Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Wedding Blog - Joyful! Part 2

Back on it!

Outside the church it's a tiny bit drizzly so not too much hanging about but definitely enough time to throw (biodegradable) confetti, most of which had come courtesy of number 2's wedding in November when the wind and rain whistling round us at high speed made any kind of confetti-tossing impossible. Then the bride and groom were first away in one of the three beribboned Land Rovers with Giles, our photographer, in pursuit whilst the rest of us sorted ourselves into various vehicles including minibuses and some even found time for a pint in the Royal Oak at Staveley.

Meanwhile nearly back at base camp, the bride and groom have stopped at the edge of Jubilee Wood which runs along a good length of our lane to have photographs taken amongst the bluebells. For once, Mother Nature really has knocked it out of the park and the bluebells are stunning. I know that from now on, each year when the bluebells bloom I shall be thinking of the happy couple and it will bring a smile to my lips.

Our original plans to have all the guests walk up through the garden (where I had been knocking myself out since September to create something that wouldn't be too far from Harlow Carr) were skuppered by the light drizzle so rather than serving drinks in the garden, the party moved straight up to the marquee in the field. By the time the bride and groom arrived there were a goodly number of guests and number 2 was set the task of marshalling folks for the photographs - and I promise you, nobody marshals like number 2! The very long shot list had been heavily abridged so now the progress was much more rapid though I might have liked a few moments to straighten my hat a tad - multiple hugs from all angles had definitely knocked it off its original perch.

Back in the marquee all our lovely guests are arriving - new friends and family, fellow hens, old family and friends and especially for me, number 1's godmother and my oldest friend, Alps. Alps and I met aged 10 (she calls me Stigs for reasons too complicated to explain) and as she is the chef at the fabulous Circus restaurant in Bath  http://www.thecircuscafeandrestaurant.co.uk we haven't seen much of each other over the last few years though it makes not a jot of difference when we get together. She is a very special lady.

Before we sit down, the incredible cake, made by Ninny,  which is set under the chandelier of 1000 origami cranes, must be cut by the bride and groom with my father's sword. My dad would have loved this. Then we're sitting down at long trestle tables decorated with flowers in jam jars and above us, hanging from branches are twinkly tea lights in glass baubles. Stunning.

In this entirely unconventional wedding, there is no top table and friends and family, old and young, folks who know each other and those who've never met before are all jumbled up, getting to know each other over James Brown's delicious antipasti sharing plates. I'm sitting between Alps (so much to catch up on and so little time...) and Guy who lives up to his billing as good looking and clever. Thanks Mr and Mrs O'Hara! Opposite is my beloved (completely giddy by this point which could be risky in a kilt) and our chums from Guernsey whose daughter (my goddaughter) will be doing all this in July.

The idea of the order of play was not to have a big wodge of speeches at the end so as soon as the antipasti had been cleared away the bekilted one took to the dance floor, microphone in hand. "It's fine," I told Guy. "I've read it - it's not too long!". And of course, we had printed the speech out for number 1 who would find it hard to hear all the flattering - and other - things her father had to say about her. But immediately he's gone off piste! Lordy, we could be here for days and there's a pig to eat!!

Well, a little off-piste but not bad and when he reads out Hugh Bonneville's glowing testimonial of her acting skills having played her father, I can see he's getting all emotional. How I love that man! He was brilliant - even in the truly 'what on earth is he going to say next?' moments and as Giles said later "Every daughter should have a dad like Robert." Oops, getting teary again.

The main course was a hog roast and jolly good it was too, with all the trimmings. Then it's time for the next speech and the groom and the bride stood up for their double act. I suspect that the groom may find it hard to make his voice heard throughout their marriage without the bride having her six penn'orth. She does after all stand up on stage for a living. They are funny and the banter between them is tender and touching. So much for just letting the groom speak!

