Philip's birthday party in Wales

Just spent the past ten days in Wales, celebrating the solstice and Philip's birthday. We had a few glorious days of warm, dry weather, when it was great to get out into the garden, strimming, weeding and cutting back the jungle which tends to take over if you take your eyes off it for a second, let alone a couple of weeks. 
After knocking the garden into shape - broad brush style
It feels so good at this time of year to be able to sit outside watching the sun go down late into the evening. Of course, there are the dreaded midges, the no-see-ums that can make life hell. A constant war has to be waged to keep them at bay at this time of year, and no less than a combination of smokey fires, citronella candles and midge repellant slathered across every piece of uncovered skin will deter them.  We've even resorted to taking vitamin B1 as I've heard that thiamine is a good natural repellant... but even then I have to accept that a few of them will always get me in the end.

However, the majority of the time we were there, it was just too wet and windy to be outside, which made us very twitchy about the party, as we wondered how everyone would fit into the house, without being able to spill out into the garden.
Gazebo before the party
We did try to hire a beautiful striped big top just like a circus tent, but we hadn't realised that the following weekend was Glastonbury and every available piece of canvas in the area had been packed up and dispatched to the festival. So we ended up getting quite a large gazebo, adding lots of ancient oriental carpets, a few chairs and Ben's sound system et voilà we had a dance lounge, as it was dubbed by the jeunesse.
By the next morning the roof had collapsed in several places
It looked quite pretty when we put it up, but the morning after we realised why the instructions said it shouldn't be left up overnight. I have to admit there was a gale blowing, but didn't expect the whole frame to buckle and snap in places! So first job after the party was to round up a team to get the frame down so it wasn't blown around the garden.  We managed to salvage the canvas, and hopefully we'll be able to recycle it.
Think you need a fleece to line the bottom of the tent,
or  at the very least, a very heavy-duty sleeping bag
Quite a few people camped, and I was introduced to a hammock tent, which is strung between two trees.  Sounds like a heavenly idea, but I can only say that its inhabitant looked decidedly frozen and in need of some hot sustenance when he walked into our kitchen next morning - it must have been like spending a night on board a boat in very stormy waters! In milder climes I'm sure it would be wonderful but believe me, hammock tents and gales do not mix well.

Despite everything though, we all had a great time, in fact it was probably one of the best parties we've ever had. Great to catch up with people we hadn't seen for years, and we were so touched that so many people travelled to wild Wales to share the occasion.
Sent to me by Norwegian friend Hilde, this painting is by the Danish artist,
Kroeyer, who was also born in Norway.  It's how Hilde imagined the party
and no doubt, the spirit it spot on, pity the sun didn't play ball. 
Quite a few people arrived on the Friday night, with the last guests leaving on Monday, so it was like a mini-festival. Kate and I did the food, which started off on Friday night with the simplest of meals - pasta with pesto, chopped tomatoes, garlic, black olives, torn basil and grated parmesan, followed by a mixed berry salad with creme fraiche - easy peasy, a moveable feast which can be tweeked to feed as many as turn up. Need I add there was no shortage of vino! The next morning I made a massive chilli with oodles of wild rice to prepare for the morning after crowd, then Kate and I had to get down to the nitty gritty of making the actual party food.
Love the little owls birthday card
Luckily, several friends had offered to bring cakes and puddings, and baker extraordinaire, Sandra, baked a chocolate birthday cake to die for. Another friend kindly amassed industrial quantities of strawberries, so all we had to do in that department was to make sure we had plenty of dairy for the topping. Also Ron, who owns Clear Spot, generously brought masses of delicious deep-fried tofu.
Sandra's chocolate birthday cake

So... Kate and I definitely had a head start, but were still up bright and early making the hummous, several spanakopita, many quiches, tabbouleh, plus green and tomato salads. Nibbles came out of bags and Kate, who spends much time in the Peloponnese, brought kilos of olives, feta and dolmades back from her village there. The vegetarian feast was eventually laid out on the table and there was just enough time left for us to get our party frocks on.
I took photos later of Annalou's sketches - this is one of Paul...
...and Anthony
Unfortunately very few photos were taken, as everyone was too busy having enjoying themselves. Felix took an atmospheric picture of the birthday cake, resplendent with candles, served charmingly with a glass of bubbles by Felix and his lovely friends. I'll insert this as soon as he sends it over. However, we did have Annalou, our resident artist, who sketched lightning portraits of the musicians as they played and also one of the birthday boy the next day.
Philip on the morning after
I think the dance lounge finally fizzled out at about 6.30am, maybe due to the, by then, unstable nature of the gazebo. Unabashed though, the younger element were out and about on the beach the next day with kite in tow, but frustratingly it was too windy to fly it!
Lyra also joined in the music playing my earrings
Last thing before lreaving we planted Mik and Sarah's birthday gift, a beautiful Meeches Quince.  So looking forward to the wonderful scent of the fruit in the autumn in a couple of years.
Meeches Quince, planted so it s beautiful autumn foliage
can be seen from the back terrace
I don't know how many of those who came to the party read my blog, but I'd like to say a big thank-you to each and every one of you for playing your own part in making Philip's party such a stupendously wonderful occasion. Cheers!


  1. Dear Jean, your blog is always a delight - a fine mixture of fun and seriousity! Just love it :)
    Hilde in Norway

  2. Hi Jean, I hadn't realised so few photos were taken - you're right, it was a lovely, lovely party and we were all just so swept up in the wonderful atmosphere to remember our cameras. At least the wonderful memories of the weekend will stay forever. Love, Cathrynx


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