As we enter the first days of autumn, I look back to the first days of summer. Let’s start at the beginning. On a cold day in February, a letter appeared in my email inbox. Like, a letter letter.
I know now that I received it as a Last Tuesday Society subscriber, but at the time had no idea who was behind this mysterious letter. It was magic. They found me. They created the perfect, most idyllic event of my dreams, and they found me.
So after a few weeks of dreaming and wishing, I decided to go. I bought two tickets, even though the Monkey was uncertain of his June availability. Sometimes one just has to do these things. There was never going to be a more perfect way to celebrate the culmination of my Oxford English degree than a Midsummer Night’s Ball in the English countryside.
He was free, in the end, so on Midsummer, we bussed to Norfolk.
Miss Lyra came too of course.
First sight. Beautiful glamping tents all in a row. We brought our own tent, a nice compromise for camping man Monkey to balance out my girly storybook weekend.
We dined on hay bales in the open air.
And open air there was.
Everyone was friendly. The people on the bus. The people at the campsite. The sheep, who flocked to greet us when we discovered their pen.
Wyndstock makes clear that it isn’t a festival. It’s a Country House Party. It was a weekend of calm, with thousands of acres to explore. Space.
A secret garden.
And wooded walkways.
A rather literary weekend, not just because I saw a real Ha Ha, like in Mansfield Park. By chance we met Ian Kelly, author of Beau Brummel – The Ultimate Dandy, so went back to the Literary Tent to hear him speak. Brummel was responsible for the modern men’s suit and for bringing top hats to America in the time of Lincoln. A then-celebrity I had never heard of. I bought his book.
We played croquet, and joined a swing dancing class. We made a vegetable flying unicorn.
We made ivy crowns. I did, anyway, but the Monkey was kind enough to fetch me flowers. He suggested that I make one for Lyra too. Why didn’t I think of that?
There were schedules posted about, and Miss Xandra does like a schedule. But things didn’t really run on time, and that was for the best for me. Instead we wandered and stumbled upon things. My path was decided by the universe, not some arbitrary device. There needn’t have been a schedule at all.
There was an announced mystery. A Surprise on the timetable. That too was not on time, and I was disappointed to have missed it. I didn’t even know what to look for. But I soon found out, when it arrived, late.
So we made more new friends.
And roasted some enemies. Well, not I personally. I couldn’t think of anyone to throw into the effigy pile. Tom Riddle?
The fire, though, was magnificent.
We collected our books from the tent and read on log benches. That’s the Monkey and me.
There was music and dancing all through the night, but we didn’t stay long, tired from running through the fields and climbing trees.
One quick stop at the ceilidh tent though.
Then back to the campsite.
Daytime gave clues of what had happened in the night. The party had progressed to the woods, and some chairs still remained.
We took tea with cake.
And met more friends still.
The weekend closed with a tractor tour of the farm. Such care and precision goes into selecting and looking after the animals kept on the property. The organic vegetables grown there filled our plates at every meal, and supply Waitrose Organic, we learned. When the label says Norfolk it means Houghton Hall [which basically means Wyndstock]. Veggies from Wonderland.
A rather fine weekend.
Expansive and free for we country house guests to do as we pleased.
Through the calm, there was an air of mystery, of magic, not just in the Surprises, but in the origins of the event. We met many new friends, at meals, by the fire, on the grounds. We asked, how did you know about Wyndstock? And most people replied, Oh, I know Wynd. Viktor Wynd, the party’s namesake. After a while it became a living Gatsby. Finally we asked our luncheon company how they knew Wynd, then. In the most manor house of English accents, our gentlemanly friend replied, “Well how does one know Wynd?”. Wynd appeared later in a bedazzled red suit, wearing a live boa constrictor around his neck. Our wonder-ful host.