Malcolm and I travelled up to Kettering on Saturday to stay the night. We had taken note of weather forecasts and were wondering what impact this would have. We woke up to about 20cm (8”) of snow - and it was still snowing! Uh Oh! As the Telly Tubbies would say, and there were plenty of those slipping and sliding outside as they made their way across the car park. Conditions certainly sorted the “Drivers” from the “Drovers” - more of the latter than former!
It was not long before emails, texts and phone calls came in tendering apologies due to the driving conditions; numbers reduced by 22.
We got to know the hotel duty staff well, particularly reception and Cameron, our maître d’ for the day. We went up to the Rockingham Suite to find it beautifully prepared, a crystal tree on each table decorated with red candy-striped decorations, red napkins in each glass, table plans and menus ready. The apologies stopped, would we be a table for 2? A message came that one couple were on their way and would let us know if they turned back. Nothing to do but wait. The hotel resembled the Marie Celeste now that last night’s party goers had checked out.
Suddenly a familiar voice - David and Rosalind had arrived. Table for 4! Still expecting 20. Time to put the meal back half an hour in agreement with Steve the chef and Cameron and retire to the bar for a coffee and mini mince pies. Ros brought out her knitting - a baby blanket, can’t waste time just sitting!
Soon we saw the welcome faces of Dick and Angela Campbell, now a table for 6, great! Next were Des and Marj Burnett – Wonderful, a complete Table for 8!! One o’clock and no sign of anyone else. Cameron suggested they lay up a table in the Restaurant - a good move.
We were shown to our table in a cosy corner with decorations, crackers, party poppers and a cd playing Christmas carols quietly nearby. Drinks were ordered and our meals served, we could not have been better looked after. Good food, good wine, conversation flowed easily with Marj telling us, in her lovely soft Irish accent, of her father’s experience as a boy watching the ARDs TT race passing by their farm. A story of Gareth being stopped by Avon and Somerset police for speeding (100+ mph) down Clevedon Bank just south of Bristol and getting off with a warning because he came from Lincolnshire which was very flat so doesn’t know how to handle hills!!!
The boys, led by Dick, discussed various car restorations and length of time taken with pertinent or more accurately impertinent comments from the girls. Much laughter when Ros decided that a trailer that Dick owned would be ideal to pick up her Alpaca poo! (Ros was knitting again by now). The merits of Alpaca poo over horse manure were compared.
Altogether, a happy, intimate and enjoyable time was had by this intrepid 8 and friendships made and cemented. Fond farewells were said, the hotel staff thanked for making our small party such a success and for being so understanding about the small number.
As a footnote a huge “thank you” in particular to those who tried to come, but were prevented by bad conditions, and to those who sent their apologies. Some disappointment that others hadn’t the courtesy to let us know! However, those staff who were in enjoyed those spare meals!