Having done nothing in preceding weeks but whinge about the expense and inconvenience of getting myself to Middleton Tyas and the selfishness of Liz in throwing a party there, on Friday I suddenly got into the spirit of things and rushed out into Bromley to buy a cigarette holder, looking forward to a Saturday night spent prancing around declaring everything to be either madly gay or too shy-making.
Middleton Lodge, a mile from Scotch Corner, was the perfect setting: exactly as I picture the country houses Bertie Wooster was always getting invited to and ending up inadvertently engaged by Sunday teatime. It was just the spot for a nice juicy murder, a game of croquet or a batch of identical twins running in and out of the French windows.
I wore my (actually 1960s) dog-tooth check party dress for the occasion and plastered my hair to my scalp with wax in an approximation of the Eton crop. Everyone had put a lot of effort in and there were flappers galore, Al Capone, comedy specs and moustaches and one fantastic beaded and embroidered cloche hat.
Dinner was a communal effort of sausage and mash (alas, the reenactment didn't run to parlour maids and cooks), after which we played Murder In The Dark and it was established that I am the world's most incompetent murderer. (Before you all heave sighs of relief, I committed the actual murder fine - I just didn't cover my tracks very well.)
On Sunday I excused myself and the Nexus and headed for the Dales.
My planned route took me along minor roads, past farms and through villages. Open straights with fabulous views contrasted with tight turns. I had a coffee at Aysgarth Falls while watching the iron-red water gushing over the stones. Then down the fells along a road I had chosen for the fantastic names of the villages along it: Yockenthwaite, Hubberholme, Starbotton and Kettlewell.
I pulled over by the side of the road for several minutes to watch a kestrel hovering. Then I noticed I was getting heavily rained on, and looked up to see that the one streak of dark cloud anywhere in the sky was directly over me. 100 yards down the road I was dry again.
As I approached Kettlewell it grew dark and chilly. I spotted a pub - The Racehorses - with five or six bikes parked outside and decided this would be a suitable lunch stop. It chucked it down with rain all the time I was enjoying my meal, brightening up as I departed. I said hello to the group of bikers; the only point at which I wished I wasn't on my own was when I was listening to them discuss the morning's adventures together.
Pressing on, I followed the River Nidd past shining reservoirs and startled ducks. I have a habit of confusing place names that start with the same letter, so instead of following the road to Masham I went to Middlesmoor, where the road peters out at an Unsuitable For Motor Vehicles sign and you have to turn round and head back down the steep twisties, past all the merry hikers you overtook on your way up. After finally making it to Masham terrified that I was going to run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere, I decided to end the excursion and return to Middleton Tyas.
I found the rest of the guests amusing themselves with billiards, country walks and board games. I was deep in a ping-pong match with an old schoolfriend when the birthday girl's husband stuck his head round the door to inform me that he was Chris Tarrant and he had Liz on the line with a question about The Merchant of Venice (which I got right).
On Monday morning I set out for home and promptly broke down on the A1(M).
Having learned my lesson last time round, when the man from SOS Motorcycle Recovery arrived I insisted on being returned to my own dealer in Catford. This meant five hours in the van with him and convinced me that when my insurance comes up for renewal I'll be eschewing the breakdown cover offered by my insurer and taking out membership of the AA. AA patrolmen, I am led to believe, don't turn up in a vest. Or smell. (The later revelation that he smelled because his wife had thrown him out and he'd been sleeping in the breakdown van made it more excusable, but no pleasanter.)
I hope to goodness the fault is something simple this time; meanwhile at least I have the ET4 to get about on. And a brilliant weekend to look back on!