Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Wedding Blog - 2 weeks to go and a hen do to attend!

Keeping a blog going for the last four weeks before the wedding is certainly more challenging than I imagined. You know there are jugglers who simply toss five items in the air (simply, ha! as if I could actually do that in real life!) and then there are jugglers who balance in a headstand on the seat of a monocycle juggling the same five items whilst holding a flaming torch in their teeth - well, that's how it feels. But I'm getting ahead of myself, as ever, so here's what's actually going on.

The bride and groom have arrived back from their pre-moon - I expect there's a proper word for it but I don't know what it is. They are tanned and looking gorgeous and the bride is quite right: her wedding dress will look all the more lovely next to her golden tanned skin. But before they head up to God's Own Country there's the small matter of the hen do - or as it was named 'The Gen Do' - and, of course, we had t-shirts saying just that.

It is a lovely thing that both my older daughters invited me on their hen do's and I am truly flattered but, and I must be honest here, there is a fine line to walk between being mother to all the hens, making tea, dealing with hangovers and otherwise sitting knitting in the corner - definitely not my style. And being loud and over the top, trying to be half my age (which is what the rest of the hens are). This fine line must be walked under the influence of a certain amount of alcohol, trying not to disgrace myself. The question is: did I succeed? Clearly I can't answer that question because I am not an objective judge but I can only say I did my best. Four of us headed off to join the other twelve in a lovely house in Devizes - yes, the one in Wiltshire so not handy for skipping off home if things got too fruity. Driven by the Barnsley lodger and accompanied by the two sisters of the bride (numbers 2 and 4 for the purposes of this blog) we sang our way down the country for four and a half hours. The road trip was awesome and my biggest worry was that we might have peaked too soon!

Of the hens on tour, I had met all but three so I felt reasonably in my comfort zone, but festivities had started long before we arrived and there was catching up to do. Also, as I was feeling relaxed-ish, and had had a few drinks, it was a good time to stand on my chair and make what my beloved would describe as a 'mercifully short' speech. It was inevitable that I would take to public speaking at some point over the weekend so at least we got it over with early. And I only did it once. I also learnt a new drinking game and that may yet come in useful on future holidays to Mallorca - thank you, Verity.

Saturday was bitterly cold but we had been told to dress up as pirates and we certainly did that. How much pirate costume was visible depended on how well the pirates dealt with the bitter cold as we were spending the day on a barge so although I was wearing hat, bandana, one earring, frilly shirt (captain, obviously), belt, pirate boots etc, from mid-thigh up, the only piraty bit visible was my hat as the rest of me was covered by warming layers. It was perishing. The bride was dressed appropriately as Peter Pan, celebrating her long association with never growing up.

The barge trip was relatively uneventful and the other people who found themselves on a barge for several hours with a large group of hens dressed as pirates seemed to cope reasonably well. Monty the horse pulled the barge, we ate and drank and played games, then we turned round and did it all again on the journey back. No-one dived in the drink until we got back to port, when a very drunk man fell off the next barge and had to be dragged out of the briny dripping with blood and canal water. Lesson to self: don't drink and barge.

Saturday evening had been a worry to me from the off. The bride had stated her requirements early on and there was to be an entertainer. Since I have known the Maid of Honour and chief organiser of the weekend since she was 11, I had no hesitation in asking what was to happen and to absent myself for a walk whilst 'other things' were occurring. It's definitely not mother-daughter bonding entertainment. But I returned to meet the 'butler in the buff' into which he had transformed and concentrating hard on looking at his face, I had a nice chat about how his mother would have liked him to be a policeman but his real job was a stuntman. I could have asked him to do a few stunts but he wasn't appropriately dressed - naturally.

I am told that various hens did late-night swimming in the lake a few hundred yards from the house - including the Barnsley lodger - but I was tucked up in bed by then, quietly triumphant that I had not disgraced myself nor slid off the fine line detailed above.

So hen do done, the bride and groom arrived on Monday at the wedding venue and it now feels very real indeed...

 Absolutely my favourite picture from the weekend - I am so blessed to have three such lovely daughters. 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The Wedding Blog: W Day - 3 weeks and counting... And a bit of bunking off!

So the big plan to write a weekly blog in the run-up to the wedding has nearly gone awry. Not least because in the last few weeks and months, but most specifically in the last couple of weeks, if it doesn't move it has been cleaned, painted, mown, resurfaced, dry-stone walled, edged or weeded. And that stuff takes time! And my other master plan which was to wind down my work commitments to a dribble so that I could do all of the above, has failed miserably. As a dear friend said to me when I was up to my neck in pond water doing the Tough Mudder last autumn with Lady H: "You need to learn to say no!"

So work-wise I seem to be somewhat busier than planned but everyone will have to be patient whilst we get on with the main event. And in my new mindset of making time for stuff I want to do (carpe diem, you're only here once etc etc) last week I had a whole day of gorgeous girly stuff celebrating the singing doctor's birthday with a 0 at the end (not the same 0 as mine and she's still not in the same decade as me but I'd like to think that neither of us look the age we now are ... fingers crossed).

