable future!

But did we rest afterwards? Not exactly!

First-Born graduated from university on Monday despite trouble with her tassle!

making a magnificent end to two months of hard work!

But if I mention hosting a party again any time soon ....just slap me!

PS. Normal service on tea house and garden related stuff will resume again shortly - once I've got my energy back! And please don't think I did it totally single handed....Himself's part in it all will become clear in the next couple of posts!