Lots happening and to do. Easter is a busy time domestically anyway as we usually take few guests over this period, although the exception was a lovely couple, an orthopaedic surgeon and his wife who had come up to Cheltenham for several days to help their son and impending daughter-in-law to find a flat in the town. (On their departure they very kindly gave Veronica a small present, perhaps as an antidote to the normal Hanover House ambience – a scented lavender, orange and ylang ylang [whatever that is!] candle called ‘Tranquility’). Inside the family, we had a reduced gathering at Hanover House (www.hanoverhouse.org) this time as Timmy and family had gone down to Sarah’s parents in Bepton (now inside the new Sussex Downs National Park) for the weekend and Damien (youngest son) had decided it was more fun to play on the water in his dinghy in Bristol with friends than with a house full of toddlers (don’t blame him after our long weekend in the Black Mountains).
However we still had a houseful for Easter Sunday lunch. On the Saturday morning in the middle of Sunday lunch preparations, we’d had a ‘phone call from Timmy in Sussex to tell us to switch on the TV and watch the shennanigans going on in the annual Oxbridge Boat Race. We switched on just in time to see the restart following the ‘elitest’ protester swimmer who ruined the whole event for thousands of people with his selfish act; and the consequent loss of the race by the favourites, Oxford. This was the direct result of over-keen, aggressive steering by the Oxford cox who despite warnings from the umpire, shortly after the restart, collided with the Cambridge boat, losing an oar and the race. The family is normally divided in its support for the light or dark blues, in that Rachael went to Oxford and Veronica trained there, and Christopher, Timmy and Sarah picked up their respective educations in Cambridge.
Late in the afternoon, cutting it fine, Charlotte arrived on the coach from London at about 4.30pm, as we had to be at Cineworld by 5pm to see Massenet’s opera ‘Manon‘. Needless to say we made it, the girls even having time to stop off in the cinema shop and stock up on sweets before the real-time opera, that with two intervals, didn’t finish until after 10pm. The next morning, after our guests had departed, the rest of the family arrived, and after a chaotic preparation period with last-minute cooking coinciding with babies, dogs, toddlers and toys all over the floors, we had an excellent lunch. About 4.15pm the Oxford contingent departed, leaving Charlotte, Rachael, Peter and toddler Charlotte Emily behind for the night. After most of the clear-up was complete, Veronica and I made a temporary escape to fulfil Veronica’s ecclesiastical desires. She loves the ‘traditional’ (rather than the more common evangelical) CofE Easter services, and had decided we’d go to the 5pm Gloucester Cathedral Easter Evensong. Unfortunately, it transpired it was at 4pm, but that Tewkesbury Abbey had an Evensong, Procession and Te Deum at 5pm, so we went there instead. The customary beautiful choral music within a near-perfect acoustic environment was heavenly – even to an agnostic like myself.
Home for tea, a slice of Rachael’s delicious home-made jam sponge, and later the family traditional tea of chilled Rosé Cava and egg, salmon and Philadelphia cheese sandwiches in front of Julian Fellowes’ ‘Titanic‘ and an open fire – what more could one ask?