Anyway, it's stopped hurting now, so on with
As you may or may not know, a loose group of friends (or a group of loose friends) of mine have being going on holiday together for a week each year since time immemorial (more than eleven years, certainly). This group get-together is called "Oktoberfest" because it was always held in May - and if any of you can work that out, you're definitely a SMOF of one description or another.
Anyway, this year Oktoberfest happened at the end of July, since several of the group now have kids, and it's not a good idea to take them out of school during term, even if it would make booking cheaper (which was the original reason for doing it in May, because a lot of us were poor students or the equivalent Back Then). It's a very unstructured deal: someone hunts through holiday home catalogues to find a large property, or pair of adjacent properties, that can hold 15-20 people and is lettable per week, self-catering. We divide the cost between us, add some money for the organiser to buy something for us to eat and drink when we get there, and then wait for the instructions telling us how to get there and when. The only other things that need organising are a list of what people won't eat, a cooking rota (because every night apart from Wednesday, which is Fend For Yourself Night, one small group of people will be cooking a meal for everyone, and another will be doing the dishes) and a kitty for food money to be topped up as more shopping becomes necessary.
Most people are fairly sane in what they won't eat, thank goodness, otherwise catering would be a nightmare - it's mostly remembering things like "Do salad dressings separately, because three people don't like sour things" and "Brian's allergic to strawberries". No vegans as yet, but enough vegetarians that a good 80% of everything we cook is vegetarian, though we omnivores are welcome to cook meaty things to go along with them. If anyone thinks that I'm going slogging up hills without a bacon sandwich to fortify me, they're sadly deluded...
Anyway, let me recall who came this year. stgpcm and I; juudes; snad, Vato and their kids Leon and Mimi; Phil; Moz; Trev; Adrian and Noelle; Brian D and Mary and their son Fraser; Brian H and Jo; Dave, Di and their son Michael; Alex Z and Sue; Craig and Alex H and their son Ted, the little'uns all being three-to-sixish. Counting the kids, I think that's the most people we've ever had at an Oktoberfest.
So: Jus and I arrived at Nether Burrows Farm shortly after Craig (who was organiser this year) had got the keys to the two properties (adjacent but not interlinked) from the owner, and I immediately set about making tea for all those who wanted. People arrived in trickles over the next few hours, since some of them had had to come a fair distance - we had a sizeable Edinburgh contingent, and Phil had to drive from Cambridge, and so I remained on tea duty for a fair while. We had our first meal - I can't remember what we had, but it was good - and after the dishes had been cleared, we all sat around and talked. Even though everyone has mail and stuff like that, there's still nothing quite like being with people while you're talking with them.
I won't trouble you with details of who cooked what during the week, though it was all exceedingly yummy, except to say that I became de facto baker for the week - obviously not enough bread to fill the needs of all of us, but special breads. Cheese bread, onion bread with onion flakes and black onion seed, rich fruit bread with saffron... yum! Tuesday was cooking day for Phil and Jus and I, and we made moussaka (one veggie, one with lamb), a huge jewelled couscous, and Phil's excellent cheesecakes - strawberry and white chocolate, coconut and dark chocolate, and another one which alas I can't remember.
There was the usual poker night for those who like poker (with the rest of us well out of the way sipping G&Ts and other refreshments in the courtyard and trying to keep the wasps and those little black wiggly insects - not midges, much smaller; perhaps 1.5mm long at most - away from us), and Adrian ran a session of his role-playing game, in which I played a guest character and made Trev and Craig's characters' lives a temporary (though greatly amusing) hell.
I'm afraid that I did indulge in a few of my vices, though I tried to be reasonably temperate: historical buildings and books. One real attraction for me in going back to Derbyshire was the proximity of Scarthin Books of Cromford, one of my very favourite second-hand bookshops - and that's saying something. I'm afraid that I did buy rather a lot of books there this time.
- Reese's Music in the Renaissance
- The Oxford History's The Reign of Elizabeth
- The Cambridge Modern History's The Reformation
- Jacob's The Fifteenth Century
- Laver's A concise history of costume
- Rowse's The Expansion of Elizabethan England
- Labarge's A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century
- Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions
- Aubrey's Brief Lives
- Russell's Parody Party
- Another book that I've lent to juudes and can't remember the title of.
And then, of course, the sheet music section. Oh my. It'd been hugely expanded since my previous visit, and I could have spent myself way into the infra-red if I hadn't been exceedingly disciplined. As it was, I ended up with quite a lot of Tudor Church Music scores:
- Byrd's Short Service
- Farrant's Te Deum and Jubilate
- Farrant's Te Deum and Benedictus for Morning Service
- Farrant's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for Evening Service
- Gibbons' Short Service
- Greene's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis from the Service in C
- Thomas Hunt's Morning and Evening Services
- Tallis' Morning and Evening Services in the Dorian Mode
- Tomkins' Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis from the Third and Fifth Services
- Weelkes' Evening Service for Five Voices
It is a very dangerous shop indeed, and if you spend yourself silly by going there, you mustn't blame me. They also do new books, and have a lovely little café somewhere in among the winding stairs and rooms of book stacks.
I didn't get to see as many Elizabethan period buildings as I might have liked, but it was a holiday, and you can't spend all week climbing spiral stairs, can you? But we did get to, and enjoy, Hardwick Old Hall , built by Bess of Hardwick, and adjacent to the better-known Hardwick Hall ("more glass than wall", as the doggerel had it at the time) and Wingfield Manor, where Mary, Queen of Scots spent a damp time during her imprisonment by her cousin. We took lots of photographs, and when I can, I'll put them somewhere to show you.
Jus and I also did some hunting for refrigerator magnets for Ellen, one of his co-workers, who collects them, and I had the bright idea (since she likes ones that are local to where the giver has been) of finding some polished slices of Blue John, a blue and yellow variety of fluorite (the name comes from bleu et jaune, I believe) found only at a few locations in Derbyshire. We tried looking at the shops in Matlock Bath, but the Blue John shop there was closed, but while we were there I picked up a half-price UV-LED keyring (very handy for validating mineral samples) and coincidentally a leather-covered wall-mounting hygrometer and thermometer for £5. A trip to Castleton, where Blue John is mined, at last proved productive, though polished slices took a while to find, since most of what was on sale was either set as (wickedly overpriced) jewelry or was lumpy mineral specimens. Eventually one shop of the many that we went to turned up trumps and I bought three slices. Visiting Maplin Electronics when we got back to Coventry got me some assorted neodymium-iron-boron magnets, and a dollop of glue and a magnet turned one slice into a fridge magnet which, Jus assures me, utterly delighted Ellen. I also found a haematite that's large enough to fit comfortably in my palm (woo-woo or not, it does somehow seem to soak some of the pain away, as the lovely wytchchyld showed me when I visited her) and a 'pick your own bag of rocks for £2.99', which was an excellent bargain, because they were selling small chunks of Blue John for 95p, and I got 12 into the bag, as well as a few polished amethyst lumps and a couple of small haematites, so I made a fairly impressive profit on that :D
While we were in Castleton, we had an excellent snack in one of the pubs: tea for two, with the most freshly-baked scones that you could imagine - the woman who served us said that they'd be out of the oven in five minutes, and they were. Perfect. Jus also managed to find a walking stick for me that's tall enough - most sticks are made for shorter people, and actually hurt my back more by using them than not. This one, however, is just right for me, and it'll come in invaluable for days when walking is rather more awkward than usual. He is such a sweetheart, so thoughtful for me.
All in all, it was a delightful week, and I only wish that it could have been longer. Ah well, there's next year to look forward to - possibly somewhere in Scotland.