Hip, hip, hoo-bloody-ray! Paul and Andrew are finally tying the knot, and about time too! Paul was M's best pal when he first ventured over the Channel, and I met Andrew in a taxi queue at 5.30am after a heavy night of clubbing. I say it was Andrew. It could have been the Pope for all I know.
Anyway, Monsieur 2 and I now take personal responsibility for their blissful union and, along with eight other pals, are heading SW for a weekend of good food, good wine and great company. We're bound for Berkeley House, a Georgian townhouse Prince Charles’s stomping ground, Tetbury. It's supposed to be tranquil and relaxed affair, but Ralph - our token Brazilian, who makes Marguerita Pracatan look like a school librarian - is coming, so let's not hold our breath for tranquility.
Generally, we can't wait to see the old boys again, although Monsieur 2's feeling a little apprehensive after the incident in Shrewsbury involving Colin and the combi- boiler. Still we packed the boot with generous quantities from the wine cellar (le mini vacance is a 'self-catering' joint) which rattled alarmingly as we began our journey, turning left onto the Cromwell Road.
Ralph was the first out of the door, followed by Colin, Lisa and her nearest and dearest Rupert. Paul and Andrew were apparently upstairs shouting at each other: pre-wedding nerves, perhaps? [M: It made a change from it being us.] Cheeky.
Lisa's just escorted us round the premises, giving a blow-by-blow account of the design (she's an interior designer). This place has certainly got the wow factor. Run by Lena Proudlock, a Swedish photographer and designer, the house (and its Coach House, Orangery and Bay Tree apartment opposite – all of which can be rented) has been featured in Vogue, Elle and Homes & Gardens. Its décor its drool-inducing. Terrifically discreet, but deliciously luxurious.
|Plenty of room for Lounging|
Decked out largely in black and denim (trust me – it works!), there are enormous black fireplaces, denim-studded chairs and black sofas, offset to perfection by high ceilings, cosy shutters, and oversized hangings of Proudlock’s photography. Drama, pathos and texture galore.
|Oh to have a Kitchen like this one!|
|Master Bedroom, Berkeley House|
|Lounge Space in the Orangery|
The house can be rented with or without The Orangery, and since we have a surplus of numbers, we volunteered to sleep there. Admittedly we were swayed by the seven-foot four-poster bed and wetroom with a showerhead six times the size of ours at home. But who's one for details!
Monsieur 2 and I have helped ourselves to the black bathrobes provided and are about to indulge in a Molton Brown extravaganza courtesy of the owner before we join the throng for dinner, which, incidentally, Monsieur 2 is helping prepare: a French feast of steak tartare, dauphine potatoes and steamed veg laced with rosemary. He takes this all very seriously, and despite one rather heated interlude over the seasoning Ralph and his new sous chef emerged from the kitchen beaming with pride.
A glorious evening last night, although feeling as stuffed as a pot-bellied pig. Monsieur 2 lingered in the shower for as long as possible, and emerged looking refreshed and devilishly good-looking. We made our way across the garden to the main house, and tucked into croissants and coffee – while Ralph gave us the run-down of the day.
The ceremony was taking place at 1pm, followed by a huge lunch, and then the real fun begins: horse-riding followed by a hot-air trip over Gloucstershire's finest countryside. (Tomorrow, he promises, will be less frenetic, with a lie-in and a visit to the Highgrove estate for lunch with HRH; failing that, brunch and a spot of organic shopping.)
The ceremony was truly touching. Andrew and Paul looked beautifully groomed and very much in love. Even the dishwasher beeping during the vows didn’t deter from the sense of occasion, although Lisa and I did get the giggles, at which point M gave me a withering look. Don’t think he’ll be proposing this weekend.
Just finished brunch and we’re having a quick whizz around with the vacuum cleaner, and clearing up the empty bottles. Don’t know where they all came from. (Note, must cut down on drinking!). Berkeley House can provide a live-in ‘house girl’, but the consensus was why bother when we could spend the money on food and wine instead!
Just enough time for a whistle-stop tour of Bath - Monsieur 2 was keen on the idea of visiting William Morris’s home and the second-hand bookshops, Lisa wanted to swing by the Beaufort Polo Club, and Paul and Ralph wanted to ramble through the Westonbirt Arboretum. Bath it was.
N: Berkeley House
T: 01666 500277
Our rating: ****
A: 16 The Chipping, Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8ET