Come Dine in Meercat Manor
Her house has a name. Mine does not. She sent out dinner party invitations. I didn’t! But…..I mustn’t worry myself just yet. It takes more than fancy names and invitations to win Come Dine With Me Please!
‘How I Made Time For Me This Weekend’, is a fun category which I have recently introduced to my blog. You can read more about that here.
Find out what happened on the first night of our Come Dine With Me Please Competition.
Halloween obviously comes very early in the McKenna household. But as a fan of ghouls and witches, I have to admit I was excited at being invited to a Halloween themed dinner party. Now I did get a wee bit flustered when I seen that the dress code was In the Style of Monster High.
Don’t get me wrong, I love fancy dress but with a few busy days ahead of me, I had visions of myself trying to squeeze into my child’s dress and knee high socks. I had no time to go shopping for fancy dress gear! However, since all the guests were also quite busy, our very understanding hostess changed the dress code to Black & Bling. Much easier!
The photographic updates began to arrive in our group messenger inbox as early as Friday evening. Mmm…..she’s picking tomatoes in the greenhouse. And they grow their own onions. Grapes? Is it even possible for grapes to grow in Ireland? But why is Mr. Mckenna power hosing the yard?
I really do love dining outside but not in Ireland in September in the dark, wearing my best black diamante adorned velvet stilletoes! God no! Then we were advised to wear our Sunday best wolly knickers. That was proof enough that something would be happening outdoors. Definitely not wearing my cold six inch heels. Draught resistant knee high boots all the way!
The photos continued to bombard our inbox. Mini witches scuttled the grounds of Meercat Manor. Busy as bees they were. The one on the bicycle unnerved me. She was on a mission! Yes….the lady of the manor (or should I say Head Witch?) most definitely appeared to be putting in a huge effort. She wants to win! Arghhhh!
We arrived at 7pm to be greeted by a cool, calm and somewhat glamorous Jackie. Where was the tomato splattered apron? Why isn’t she all flushed and sweaty? Why isn’t she huffing and puffing? Ah really…..I was thrilled that my good friend was coping delightfully!!!! Honestly I was!
Kate was the guest of honour and she had arrived hours before us. After Roisin stuffed her 24 bottles of Bud into the fridge, our hostess invited us to follow her out to the veranda on the river. (If you don’t mind) She escorted us through the candlelit shrubbery to begin our launch down Mr. McKenna’s wobbly stone slab steps.
My high boots weren’t built for walking let alone abseiling! Okay, I’m exaggerating a little but when you’re walking on stilts, even the tiniest slope looks like Mount Everest. However, I managed to descend safe and sound. Poor Roisin struggled a little though.
With a heavy fake fur coat weighing her down, her handbag clutched tight under her arm and a bottle of Bud in each hand, I was sure she wasn’t gonna make it. But the considerate Kate returned to assist her. She gently encouraged Roisin to surrender the bottles….just for a minute! “You will get them back Roisin.”
Now, it probably should have been me running back to help my friend since I was the only guest who had both hands free. Why was that? Because I was the only guest who had not been handed a drink upon my arrival! Very poor service I must say.
Having expressed my desire for a glass of vino tinto, the hostess glared at me and cackled, (yes….she cackled) “Did Kate not get you a drink?” “Eh…no she didn’t, because she is a guest Jackie!”
Although I was beginning to have my suspicions that she was in fact the hired help, because she let slip that she was in the kitchen earlier scraping spuds for the rosties. And the dips that were laid out on the veranda table were made by Kate herself!
Now correct me if I’m wrong – but that’s cheating! Minus one point for poor service!!! Ding Dong….. hee hee hee! I was back in the running.
Mr. McKenna made a swift appearance. Sure his bum barely touched the seat when Head Witch ordered him back to the house for a bottle opener. She actually thought that Roisin still opened beer bottles with her teeth. She hasn’t done that since she almost choked on a bottle cap last Christmas. I hope Roisin deducted a point for that!
Although the hostess was unlikely to receive top marks for service, the hospitality was excellent. We laughed, shared stories and talked about Kate’s recently published book of poetry ‘AT The Edge’.
The surroundings were magical and fairylike. The bushes were dotted with tea lights that twinkled in protective little glass jars. Some hid in nooks and crannies until dusk persuaded them to playfully reveal themselves to us.
For a minute or two, I was taken back to my childhood, as my eyes searched the garden with the intention of catching a glimpse of an unsuspecting fairy or a mischievous pixie. Perhaps I couldn’t see them because they were paddling in the shallow river beneath us! Visions of trolls and leprechauns invaded my mind and it made me smile.
For those few moments, I had nowhere to be except where I was. There was nothing I needed to think about except fairies and goblins. I closed my eyes in a bid to make the moment last because I didn’t want to leave the peaceful state I was in.
The scent of fresh country air filled my nostrils and as I inhaled the damp smell of crushed fallen leaves, I was reminded that Autumn is my favourite season. The laughter from my friends jolted me back to reality and as the birds sang their last song of the evening our hostess advised us that a feast awaited our return to the manor.
Jackie led the convoy up the candle-lit steps and since we were all well over the limit by this stage, I couldn’t help thinking to myself,
“If Jackie goes down – everyone goes down”.
