The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


irises in the big pond

Irises in the big pond

The worst party that I can ever remember was shortly after I moved from London to this area. I was 30 years old and had been used to a sort of free flowing easy going life. I only entertained people that I liked. I received an “At Home” invitation to a local party in a month’s time. I misread the surname of the lady who’d invited me. Let’s call her Mrs Bloggs.  Luckily, within a couple of weeks had discovered that her name was in fact Mrs Blaggs. Her daughter was the long term girlfriend of an old family acquaintance of mine. His mother and mine were good friends.

This son, who I shall call Tom, had hosted a small drinks party for me when I arrived in Newmarket. I was so shy that I can remember very little of this get together except the overwhelming impression was that I had failed to come up to scratch. I do remember meeting a man who now lives near us in Cheveley who was very kind and talked to me. The rest of the party is a blur, groups of people discussing their own sort of ‘shop’ and when I was introduced, the group remaining silent for a few seconds until they realised that I would add nothing to their particular conversation. It was a very kind gesture by Tom but I cringed in the wings and returned home as quickly as I could politely step out and away into the welcoming night.

Subsequently I braved that “At Home” invitation – “For Plink and Plonk (her daughter and son) Drinks and dinner”.

I parked my mini van far away from the Mercedes, BMWs and high end sports cars and walked up the long gravel drive. I could hear the roar of conversation through the open windows, it was late summer at the time.

I longed to side step from the drive and silently creep away back across the close cropped lawn but this was a kind of tenuous family connection and I had to brace up and face it whatever the cost. With this sort of semi formal party, the hostess positions herself by the front door to welcome every guest and introduce them to a group of people with similar interests. I told myself that if I kept my nerve everything would be OK.

Finally arriving at the front door, I lifted the immense knocker and waited just a few seconds before the door was thrown open. Mrs Blaggs and I were eye to eye. Behind her conversation had dimmed. Necks had turned to observe the latest arrival. I was unknown and for a few seconds, interesting.

I held my hand out and gave my name. Ignoring my hand, her shoulders and breasts lifted to monolithic proportions and she turned away, vanishing into the throng.

What on earth was I supposed to do? I stood on the vast doormat. I had to face this rudeness as if nothing had happened or skulk away…

There is an end to my story. I was rescued from the doorstep but …. oh, the rest of that particular story can wait until another time. Meanwhile that odious hostess has gone on to an interminable drinks party in the sky.

Until that horrendous party, I had always believed that parties should be for the guests rather than the hosts. I still think that this to be the case and I always enjoy our parties.

In just two weeks – July 21st 2012 we will be in the midst of The Cottage Smallholder Summer Party! I’d love you to join us.

The great thing about last year’s party was that it wasn’t really a ‘party’. Just a group of people who had loads in common, wanted to relax and have fun. The range of ages and interests was broad, some people wanted to chat and others just wanted to relax by the pond and look out for shy goldfish.

The garden was and still is a mess. Even though guests had to fight through the undergrowth on the drive to the front door, the food and drink sparkled. We didn’t run out of tea, coffee, wine, beer, cider and soft drinks although we didn’t have hot water. And we still don’t have a vast doormat.

Despite being a trifle disorganised, Moss and Heather saved the day. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

The food was amazing – not my contributions but superb donations from Scotland, England and as far away as France and South Africa. Of course the best surprise was Heather’s fruit cake, decorated beautifully with scenes from The Cottage Smallholder. One thing she got wrong was a small figurine which was Danny pushing a wheelbarrow – I kept it on the mantelpiece until it dissolved in the heat just a few days ago and the D figurine flopped slowly into a multicoloured heap. Say no more.

We have already had quite a few acceptances for our summer party. If you are planning to come and haven’t made contact through the blog or forum, just email us (through the contact us tab above) to say that you are arriving, as we need to know numbers for catering.

We are looking forward to meeting you on Saturday, July 21st. Any time after 1pm until late evening. There are goodB&Bs in the village and a few spot left for camping in our garden, if you’d like to stay over.


  Leave a reply


  1. Keith @ Kitchens in Ireland

    Enjoy! We’re sipping a bottle of wine here now helping you celebrate!

  2. Jennie Yeomans

    Have been viewing your website for some time and greatly admire what you do. Thinking about attending your garden party if we can get b&b for Saturday night. Any recommendations?
    We are hoping to relocate to Suffolk from Tunbridge Wells for various reasons.

    We grow vegetables in difficult conditions ( North facing tree overhung garden!) We also make various concotions such as sloe gin & blackberry whisky as well as chutneys pickles etc which we would be happy to contribute.


    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Jennie

      It would be great if you could come! Yes there are a few good B&B’s in Cheveley. I’ll email you a list tomorrow morning.

  3. I can’t wait to hear the end of your story, I hope it has a happy ending. How awful to be invited, only to be rudely dismissed, manners cost nothing.

  4. Jjt363

    How I’d love to come too. I check for updates everyday and read every comment (but i’m not very confident to leave many myself) and I know I’d be welcome at your party. Perhaps next year I’ll book a ferry back from France and bring the cheese and some wine. Have fun everyone.

  5. veronica

    Booked my flight 🙂 I’ll bring the rosé; not sure if I’ll be able to transport anything else for fear of the wrath of Ryanair.

    Being a shy and retiring person who’s not good at small talk, I can remember horrible party moments like that too. I’m not a party animal, but I make an exception for the CSH party-which-is-not-a-party 🙂

  6. casalba

    Oh how I’d love to come. Hope the weather gets better, but then I’m sure a little bit of water won’t dampen the atmosphere.

    (PS My feeds are back – I’m so pleased.)

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