Travel & Life Digest

Pride & Prejudice alfresco at Cliveden

It was one of those hectic days; work wouldn't ease down, calls, emails and the rest of it kept us busy until five o'clock. But it was also Friday, the start of the long, Bank holiday weekend and I had plans of making lovely wraps and other nibbles for our picnic in Cliveden that evening. This plan went out the window. The back-up plan was to set a cut-off time, five o'clock, when I'd stop working and use a whole hour to prep our picnic basket, drinks, nibbles and the rest of it.
Forty-five minutes later, I was still looking at spreadsheets and replying to emails while my husband had been glued to his phone all day, call after call. Enough. It was Friday evening, the sun was finally shining after a long time and we had tickets for open-air theatre in one of our favourite places; the gorgeous grounds of Cliveden, on the edge of the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire.
Right. Time to prep our nibbles for the picnic; no sandwiches or bagels, I was trying out a healthier option: lettuce, smoked salmon and a tahini-lemon-wholegrain mustard dressing, all roll up in sweet potato wraps. The naughty part was in the pudding - it always is! As I was running around doing errands earlier in the day, I managed to cheekily pop into Junks Bakery and got some lovely coffee éclairs and tarts du citron.  These were meant as a little surprise to compensate my husband for coming along to Pride & Prejudice and for eating a healthy dinner. I knew that in the end he'd enjoy the whole evening and thank me for it, but I enjoy seeing his eyes light up like a little boy's, when sweeties are involved.

We arrived at Cliveden's Water Garden last, huffing and puffing, just fifteen minutes before the start of the performance. What a sight! In a clearing amongst the trees of Cliveden's woodland, there was this cheerful congregation of people, sitting around perfectly laid out tables, using actual glasses and cutlery, chatting, dinning and joking, in anticipation of the beginning of the performance.
There was nothing snack-ish about the food either, there were casserole and tart dishes with lovely quiche, coq au vin and colourful salads! All had been brought it, the tables the chairs and "the kitchen sink" for that matter, as we joked. Right at the front, there were a dozen picnic blankets laid out, with more traditional spreads. What made me very happy, was seeing families with young children attending. The little ones were tucking into baguettes taller than them, looking around inquisitively and asking all sorts of questions.  What a lovely gathering of all generations.
Right in the middle of it all, we claimed our spot, spread out our checked blanket and pulled out the prosecco - now we could finally relax.
The performance was put on by Illyria theatre company and it was quite punchy right from the beginning. Five vivacious cast members continuously changed in and out of costumes, to alternate all of the popular characters. The reserved Mr Darcy, gullible Jane and frustrated Elizabeth Bennett, the superficial Mrs Bennett. All portrayed amongst a plethora of jokes, witty comments and clever set changes, with minimal props. It was a light, fun adaptation of Jane Austin's favourite play.
As the sun went down, the chill started spreading and we all got more and more focused on the performance. It was great for the mind to be out in the open air, surrounded by darkness, focusing on one thing only, away from TV, phones and laptops, looking at the stars and breathing in fresh air. 


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