Not far on the heels of our agreeable host were two young fetching women, sisters, one of whom is the consort of our host. And then appeared their equally handsome mother about whom we had heard but never met. At the same time two unfamiliar dogs, one resembling a Whippet, the other a King Charles spaniel, approached cautiously from the meadow. They belonged to the consort's sister (who I later learned to my astonishment fostered rescue dogs from the Dominican Republic). Amid regaling and supplications we all nudged into the house where I dislodged a modest cargo of Champagne and removed from the same bag my swimming trunks and towel.
I determined to make my way to the pool immediately. My host - an unflagging athlete who had promoted the aquatic diversion - joined me with enthusiastic promotion. He told me he had already taken his constitutional dip for the day, that the water was "bracing". The dogs came along to witness my exhibition of hardiness. As I explained when I was in the water up to my waist, it really was no great accomplishment because I suffer virtual pervasive numbness in the extremities below my hips (what my host and erstwhile physician described as some kind of radiating arthritic condition). He did of course urge me to "take the plunge" to overcome what he perceived to be my hesitancy. Instead I proceeded slowly towards the deep end and finally submerged myself but not without an instant vault from the water to recover myself. Bracing indeed! I nonetheless persisted. Even after my host vanished and left me idly gossiping with the unattached sister, I continued to paddle back and forth, sometimes below the surface of the water. By this time the general sensation was one of complete numbness. I actually began to think I could do this interminably. But soon after the sister excused herself because of the annoying flies I wasn't long following.
After drying myself poolside and getting dressed in the powder room, I rejoined the other guests swarming about the island in the centre of the scullery where the action in this buzzing household inevitably unfolds. In addition to drinks there was as always an abundance of hors d'oeuvres and a collage of pots, pans and tureens burdened with foodstuffs in various stages of preparation amid an accompanying confusion of plates and culinary devices. Our host skilfully balanced the necessity of hospitality while contemporaneously poking, prodding and stirring the evolving nutritional concoctions. The browned turkey in its deep pan had judiciously been removed from the oven and sat covered in foil, waiting, tempting.
The familiar dining table is a work of art in my opinion, long, wide and sturdy, presumably construced of oak or some other hardwood like maple. It screams country living being both generous and undeniably practical. It was decorated with eclectic autumnal paraphernalia including a South African table cloth illustrated with native birds and adorned by several candlesticks. The mother asserted her maternal privilege by orchestrating the seating at table, primarily ensuring the proximity and visibility of her admirable daughters. Uncharacteristically I sat at the end of the table opposite our host instead of being at his right hand as usual.
As predicted the meal was nonpareil from start to finish. Though I positively adored the uncommonly moist and succulent turkey with its crackling skin the vegetable dishes were extraordinary. We nonetheless managed to distract ourselves from our absorption in the meal to ramble aimlessly (though at times with considerable intensity) about assisted suicide, religion, travel, Scottish heritage, grammar, Lanark County dialect, Netflix, zucchini spirals, cauliflower rice and of course Trump's burgeoning impeachment proceedings. The subsequent desserts - yes, there were more than one - were decidedly popular. The final punctuation was an espresso coffee (actually I had two).
Adhering to what I consider a three-hour limit for similar social functions - and acknowledging the undisputed dilution of strength of our indefatigable host and his consort - we peremptorily excused ourselves from table and prepared to depart. We all congregated outside momentarily before leaving the warmth of the gathering and piercing the black sky homeward bound.