A big risk in a big cottage

The ‘friends go away together for the weekend’ is a well-worn trope in the worlds of literature and film. There’s something about the setting of a group of close friends and their partners gathering in the same location that makes it ripe for drama – shocking revelations; fierce arguments; wife swapping; murder; and general merriment.

For years, my parents held up Peters’ Friends as the archetypal friends weekend away film – because so much does go wrong in it, despite how pleased they are to be all together again. [It’s well-worth watching, I recently discovered the whole thing on YouTube, albeit in bits.] The bottom line appears to be that no matter how fun a weekend with friends sounds, it can be a risky business and you never quite know what might happen…

Big Cottage The Big Cottage – one side of it. We weren’t exaggerating. [Credit: Morven.]

…but, despite the risks, what became known as ‘Big Cottage’ [because we need a big cottage in order to fit everyone in, naturally] was eagerly anticipated from the time of its booking until the weekend arrived 10 months later. We’d gone away as friends before – for weddings, camping at Greenbelt, several Girls Weekends Away, and of course the residential activities that had brought us all together as friends in the first place. However, this was a first – the first time that every single one of us, husbands and boyfriends included, had all stayed together in the same place with the sole purpose of hanging out together. Some of the men hadn’t met before. Some of the men we’d known since before they’d got together with their partners. It’s a peculiar dynamic. My brother-in-law went as far as marking the dates in his calendar with “weird weekend”, which to be honest, he was perfectly justified in doing.

Big cottage big tableBig cottage, big dinner table.

The dynamic might have been risky, but there were two significant factors that balanced it out:

  • The facilities – specifically pool, sauna, hot tub, squash court, several lounges and extensive grounds.
  • The provisions – myriad cakes baked, port, wine, a keg of local ale, whisky and cheese. Lots of cheese.

In fact, one husband was heard to announce upon waking, the morning the weekend began, “tonight there’ll be port”. If that’s not a thought to get you through a Friday and a long car drive, I don’t know what is!

Port drinkingBonus of much port-drinking – finishing off the remnants on Sunday afternoon. As a trainee priest, this was clearly my job.

But, do you know what, there was no need to worry. (Although there was definitely need for the mammoth baking frenzy, booze provision and cheese purchasing. Because cake, cheese & booze makes a weekend.) There were no crises, no dramas, no wife-swapping (despite many, many jokes around the epically huge dining table), no one emerged from a closet, no one intentionally caused anyone else injury (squash injuries don’t count) and both children present emerged unscathed.

Big badmintonSports undertaken at Big Cottage included: squash; swimming; running; hill walking; water aerobics; water volleyball; boules and badminton. We did at least make some effort to burn off the cake, cheese & booze! [Credit: Morven]

Well, I say ‘unscathed’. One returned with a new addition to her vocabulary which may have been uttered for the very first time when she was in my arms, but I refuse to take responsibility for it!

The big cottage turned out to be significantly less of a cottage, and more a converted stables – complete with four lounges (yes, four – each with Sky, meaning that the golf could be on in a room in an unobtrusive fashion). One lounge came equipped with a grand piano and songbooks, meaning that there was scope for late night singing. [As an aside, one of my dreams is to exist in a world where I have a pianist on call to accompany me when singing. Sounds indulgent, but it’s basically the best – and oldest – form of karaoke. Last Saturday, that dream came true, briefly, and was only hampered by a limited range of sheet music.] There were two large kitchens (one for cooking meals, the other for cake, cheese & booze – I kid you not), and others in random corners of the house. Bedrooms were huge, bathrooms were incredible and quite frankly, I wanted to move in and stay forever.

Big piano. Big screen. Grand piano & TV projected on the wall. Comedy Central were showing a marathon of the 20 best Friends episodes – could we *be* any luckier?? 

Singing around the pianoSinging around the piano. No idea what it was at this moment – but clearly something I didn’t know the words to, so it wasn’t Let It Go. Plus, my arms aren’t flailing around, which is usually an indication of an Idina classic. [Credits: Morven]

That feeling was universal. The weekend was such a roaring success that next year’s date is already being negotiated. The site has other cottages too, so there’s no concern should any of the four single ladies acquire a man, or if more children appear on the scene. Quite frankly, Big Cottage was a big risk, but it was so worth all the planning, money and several thousand Facebook messages between the female contingent. If all risks worked out so well, we should take more of them!

Big Cottage JumpingIn the end, the biggest risk was jumping simultaneously into a pool with a depth of only 1.4m!  

Big Cottage 2014Until next time, big cottage! [Credits: Kilvert Photography]

Incidentally, should you be wondering where this incredible accommodation is, it’s The Colloquy in Herefordshire. We highly, highly recommend it – but should you decide to book it, could you avoid next autumn as we haven’t quite decided when we’re going yet. (Also, mention Jenni Kilvert when you book, we may get a discount!!)

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