My friend Romy is a colorful character, she’s the kind of person a lot of people probably wish they could be like. Energetic, accomplished, and well travelled, Romy is a pleasure to spend time with. So when she invited me to join her and her friends in celebrating her 60th birthday I was delighted to accept.

Perhaps I should have known it wouldn’t be like any other party I’ve been to. The celebrations were to run over the entire weekend, and people had quite literally come from all over the world to her home in the depths of the rolling hills of mid Wales.

Romy ShoveltonI hadn’t really examined Romy’s detailed email invitation after my friend Jeffrey had offered to share his guest house room with me in the nearby Welsh village of Carno. Jeffrey is an organised fellow (famous for being “Jeffrey Hyman, founder of Pret A Manger“) who often works to a meticulous plan, so I relied on my assumption that he would know everything that was required for the weekend. Such a haphazard and cavalier approach to the weekend might be seen as somewhat wreckless by some, but in truth I think it made the unfolding wonder of the events that much more enjoyable for me (thank you Jeffrey!).

On Saturday, at Romy’s secluded country cottage, people began to arrive for “brunch and bubbly.” After a while, in a party of some fifty or so people, we were taken in two buses to catch a historic steam train on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway.

Under a clear blue springtime sun the narrow gauge steam train threaded its way through lush green fields full of sheep and lambs on a 16 mile ride that felt just wonderfully British. Along the way strangers who all knew Romy were in turn getting to known one another, chatting as the train gently trundled along the tracks.

At the end of the line we were met by a historic bus and coach that took us to Powis Castle where some of us were taken on a guided tour of the castles famous gardens, while others relaxed in the grounds and took Camel rides that Romy had organised for the day.

Eventually we all gathered on the castle lawn to present Romy with her birthday cake and sing happy Birthday to her before taking afternoon tea in the castle. (I swear, I’m not making this up!)

That evening Romy threw an Arabian themed dress-up party complete with a bedhouin feast, performing musicians, a magician, and dancing. I’m not sure of the exact number of people but there must have been over 100 people there. Just as had happened throughout the day everyone asked the same three questions upon meeting somebody new. “Who are you?” “How do you know Romy?” And “What do you do?”

It was a pure delight meeting Romy’s impressive assortment of friends ranging from the serious down-to-business types, to the outright hippy-dippies who presumably beamed in from the 1970’s. It was nothing like I imagined a 60th birthday part would be like as people of all ages partied, ate, drank and danced into the small hours.

The next day guests returned to Romy’s cottage for camel racing! Romy has a love of Camels and had brought in Camel racers to entertain guests while we stood around chatting in the glorious spring weather. As the day went on people began departing in dribs and drabs, reluctant I think to leave such a wonderful atmosphere and unforgettable event.

Jeffrey and I eventually left, deciding to head out into the Welsh countryside in my open top MG. I know he especially enjoys the escape from his busy London life and I don’t need much of an excuse to put the roof down and drive on the winding welsh roads. We slowly made our way to the coast before eventually stopping at a pub for hearty and generous dinner.

As Monday morning came around and the masses returned to work, Jeffrey and I ate breakfast at the guesthouse in Carno. Laughing loudly about our ability to talk utter nonsense we enjoyed a relaxing morning in no particular hurry to get back home. Eventually we packed up our things, said goodbye to one another and headed out.

Once again the weather was spectacular so I decided to take the scenic way home. This entailed the simple tactic of just keeping the sun to my back and heading north in the knowledge that I couldn’t really get that lost, though I could enjoy feeling so. Each time I saw a narrow road going in roughly the direction I wanted to go in, I took it. They curved and wound their way through country scenes that looked like paintings and villages with impossible sounding names like Llanfihangel-yng-ngwynfa and Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant.

Lake Vrynwy in Wales

I could have taken the main roads and been home in under two hours, but just look at what I would have missed. A visit to the stillness of Lake Vyrnwy with it’s castle like tower that reaches out into the still waters. The lanes lined with daffodils trumpeting the arrival of Spring. And the towering mist filled forests more magnificent and stirring than even the most awe-inspiring cathedral.

In the end it took seven hours to eventually get home, but that was just about the most perfect way to end a most perfect weekend.

Thank you very much to Romy for her staggering generosity at laying on such an elaborate and grand weekend of celebrations. And thanks also to my friend Jeffrey for his generosity in sharing his guesthouse.

To breakfast and beyond
As the summer fades (Pt 1)
A weekend at Romy’s
If this place were home
Pictures from another world (Pt 1)