So we decided to stay in a grade one listed property for the weekend.
And then we thought we would invite the family over for Sunday lunch.
Family arrived and we opened the Prosecco.
Posh owner knocked and reminded us that we were very welcome to join the guided tour (for £10 per head) that was starting at 2.30pm.
The Mr lit a fire in the beautiful Elizabethan panelled dining room. I juggled potatoes, chicken and Yorkshire puddings in a tiny kitchen. Mr went to lay the table.
He came back red eyed and blowing his nose. The ornate dining room was thick with smoke. Total indoor pea-souper. Ok, we can deal with this.
I baste potatoes and season the chicken. Granny and partner go outside to read the papers in the courtyard. 10 minutes pass and the Mr is propping open historic doors and desperately trying to see if the 16th century leaded windows are more than decorative.
It’s 2.20pm and cars are rolling up the gravel drive. I chop broccoli and warm plates. It’s 22 degrees outside and about 52 inside. I am sweating heavily and beetroot faced.
The Mr returns in a slight panic. Smoke is billowing out of the dining room into the covered stone walkway.
I pour myself a large glass of wine.
A few elderly folks have gathered nearby for the start of the tour. Mum in law is telling them that this is a private garden and the tour will not be here.
By now, I have opened the door that opens on to a cobbled passageway to try and cool down a bit. I’m joined by two pugs and a black cat.
The smell of burning has reached the main house and the posh owner hurries up to see what’s going on. “Oh it must be the jackdaws”, he exclaims. “I think the chimney might be blocked. He suggests putting out the fire and trying to waft away the smoke.
Two grey haired people carrying guides pop their heads into the kitchen. I’m now convinced that this room will be part of the tour so start cleaning up the kitchen frantically.
Other posh family members drift over to see what’s going on in the dining room. They are so posh that all common sense has completely passed them by. “Uh, but if you put water on it, the fire will spread? Yah?”
Posh man runs into the kitchen and asks for a bucket of water. Thank God I tidied up a bit.
Someone gets a garden hose and starts spraying water into the listed fireplace. I keep sniggering to myself, laughing at the Edwardian farce we appear to be starring in.
All the kids have now joined me in the tiny kitchen and are now chasing the animals around and shrieking.
Dinner is almost ready but due to the fug there is literally no chance of eating in the dining room for quite a while. The posh owner suggests that granny joins in the tour as lunch “could be a while, ho, ho”.
I decide to carve the chicken and put it in a Pyrex dish to save a bit of time later. I gather some scraps, fatty bits, skin and bones and put it on a plate for the kitty.
Posh man gathers the old folks to start the tour in the garden, where granny and partner are having a glass of vino and reading the papers. Yes. That garden.
One of the large house staff has found a fan and set it up in the dining room so that the smoke is now blowing out of the room into the cobbled walkway.
We remember that Squidge is asleep upstairs. Right above the dining room. And the room shares a chimney.
The Mr races upstairs in a panic. The room is full of smoke. He rescues the boy and brings him downstairs, stinking of fire and wood, little pink cheeks, dazed from a rude awakening.
He’s ok and just needs a big cuddle. I need another glass of wine.
Eventually we see everyone trooping past to be guided around the main house. I notice that the cat has polished off all the scraps and put the plate in the dishwasher. I go out to join granny in the garden. She’s looking bemused. I’m just glad to get out of the furnace-like kitchen.
I ask granny if it’s ok for cats to eat bones. She tell me that cooked bones can splinter up really easy and puncture a cat’s windpipe. She has also in the past claimed that the real Olympics started in Bridgnorth so I’m really not sure if she’s trustworthy. The cat walks by. Alive.
I sip my wine and wonder why we always attract such chaos. It’s like a Midas touch but everything we touch turns to some bonkers comedy sketch. More like a ‘Miranda touch’.
Lunch was delicious by the way. But the kids were overexcited and managed to pull a tassel off the four poster bed so next morning we had to try and fix it with superglue.
I forgot to pack enough underwear so beanpole had to go commando for the journey home. Oh and then the Mr left his suitcase behind so I had to book a courier to collect it and bring it back.
But on the whole a successful trip. For us, at least.