Saturday, 20 November 2010

A spiffing weekend in the country

Last weekend we took a big risk. We tried to recreate our wild, crazy, decadent life BL (Before Lumpy: a time now heavy with myth, rumour, and downright lies), by embarking on a country-house weekend with a gang of merry, young, and (most essentially) unchild-encumbered friends. This is something we did a lot BL - renting a place somewhere as near to the sea as possible, filling it to the eaves with wine and delicious foodstuffs, and proceeding to laze about and talk bollocks from Friday to Sunday, with occasional forays to the pub or into the sea.

From the moment I got that positive test, I'd wondered whether we'd ever get to do this again. In fact, just a couple of weeks after getting up the duff, we went on one of these weekends down to Devon, and it had been a rather difficult few days. We hadn't announced my delicate condition yet, and in order to avoid being instantly found out I had to pretend to quaff vast amounts of alcohol all weekend. For, in my former life, I was such a commited lush that if anyone saw me drinking anything less than 40% proof, they'd immediately smell a rat. And a very pregnant rat at that (which are particularly stinky, let me tell you). We considered going down the 'I'm on antibiotics' route, but there are several doctors in the group, who would undoubtedly have insisted on a full description of my symptoms, the drugs prescribed, and possibly an in-depth physical examination. And so we did an emergency supermarket run, and bought up all of the non-alcoholic wine and beer that we could find. Supermarkets sell alcohol-free alcohol! Who'd have imagined it? And, more to the point, who'd want to drink the bloody stuff?

Because, believe me, it is truly, utterly, foul. It is just wrong in so, so many ways. The red wine, for example, tastes like mouldy ribena, and doesn't even manage to look like wine, instead resembling aenemic gnat's blood. This makes it rather difficult to pass off as real wine, and since the beer is helpfully labeled "ALCOHOL FREE - NO FUN HERE GUARANTEED!" in large flashing letters, I was pretty much stuck with the white 'wine'. Which is a cheeky little number with overtones of urinal and a punchy finish reminiscent of having a live herring forced down your throat.

But all of the wine's failings in terms of taste, smell, and appearance pale into insignificance when you consider its one major flaw.

There's no bloody alcohol in it.

So there was I, trying not to grimace as I sipped at this rancid (pregnant) rat's piss, valiantly pretending that it was actually a crisp young Sauvignon or a tantalizing white Burgundy, while attempting not to vomit everywhere. And however much of the godforsaken stuff I poured down my neck, I did not get even slightly pissed.

What fun that weekend was.

So, as Lumpy's internal invasion progressed, I started to wonder whether we would ever get to enjoy one of these debauched weekends ever again. Who knew what this little wriggly alien would be like, once he'd burst out through my stomach (that's what happens, right? My memory's a bit blurry on the physical dynamics of the whole thing). What if he was one of those non-stop screamy babies? Or what if I went properly barmy afterwards, and couldn't be allowed out in public? What if we became total baby bores, incapable of discussing anything except poo, vomit, lady bits, and placenta lasagne?

All this has happened, of course (except for the screamy baby bit - the Lumpster has remained almost preternaturally cheerful, despite his parents, who are, like, soooo embarrassing).

But then a friend who had been off shooting lions in Africa (or possibly saving babies, one or the other) was due to return, and much feasting and debauchery was required to celebrate her survival. I cunningly jumped in and offered to find a house and arrange the booking, so that people wouldn't be able to arrange something without inviting us. I had a quick search of the interwebs, and almost immediately came across this place. It looked perfect - and was in the absolute middle of nowhere, so no one would be able to escape.

Surprisingly, everyone seemed quite keen to come along with us (ha ha, the fools!), so I booked it up, and sat back to wait for the previously placid Lumpy to transform himself into a snarling, wailing hellbeast, just in time for the weekend away.

And so the weekend arrived. We drove down early on the Friday, following the extraordinary directions with increasing disbelief and mild concern. We drove down a no through road, marked 'Works Traffic Only', and then arrived at a barrier. After some mild arguing between the Badgers, I jumped out and pressed the button. A phone inside the booth began to ring. I looked back at the car, then slid the glass aside and picked up the receiver.

"Yes?" came a disembodied voice.

