My friend Lynn decided to take the afternoon off from work today, and off we went into the wilds of Northumberland to Matfen Hall's Christmas Fair. Despite Lynn being the boss in her organisation, owed a lifetime's-worth of lieu time, as well as being contactable by iPhone, we felt slightly naughty, as though we were playing truant from school. Much more fun that way!
En route, we noticed a vehicle creeping along the road, hazard lights flashing. Cows? we thought. Dutifully, we stopped.
No; sheep, ambling along in a relaxed fashion, no dogs to make them pick up their pace. We sat and watched, and a small queue of cars formed behind us.
And then on we went. We chatted, and agreed to support each other in losing some weight before Christmas. No more chocolate! No more cake! No more bread! Or all the good things that go with bread, chief amongst them butter.....
The Fair's final afternoon was quiet; plenty of space in which to park.
The grounds are beautiful.
The interior is pretty impressive too. We shopped; I bought some Christmas presents, which of course I can't show you. We sampled handmade chocolates. I spent what cash I had on me; some of these small stalls were not geared up for bank cards.
Lynn admired a bag. Later, I asked her "Did you like it enough to want it for Christmas, from me?" Yes, she did. "Did you like it enough to want it for Christmas, from me, and to lend me the money to go and get it for you now?" Yes, she did, and hooray! that's one of my more challenging presents sorted, with just a few little surprise odds and ends to add to it later.
We wandered through to the conservatory for tea and coffee, admiring this little anteroom with its slightly bonkers decor.
We chose a window table. In the distance, (far left) on the edge of the golf course, two swans and their cygnets settled down on the grass.
We could have had a game of outdoor draughts, but we were engrossed elsewhere.
An assortment of little scones (3 each! and all delicious, although Lynn elected to have only cheese ones) with thick balls of clotted cream and cherry conserve for mine. Did we eat them all? Of course we did. Did we remember our earlier weight loss resolutions? Of course we didn't.
But we failed to make much of a dent in the cream and jam - we do have a modicum of self-restraint, you know.
We looked at the Christmas brochure, and resolved to have my birthday lunch here at Matfen Hall next month.
And then we meandered home through the country lanes, through little villages that seemed (but weren't) dozens of miles from the city. Lynn faced a three-hour motorway journey to her head office, and I faced the realisation yet again that the war on excess weight is not won by brave words alone.
But they were exceptionally nice little scones....