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A princess, pistachio ice cream and pea soup

September 10, 2012

Hope and I were lucky enough to be invited to Cornwall for a very special wedding this last week. I volunteer for the wonderful Kitchen Table Charities Trust (founded by John Humphrys) doing their social media and fund raising, and a few years ago I went out to Madagascar for them to visit the Madagascar Development Fund (MDF), one of the small charities they fund. We visited several villages that had received transformative tiny grants and now had a school or a bridge or a water supply and were shown round by a wonderful man who used to the British Ambassador out there. We remained friends and we were delighted to be invited to his wedding to his remarkable colleague who he runs the charity with … the wedding was in Cornwall.

So … car packed to the roof and with the last minute substitution of Granby standing in for Hope’s father we headed off to the sun and the south … non stop the AA told us it would be 5 hours 51 minutes. Some 11 hours later (M25 horrendous hell and one stop) 3 weary travellers fell out of a car onto the doormat of the very lovely Carlyon Bay Hotel along with the chaos from the inside of the car. Travelling with Hope and Granby means that the huge quantity of ‘stuff’ we need fills the car and my, unusually for me, thimble sized bag of ill fitting clothes sits in the glove compartment … (well almost)… in brief we had her bed, the bed frame, her case, her changing bag, my bag of thank you letters for her christening presents, my small bag, Granby’s art bag, Granby’s suitcase and all sorts of other paraphernalia, raincoats and umbrellas).

A lovely porter bought the biggest trolley I’ve ever seen and made two journeys to our rooms and then stuff dumped and hair brushed we headed to dinner. I was a bit apprehensive as Hope had been so so good all the way and I knew she must be in huge need of a lie down and a kick and also some food, the restaurant gleamed in a polished wine glasses and silver plate cutlery kind of a way and my knees quaked as we went in wishing we were going into a greasy spoon or a fish and chip shop. We sat down and ordered our food, I fed Hope a little and she sat up all excited and trying to grab the sparkling cutlery and then our food arrived. I prepared for the usual juggling act and got Hope all ready on my left knee when a very handsome chap in a suit who turned out to be the Maitre D’ swooped down saying (with the most wonderful accent),

Hope’s hero and mine

“Princess, you come for a walk with me so your Mummy can eat, yes”, and Hope, floozy that she is stretched her arms up and without a second glance, or perhaps a grin over her shoulder left with her dashing friend. I was a bit shell shocked and also confused by having to eat a meal with two hands, and then felt very much a bad mother for letting a total stranger whisk my daughter away. Then I saw them wandering round the restaurant and chatting to the other diners … Hope beaming at everyone and chatting happily. When she was returned to me after my main course she sat on my knee and burbled away telling us everything she’d seen and then a gorgeous girl who turned out to be the Deputy Manager, came and said she thought Hope looked as if she’d enjoy another walk, and off she went again. I’ve never experienced such kindness or such wonderful service … and for the last 7 1/2 months I’ve rarely enjoyed a meal so much (once I got over my bad Mummy guilt).

This warmth and thoughtful attention lasted the few days we stayed there, Hope leapt in my arms and reached out every time either of them passed and had the full tour of the hotel at several meals. Other diners afterwards would see me carrying her and say, “Oh is she your baby”, “isn’t she lovely”, “what a beautiful curl” and so on … it was wonderful and turned what had seemed like an austere and formidable place into almost a family home.

The wedding was lovely, some fascinating guests including a couple that have retired very early and just travel the world and a chap who introduces businesses to Madagascar and a wonderful couple who set up Mafana, a company that sell hand made Malagasy bags into the UK market and a share of the profits go to the MDFand help local communities. Nobody gave presents in the traditional sense, but donations to the charity and the promise to spread the word about the much needed work they do. I looked like death warmed up, the 11 hour drive catching up with me and the subsequent sleepless night (Hope having slept almost the whole drive down). I also had a Cornish haircut which just didn’t sit at all right on my head, though now a week later seems to have settled down and looks as lovely as my mop is capable of looking. I wore the dress I had worn at Hope’s christening which was a little looser on me which was gratifying and Hope stole the show in her pink gingham dress and hat.

Other than the wedding, we walked on the nearby beach, Hope and I paddled in the sea (briefly), we sheltered from lots of heavy rain, and very excitingly Hope had her first proper swim in a swimming pool … twice indoors and once outdoors. I wasn’t sure how she’d react, she loves baths, but she adored it even when we were swamped by small children saying, “Oh a baby” and so on .. she kicked on her front and her back, I dunked her down in the water and she grinned after she’d recovered from the shock and then giggled her funny giggle as she lay facing me on my tummy while I, holding her firmly, swam on my back across the pool. We then lolled and chatted to each other and to Granby who was official photographer and just enjoyed a bit of total relaxation and rare indulgence.

We enjoyed our first public dance togetherto Love Me Tender,

You have made my life complete tum ti tum ti tum

and in the streets of Fowey to a great band called Company B .. nothing like swing dancing in the rain.

Meal times were another highlight as the handsome Maitre D’ bought us a highchair … Hope sat in it, all neatly strapped in and looked like the Queen of the World as she ate various bits of melon and sweet potato and marrow.

Well, when I say ate, alot of it went on the floor but it was just lovely seeing her sitting there like a grown up enjoying all the attention and the freedom to fling food and spoons at will round the room. Granby had also bought her favourite wooden spoon which Hope banged joyfully on her highchair table. One mealtime we had pea soup to start with, the young (and also handsome … what is it with Cornish hotel waiters?) bought us a tiny bowl and a tea spoon

so Hope could try some, she loved it and licked and licked and ate literally half the bowl full (probably about a tablespoon) and just looked so happy and pleased afterwards in her best dress all covered in green mush. For pudding we had ice cream … strawberry and also pistachio .. I let her try the tiniest bit. The strawberry ice cream caused her to flinch and look cross, but the pistachio caused her to grin a lovely gummy smile and lick like a small lizard .. she had about a quarter of a teaspoon full but I’m sure would have eaten the whole bowl if she’d been allowed!

Hope also enjoyed the fresh air and the flowers, she managed to behead several hydrangeas (stunning colours) and pulled the petals off several daisies … and she also expressed a fondness for paper doilies (you know the kind of thing under tea cups in posh places?).

incredible hydrangeas

We had a very happy time. We were very sad not to be there with her father, but it was wonderful to share the time with my remarkable mother, Hope’s adored Granby and the 3 wiped out and weary travellers that arrived turned into a cheerful gang of 3 happy relaxed (if a little sodden from all the rain) gaggle as we set off back to Cambridge.

Hope grew in confidence during our ‘mini break’, not that she was lacking in it at all, and is now even more fascinated and excited by the world than she was before we went. She also knows she is a “Princess” and reminds me at every opportunity when she feels she’s being treated less than properly!! I never cease to be amazed at her optimistic and happy little face absorbing the world and the joy she seems to take everything in with having appraised it all very solemnly to start with.

It was a huge adventure and a wonderful treat (thank you Granby) and we were so lucky to have the whole experience …

blustery on the beach

synchronised swimming

and if you ever pass St Austell and need a place to lay your head on a very comfortable hotel, I can’t recommend the Carlyon Bay Hotel highly enough… even if it did take 11 hours to get there and 8 to get back!

Also if you’ve got any spare cash why not dig into your pockets and fetch it out and donate it to MDF or Kitchen Table Charities Trust … both are outstanding and life changing charities.

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