Simon's Blog - Life in a country castle
I had tried to abstain from Easter this year. Last year was a very exhausting experience.
It’s Easter 2009 and having catered for a wedding on Maundy Thursday we are looking forward to a weekend full of guests and, blissfully, (and contrary to what the forecasters said and what is happening in southern England) as Good Friday dawns, the sun rises into a crystal blue sky.
In customary Easter fashion, the phone starts ringing about 8.30 with people wanting to enquire about availability for...
‘Do you mean next Easter?’
‘No, this weekend.’
‘I’m afraid we’re full.’
‘What, completely full? Not even room for a family of fourteen?’
It’s hardly worth going on with any explanation. ‘No, but I can take your details for New Year.’
Friday and Saturday pass uneventfully such as any busy high season weekend, but on Sunday morning dawns the realisation that there is the equivalent of another full weekend still to go. Nevertheless, the sun is still shining and we make time for a family breakfast and an exchange of Easter goodies.
Having lobbied to be included on the family Easter Egg list for some seven years, Wendy has bought me the largest egg imaginable. It’s rude not to show appreciation and by mid afternoon on Easter Sunday I’ve eaten over half of it. It leaves me feeling decidedly bilious and, as regular readers will know, the usual remedy for such attacks is a generous glass of wine. Unfortunately, prior to scoffing the egg, I have already consumed double the recommended dose of medicinal wine which has a) added to my current state of nausea and b) rendered further doses counter productive.
It’s the icing on the cake, or to be a little more seasonal, the yolk in the omelette of a weekend that already seems to have gone on for a month. Hardly surprising given what I had to endure earlier in the day.
Oliver is now of an age where he is finding increasingly ingenious ways of extracting money out of us and any other gullible individuals. Having already caught him trying to sell items of his wardrobe to his sister, including old pyjama bottoms and smelly worn out trainers, we have told him to find more honest outlets for his entrepreneurial flair.
Hence, on Easter Sunday morning, we are sitting in the Co-op car park setting up our first car boot sale. I have bank rolled the venture by paying for the pitch, so it will take £6 of sales to break even. The sun is shining and has brought out a decent crowd, so there is every prospect of a profit. Or at least there would be were it not for the somewhat dubious selection of goods the children have decided to sell. Added to this, the fact that they have been left to formulate their own pricing and their expectations are, to say the least, unrealistic.
At the front of the stall is one of Emily’s dolls. It’s called something menacing like ‘Baby Annie, I can swim, wet myself, vomit and answer back with built in voice recognition unit’. Emily thinks this is worth £10 but it has had one side of her head shaved, the other side is bright pink spikes and one of her legs has been hacksawed off by Oliver just below the knee. I point out that at the very least this compromises the swimming feature and that perhaps fifty pence would be more appropriate. ‘No, we’ll start at £10 and see where we go from there,’ says Emily.
Oliver is selling a pair of rugby boots for £5 which he thinks is a bargain. I point out that they have limited appeal without studs, but he says they are still good quality and new studs are easily available. Presumably the coating of vintage mud adds to their appeal.
We have a selection of old mugs, some books, a motley selection of soft toys in various shades of grey and some pebbles that Emily has collected from the garden and decorated. As original pieces of art, these have been priced at anything between £1.50 and £75.
Our pricing is clearly putting off prospective customers and after half an hour the children are complaining about being bored. I resort to some old fashioned barrow boy tactics and start calling out: ‘Credit crunch busting bargains, everything must go, all offers considered’. Well, of course, the children are horrified and by the time I’ve got into the swing of things, they’re cowering with embarrassment in the front seat of the car. But it’s done the trick and within minutes I’ve raked in 25 pence for a headless Action Man and 75 pence for a dog-eared copy of ‘A Guide to Steam on the Settle to Carlisle Railway’ to a man who was disappointed that I didn’t also have an edition of ‘Diesel Multiple Units on Branch Lines of the North West’. I try to interest him in a couple of videos called ‘Thomas the tank engine and Percy get Dirty’ and ‘Thomas couples up with Annie & Clarabelle’ but it’s not the sort of thing he’s he’s in to.
After an hour we have more than covered our costs and are ready to call it quits but we’re penned in by other cars and have to wait to make a break for it. I split the proceeds between the children and send them off to visit the other stalls. Within ten minutes they have both spent every penny and return with more things than we originally sold.
Later, as I am lying in the shade recovering from the combined effects of too much sun on my head at the car boot sale, the chocolate overdose and too much wine, there’s a commotion from the other side of the garden followed by some frantic shouting.
Our friends have come to stay the night and brought their six month old Border Collie. Apparently he’s never come across chickens before. Suddenly from behind the hedge comes a frantic Rhode Island Red hen followed by an ecstatic collie followed by a red faced brunette. Moments later, the brunette and the Rhode Island Red are out if sight but the collie comes racing back in the opposite direction in pursuit of a squawking bantum, chased by a blonde with a stick. By the time the dog has been cornered, he’s done two full rounds of the garden, taken a mouthful of feathers out of the backside of one hen and chased another two up in to the trees. Wendy and I are aching with laughter and I’m suddenly feeling much better.
Next day, we’ve organised a lunch and Easter Egg hunt for eighteen friends and as many children. The sun is still shining and we decide to eat outside. Wendy has downloaded an elaborate egg-cum-treasure hunt with clues, graphics, the lot. It’s obviously designed for children but I cannot get my head round how the whole thing is supposed to work. Despite this, I am charged with the task of setting it all up. Emily, who has been outside since nine looking for eggs in vain, sidles up to me and says, ‘Daddy, you know I have a very bad memory.’
‘Do you darling?’
‘Yes, so if I help you hide all the Easter eggs, I am sure I shall have completely forgotten where they all are by the time the children get here.’
I explain to her the complexities of Mummy’s egg hunt and she simply says, ‘what on earth was wrong with just chucking them all over the garden like we usually do?’
I try my best, but the complexity of setting up the hunt gets the better of me and eventually I have to delegate. Despite my obvious intellectual shortcomings, it proves a great success and everyone is happy.
Lunch goes well, the sun keeps shining and by tea time I’m ready for a lie down. I’ve stayed off the chocolate, but in an attempt to stay hydrated I’ve mistakenly been downing the Proseccho instead of the Pelligrino sparkling water. This on top of the fact that I have not been wearing a hat and forgot the sun cream, means that I am wiped out. The only thing for it is to retreat indoors for a cup of tea which, of course, needs chocolate on the side.
Perhaps there’s an upside to Easter after all.