But it was actually remarkable the way she balanced herself on those wobbly slabs while carrying a blanket, a dish of humous, a bottle of wine and a full glass – all without spilling a drop! Fair play to her! It was almost as if she had many years of practice.
One or two squeals of terror echoed through the hedges, as Roisin and Kate helped each other up the rocky road but lo and behold… they made it! A little dishevelled looking but who cared at this stage?
Homemade fresh tomato and basil soup was presented in a cute black cauldron. Fingers and eyeballs floating on top. Lovely! At a first glance I thought they were prawns and squid. Roisin thought they were……something else! Anyway, they weren’t edible so they were swiftly removed before serving.
Well now, I have tasted many versions of tomato and basil soup and this one topped them all. Simply divine! The service was starting to improve too, thank goodness. Jackie poured me a glass of wine….yeahhhh!!
Any concerns I had about her creeping into the lead disappeared when she asked us how we would like our steaks cooked. She seemed happy that Kate preferred her beef cooked rare but when Roisin and I requested medium, she glared at us and in her Gordon Ramsay voice she snapped, “Yas’ll take them whatever way yas get them.” Well…… would you believe that? Ding Dong…minus another point!
Jackie was very keen to show off her presentation skills. The main course arrived looking very attractive and appealing. Juicy fillet steaks posed on a bed of mashed potato and steamed kale. Crispy rostis sat tantalisingly on the side of our plates and rich red wine gravy was served up in individual skull shaped mini jugs. I wasn’t jealous at all. I had a Tahonia Hand-Painted Burslem Transfer Dish. So I had!
Jackie can actually cook when she puts her mind to it. It really was delicious! Although, she’s very lucky that I’m not a fussy person because the centre of my beef was too pink for my liking. But it was as thick as a doorstep so I could well afford to leave the rare piece behind.
Her fancy water jug must have been just for show too because it was empty. Lucky I knew where the tap was! Shocking service! (Fabulous jug though)
Brain shaped strawberry blancmange wobbled towards the table. Streaks of red jelly trickled through the grooves making it quite life-like. Impressively served on a pink porcelain dish…..oops, hang on a minute….. no sorry, it was a plastic dish – not porcelain! Shucks!
Glass skulls overflowed with Tom and Gerry’s ice-cream. Can she not spell Ben? Surely every woman on the planet has heard of Ben and Gerry’s ice-cream! Well, it was a scrumptious dessert and I would have had a second helping if Kate hadn’t finished the last two portions!
I took a wee trip to the powder room to have quick look in the mirror. I needed to check for visible signs of inebriation. Sure enough, the mirror that never lies spoke with integrity. I needed to stick to water for the remainder of the night. Silly grin, eyeballs that looked frighteningly similar to those that were served up in the soup earlier and of course the unattractive red wine stained teeth. The perfect Halloween dinner guest I suppose!
When I returned to the dining room I found poor Roisin sitting all alone. Abandoned like an orphaned kitten. Nobody to talk to, nobody to laugh with and nobody to get her a bottle of beer from the fridge. I’ve never seen her looking so sad in all my life.
Where was the hostess? Why wasn’t she looking after the baby of the party? Oh….there she was! Outside with the special guest Kate. Getting some ‘fresh air’. Yes, the same special guest who got served her fillet of beef exactly how she likes it! Mmm……I had a feeling Mrs. Head Witch had a favourite friend! But who are Roisin and I to judge? Who are we? We are the ones dishing out the points. THAT’S who we are!
The part I had been looking forward to all week. The entertainment! And as always, when it comes to having fun and games Jackie never disappoints. Halloween quiz time. Right up my alley.
We were handed score cards and the questions appeared on the TV screen one by one. Creepy music and ghoulish shrieks of laughter played in the background. We had thirty seconds to answer each question. I grew up with horror movies so I was confident I was in with a chance of winning this.
A bit too confident as it happened because I was told to shut-up half way through the quiz. So I buttoned it! Forty questions later the scores were counted and the winner was revealed. Me! Yoo hoo……I beat them all hands down! Gosh I love winning!
Next up was Halloween dance music. This was hilarious! Bat Out of Hell thundered through the walls of Meercat Manor like there was no tomorrow. Myself and Roisin put everything we had into that song, belting it out better than Meatloaf himself. If only he had been there to see us. He would have taken us home on his bike!
Jackie and Kate strutted their stuff to Thriller as well as if they had rehearsed it. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they had) When The Time Warp came on Roisin nearly broke her neck to get centre stage. She knew all the words and could do all the moves.
My favourite of the night was Ghost Riders in the Sky. I can’t quite remember how many times we sang (with actions) it but it has a whole new meaning for me now. Visions that will haunt me forever.
Monster Mash took its toll on us and we were forced to flee the dance floor. When we calmed down and returned to our sensible selves, Kate very kindly read us a couple of poems from her book. You can learn more about Kate’s book here.
Time sure does fly when you’re having fun and we decided to call it a night when Roisin started to speak jibberish. “I left asagne in the pot for my hushband”. “Scho I did”.
Isn’t he so lucky!!
The points were given and the envelope was sealed. One more night to go! Roisin is feeling rather nervous I believe. Roll on Saturday night as we party in Doon, Indian style!
Thank you for reading!