And there was much rejoicing
Hoping I have not forgotten or omitted too many points of interest:
We - la_petite_mort, StrawberryFrog, spiregrain, and I - arrived at the Red Lion Pub in Avebury almost on time. The drive through the English countryside had not been without its interesting quirks, but we were in a good mood. LPM had brought plenty of food along, as well as beer, and so had spiregrain. I had brought nothing but myself and a rather heavy conscience, but I was assured it was okay. There was food enough as it was, so I needn't worry.
At the pub we met The Debutante, TheLady, and Wntrmute. Everyone knew everyone; I had only met Wntrmute before, but these people have a way of making you feel welcome and relaxed in the most awesome way. I soon found myself sipping a pint, listening in on the conversation, and enjoying the nice weather.
The walk around the countryside, as proposed in the meet-node above, turned out to be a gruelling almost four-hour trek through nettles and knee-deep mud, over stiles and fences, up hills and down hills... And it was great. Almost all of the time threatening clouds roiled in the horizon, but as they stayed there they didn't bother us.
In some places the path was flooded, and we were forced to crawl slowly along the grassy edges. At one point there was no way we could go on without sacrificing our shoes to the mud - so we scaled a fence, more or less elegantly, and jogged along the field on the other side until we could make it back out onto the path. While LPM was hanging over the fence flashing her super hero underwear, being helped and assisted by several noders (she was wearing a skirt, and it called for careful climbing), Deb made it her mission to keep us all from stepping on the snails. Never mind the branches and the barbed wire, and the fact that one noder was hanging upside down on a fence - as long as the snails were safe! She concentrated so much on her quest to keep the snails from being crushed underfoot that she later obliviously climbed over a stile. Not that climbing over a stile is wrong as such, but the fact that this particular stile was standing on its own, with no fence attached made it a bit superfluous.
Anyway we ended up back at the Red Lion pub, approximately at the same time, and took a much needed rest.
The weather continued to look reasonable so we decided that the planned picnic was to take place. We wanted to sit close to the standing stones, and fortunately the stone field is divided in two (by a road running right through it): one field with sheep, and one blessedly free from said woolly livestock. Dried sheep-poo seemed to indicate that they had at one point inhabited this field too, but at least the poo was dry and didn't smell. Much.
Blankets were laid out and the food placed upon them. It was a feast. I cannot remember much of it at all, but I do remember Spiregrain's... um, things, which were quite good albeit a bit on the well-done side; the bagels which had been with us from London, and the awesome hummus, which made my tongue break out (as in 'in a rash', not as in 'wildly galloping across the fields'). And then there were the beers. Old Speckled Hen, I think, and some others. Yummy.
At this point k9 arrived, very happy that we left him a bagel, and a bit later, ascorbette too made her way across the field. I never did get to tell her about all of ascorbic's darker sides, but on the other hand 1) she may not have believed me, and/or 2) she probably already knows. I think the truth in many ways can be stranger than my fiction.
After having finished off just about all of the food we arranged ourselves in front of one of the standing stones for a group picture. I forget whose camera was used, but ascorbette acted as the photographer.
As dusk began to wet the grass with dew we retreated to the pub for a nice pint - or, for some of us, a cup of coffee or cocoa. We were pretty knackered after the long walk, so before too long we packed up our stuff and left the standing stones of Avebury huddling together in the dark. It was the end of a really nice day out in the company of really nice people. Luckily for me, we all ended up in TheLady's and k9's house, where four of us spent the night in luxury, after a very interesting and fun evening.
The next morning TheLady cooked us an awesome brunch with Greek Eggs, and we watched "Cars". A perfect way to end a great weekend in the company of great people!
A few pictures can be found here. More on facebook. Ask, and ye shall be told.