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Another Girls’ Gluttonous Weekend Away

It seems as if this past year has gone very quickly. Last weekend was my now-annual visit to the Pudding Club with a group of colleagues and ex-colleagues. This was my fourth visit, though I’m still a newbie compared to many of the gang – the stalwart who organises our annual trip is on her seventeenth visit!

As you might expect after so many years of practice, the routine works very well. I was picked up at 09:15 and we drove in two cars from Malvern to Stratford in time for a mid-morning coffee and rounds of toast and jam. Then it was time for some serious Retail Therapy before lunch. I don’t generally see shopping as a recreational activity, but more as a necessity that has to be endured. But I have to admit that there’s a good range of interesting shops in Stratford, where it’s possible to spend a few hours quite happily. Especially if it’s cold and raining hard outside!

I found that the Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop was closing down that very day for a refit, so their stock was very heavily reduced. I managed to buy a lovely and warm cashmere jumper at 60% off in the sale. I went through the elbows of my favourite jumper just before Christmas, and this one was practically the same colour, so that was very pleasing. I also managed to spend an eye-watering amount of money on some very good hand cream and face cream – I’m finding at my age there’s no point buying the cheap stuff any more! And of course I stocked up at Lakeland on a whole load of kitchen stuff.

We then all met up for lunch at The Swan Hotel with another two friends who live further away. It is of the utmost necessity that lunch is a very light meal, given what’s lined up for the evening, so we stuck religiously to the “Lite Bites” section of the menu – plus several portions of chips to share between us, of course! The rain was getting worse by now, and if anything it was even colder, so we spent a long leisurely lunch by a big open fire, catching up on the gossip. 

After lunch, there was time for some more light shopping (or in my case, hiding from the rain in a bookshop) before we drove in convoy to the home of the Pudding Club, the Threeways House Hotel in the picturesque Cotswold village of Mickleton. We had drinks in the bar (time for more gossip) then got changed and met up in one of our rooms for a pre-dinner glass of wine (bring your own tooth mug!). Then it was time for the Main Event. After a very light main course – I had fish cakes and a salad, steering clear of the potatoes and anything else too filling – the puddings were paraded into the room. This year the selection was: Passionfruit Charlotte, Sussex Pond, Butterscotch Pudding, Pear & Ginger Crumble, Syrup Sponge, Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding, and Jam & Coconut Pudding. And of course there were lashings of custard.

I loved the Passionfruit Charlotte and the Butterscotch Pudding, both of which were delicious. The Pear & Ginger Crumble tasted very good, but unfortunately was let down because the pears still had their peel on. I’d never had Sussex Pond pudding before, and won’t be in a hurry to try it again. It’s essentially a suet pudding, inside which is buried a whole lemon. It’s cooked slowly for so long that the lemon gets pretty much candied. The overall effect is somewhat sweet-and-sour, as you bite into a big mouthful of lemon peel and syrup. Though you have to watch your teeth and spit out the lemon pips! After helpings of those four, I was completely stuffed and couldn’t manage the other three. In fact, none of our group managed all of the puddings this year, though most of them managed a respectable five portions.

The next morning, we all found that somehow we had room for a huge cooked breakfast, before hitting the somewhat tourist-trap village of Broadway for yet more shopping. Only window-shopping in my case, as I was all shopped out by that stage. We then had a final coffee and shared some toasted tea cakes in lieu of lunch, which none of us could face, before driving back home, with the cars laden down with shopping!

It was a huge amount of fun, as it has been every year. I’m already looking forward to next year’s trip!