Monthly Archives: November 2014

Honeymoon II

In my bath in our hotel in Bath I found a TV. I don’t mean Sarah’s post wedding blues became so unbearable that she decided to end it all on her honeymoon a la Claude Francois,

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rather it was built into the wall so that guests can soak themselves and watch smug couples from South East London deciding not to buy ramshackle Welsh farmhouses on Escape to the Country.

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Eventually, we decided it was time to investigate Somerset’s fairest City. As the hotel was à proximité du centre-ville we reasoned that it would be better to tramp in on foot.

We were advised to make our way down town via a tow path along the Kent and Avon canal. The route was busy with locals and canal boat residents, all of whom seemed to fall into the same demographic. Lean thirty-somethings with beards and a strange enthusiasm for papier-mâché skulls, old bikes and various exotic “plants”.
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The message here was clearly one of “We’ve made a brave life changing decision to drop out and this canal boat my friend, is as alternative as it gets.” Which translated actually means, “Tobias got downsized from the city so we cashed in on our shoebox in Brixton and now we spend our time growing runner beans and waiting for his Great Aunt Felicity to kick the bucket.”

Terribly nice families cycled past, with galloping chocolate labs with their tongues lolling in the Indian summer heat following close behind.

A pleasingly fresh faced Mummy called after her charges as they raced on ahead, “Harriet, please be careful near the canal, and tell Harry to mind out for Tarquin.”

Differentiating between who might be her son and who might be the family pet proving too difficult, I decided to concentrate on the Heron who had decided to alight upon some old duffer’s barge. Just after I took this picture, the bird took flight. Momentarily settling on its haunches, it sprang open it’s improbable span and glided over the stratospherically priced houses abutting the canal.

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Eventually, we made it into town. Holding hands and strolling through the achingly beautiful streets was a perfect way to spend an afternoon. Turning each corner, we were presented with yet another gorgeous Georgian facade. Being a nosey northern oik and wanting to see how much these ancient piles went for on the open market I went in search of an Estate Agent. This was more difficult than first thought as every window containing pictures of houses belonged to letting agents. No one can afford to buy a house anymore. The smallest terrace was in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. Generation rent is here to stay and if prices go up much more and the jobs become any more scarce generation rent will become generation tent. Or, if you are posh and connected, generation barge.

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It was time to eat. The place we ended up choosing would tell us more about Bath than any innocent stroll ever could.

Honeymoon

And so to the honeymoon, to our seclusion, to our Belle Époque.
Unfortunately our journey was delayed due to the prodigious amount of fine wine our driver consumed the night before (aka yours truly), so we hung around the Albert Dock until my poor, addled liver could process the celebratory poisons sufficiently enough to allow me to get behind the marital chariot.

Sarah had the bright idea of nipping to Argos to buy a drink- drive testing kit. Of course it was the only item out of the 4900 things in the catalogue that you had to order and wait three days for. By then I would either be sober or back on the sauce, so we decided to just drink tea in a cafe and wait. Sarah reached out her hand, smiled warmly and said,

“Tom my darling, are you still pissed?”
“Uh huh.”

What the old dear on the next table thought of us, I wouldn’t like to think. Eventually, my double vision subsided sufficiently for me to climb behind the wheel.
First job was to use the white chalk ink marker pen (a £5.99 Buy it Now off eBay) to scrawl Just Married!! On the rear windscreen.

This, rather disappointingly, resulted in a miserable four horn parps on the way down. What they lacked in quantity however, they made up for in quality. The first beep was on Edge Lane on our way to the M62. A guy in a van leant on his horn (ooerr), gave us the thumbs up and smiled – a heart warming start to our journey.

The next was a flash and a beep from an X5 whipping past us at warp speed on the outside lane.
Another beep and thumbs up from a bearded long distance lorry driver (probably wearing his wife’s knickers) around Birmingham, then that was it until we eased onto the M5, where we received the last and indeed best tribute.