Pudding is Ninny's fantastic cake cut up and served with summer fruits and our evening guests are suddenly starting to arrive because we're running about 30 minutes behind time - thanks in no small part to the off-pisteness of the bride's father's speech. But it doesn't matter because the best man is ace. My new son in law had wisely chosen two best men - his delightful brother for the church bit and Sean (yes, another one) for the speech. Sean is like John Bishop. His oration on the subject of Alexander the Great (you had to be there) is a belter. Surely he should be on the stand-up circuit?

Then the bride and groom take the dance floor for their first dance - Let It Be by the Beatles. Classic. And within moments the floor is packed and everyone is singing and we are so happy we could burst. Fortunately this didn't happen - would have been messy in a kilt and we would have missed the ceilidh which bore more of a likeness to full contact rugby than any dance I've done before. But how very appropriate with two rugby teams present. The following day there was time to compare bruises and scratches but for now everyone was carving out their tiny bit of space with elbows out and plenty of barging.

Whisky and cigars served, cocktails - margueritas and my new favourite, espresso martinis - served in, yes, jam jars and the bar and the disco are all in full swing. Outside the lights are twinkling in the trees, the path is lit by tea lights (in jam jars, of course) and someone has lit the fire pit where there are straw bales for seats by the fire. The fire pit is actually a washing machine drum ingeniously dreamed up (or pinched from Pinterest perhaps) by my son-in-law. If there was any other party on April 30th 2016, it couldn't have topped this.

Finally and all too soon, minibuses and taxis are arriving and folks are making their way across the garden, some more nimble on their feet than others. And by the time I had left the marquee, my beloved is in the kitchen, already cooking up a storm with the bacon and eggs. Clearly some people who were leaving were drawn back by the delicious smell of frying bacon and there are rather more folks looking for beds and sofas than anticipated. But it didn't matter one bit. The Barnsley Lodger thought she had bagged the Intrepid Granny's bed because she had decamped to the O'Ks in the village for a proper night's sleep but by the time I headed upstairs her bed was already occupied by unscheduled but nevertheless very welcome guests. Fortunately no-one was in my bed as I might have been less welcoming but number 3 gamely shared his bed with two guests and every sofa was occupied.

The next morning we served breakfast for 40+ people (I'm sure the bride and groom said that they would take ownership of this...hmmm) but the big team helped do a magnificent clearing up job in the marquee with both dogs (Milton is now back) hoovering all manner of treats which will probably be coming back up or down later. Last guests left at 6.00pm and we are exhausted but so happy.

As I write this, the marquee has finally come down today and the only tent left is the catering tent (very small party in a tent anyone?) and I miss its towering presence in the field. But some of the lights are already twinkling in the monkey puzzle and willow trees and amongst the blossom of the cherry trees in the garden. And all my memories of this wonderful weekend are stored away. But as long as the bluebells bloom...

 Probably the best dad in the world...

 Did anyone think he'd be allowed to make a speech on his own? 

The Intrepid Granny! 

 Just love it when number 2 gets giggly!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Wedding Blog - Joyful! Part 1

I've been trying to sit down all week and write about the incredible three-day (loosely!) event which made up our wonderful wedding but it seems that there is a lot of clearing up to do post-having hundreds of people here, eating, drinking, making merry and sleeping and other stuff which involved extensive cleaning. Anyway, today, after the last Acorn 100k Bike Ride which has left me too exhausted to do anything but plant out my sweet peas I thought a relaxed canter through the events of last weekend would be appropriate.

I left you at the end of the last blog having fed lasagne to rather more than previously intended on Thursday night after which a large number disappeared to quiz night at the Hare and Hounds. I reluctantly declined - need - really need! - to pace myself.

Friday went past in a blur - folks, friends and family arriving and helping with a million jobs, church flowers and pew ends to do with the Intrepid Granny and beautiful flowers arranged in dozens of jam jars by Elizabeth Jackson and Lady H. The amazing origami crane chandelier went up and lights hung from posts and trees and bushes around the garden and the marquee. Land Rovers were borrowed and taken to be valeted (Il Presidente's wife commented on the return of her's looking immaculate that she thought she ought to sell it whilst it looked so clean and beautiful!). And in the midst of it all, lovely Elaine Thomas is painting nails whilst number 4 seems to be plucking everyone's eyebrows. And suddenly it's nearly 6 o'clock and time to head off to the church for the rehearsal.

