We are endeavouring to be on our best behaviour at
this time of the year. We have disturbed memories, you see. Last Easter weekend
saw Beagle and me qualifying for Guests From Hell status. On the Sunday morning we had gathered together our bi-national offerings
(Italian olive oil and Cadbury’s Easter eggs), rounded up the dog and tripped
lightly downstairsto stuff it all into
opposite ends of the Chelsea tractor.
Trip was the operative word. A litre ofolive oil goes a horrendously long way on a
marble floor and takes the best part of half an hour and most of the Sunday
Times to mop up. Hound was subsequently inserted with some difficulty
behind the dog-proof iron bars, having picked up the scent of the eggs at 100 yards. I might also
mention at this juncture that Beagle’s personal vision of Paradise consists of
a large meadow dotted with rabbits (real, imaginary or chocolate,) and laced
liberally with fox poo.
We were thus a little late starting out on the
requisite trek to the country for the traditional Easter Egg Hunt.
Technologically Impaired husband watched with some
scepticism as I deftly programmed my girlfriend’s postal code into the GPS and
then turned on the radio. Soothed by the dulcet tones of Ms. Sat Nav, however,
he relaxed sufficiently to obey her instructions for once, instead of arguing
furiously with her disembodied directions at every crossroad.I sank back to listen to the
chewing-gum-for-the-ears braying of the Omnibus Edition of the Archers.
Something about the combined effect of these two acoustical elementsmust have dulled our already waning critical
faculties. We had the motorway to ourselves and had made up for nearly all our
lost time as we swung triumphantly through the gates and up the drive to our
hosts’ magnificent residence. Blindly obeying our front and rear sensors, we parked
expertly between a Land Rover and a Bentley and began to unload.
Realisation hit the pair of us more or less
simultaneously. It was the wrong host. Wrong lunch party. Wrong girlfriend.
Wrong post code. Clearly there was an Easter lunch in progress here too –
witness the cars all over the drive. But not the one to which we had been
It is not an easy feat to back a 4 x 4 silently out of
a gravel drive with a Beagle howling to get out for a sniff at one’s non-host’s
lurchers’ backsides, but we managed it. Except that having scrunched back up to
the main road spitting gravel to left and right, somehow the main gates had
closed on us…..
The good news was that I had, at least, chosen the
right county, and after a highly apologetic phone call to explain in graphic
detail the tremendous traffic jams we were encountering on the M20, we finally
reached, as Ms. Sat Nav sexily remarked, our destination.
Our real host had been obliged to open an additional
bottle of fizz which had clearly not overly amused him. His guests were
starving and pie-eyed. The cook was threatening to resign as she watched her
succulent pink lamb turning to strips of grey leather. Beagle had an immediate
fight with the house Labrador about who had territorial rights over the last
remaining smoked salmon canapé left on the plate for Miss Manners. The children
sulked throughout lunch refusing to eat anything at all because they had been
deprived of their Sunday morning egg hunt.
I slipped out into the garden as soon as coffee had
been served and started to hide the eggs in as many Beagle-proof places as I
could find. This, I realise in retrospect, also rendered them completely
invisible and unattainable to anyone under the age of 15 or below 6ft in
stature. The oldest child was four and a half, though with the lungs of a
thirty year old coloratura.
The score at the end of the day was as follows:
2 yr old girl………..three daffodil heads and a peony.
Older brother……....two shiny flat stones, three
pellets of goat droppings, one fir cone, two lost golf balls,
Black Labrador……. look of extreme guilt, four
remaining mauled eggs. Estimated eight swallowed whole complete with silver
Beagle………………nowhere to be seen. Later found in hen
house consuming a raw omelette having rolled in all the fox poo.