Wed 18th April – My first morning walk in a T-shirt. OK I still need wellies for the ankle-deep mud but it’s sunny and warm and all’s well in the world.
So Thursday 12th I set off for my flight to East Midlands. I was due to walk my daughter up the aisle that Saturday. I was there in plenty of time and thought little of the full departure lounge but settled down to read. I heard the announcement for priority boarding and continued reading waiting for the main mass to start moving. I hadn’t realised that there was a flight straight after mine and that was what the crowd were also there for. I looked up and there was my flight about to taxi down the runway for take-off. Lounge exit doors locked.
Lets ignore the initial period of panic, the following disbelieving spluttering down the telephone from Delia and being ignored by the Ryanair flight desk. Wifi is wonderful, checking on-line, the next flight I could get was to Manchester, only 3 seats left so I booked, cancelled my car hire and rebooked that too. On the plus side, Manchester car hire was actually half the price. Still not what I wanted.
Landing in Manchester half an hour late (not my fault this time) and an hour faffing around with car hire meant I finally got to Gregynog Hall, the wedding venue, at about 8.15pm. The last half hour’s drive was guess-work as the battery for my tablet/satnav ran out. I did have a backup battery but that seems to just last 10 minutes. The in-car USB socket wanted to run an iPhone app which meant that the dash screen and my tablet had been fighting it out for the entire journey. Anyway I arrived and I had expected that only a few people would be there, it being the night before the wedding; so it was a lovely surprise to see almost everybody at dinner. Everybody being my ex’s-extended family as well as my children: Phil with Becca and his two children – Dexter and Lily, Catherine of course, and Adam come all the way from Brisbane and, with his blonde highlighted hair looking for all the world a surfer dude although a psychiatrist by trade. With Cath and Chris’ friends and his side of the family too there were dozens already here. There would be a total of about 120 for the wedding meal itself, not sure about after.
The next morning it was lovely to be able to wander the grounds chatting with new and old friends and relations.
The gaggle of groomsmen were outnumbered by a flock of 8 bridesmaids who had each been allocated tasks ranging from “hen night organiser” to “wedding meal speaker”. Because of Chris’ masterful (Cath refered to him as groomzilla) wedding planning it all went as smooth as silk. I was privileged to walk Cath up the aisle and managed to do so without treading on her dress – actually not that easy as Cath held my arm and her dress spread out quite a bit. The ceremony was informal with readings and a beautiful song from Matthias, an alto tenor and on the road to being professional. Cath and Chris walked back down the aisle to a violin and piano rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.
The food was wonderful and sitting at the “top” table looking down at the grubby hordes was nice. The speeches from best man, bride, groom and the “speech” bridesmaid were wonderfully personal, intimate and funny. The cake, made by Chris’ mother was beautiful, consisting of 3 layers of chai tea sponge with a thin lemon buttercream coating. It had a lovely marbled texture.
After their first dance to Bruce, the rest of the evening went as weddings usually do. I got to talk to many as we all descended into varying degrees of drunkenness. Me not so much because I had to drive the next morning and I went to bed about 1pm leaving many still partying (though the music had long since stopped).
I especially missed Delia at breakfast the next day. All the families were gathering and preparing to leave but it had been lovely to see so many I had used to know so well and to see how their lives and families had developed.
So off to Nottingham where I was due to have dinner with a friend/client and stay in other friends’ house (Mike and Sandra) who were out touring.
A50 closure notwithstanding the drive went without a hitch and I walked from my M&S’ house to where I was to share dinner. I was surprised to find Nick (Sandra’s son) and Grace (M&S’ neighbour). A very pleasant evening ensued. Just as Nick and Grace were about to leave I had started talking about Delia and my Quaker wedding which so intrigued my hosts that I had to stay and explain. Perhaps the fact that being a Quaker was a step on my road to critical thinking and humanism was a little unsettling for them but all stayed amicable. Though as we all drank more and more I think she feared for my immortal soul. I got back to M&S’ place unscathed by lightning bolts and without making any deals at the crossroads.
The next evening I was off to friends in Leicester for another dinner but had to get back early for an early start to ensure I didn’t miss my flight home! Unfortunately, the hire car had some damage – a plastic grill had been cracked. I have no idea how or when it happened and I suspect it was there already when I hired the car. Anyway I had to pay £480. I had used a third-party excess cover at £12.50 instead of the £140 the car hire people wanted to charge. This was to be my first such claim – it seems to have worked OK – the refund is due to appear in my account soon.
Getting off the plane in Limoges and was greeted by wonderful summer warmth. Apparently, although I had left in the cold, the UK was starting to experience a heat wave too. I’ve worn a t-shirt for the morning walks since then.