As well as being Richard III’s birthday, 2nd October was our tenth wedding anniversary – yes, Hubcap and I have been married for a whole decade. A card we received showed a pair of tin cans with the caption ‘10 years - 'can’ you believe it? – and the discovery that it was in fact our Tin Wedding prompted me to look into the names of wedding anniversaries.
Marking these important personal dates is a tradition dating back to the Holy Roman Empire, when wealthy husbands would give their wives a silver wreath after 25 years of marriage, and a golden wreath at 50 years. Similar practices continued over time in many countries, then modern commercialism led to the addition of more materials and symbols to stimulate the purchase of gifts for more anniversaries. By the 1930s there was a material or symbol to mark the first year of a marriage and milestones like the 10th, 20th, 25th and 50th years; and recently, yet more have been added to make a lengthy and often surprising list – did you know that five years is your ‘Wooden Wedding’, 70 is platinum and 80 is oak? (I don’t suppose many couples survive to celebrate that one!).
Tin Wedding or no, Hubcap and I didn’t fancy canned food for our anniversary dinner. We headed instead for a favourite local eating hole and a particular favourite dish: Chateaubriand for two (basically posh steak and chips) at the lovely Lakeside Café in Newmillerdam (above). For any meat-eater, this is sublime: a dozen slices of succulent fillet steak cooked to your taste, served with two pots of sauce (bearnaise and peppercorn), potato wedges, a flat mushroom and half a grilled plum tomato apiece, a bunch of fresh watercress and a generous portion of the best onion rings I’ve ever tasted – all for the ‘early bird’ price of £35, or £50 after 7 pm for a 16 oz steak. You can order extra sides if you like, but trust me – it's plenty for two hungry people. The menu advises a 25-minute wait for it to be prepared, but ours arrived in quarter of an hour, perhaps because we ate at 6 pm while the place was still fairly quiet. We fell on this exquisite meal like a pair of ravening wolves, (or like gardeners who’ve just done a long, heavy day’s work), and made it gone with as little ceremony as if we’d been downing beans on toast in front of the TV. I felt quite embarrassed by the rate at which we wolfed it down, but not to the extent of omitting dessert; and my sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice-cream, chocolate straws and caramel sauce was so delicious I wanted to lick the plate clean. Hubcap said his baked cherry tart was excellent, too; and washed down with two 20 cl bottles of pink Prosecco, coffee for Mick and a pot of Earl Grey for me, the total bill came to £68 – very reasonable for a special treat, with wonderful food and great service from the young, enthusiastic staff. Highly recommended!
During my life I’ve managed to realise most of my childhood fantasies. I learned to scuba-dive like Jacques Cousteau. I went to Egypt, saw the Great Pyramid, the valley of the Kings and the treasures of Tutankhamen. Thanks to Towton Battlefield Society and the wonderful world of Wars of the Roses re-enactment, I learned to shoot a longbow like Robin Hood (albeit without as much skill!) and got chance to take part in battles and play the grand lady (or peasant) in many historical settings… and thanks to Hubcap, I’ve finally tried my hand at falconry!
Yes, for my tenth wedding anniversary he treated us to a half-day Birds of Prey Experience at Thirsk Birds of Prey Centre, based at Sion Hill Hall just outside Thirsk. This lovely conservation and rescue centre is home to more than 80 raptors, from the tiny Skops owl and adorable barn owl (left) to the whopping white-tailed eagle (below far left).
I’d been a bit nervous beforehand in case we were asked to do anything difficult or complicated, but it was all refreshingly simple and incredibly thrilling – the birds are very well trained, and all you basically have to do is hold out your arm (safely clad in a thick falconer’s gauntlet) and wait for the bird to alight. Most of our morning’s experience took place inside the Centre, where we were both particularly taken with Mr Baggott the long-eared owl, who weighs in at more than 8 lb (she’s actually female and devoted to her handler to the point of presenting herself to him when she’s in season!). But all the birds are magnificent, with beautiful plumage – I think my favourite was the Syrian blue eagle – and the highlight for me was the ‘Hawk Walk’, when we took a stroll in the grounds with Dylan, a young Harris hawk (below centre), and watched him fly freely.
The half-day experience is well worth £50, although it’s not for the squeamish – the handlers walk around carrying satchels of dismembered turkey chicks, and dole out bits for you to hold to entice the birds to land on your glove! But that’s their diet, and it seems a small price to pay for the privilege of seeing these amazing creatures up close and personal; and we enjoyed it so much that we plan to go back for the half-day Eagle Experience, so that we can handle the glorious golden eagle (left). Highly recommended!