We must have arrived at church like kittens tumbling out of a box, but Jonathan Singh, our lovely vicar, created an aura of calm (and not a few giggles) whilst he took us through our paces. Would I like to read the lesson from the floor or the pulpit? No question, how many times in my life will I get to stand in a pulpit! Then we're all off to the Hare and Hounds (again!) for a big curry evening for 70-something of our guests, most of whom have travelled from London and some even as far away as New Zealand to be here. Lots of folks to meet for the first time including my opposite number, the mother of the groom and her husband and a whole posse of aunties who were very much a part of the groom's childhood. All lovely and everyone is just so happy.

There is always a tipping point at these evenings when you have to decide whether it's too much like good fun to go home and be prepared to pay the price the next day or whether you put your sensible head on and go home before it gets messy. Uncharacteristically I did the latter - on the wedding day you see, in the words of Aerosmith 'I don't want to miss a thing!'https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ss0kFNUP4P4

Most massive and important things in life involve a lot of nerves and worry but on the morning of the big W I only felt a tremendous bubbling of excitement, a desire to do everything at the run so that I could pause just for a few seconds to take a mental snapshot of the joyfulness around me. David Robinson from the Story of O arrived early to do hair as well as Giles Rocholl who had also been with us the day before to capture every moment on camera so that I don't have to rely on my jumble of memories of the day. Land Rovers were pimped with white ribbon whilst James Brown and his team arrived early to lay up the tables after the leaky marquee episode of Thursday, helped most ably by the very useful groomsmen and their partners. Beautiful cheese was laid out by the lovely Gilly from The Cheese Board and then Ninny accompanied by Skip and Mrs Broccoli arrived with the cake - wow! It is truly the most stunning wedding cake I have ever seen - unconventional with not a dot of royal icing in sight and utterly magnificent.

Finally it's time to dress and I absolutely love my outfit and hat - thank you Jillian Welch and Jessica Robinson! Even though later on, after hundreds of hugs, my hat may have slipped to a jaunty angle, it didn't matter. I loved it! The bridesmaids looked beautiful and sparkly and then the bride - with barely a touch of make-up and wonderfully tumbly hair - appeared in THE dress. Totally different, utterly gorgeous.

The weather, finally, had decided to play ball and though a tiny shower threatened before retreating over Sutton Bank, we arrived in church in our cortege of immaculate, beribboned Land Rovers without getting damp. Just walking into church on number 3's arm (again) I could feel the palpable anticipation of the guests. My already-one-of-the-family son-in-law, married to number 2, sat beside me in church whilst we waited for the wedding party. Stocko - one of us already and very much loved by us all.

There are very few weddings I have ever been to where guests have remarked afterwards about the seriously top vicar but Jonathan made the service inclusive, fun, loving and tender. Sophie Reed sang 'Somewhere over the Rainbow' like an angel, I got my pulpit moment with the reading from the Book of Ruth and Annabel topped it with Pooh and Piglet. And then we're back down the aisle, me on the arm of Sean, father of the groom with my beloved sashaying back down the aisle behind us with Sean's partner, Jane in his absolutely fantastic Scottish kilt ensemble (hence so many parcels arriving from Scotland in the last couple of weeks) including the Barr tartan, dirk and sporran.

So I've had to divide this blog in half because it's going to be a long one (sorry!) and I haven't yet had time to sort through the thousands of photographs from the day so here's a taster and you can listen to Aerosmith in the meantime.  More to come ...
A beautiful bride and her gorgeous Dad. 

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Wedding Blog - 1 week to go and what can you do with 437 jam jars?

So we're now down to just a few days before the big W and in the last week I've been late for most stuff and, actually arrived a whole week early for something else work-related. To say I have lost clarity of thought would be an understatement. 