A fantastically swish Range Rover pulled up alongside. A Barbour clad Alice-band wearing woman in her early fifties beamed down at us from her butterscotch leather throne. She peered inside our cabin, presumably to see what happiness looked like. I glanced up and winked. The Barbour lady’s smile widened as she chatted to hubby. – a stern faced chap wearing a green checked shirt and the ruddy complexion of a land owner.

She seemed to be demanding him to do something. He shook his head intemperately. Then, as the bow lifted and they sped off to duel with the angry Mercedes coming up behind, the Range Rover belted out a long, short, long salute on its horn, as a gold encrusted wrist appeared from inside to wave us goodbye.

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Eventually we arrived at the Bailbrook Hall hotel in Bath, where we were greeted by the international reception committee. Polite, efficient staff helped us to check in and get us to our room. I wondered if there were any actual English people working in this place?
Not that it bothered me in the slightest, it just made me wonder why no locals felt the desire to work in the hotel industry, or for that matter the restaurant, cafe and shop industries either.

I did meet one local who worked there, a kind-faced man in his mid fifties with a broad smile and a strong Somerset accent. His name, bizarrely, was Otto.

Upon booking I warned the hotel to expect a pair of sickeningly loved-up honeymooners. The management therefore were quite sensible in upgrading us to a junior suite, thereby removing overt expressions of affection to the remotest part of the hotel in order to save their guests from unpleasant displays of smoochyness.

After a very light dinner we retired to a bed as huge as it was comfy. Egyptian cotton sheets, goose down duvet, enormous feather pillows.

“Sarah darling, if you want ravishing you better hurry up because the Sandman is on his way…. zzzz”

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In a blind panic Sarah jumped in wearing nothing but her honeymoon kit . Phew, what a close call that was!

Hanging on the door – Do Not Disturb

Thoughts on a Wedding Day

After ruminating on the day as a whole, if I had any advice to anyone contemplating getting hitched it would be this…..
Be ruthless with those around you, those closest to you. If you get the feeling that someone is not completely on board, get rid. Now this may only have to be a temporary de-friending until post wedding normality is resumed, but never a truer word was said than you find out who your friends are at your wedding. Genuine people, like cream, rise to the top whereas those who are not, curdle.
Don’t go mad with a cake, nobody gives it a seconds thought. I didn’t even get a taste.
Make sure you get someone to video as much as possible, even if it’s just with an iPhone. Delegate some one with that task and tell them to keep it running, you never know what you will pick up. When you run it back after it’s all over, you can check out who in the crowd is smiling and who has a face like a slapped arse.
If you’re having a buffet, make sure someone gets the bride a plate of food.
And above all, choose your Maid of Honour very, VERY carefully. Don’t plump for a sister or a best friend just because you think they will be thrilled. Think about it. Factor in their own jealousy, laziness, busy lives etc, Sarah picked Debi and she was her Champion, her granite, her north and south, east and west.
Get it right, she can be an amazing asset, get it wrong and it can ruin a friendship and possibly the day itself.
Don’t get married in a church. You can’t play the music you want and very often the photographer can’t get his shots because the font or The Virgin Mary is in the way. It’s not too bad in a Church of England place of worship if you get a trendy vicar ( and because nobody really believes of any of it now) but the Catholic Church is a complete pain- all burning handbags, terrible hymns and an old bearded virgin in a frock marries you off. Avoid.

Don’t have kids. We whittled ours down to just one and she behaved herself. If guests really want to attend they’ll find a way. One mate of mine with two toddlers played tag minder with his wife as they took turns entertaining them in their hotel room. He just didn’t want to miss our day and respected my wishes.
The problem with kids is they get bored, they wander everywhere and parents often don’t know how to keep them under control. And when they jabber on, Mummy or Daddy think everyone thinks it’s cute too – wrong!

Choose the dj carefully, I spoke to ours a few times and we had an understanding, he was great but of course if he’s shit you won’t know until it’s too late.
Get a band/wedding singer. Breaks up the night and if they’re any good, they get everyone up on the dance floor. Don’t get Cousin Billy and his Band ( don’t google them, I’ve just made that up) because Auntie Jane heard them at a barn dance and they sounded lovely, get professionals.

