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Pudding Club Pig-out

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed already, and it’s time for my now-annual girls’ weekend away at the Pudding Club. This year, two of the regulars had to cancel at the last minute, so rather than waste the places the others invited two of their friends to join the party. The newcomers had no idea what to expect, and watched rather wide-eyed (as I did the first year) as the annual ritual unfolded.

I was picked up from home at 09:15 on Saturday, and three of us drove together to Stratford, where we would meet the others for lunch. We were so busy gossiping that we missed our usual turn, and ended up entering the town by a completely different route, which led to some seat-of-the-pants navigating as we tried to find our way to the group’s regular car park by the Leisure Centre. Fortunately we found it eventually, and headed off to the riverside coffee-house that is the traditional first stop for a late breakfast of some sustaining coffee and toast. We were a bit disappointed to find that the toast is no longer free, as it has been previously, but it was still very welcome.

Then it was time for a some considerable Retail Therapy before lunch. I don’t usually go in for “shopping as recreation”, and given how much I managed to spend yesterday that’s probably just as well! I’ve now made my own annual tradition of buying a half-price cashmere jumper in the sales to wear to work, and was determined to do so again this time for now the third year running. I found one my size in a rather pleasant deep red colour – it’s probably very “last season”, but absolutely none of the techies and engineers that I work with will have any clue about that! I also spent an unconscionable amount in Lakeland – the one in Worcester has closed down, so the trip to Stratford is pretty much my only chance to get my fix of impossible-to-leave-behind kitchen and bathroom gadgets. I kept telling myself that I really needed a new colander and more sachets of moth-repellant. I also bought another individual pie dish to match the one I bought last year – it’s a very useful size for dinners-for-one and the current one therefore always seems to be in the dishwasher. But that was the “offer of the month” and therefore it would have been foolish to leave it behind……. I think they must see me coming!

The seven of us all met up (with a rather alarming number of shopping bags between us) at a pleasant pub/hotel for a very light lunch. Knowing what was coming in the evening, I confined myself to an omelette and a share of a portion of chips. The others also all had omelettes or sandwiches, and we tried to impress on the newbies the importance of not overdoing it at lunchtime. It was bitterly cold outside, and it was difficult to leave the warmth of the restaurant with its roaring fire. But I’d spotted an outdoor market opposite with a goodly sprinkling of craft stalls and farmers’ market stands, which clearly needed detailed investigating. I also found a reasonable bookshop, and a small shop apparently selling nothing but very expensive handcream. However, as I’m getting older, I’m increasingly understanding the benefits of a very strong handcream, so a tube of that also got added to my increasingly heavy bags of shopping.

When we were all finally shopped out, we met up to go back to the car park and continue on to the hotel. This was in Mickleton, an Olde Worlde tourist honeypot of a Cotswold village. All seven of us met up in the bar for pre-dinner drinks and a continuation of the good gossip we’d been enjoying over lunch. Then it was time to change before dinner. I very seldom wear a dress, but given the absolute necessity of not wearing anything tight around the waist, I decided that it was more practical than trousers in the circumstances. Naturally, wearing a dress meant I had to wear proper shoes rather than my habitual ankle boots. I’d packed my one and only pair of reasonably smart court shoes, but was horrified to find that during the intervening year since I last wore them, the glue holding the sole on had come unstuck. It was hanging off, and my left shoe was therefore flapping like a hungry crocodile! I didn’t have anything else to wear instead, but that did mean I had to be extra careful when going up for helpings of pudding – it would have been exceedingly unfortunate if I’d tripped and fallen into a vat of custard!

We all met up in one of the group’s bedrooms for wine before dinner – drunk out of our toothmugs! And then it was time to congregate in the bar for a complimentary glass of elderflower cordial and an introduction to the evening from our Master of Ceremonies. I’m almost an old hand by now, but our newbies’ eyes were standing out on stalks by this time! We had to make a choice of a very light main course – chicken, trout or veggie pasta, each little more than a starter, and were warned off eating too many of the boiled new potatoes that accompanied them.

Then it was time for the main attraction. Seven puddings were introduced to the room, one at a time. They vary each year, and this time the selection was: Sticky Toffee and Date Pudding, Passionfruit Roulade, Ginger Syrup Pudding, Squidgy Chocolate and Nut Pudding, Bread & Butter Pudding, Jam Roly Poly and Apple Crumble. I managed the first three fine (the first with both toffee sauce and custard, and the ginger sponge with lashings of custard ), then sat out a round to regroup and hope for a second wind. I then went for a helping of squidgy chocolate & nut pudding. That proved to be my undoing! It was extremely rich, particularly with the added chocolate sauce on top. I forced myself to finish it, as if I hadn’t the rest of the table would have been barred from going up for more helpings! But it was one pudding too many, and I should probably have played it safe with the apple crumble which would have been less filling. As it was I felt slightly sick, and had to walk up and down the corridor outside until I got my diaphragm back under control! I was a lightweight compared to rest of our party, several of whom managed all seven puddings!

I went to bed last night swearing that I wouldn’t want anything to eat this morning, but the lure of the breakfast buffet proved too much. Somehow I found space for a cooked breakfast and several slices of toast. Then it was time for the next part of the ritual, namely another helping of retail therapy in the pretty Cotwsold tourist trap village of Broadway. Getting to Broadway was a major problem though – all the roads seemed to be closed due to sewer works, the diversion signs were virtually nonexistent, and we ended up navigating using little more than blind instinct up over the top of the Cotwolds in thick fog. We got there in the end though, and collapsed into our regular café for some coffee and a toasted tea-cake in lieu of lunch, which we knew we wouldn’t be able to face. Then we wandered up and down the main street in Broadway, doing some window-shopping, and a fair amount of browsing.  I had pretty much had shopping overload by then, so my only additional purchase was from an outdoors shop, where I managed to find a small plastic shovel which I can put in the boot of my car on days when snow is threatening.

I was dropped off at home mid-afternoon, still absolutely stuffed and with a smile on my face. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, and I think all the others did too. The two newbies are both clearly hoping that they’ll get invited again next year! So while it was a shame that two of our regulars couldn’t make it, it was good to meet two new and interesting women, and to help introduce them to the joys of utter gluttony!