As I write I am sitting in the hairdressers about to start the mother/daughter hair marathon with the lovely David at the Story of O. He has already calmed us down - we arrived late, obviously - and sent us out for food to the world of different take-away joints in Leeds student-land. Number 1 returned with the biggest bacon and brie ciabatta for me, which is absolutely perfect for the pre-wedding, no carbs, no dairy routine I am currently on. Also it is the size of a house brick. But a girl's got to eat... Anyway two hair do's later and a trip for me round an unfamiliar Sainsburys whilst number 1 had her colour done to get 60 baps and 60 sausages for Sunday breakfast, amongst other less unlikely stuff, and we are on our way back home. Re the sausages and baps for Sunday - "You and Dad won't have to do anything on Sunday. We'll do it all." We might pick up on that in the final wedding blog!!!

Number 1 and my favourite son-in-law-to-be have come to us for the last two weeks before the wedding to do the enormous amount of things which are going to make this wedding a complete one-off. I know all weddings are complete one-offs and absolutely they should be, but it is the tiny, sometimes quirky bits and pieces which lend so much character to the day. For example, I may have mentioned that we have been accumulating jam jars since Christmas. Because we live in such a lovely friendly village, the vast majority have been left in the village shop courtesy of Dave and Amanda and I have brought home almost daily carrier bags full of the things. My tennis buddies have been equally supportive and even the Intrepid Granny's golf club girls have produced a seriously impressive number of 'Jean's Jars' as they have been named in the Ladies Changing Rooms at the golf club. It took the bride and groom two and a half days to de-label them and they will be used for a myriad of purposes, from flower receptacles to candle holders to cocktail glasses. This proves conclusively that you can never have too many jam jars!

Likewise they set themselves the task of creating 1000 origami cranes made from sheet music which they turned into the most amazing chandelier. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by the gods. So they did just that and then the chandelier was constructed as the centrepiece for the marquee. And of course, every place setting had another crane too. It is fair to say however that the son-in-law-to-be (SILTB) is far more manually dextrous than number 1 and the ratio of production was about 9:1! 

We also had to pack in the dog's haircut - well, everyone else had had one, painting numerous wooden signs pointing everywhere from the car park to Phuket, Liverpool and Hackney, and getting the boiler repaired. The boiler had, with classic timing, started to make the sort of noise that would make you pull off the motorway if driving. I rang the people who regularly service the boiler to discover that it actually hadn't been serviced for six years which explains a lot. Seemingly, the householder (not me) had decided that boiler service was a needless expense and even when quizzed about this, he replied that we had saved at least a thousand pounds by not having it regularly serviced. This did little for my sense of humour when I paid the ENORMOUS bill to the boiler man after three hours of tinkering. Anyway, much of the boiler is now brand new which is surprising because apparently the man hadn't seen a boiler like ours for five years because they are practically obsolete. Ho hum...

Now in the midst of all the frenetic activity (frantic gardening, arrival of marquee and various beers, daily deliveries of stuff in boxes, much from various Scottish locations of which more in the next blog) two things occurred. The first was that Mother Nature decided that a week of warm sunshine (tulips definitely over and largely hoiked out and replaced with other stuff) should be followed by hail, snow, rain, sleet and strong winds. Which made the marquee leak. Stress. And, my beloved who had promised a week on-site rather than down in Stamford where he works, announced he was going to Stamford for one day ... ok with me. Sounds reasonable. And Dublin for two - Wednesday and Thursday. Hmmmm... slightly less reasonable in my book. And Milton, number 2's dog, who has the hardest, waggiest and therefore potentially damaging tail on any dog the world over, had been banned for the week and suddenly he's in residence too! But we love a bit of drama here as you know, so we negotiated our way through all of this with no tears shed and only the smallest amount of standard family shouting. All of which brings us to the Thursday before the Saturday when along with everything else that needed doing and stuff that couldn't be done in the marquee because it's STILL leaking, three separate visits to three railway stations to collect family members had to be squeezed in. Also we now have the first lovely friends of the bride and groom on-site, helping with a million jobs and I am now cooking for 11 with 7 in residence. 

Is it brilliant? Yes! I am loving every minute of it! 

Mother Nature's little jest! Perfect weather for marquee construction and then a week that's so cold even the birds are freezing!