Friday 13th

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					                     Coombe Abbey Murder Mystery
                    Friday 13th – Saturday 14th August 2010
                                     By Sal Hopkinson

 Friday 13th!                                           woman is about 5ft 4”? I had to perform
In true HASSRA trip fashion, we all met up in           acrobatics to get the hair clips off the top rack -
the Woodpecker. Within 5 minutes of my                  which you would have needed a 6ft 4” fella to
arrival I‟d caused mayhem by spilling a cuppa           reach (or maybe that was just me wishful
all over the floor & narrowly missed scolding           thinking?).
Beck‟s shoulder – fine thanks that was – she
bought me the cuppa! Just before we left, I             Having purchased a blackboard & wind up
proceeded to spill the remainder of my tea all          penguin, the rain came down with a
over the sinks in the Leisure Centre – well, it         vengeance & so we were forced to take
was Friday the 13th after all!                          sanctuary in Weatherspoons – The Benjamin
                                                        Satchwell. From outside it didn‟t look like a pub
Whilst catching up with old friends by the bus          & if John hadn‟t pointed it out we‟d have
lay by, our coach driver Paul (a lovely chap, a         missed it. Inside it was clean, modern & very
Cockney – but no-one is perfect), was fighting          roomy with loads of booths to hide away in &
to get the extra long (57 seater) past the front        look on Facebook in search of a Knight.
of Quarry House & down the ramp. With us all
safely on board we broke out the butties, lollies       We arrived at Coombe Abbey at about
& various other sweeties only to grind to a halt        5.30pm. The Abbey was more like a mansion
halfway down the ramp. The posh bus had                 house & reminded be a little of Brideshead
grounded on the dip in the ramp & was also              Revisited. The grounds were beautiful with
having its paintwork removed by a tree. With            woodland, fountains, water lily ponds &
only a slight delay Paul jacked up the                  sculpted privets. There was a moat – though I
suspension & we were off by 12.45pm.                    didn‟t spot any crocodiles, but there were
                                                        some swans & cygnets. We checked in & were
Pauline (who I finally met for the first time face      escorted through the labyrinth of corridors
to face – after all these years of emailing write       packed with medieval memorabilia to the new
ups to her - its ok, she‟s getting counselling for      wing (built on what used to be the car park). I
it), did a wonderful job as the tea lady, not           admit I was dubious as I wanted an oldie
spilling a drop (unlike me earlier). Barry gave         worldie room like the ones in the main building.
out the itineraries, there was a change to the          My doubts were unfounded; the new wing was
plot of the murder so we all had chance to              just as exciting & full of nooks & crannies, suits
have a good read & prepare ourselves to be              of armour & old paintings to explore.
detectives for the evening.
                                                        Our room was huge & had a gorgeous window
En route to Royal Leamington Spa we saw two             seat looking out on to the woods, complete
lads stood in the middle of an A road wearing           with squirrels running up tress & birds singing
giant Dominos Pizza Boxes (other pizza                  their little hearts out. There was such
delivery companies are available). The poor             attention to detail too, a small bedside statue
lads must have been miserable, so we all                holding sweeties (though they were somewhat
waved at them, which at least raised a smile.           sticky) & even the hairdryer, spare loo roll &
At about 3pm, we arrived in lovely sunshine at          hot water bottle were wrapped in covers
Royal Leamington Spa. Opting out of a visit to          matching the upholstery. We had a majestic
the historical pump rooms, we strolled up the           seat / throne – ideal to relax in & enjoy a pre
main street. Lovely brightly coloured hanging           murder glass of wine. Only slight hitch was that
baskets & flower troughs lined the streets but          we had requested twin beds (we are close
we were surprised how modern everywhere                 friends, but not that close!) but had been given
looked. In true girlie tradition we mooched             a room with a huge double bed. Housekeeping
around the shops & yet again I caused                   came up to un-Velcro the beds & convert them
mayhem – this time in Claire‟s Accessories              into singles. We had a very interesting chat
(other accessory shops are available) with              with the housekeeping lady who had worked
Beck‟s hair grips (which didn‟t grip). Why do           there for 13 years & loved every minute of it –
they insist on hanging girl‟s accessories at            refreshing change in this day & age.
ceiling height when the average height of a
Having dressed for dinner we went off to the
Abbeygate banqueting hall which would be the       During the meal we had many entertaining
setting for the murder. Outside were two           exchanges with those around us including Sir
monks dressed in rather striking (if not           Rupert throwing paper missiles at me – one of
surprising) blue habits. We were chatting &        which I still haven‟t found! I won‟t tell you what
joking with one of them but the other (who was     the outcome of all our detective work was but
later identified as Brother James the Provost),    what I can say about the deceased is – they
would not play the game. He perhaps took           deserved it!
offence to Beck querying the authenticity of his
brown loafers. His humourless response was –       Back into the bar & onto the dance floor for a
„I got them from Tesco Express actually‟           fabulous disco. The DJ was brilliant, playing a
(please yourself mate). Inside the hall was a      whole range of decades as well as our
bar & dance floor with tombs, flags, heraldic      requests & everyone at one time or another
shields, armour & dim lighting, all very           had a dance. One lady (who shall remain
atmospheric. To get the evening off with a kick,   nameless to protect her dignity) was giving it
John & Julie introduced us to the very             her all & fell over – that didn‟t stop her, she
quaffable Maredsous Belgian blonde beer –          continued to dance on her knees! It was also
pricey but worth it.                               great to see that even the biggest stick in the
                                                   muds came out of their shells by the end of the
                                                   night. Needless to say, some of us danced all
                                                   night until they were thrown out in the wee
                                                   hours of the next morning!

