The Cottage Smallholder

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Getting on

an Angel on HorsebackDanny and I are lucky. My birthdays is only a fortnight after his. As I am three years older, I enjoy the short period when the gap is only two years. We agree the amount we are going to spend on each other’s present and there is also a silly surprise from the dogs. If they are feeling generous they send a card, strange whirling writing and no stamp.

It’s a good time of year for us. We both love the autumn and it’s great to rack up another year. I am always amazed that I have lasted this long. I always thought that I wouldn’t get much beyond thirty, so every year is special, marked as enjoyed,rather than passing.

I don’t like the wrinkles in the mirror or the widening girth, so I stopped examining them both years ago.

We used to throw a rather lavish party during our birthday season. Starting with lunch (for the oldies) and getting rather wild when the sun went down. We often watched the sun rise.

This year we were determined to celebrate our birthdays and take an indulgent day off. My sister Seraphina treated us to lunch at our favourite restaurant, The Butley Orford Oysterage. It seems the perfect place every time we plan this outing, On the morning that we set out for this gem we are always privately thinking,
“Why the hell are we driving an hour and a half for lunch?”

Especially as we are always running late and argue about the quickest and best route to the restaurant. Suddenly family bonds are strong. My sister asures us all that my route is clearly the best. And of course I agree. Danny grits his teeth and focuses like Jeremy Clarkson as he takes each tight bend.

As we draw into the village our tastebuds are zinging. We push into the packed and happy restaurant and suddenly this is the best place to eat. If you like fish and seafood it is a wonderful harbour in which to while away a couple of hours and makes the journey worh it. The fish is unbelievably good, cooked simply, served with boiled potatoes or a simple salad. It works. The Oysterage has its own oyster beds and smoke house some miles away. It does not have a Michelin star but is always packed. Even on a weekday it is advisable to book.

Seraphina and I both chose Angels on Horseback as a starter. These are oysters wrapped in bacon. They were exquisite. And so were the crab salads, smoked sardines, and soft, delicate prawns. I chose a glass of Aspall’s organic cider to accomapany my meal – a real discovery – it was perfect with shellfish. A large glass would be delicious just on its own, sipped at the end of a long day.

Just behind the Oysterage is the wonderful, rival smokehouse. Richardson’s Smokehouse sells a tantalising range of smoked food, from smoked eel to bacon and cheese. Their ham hocks are superb and their bacon is unbelievably good. I tend to buy just a pound of smoked bacon when we visit. This gives us four days of superb bacon sandwiches for breakfast. It is totally addictive. All their produce is available online.

We ended the day with an inspiarational visit to Sutton Hoo. A fabulous exhibition and a magical, unspoilt place. We spent almost two enthralled hours in the exhibition centre and, as D snoozed in the car, Seraphina and I guzzled superb cakes and sipped tea.

A great celebration of an amazing year.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Amanda,

    Of course you push the boat out for your boys.

    I often reflect on my childhood parties. Like holidays, they live with you.

    Hi Sara,

    We had a day off and out and away. It was great. My sister engineered this. She is a gem.

    Hi Jane,

    That™s a great oyster story. I reckon that you are either an oyster person or you are not.

    I love them. But I have only eaten them in Eastern England and Paris. The former are a revelation. I have never swallowed them whole. I want to taste them! The ones in the East of England are sweet and creamy.

    The Angels on Horseback were very good but nothing like a really fresh local oyster, chilled and eaten with a little lemon juice. Sorry.

  2. Happy Birthday(s) to you both! My own introduction to oysters was in Rome when I was twenty and an admirer bought me some when he took me out to lunch (possibly his intentions were not entirely honourable). I squeezed lemon as directed and the thing shivered. “It’s still alive!” I gasped, horror-struck. My escort thought this was hilarious, and told me just to tip the whole lot down my throat in time-honoured fashion. Twenty-five years later, just thinking about it again makes me want to gag… I’m sure they’re lovely when cooked. One day I must try them again…

  3. farmingfriends

    What a wonderful way to celebrate. Wishing you both a happy birthday and I toast you both as I sit at the computer with my glass of wine.
    Best Wishes
    Sara from farmingfriends

  4. Sounds like a wonderful way to celebrate! I’m so pleased you had such a magical day and that you celebrate your birthday properly.

    We seem to have forgotten how to celebrate our own or should I say we choose to celebrate them more quietly, but go over the top for the children. Our time will come again. For now I like to pack up a picnic and go for a walk.

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