"Er, we're going to Ower Quay Cottage," I said, glancing nervously at the security cameras, half expecting a platoon of armed guards to come swarming from the surrounding woods and shoot us to death for no good reason.

"OK," said the voice. "Do you know the way?"

"Yes!" I confidently declared, because I am stupid.

We didn't know they way, of course. And proceeded to demonstrate this fact by driving through the barrier, ignoring the turn that we were meant to take, and heading straight into a large car park filled with men in yellow jackets who examined us quizzically. We made a circuit of the car park in a calm, surveying manner, before finally heading down the road we were meant to take. We had to wait at another barrier, which magically opened automatically - no doubt because the disembodied voice was sitting in a watchtower somewhere pointing and laughing at us.

We continued down a long and winding road through a forest, occasionally passing strange industrial apparatus behind high, barbed-wire fences. It started to rain, and I merrily informed Mr Badger that the road we were on would soon become an unmade track. Which it certainly did.

"Well, it'd be a good place for a murder," said Mr Badger cheerfully, as the track suddenly took an eccentric route directly across a field. We had to swerve wildly to avoid potholes and rabbits, and rabbits stuck in potholes, and potholes stuck in rabbits (honestly). I had to get out of the car again, to open a gate, of all things, and then, as the rain became a constant sheet of water, we bumped our way along a final track and up to the house.

We sat in the car for a minute, gazing through the steamed up windscreen at the blurry building ahead of us.

"I think we've come on holiday by mistake," I said, before sending Mr Badger out into the rain to unload the car, while me and Lumpy stayed inside, in the dry, like sensible people.

He eventually returned with an umbrella, and we were persuaded out. And, my god, I fell in love with the place pretty much immediately. And with views like this literally right outside the front door, who can blame me:

This was after the sheeting rain cleared up, but still. Even through that, it was pretty bloody awesome. And it had its own peacock. How cool is that? From now on, I shall demand hot and cold running peacocks wherever I go.

I spent the next couple of hours merrily skipping around the different wings, showing Lumpy around our new house, while Mr Badger looked worried in the background, wondering if he'd need to call in the police to evict us on Monday morning.

By the time the others finally found their way through the wasteland, past the middle of nowhere, and back out the other side, it was pitch black outside, and little Lumpy was already tucked up and snoring in bed. Which was obviously an ideal introduction to the wonders of babies for our child-phobic friends. Much merriment and feasting commenced. The next morning, Lumpy was up bright and early to charm all comers with his bingo smiles and copious amounts of drool.

And so the charm offensive continued. There was barely a squawk of protest all weekend - from Lumpy or anyone else. At naptimes he went immediately to sleep without a murmur, and stayed asleep for a good two hours at a time. He even managed not to puke up over anybody for almost 48 hours. And so the weekend carried on much as such weekends always have - there were long yomps in the countryside, which turned into even longer yomps due to a complete lack of any sense of direction in any of the walkers; creative dinners, involving many roasted beasts, cheeses of various types, and unidentifiable root vegetables; a mere hogshead or two (per person) of booze, supplied by our resident alcy... I mean sommelier to the stars and purveyor of fine wines (JockWino! hunt him down on Twitter and relentlessly follow him!); copious talking of bollocks; and ill-advised swims in the icy, murky waters by the more certifiable of the party (some of whom decided to stay fully dressed, which was probably wise, if somewhat foolish looking).

And through it all, Lumpy was a delight, laughing uproariously at even the lamest of jokes and never hogging the port. He was not the burden we had feared, but a veritable boon. The perfect houseguest, in fact.

By Sunday afternoon, as everybody got ready to head back to the big smoke, even the most loudly anti-baby amongst the group had declared that Lumpy was actually quite cute and they may consider cancelling their sterilisations at some point in the future.

All this has led me to believe that Lumpy is a total show off. Because the minute everyone else had left, and we were alone in the house, he showed his dissatisfaction with the lack of an adoring audience by immediately vomming all over me. Then that night he squawked and squealed and generally grizzled all night long, driving his sleep-deprived and ever-so-slightly hungover parents to near distraction.

So we're moving into Ower Quay permanently, kidnapping all our friends, and forcing them to live with us. It's the only solution, really. And the peacock needs us.


  1. Hang on... I thought you were the peacock. You mean that was really a bird?