We arrived at the gate at tea time as instructed. The house and gardens were hidden behind the typical walls and hedges. Suddenly we lost our bottle; we'd never met these people and we were to stay with them for three days! But then the dogs started barking and we were found out, so in we went to meet the cousins.
And they were brilliant. Tea and biscuits were produced and we all sat in the back garden to get acquainted. Alec is the Lord of the Manor's third cousin once removed (I think). Alec's grandfather stayed in the UK, and LOM's great grandfather immigrated to California in the 1880s. Alec is retired from the Navy, but they are still busy busy. Not only do they manage this little farm with sheep, a horse, chickens, ducks and eight dogs, but they are active with local politics, the church, shooting, dog breeding and a lobster hatchery. Alec mows the lawns and Ann tends the borders. One day we helped Ann pick gooseberries and later she made jam. We were amazed at their energy.
Some parts of their cottage date back 600 years. Our bedroom was in this oldest part where the cob walls are 3' thick. Other parts were only 500 and 100 years old. In the kitchen a Rayburn perked away heating the water. In the winter it's delightfully cosy, but that July it was extremely hot so we ate all our meals outdoors.
Although we had stayed in B&Bs and were somewhat familiar with English domestic arrangements, actually staying in a relative's home was a different story. I'm not saying all English homes are like this, but they had 5 dogs in the house, three dogs outdoors, clutter everywhere, a conservatory, lots of books, well loved furnishings, baked tomatoes for breakfast, tea at 4, wellies by the garden door, pudding after dinner, telly in the evening, and the latest copy of Country Illustrated in our bedroom. The doors were never locked, the kettle was always ready, eggs were gathered, dogs were walked, minks were cursed, meals were enjoyed, and ideas were shared. I was in Heaven!
Every morning we'd share a typical breakfast of cereal, fruit, tomatoes, eggs, bacon, toast and tea. Then we'd be off on some excursion; Eden Center, Falmouth, or St. Ives. We'd be back for tea at 4, a quick clean up, then cocktails at 6, dinner at 7, telly at 9, bed at 10.
Our three day visit passed quickly and too soon it was time to go. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and I'll never forget that time we actually lived in a 600 year old cottage in the English countryside.