Fresh gravel had been laid to the drive. Furniture had been made, allegedly, for the event. The marquee had been dressed overall, with courtesy flags for far-flung nations, and with a ‘Q’ flag (to save you landlubbers having to look it up, hoisting the “Q” requests “Free Pratique “. Now you know.) The bread, both 7 seed sourdough and straight sourdough, had been collected from Daylesford. But no man lives by bread alone, not even by Daylesford bread. So Iron Down Farm ewes had been counselled and their lambs led to the slaughter and cleaver. Chadlington Quality Foods had broken the eggs and made the quiches. Waitrose had confected the lemon tarts. Mint had been torn and limes squeezed for the punch. Salads had been chopped and tossed. The BBQ had been fired up and the marinated lamb carefully seared.
OTT or what? Not a bit of it. This was CNYC’s summer barbecue, after all, and we do have standards to maintain.
It put in mind the opening chapter of Riddle of the Sands. Carruthers, one of our two young heroes is, in 1903, doomed to “the utter solitude of London in summer”, out of the London season, when everyone else of any importance has left for parties in the country. The plot starts with him receiving an invitation to join a friend on The Dulcibella on a daring spy mission in the Frisians. For us with our interest in boats and the sea June is the time when we too, the left-behinders, may feel marooned in Oxfordshire, in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were reduced to finding solace in each other’s company, which the 30 of us gathered in Chadlington that June evening indeed did.
A good time, as far as I could tell, was had by all.