The rain is teeming down outside today, so much so that I have left the hens shut up for their own good, just as William Cobbett advises, but last Sunday was a sunny day for us all, both literally and metaphorically.
As I think I may have mentioned before, my dear papa, the Commander-in-Chief, and my dear mamma celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last week, and held the loveliest party you could imagine at the weekend. As the Commander-in-Chief mentioned in his speech, my mother is quite sure that she deserves a gold medal for putting up with him for fifty years - my view is that medals are deserved all round for anyone who remains happily married for that long.
And what a beautiful day we had, in spite of some early morning flurries at Pomona's cottage. I had finished Princess Bunchy's Miss Iris skirt in plenty of time, well, certainly by 11am. And then I had the idea of adorning her new white T-shirt with some buttons, which only took half an hour or so.
There was much huffing and tapping on the part of the General because I had asked everyone to be ready to leave at 11.30am and I was still sitting stitching in my jeans at that hour. (I was about to say that the General was tapping his watch, but I think he was probably tapping the new Ipod that he has acquired, which seems to operate by tapping. I also say acquired because I think it came free, or nearly free, with my new computer, but I was told that it would be wasted on me in my digitally-challenged state.)
Dottie challenge. So I was a good Pomona and hauled my existing going-out frock from the cupboard, which is, to be honest, a perfectly pretty little number I bought from People Tree two or three years ago. And really it was a Good Thing that I was not wearing something too precious in its newness, for I spilt brown sushi sauce all down the front within minutes of arriving, in a fit of my usual cackhandedness. And luckily this frock has a disruptive pattern of greys, so it didn't really show too much, and someone complimented me on the prettiness of my dress after its embellishment with sushi sauce - to which, of course, I could reply with a clear conscience and polished halo that it was certainly a most ethical dress. And maybe brown sauce improved it.
It was also a very happy weekend because the Ploughboy returned for the party and so I was able to reassure myself of his industrious enjoyment of the academic life, as I heard about his 4am starts (or was that finishes?), and general busyness on all but the intellectual front. But he emailed yesterday asking for pictures of our pigs for a project, so I can comfort myself that it is not all cakes and ale, there is some pork in there as well.
But, as my papa would say, I digress. We arrived at the party one minute before my sister, so we weren't late. My large people acted as car park marshals (although it appears more little and large in the picture above), and little Princess Bunchy had a real live baby to play with, and enjoyed being nursemaid for the afternoon. And I have come to the conclusion that the reason that the finished blanket was not entirely satisfactory to me before was that it needed a baby underneath - that was all that was required to complete the picture of perfection.
And now we come to the presents, or rather present. My parents had said on the invitation 'No presents', but I made an exception for myself and was able to come up with the perfect present which also fulfilled, and indeed excelled, the criteria of the Dottie challenge. It was handmade, it was the most beautiful piece of work that you could ever envisage, and I wrapped it in reusable packaging, namely a tea towel. Yes, the assembled guests also laughed when I mentioned that point - but I blame Sarah at Red Gingham, as she has set my mind running on the potentialities of tea towels. And they make very good, very pretty, and eminently recyclable wrapping paper (it was duck egg blue with spots to match my mother's kitchen).
And having dealt you a few hints as to the magnificence of my present, I now present my present in all its complete and wondrous glory.
You may remember that I wrote a post here about the fantastic work done by my friend, the artist Tom Meek, and as a thank you to my parents for all those years of care and education meted out to children and grandchildren, I commissioned a very special piece which consisted of a little extract from Vita Sackville-West's long poem, The Land, embellished with flowers, apples, cherries, hops, wheat: all things green and growing and special to my mamma and papa.
There is a plough, for my father is a farmer; there are hops as he is the grand old man of hop-growing in this country (you may have heard him on the radio, or even seen him on the television recently, talking about hops).
The owl is partly for wisdom, but also the environment is very dear to his heart, and one farm has won an environmental award, partly because of the care taken to maintain habitats for birds.
The cornflowers and roses were particularly for my mother, and the robin, as messenger from heaven, also has a particular special significance to us all.
Tom has such an amazing talent - the Ploughboy and I put our heads together and made suggestions as to some of the elements, and Tom produced this wonderful design, which appropriately enough includes gold in the lettering, and he also organized the most wonderful green and gold frame to show this piece at its best. Just look at that ladybird, and his trademark Meadow Brown butterfly - I am in utter awe at such skill, and such draughtsmanship.
This is the first time in my life that I have done anything so grown-up as commissioning a work of art, and (unusually for me) words failed me when I first saw it in all its breathtaking beauty. I really feel quite honoured that an artist of such skill and talent has made something so special for me and for my family, and this truly is a thing of beauty which will be a joy for ever.
And now it is back to scrubbing floors and hauling logs, but Sunday was an enchanting interlude, a gathering and a creation of memories, and I am so grateful that we were all able to enjoy such a happy time together, a time to treasure for ever, too.