For all the stoic talk some stuck-in-traffic fidgets appear… Still, when a journey is sufficiently endured the arrival is a delectable moment. We race past the drum and sitar players to our room. One monk's habit and one Saxon warrior bodice are swiftly recovered from cases. There is bodice lacing to be done!
In the lift down to reception are a nice Indian family heading to a wedding and an implausible Middle Ages duo off to banquet.
'Are you here for the wedding?' Aethelfrida The Invincible asks.
'Yes,' the nice lady says, faintly confused. 'Are you?'
'No,' Brother Mr smiles, though it crosses his mind to act surprised that they haven't joined in with the Medieval theme.
Two courtly ladies, two monks, one early Tudor gent and a Saxon tribeswoman meet up in the reception area and order taxicabs to Coombe Abbey.
'Have you been before?' Our Cabby enquires. We have not. 'You'll love it,' he declares. He's been. He loved it. The atmosphere, he mentions. And the mead.
Out we jump, into cold air, follow a box-hedged path, intrigued. Stone turrets rise out of sight, little leaded panes in high windows glint, and it's 'this way, this way good sirs, ladies, if you will,' into the candlelit fabric slopes of a marquee hall. Crusade colours, checkered jesters: at the bar chain mail chinks; eavesdroppers hear evidence of sword envy, debates on identity.
'Which King Richard are you?'
'The good one.'
Medieval times were raucous, and awash with mead.
Huzzah the throng shouts! More mead!
We gobble four platters each of food. With wine. And mead. Huzzah! And there is dancing, even if disco is incongruous. It is fun.
Not all of us will recall the evening with indefatigable clarity.
Not one of us remembers where on the Abbey grounds we should reconvene with our cab, so we take a jolly caper through stone corridors, out through weighty wooden doors, over the moat bridge, through blown fine rain, under the midnight sky and the rain holds light and looks like stars falling.
Laughing, inebriated, in the taxi, out the taxi, to the hotel bar because we ain't done with our chatterings yet and agree a time for breakfast and cram the lift and oh! Clumsy bumps: one minor wound on Brother Mr's forehead. Right out of the lift he fell, looking up at one monk, one early Tudor gent, two courtly ladies and one Saxon tribeswoman pushing open the doors on a steel box, enquiring after his health.