When it comes to entertaining in the garden, we are pretty enthusiastic. There are many memorable occasions when we have doggedly continued an al fresco dinner party despite an untimely shower. Friends of ours are only too practised at packing for any weather if invited for a social function in the summer months. Memories will live on of the rather smart guest who arrived for a house warming party (June) in head to toe designer white linen only to be found drenched to the skin, hair plastered to her head and dancing wildly to the rock band playing in the open garage. Memorable too was the wine fuelled dinner party with enthusiastic social debate which continued irrespective of the summer downpour only for everybody to get to their feet at the end of the evening and discover that they were unwittingly completely soaked down their backs. So intense had been the discussion that no one had noticed.
From a social point of view therefore, lockdown has been a breeze, coming as it did at the beginning of the better months. Obviously for weeks we saw no one but once a bit of socially distanced entertaining was allowed we were off. Our enthusiasm for outdoor socialising is partly driven by the fact that we live in a cottage, the rooms of which are not large but also because we just love being outside, enjoying our garden. Throughout the summer our Friday dinner and often Saturday too is whisked up to the summerhouse with a bottle of wine, where the candles are lit and the ambience is cosy. We watch the sun set over the pond and often don’t return to the house until nearly bedtime. Ours is not a smart summerhouse of the type seen at summer shows, but is now 35 years old and has survived being dismantled from my in-laws garden where it was an artist’s studio and re-built in ours. It has been re-painted twice and there are patches of quite alarming rot but it is very dear to us and we spend a lot of time in it. We are also, embarrassingly well kitted out in terms of hosting others and can rustle up a marquee (with chandelier), gazebo, enough seating for 30, outside lighting, firepit and even an outdoor rug! Guests are always furnished with blankets and candles ensure a cosy atmosphere. Whilst a large get together had to be scrapped in July, we have continued to host small dinners and BBQs for friends and family all summer. Our last dinner guests were understandably nervous when the forecast promised a three day downpour but they entered into the spirit of the event and were delighted by the festival feel of the outside lounge and dining room we had arranged, complete with roaring fire.
Thursday nights too have become a regular at the Gardener’s Arms as Mr P would normally be tucked inside a pub with his group of good friends, their favourite beer and some dull assortment of crisps. None of them have felt the urge to return to a pub so, since the local brewery is thoughtfully still making home deliveries they have gathered in the garden, arriving by bike, and very convivial it has been, or so the empty bottles have attested in the morning. Of course this may all change as the winter starts to bite and we are yet to work out our new socialising regime, but in the meantime the weather remains temperate and we will continue to light a fire where necessary. Last weekend a casual supper was boosted by baked potatoes, cooked to perfection in the firepit. I suppose its just rather like camping in your own garden – now what could be more ‘staycation’ than that?