Don’t spend hours grinning next to your Granny while David Bailey checks his light meter. All those formal shots – fuck them off, they take up too much time and it bores your guests. Or if you must, just do the bare minimum. Get the snapper to just snap, and then you get pics like this.

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Finally, just enjoy the day with your new spouse and don’t let yourself get dragged about, don’t get pushed into speaking to all the distant friends you half-know and will probably never see again. It’s your day, make the most of it.

Wedding VI

Then we hit a problem. A gatecrasher arrived.
He was the boyfriend of one of Sarah’s cousins, who in turn was an offspring of the heckling branch of my newly extended family.

The sly cow brazenly asked Sarah if this n’er do well could he come up to our party room as he was already here! For barefaced cheek it couldn’t be topped. Of course Sarah, fearing a row, agreed. I wasn’t party to this negotiation but as soon as I clapped eyes on the little scroat I knew who he was. Like flies to muck, he headed straight to the buffet, where he loaded his plate with roughly a third of the food on display. Christ, I cannot abide ignorant, common people.
(Do you get the feeling I’m getting something off my chest here?)
Anyway, Steven, our fantastic wedding singer, got everyone up to dance and the insignificant ex-convict was quickly forgotten. In any case, after the free bar ran out he soon left, with his drink-addled, sour-faced cow of a girlfriend staggering a few steps behind.
Don’t think this event impinged upon our day to any great extent. I mention it only because when you gather a bunch of people together with differing values, mores and attitudes, inevitably there is friction. And you can’t choose your family either.
We danced and laughed the night away surrounded by all the lovely people who had helped to make the day so special.
The bar shut at one and so we headed to our suite, where the laughter continued until four. Me and Sarah retired finally at five. I had been awake for nearly twenty hours and my levels of adrenalin were running low. After consuming heroic quantities of Prosecco I raised the biggest laugh of the night from Sarah when I attempted to consummate our marriage. Half undressed, I shuffled forward to take my bride to heaven. Unfortunately, I tripped forward and half landed on the bed, my face buried in the duvet. I began mumbling something about how Sarah should brace herself for the ride of her life.

“Tom? ”
“Mmmmmmm?
“It’s not happening, is it dear ?
“Just let me close my eyes for a minute, and I’ll be right with you.”
“Good night. love you.”
“………Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.
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Wedding V

imageAfter all the trauma, the ups and downs, the drama of our story together, the moment I had dreamed of was here.
Stunning isn’t the word. She was a vision, a dream, a wonderful, beautiful sight. A platonic conception of loveliness. Her beauty radiated from within; from the sparkle of her shoes to the fire of her hairpiece her beauty radiated like an aura around her. I though I might burst with joy
Slowly, they approached. I reached out to take her hand. She joined me at my side, the beam from her smile lighting up the room.
Bob began the formalities. He told us where we were (I think I needed reminding) and the order of the day. First up was Emily to read out the words from Bring Me Sunshine. A happy joyous song more poignant after being stripped of the melody.
Then I had to repeat after Bob the vows.image
The tension in the room must have got to Bob somewhat because he looked at me and said,
“Tom repeat after me, ‘ I take you, Sarah,'”
“I take you, Sarah,”
” ‘To be my lawful wedded…. husband’ ”
“My lawful wedded…husband?”
A pause. Then a guest yelled out, ‘Wife!”
The place erupted. Everybody laughed. The tension evaporated. The videographer was ecstatic because the he said that clip would go viral.
The registrar, realising his mistake, told me to repeat the words, which I duly did. This time I took Sarah to be my lawful wedded….wife. Then after high- fiving Bob, it was time for another reading.
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Then Hannah had her reading, then the four children stood at our side as me and Sarah promised to treat each of them equally as part of one family. At this point I was a complete mess.