Similarly, before embarking on a whole weekend of weeding, edging, digging and now filling in the holes where stuff will be growing in June but not in time for the wedding, oh, and barricading the new flower bed from the rabbits who would like to turn it into a maternity ward if they manage to sneak in under the wire, I managed the parkrun at Fountains Abbey. Now I am trying very consciously not to be a parkrun bore (you know who you are...) but having struggled since my illness to run 5k without having to stop, pant, walk, etc I am now pb-ing most weeks which fills me with joy! The reality, of course, is that my pb is very slow and nowhere near the 9 minute miles I could once do but... I am getting faster and I don't sound like I'm ready for the knackers yard just yet.

So, I promised non-gardening wedding stuff in this blog so here it is. We have been collecting jam jars for months, aided and abetted by my friends, the very kind and helpful folks in the village with the generous co-operation of Dave and Amanda at the shop and my tennis buddies. We have now accumulated literally hundreds and I will be enjoying watching the bride and groom scrubbing off the labels when they arrive next week - tee hee!

With all the bridesmaids' dresses finally agreed, my ensemble created by the brilliant Jillian Welch in Harrogate, is coming together nicely. I had decided to go for a very understated hat to go with the outfit until I met with Jessica who made my hat for wedding number 1 and somehow I seem to have gone for a massive statement hat with A LOT OF FEATHERS! That should arrive in the post this week and I am already very excited!

Also in the similar vein to my girly day last week, I decided that I could fit in a trip to Low Graythwaite Hall, finest b&b in the Lake District, to see Basil and Sybil Fawlty. So Bobbie (the spaniel) and I set off on Tuesday afternoon for a twenty four break in the Lakes. We set off in pouring rain from Yorkshire, arrived in the pouring rain in the Lake District, went on three beautiful walks in the pouring rain today and arrived home in the rain. And we had a great time - seriously. The scenery is so stunningly beautiful even in the rain and the welcome so warm and the food and wine so delicious that it wouldn't have mattered what the weather threw at us - quite a lot as it turned out.

So the next couple of days will be spent at home doing all the stuff I should have been doing rather than bunking off to LGH before the daunting prospect of number 1's hen (or Gen) do at the weekend. And after that I shall decide what need and need not stay on tour (as in 'what goes on tour, stays on tour') and what may be revealed through this medium. I make no promises!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Wedding Blog - Counting down: W Day - 4 weeks to go. Woman Versus Weather

With just four weeks (give or take) to the wedding of number 1 daughter, at home, I thought I would keep a photo diary of what is going on here and how we are progressing. More accurately, this first week, how the garden and surrounding fields and woodland are progressing as this is to be a rustic wedding with most of the decoration coming from the immediate vicinity i.e. local woods and hedgerows. And obviously I want the garden to look its best.

With this in mind, in the autumn I planted some 750 bulbs which, had we had a normal Yorkshire winter - plenty of frost and blizzard-type conditions and a really big dollop of snow in January, followed by very cold winds - would hopefully be raising their white heads come April 30th. White because all the bulbs I planted from scratch i.e. not those already in the ground from many previous years, were late flowering white hyacinths  and white narcissi and early flowering white tulips.

Now normally at this time of year, I am excited in an entirely Fotherington-Thomas (Molesworth reference) 'hello clouds, hello sky' manner. But this year I have been out in the garden shouting 'Slow down! Don't come out yet!' Pointless, clearly.

So I am daily taking photographs of Mother Nature having her little joke on me and am sharing - more for myself than anyone else* - our journey through April to W DAY!

Buds are starting to pop on the avenue of horse chestnut trees and daffodils blooming at their bases. We planted the avenue for our daughters' weddings when the children were toddlers and so tiny they could barely walk! The first bluebells in the wood are just beginning to flower and in the garden, the white hyacinths are in full bloom with the white tulips threatening to follow them - all too soon!

Today it's sailing down - proper April showers. So here's the pond that has been establishing itself at the bottom of the field along with blossom on the cherry trees in the field that I wouldn't expect to see this early. "Will the blossom last?" asks my beloved. Only if we're wind-free, so we shall see. One big blast and the lot will be gone well before the day!

Another day and it's a lovely and despite a modest hangover (more to do with two nights on the bounce of getting to bed after one am than the amount of alcohol consumed) and there's no excuse not to be out there hoeing and edge-clipping whilst my beloved mows the lawn and all the bits of the field which are to be used for the marquee or car parking. Surely if we keep on top of things now, it will be less traumatic in the final week.

Well, as I suspected, I couldn't keep up a daily diary but the weather this week has, by and large, with a few hefty showers and some stunning rainbows which I failed to record, been beautiful. Which means, of course, garden-lovers, that we are now way ahead of schedule. My polite requests to the Almighty that he slows things down a bit have been met with... well, more bright sunny days. So all we can do at this end is hope that the stuff in the garden that is already out stays out and the stuff that we're waiting to bloom gets a wriggle on. It's most definitely out of my hands.

Other non-gardening related stuff is also continuing apace and there'll be more on that in future wedding blogs. What could possibly go wrong? One bridal gown, 3 bridesmaid dresses (at last!), 200+ jam jars, a pre-wedding party, where are the feathers for my hat? and a hen weekend. Oh, and the father of the bride is having a bit of a moment about his attire...

*The 'anyone else' now amounts to more than 25,000 hits which is very kind of you all and rather thrilling really!