It’s always so nice to be involved in joyous occasions and to be a part of making them happen. I was recently asked to organise a celebratory day for the birthday of an 80-year-old lady. Not a big fancy day, pretty low key, but however big or small an event is it’s an honour to be involved and I take the same care and attention.
After consultation with the family we decided the day had to revolve simply around quality time with family and a few close friends. She would most want to spend time talking to people in convivial surroundings and this would be best achieved by bringing people together, sharing stories and reminiscing – over food.
The day was full of surprises, literally, because she had no idea what was going to be happening.
So, with a driver for the day and more family present than she had been expecting, she started off with a late breakfast at The Bakery at Royal William Yard in Plymouth (sadly no longer there). This was a great, informal venue for a fairly noisy start to the day, the air filled with chit chat and laughter over a simple but delicious breakfast of, essentially, toast. But always the best home-made breads that you simply help yourself to and wonderful warm croissants and pastries with perhaps the best peanut butter ever.
We decided lunch was never going to be necessary and that the much better option would be afternoon tea. This is always such a treat, maybe because it’s something we tend rarely to do, and it just seemed a perfect opportunity to relax in comfort while sharing the ritual of pouring tea. The obvious place to go was Hotel Endsleigh at Milton Abbot near Tavistock, Devon.
Olga Polizzi’s hotel in the Tamar Valley is a Grade I listed former hunting lodge set in 100 or so acres and from the library you’ll enjoy picture-postcard views across the lawn to the Tamar. Afternoon tea here means comfort, squishy sofas, a glowing fire, time standing still, finger sandwiches as we remember them from childhood and endless, unlimited cakes set out on the central library table (it’s quite easy to make a bit of a pig of yourself).
For the evening, it was a surprise party which I’d managed throughout. While she was out I snuck in to decorate the party room in her favourite pinks and florals with an abundance of flowers. Food was catered for by the lovely Emma, a cook based near Liskeard in Cornwall. Surprise parties can be overwhelming and emotional. This occasion was probably no different but I think we got the numbers right and the key thing was that she was surrounded by people important to her, celebrating this wonderful milestone with her. Memories are made of this…