Then we exchanged rings. Bob passed the ring to Sarah and she placed it on the tip of my finger. Bob leaned over to her and whispered.
“Now, try not to break any bones getting it on.”
I thought this was hysterical and eventually Sarah had to give me a dig to calm me down. It was a release from the agonising wait for the ceremony to begin. I think also I was experiencing what psychologists call “an episode” :- a sensory and emotional breakdown. Basically I had blown a gasket.
Then Bob explained that it was now his duty and indeed his pleasure to declare that we were now, officially, Man and Wife. We hugged, we kissed, we cried.
We left to the sound of ‘Bring Me Sunshine.’ This time sung by Eric and Ernie. And, as Morecambe and Wise crooned, we hugged our guests and retreated to the bar where the laughter and embraces continued.


Then the speeches. I said a few words of thanks then made a declaration of love to My Other Half.
Then Greg delivered a heartfelt fifteen minute master class in nuanced character assassination, intermingled with generous praise for Sarah and the children. Speaking without notes, he impressed everyone with his command if pace, pathos, rhetoric, and comic timing. Striking a perfect balance between anecdote and generic praise, between the personal and the universal, the highest praise I could give to his reminiscences would be to say that to enjoy this speech you didn’t have to say – you had to be there.
To sum up a Thirty year friendship in twelve minutes is not an easy thing to do. That everyone who didn’t know Greg was enraptured by his eulogy and was full of praise when it was over is testament to the quality of the content and delivery.
Unfortunately, he had to endure a few inarticulate heckles from some unpleasant family members who eke out their banal, feckless lives on a rotten sink estate. It’s unlikely they will take umbrage at this report because I doubt they can read.
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My Wedding Day IV

imageThe boys were ready, the girls were ready. I wasn’t ready I was a bag of nerves
The guests began to be seated. Greg joined me, as did Evan and my Mum, Sarah’s mum ( who was very frail but determined not to miss anything ).
Everyone was sat in their places. I saw thumbs up, I saw smiling faces, I saw emotion on every one of the seventy people in front of me. The pre entrance music was

Let’s get married The Proclaimers
And I love you so Perry Como
Leah Bruce Springsteen
Step inside love Cilla Black Paul McCartney demo version
Falling in Love With You Presley
Over the rainbow Judy
When You Wish Upon A Star Pinocchio
When the music went through the loop and started again I was in a terrible state. I don’t know why, maybe it was the realisation that you can’t get these moments back if it all goes wrong.
I couldn’t sit down, I was a mess, a bag of nerves, a wreck. Bob, the chap charged with conducting the ceremony introduced himself. He went through the formalities and then glanced up a Natalia, the wedding planner standing to the rear of the room.
“Ladies and gentlemen, can you all stand to welcome the bride!”
This was it. The bridesmaids entered as the soaring orchestral mid section of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue filled the room.

imageThen, through the double doors, with her first-born son at her side, I saw her.
After all the trauma, the ups and downs, the drama of our story together, the moment I had dreamed of was here.
Sarah entered with her son walking her down the aisle.
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My Wedding Day III

Time ticked by, the photographer did his best with shots of me and Greg, and upstairs snapping away with Sarah, but without Evan there was nothing left to take, and as a suit was pretty much sine qua non for a wedding picture, the photographer was a bit stuck.
The guy with the camera, was trying to calm me down. “We got plenty of time.”
“It’s nearly four o’clock, how much time do you think we’ve got left, really?”
“That’s plenty of time. Really, honestly, loads of time, if anything, too much time !”
You know when someone is saying something and their eyes are telling you lies? Well Ant was doing my best to calm me down. But he wasn’t doing a very good job. Not a good job at all. We went outside and took even more pictures of me and Greg.
Where the fuck was that suit?!

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Meanwhile, up in the room the girls were calmly getting ready
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Have you ever had a panic attack? I think the nearest I came to it was 4.15 pm. There was no time left. I couldn’t have my son in the wedding shots. Maybe Nick was stuck in traffic. I had to make a decision. We would just have to wing it. I had let Sarah down
….then, through the doors burst Nick, laughing his head off. I have never wanted to kiss a man more in my life…
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