Cheap and cheerful

Who says you have to spend a lot of money to have a good time? I was a bit worried about our weekend away in the Cotswolds. DJ’s mate James and his wife had invited us along with other friends up to a cottage they’d rented for the weekend . And I was a bit concerned that with peer pressure I could wind up spending more cash than I’d like on meals out and other activities.

The weather and traffic certainly didn’t augur well. We both had to work on Friday and so stupidly didn’t hit the road until about 4.30pm. So of course we hit the rush hour on M25 and then at Oxford too. The weather was apocalyptic – I’ve never seen so much rain – and it was so dark it was like the middle of winter. Plus every slow moving vehicle in the countryside seemed to hone in on us. In the end it took us four hours (it took three on the way back), and after getting lost in the pitch black country roads we weren’t in the best of moods. But the cottage was gorgeous and all my money worries soon went out the window. James and Emma had generously laid on a tasty buffet which we tucked into along with copious amounts of beer and wine – luckily James works for a wine company which helps!

On Saturday my fears we would spend the day propping up some expensive country pub were also dispelled. Thankfully the awful weather had disappeared and the sun shone like it was the summer again. So Matt – another of James and DJ’s mates – along with DJ led us on what is probably one of the cheapest activities in the Cotswolds – hiking. For hours the seven of us trudged through fields, dales and forests chewing the fat and dodging a few rather overly friendly horses we encountered on some of the paths (one kept following me and head-nudging me!), then briefly stopping for a quick drink in Naunton before trudging back. My feet and thighs certainly hurt after about five hours hiking but my wallet was happy.

But the best was yet to come. James cooked a delicious chorizo and bean stew for us in the evening and we guzzled some more wine before turning to Marianne’s murder mystery board game which she’d brought along. Although the pathetic cassette tape which introduced the game – ‘oh dear, I think Rex is dead’ – was pretty lame, after a few drinks the guys’ amateur dramatics skills more than made up for the game‘s inadequacies. As Minnie and Gracie – two characters in the game – Matt and James were like a pair of coquettish pantomime dames in lipstick, eyeliner and apples shoved up their t-shirts. On Matt’s advice DJ painted a moustache on me by burning the end of a cork and then rubbing the charcoal on my face, which Matt then admitted was really difficult to get off (fortunately it came off easily with face wipes). And Amy was outstanding, playing two characters with lipstick on one side of her face and a moustache on the other.

Admittedly, we did spend some of the evening playing James’ new wii game and nearly punching the 17th century ceiling with the hand controls. But the two most frugal activities – the murder mystery game and the walk – were some of the best fun I’ve had for ages. So while we spent about £80 on our share of the cottage hire and £26 on a tank of petrol to get there, it was a pretty cheap trip altogether. Phew!

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