It was a big birthday this week for she who must be obeyed. I won't tell you how big - but significant enough to organise the party she had said she didn't want. So I booked a big country house in Herefordshire through Rural Retreats, an operator we had used previously, and summoned the family. It worked beautifully. There were 14 of us - eight adults and six children. Bearwood House and cottage, near the black and white village of Pembridge, slept up to 15 in seven bedrooms. There was a bathroom each for us - en suite in the master bedroom (naturally) and three families of four. The kitchen was well equipped, with an AGA, a conventional love, a microwave and a dishwasher - though kitchens in rental properties rarely match your own - and there was plenty of fridge space for the considerable quantities of champagne and white wine we had all brought. The house and separate cottage, which also contained an AGA, had been built on the site of a former barn. There was under floor heating downstairs (the upper floors creaked a bit). We were greeted by hampers full of essentials such as bread, coffee and free range eggs plus wine and excellent local cider. Rooms were low beamed and attractively furnished and there was a lot of artwork mourned the walls. There was wi fi, there were Wii games and a couple of TVs- and there was an outdoor hot tub. Sadly the wind howled and rain lashed the landscape. so an important plus point was the superb games room, where kids who might otherwise have felt frustratingly housebound by the atrocious weather could disappear and play pool, air hockey and table tennis. The Michelin starred Stag Inn at Titley was only a short drive away but we had so over stocked with goodies that there was little temptation to venture out. Hiring large properties such as this, popular with those celebrating similarly important milestones, isn't cheap. But you can't watch pennies when it's a special occasion, especially in the depths of winter. And I think that in the end, she who had opposed the very idea of a party was rather glad one had been arranged for her.
View from the house