                                                   Saturday 14th
                                                   Having had a solid night‟s sleep we made our
                                                   way to the beautifully sunlit conservatory which
                                                   was packed with murder mystery guests & a
                                                   wedding party. The conservatory was
                                                   decorated with lots of curious bits & pieces, my
                                                   particular favourites were the Elephant lamps –
                                                   very grand. Due to the number of people
                                                   eating, there was a slight delay whilst the
At this point can I just say thank you to the      bacon & sausages were restocked. The wait
guest appearance in the bar area by the            just gave us an excuse to stand in line & chat
gentleman who looked like Clive Cussler, the       about the previous evenings exploits & how
action novel writer. I only wish I had asked for   brilliant it had been. Patience was displayed by
your autograph Mr C, as your books have kept       most of us – though some were very eager to
me amused for many years now!                      get at the mushrooms and beans! My only
                                                   minor complaint was that the scrambled eggs
The murder was played out in several short         were far too watery for my taste.
tableaux between the courses of the meal. In
between the tableaux, the characters came          We didn‟t have enough time to explore
down into the audience so that we could pick       Coombe Abbey & its grounds. We managed to
their brains & try to work out which one of them   grab a quick look at some of the corridors with
was guilty. Abbot Geoffrey was very shifty & I     creepy heads, suits of armour, pulpit & a
was convinced he was the culprit. The food         confessional – converted into a phone booth.
was lovely – poached salmon followed by pan        We also had a quick nosey at John & Julie‟s
fried chicken & roasted vegetables. The            plus Robert (aka Sir Rupert) & Elaine‟s rooms
dessert was too much even for a chocoholic         in the main part of the Abbey. John & Julie had
like me. There were too many flavours &            a two poster bath & Robert & Elaine had a
textures going on (oooo hark at me, a Michelin     bath in middle of the bedroom! Over John &
star chef). It was honeycomb, banana &             Julie‟s bed were two big bell pulls. Beck asked
chocolate truffle torte with rum soaked raisins    “what d‟ya get if ya pull „em John?” – thankfully
in it, surrounded by cappuccino sauce. (No, it     he resisted the temptation for any rude
didn‟t go to waste, Beck happily finished mine.)   answers & said “the light goes on”!
                                                   especially for the sleeping beauties on the bus
On the way to check out we met another             – thanks to the sneaky photographer (you
wedding party with beautiful pink Gerbera          know who you are) for the very unflattering
button holes. One of the members of staff          photos of the snoozers.
showed us the wedding reception room –
beautifully laid out & decorated. He then          I would like to say a huge thanks to Julie for
showed us to the gardens. Whilst walking           organising another smashing trip & to Barry &
down the uneven path towards the lake, yours       Pauline from Group Choice for providing a
truly went over on my left ankle & sprained it.    smooth running, relaxing & excellent value for
(It was fine until having sat on the coach later   money two days. Thanks to my „old‟ friend
in the day, after that I was like Long John        Beck for being fantastic company as ever (&
Silver – without the parrot obviously!). As we     putting up with my OCD) & to the rest of the
were halfway along the lakeside path – off to      gang for making the whole experience a
look at the swans & ducks, the torrential rain     superb barrel of laughs.
struck again. As a result, we boarded the bus      More of these trips PLEASE HASSRA!
with dripping hair, cold soggy jackets & jeans.
As I demonstrated how wet my jeans were,
John rubbed his hand up & down my soggy
thigh – which caused some amusement on the
bus - “It could have been worse” he said, “it
could have been me”. Charming!

Onwards to Newark. A lovely market town with
river cruises, lots of cafes & shops in alleys &
arcades. We explored the castle ruins where
brides were having their wedding pictures
taken (whilst getting drenched in the rain). We
had a spot of lunch in; yes you guessed it –
Weatherspoons! The Sir John Arderne. I don‟t
recommend it though as they burnt my
haddock & mozzarella fish cakes & some of
the clientele (other than the HASSRA gang)
were considerably dodgy. As the torrential rain
set in yet again, we found refuge in another
John & Julie recommended hostelry – The
Castle pub. I wish we had eaten there too. The
staff were friendly & it was an old style pub
with lots of little rooms to explore. There were
quotes on the walls & coincidentally, we all sat
under the quote that said “I‟ve never been
drunk, but I‟ve often been over served” – how
very true.

Back onto the bus & Julie asked me if I wanted
to “strip off & chuck up”. Hmm, how was I
supposed to respond to that? Knowing that
some people on the bus were into naturist
bathing, I was getting a tad concerned but
thankfully what she meant was to put my
soggy jacket in the overhead locker – well,
what else could she have meant!?!

Yet again we didn‟t win Barry‟s raffle – despite
Barry trying to do the draw before giving the
tickets out! The journey home passed quickly

				
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