All in all, this has enriched my life. I'm known to quite a crowd now. Besides the occasional Girls' Night Out - which used to be mostly a Curry Night, but nowadays can also mean a meal in a dining pub - there have been midweek or weekend soirées, and, almost without fail, an après-pilates event every Friday lunchtime. Here's a selection of pictures, in chronological order, from late May to last week, to show what I mean:
I like my new friends very much and almost everyone I've met is in one or other of the pictures. And I think the shots do convey the light-heartedness and goodwill rather well.
But there's another point to be made: none of those pictures are at my home. I have enjoyed months of pub lunches and dinners, barbecues, nibbles or sit-down meals in other people's houses - but I've not yet shown anyone what gets served up at Melford Hall! But that's about to change. I'm doing the après-pilates lunch at the end of this week. Gulp.
It's enough to send me into a panic. I know I applied to appear on Channel 4's Come Dine With Me some while back, but that must have been pure hubris. I have been humbled by the genuine culinary skill of my friends.
But all is not lost. I panic, but I do not despair! I have plenty of suitable recipes. For months I've been collecting some free recipe cards from Waitrose. I have also unearthed their 2009 Christmas menu book. Yes, even in 2009 (a rather dark and painful year) I was able to envisage a time when I'd be providing hospitality to friends as yet unimagined. I must have had an awful lot of faith in the future! Anyway, this morning I arranged all the cold-season recipes on the lounge carpet:
Plenty there to choose from. Plenty there that I can prepare the afternoon before - or on the very morning - and keep fresh in the fridge. There will be a hot dish of course, but it'll be something I can just pop into the oven for a short while, in between one glass of wine and the next.
No, I need not worry so much. I simply have to keep my nerve, and not get flustered.
I last entertained at home - formally - as long ago as February 2013. There were three of us. I produced this rustic peasant fare in my cauldron - off the top of my head, without any recipe to follow:
I doubt whether I can rise to this kind of thing again. Well, we'll see.