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Thoughts on Marriage

wedding throw

Marriage has become so commercialised that the meaning has almost been lost, with the average wedding costing £27,000.

As soon as venue hosts hear the word, the price doubles. It costs so much and for what? Just one day where you pledge to love each other forever and get tax and inheritance benefits?

What is marriage really all about?

Anyone would think it was money now.

So there is a growing trend of people having small private ceremonies, shunning the money waterfall of caterers, cake, flowers and favours.

I would have a small wedding at my local farm. But it costs £2,200 just to hire an empty, unfurnished barn.

My parents had a simple wedding. Mum bought her dress for £50 at a vintage second hand shop in Great Yarmouth. They had the party in their back garden after a simple church ceremony. Their friends provided the alcohol and the only thing they paid for was catering. Their friend took the photos.

Marriage is a private declaration of love and ultimately is shaped by the whims of the couple. I wouldn’t have a big party at all but for my friends and family wanting to join me. I have already had two friends ask to be invited and I haven’t even had a proposal yet.

I hope the proposal doesn’t take long. But if Princess Kate can wait ten years, so can I. As Chaucer said: “He who is pacient in love is at avantage to all above.” Your wedding ceremony can be whatever you want it to be. Don’t feel pressured to have a day that doesn’t feel true to you. If you want to pop along to your registry office instead, why not?

vows and dress

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Six Years Strong

It feels like yesterday when my fresh-faced future boyfriend walked into that wine bar, twenty minutes late. 

Last night we went to a delightful local restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. I enjoyed a tasty goats cheese tart, hake fish in a spinach sauce topped with a giant King prawn, and berry sorbet with Moroccan mint tea. A pianist tinkled away behind us, just audible beneath the hubbub of merry voices, infusing romance into the atmosphere. I thought of the Shakespeare quote: “If music be the food of love, play on.”

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Today we went to a village pub in Derbyshire, on the border between the “White Peak” and the “Dark Peak”, in the picturesque Peak District. It was built in the late 1700s when it was an Inn for weary travellers. I had butternut squash lasagne and a battered Yorkshire fishcake with fruit cider. We went to admire the view and stood together watching the golden afternoon sun illuminate the fields below.

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So what is the secret of a successful relationship?

Patience, kindness, listening and laughter. The path of true love never did run smooth, but you can resolve most issues with communication. Whilst you may have many shared interests, you need to remember that you are different people and you are bound to clash at some point, unless your partner is incredibly relaxed or a pushover. It is hard, but you have to try and remove the emotion of the disagreement, rationally discussing each other’s views to find a compromise. Sometimes you don’t and you have to agree to disagree.

Your partner should feel understood and appreciated.

Laugh often and simply enjoy spending time together, companionship is as crucial as passion. You should bring out the best in each other. You can advise and guide your partner, but don’t try and change them or apply pressure. No one wants to feel like a decision has been made for them or that they have been coerced into making changes before they were ready.

Of course you will squabble and bicker. It may even take years to stop shouting and start listening to each other. But if you are willing to invest time and effort to develop your relationship, and maybe even yourself, the clouds of confusion will eventually clear.

The trick is to let the little things go and focus on the bigger picture. Stop finding fault in flaws, we all have them. In this age of technological Tinder swiping and souped-up selfies, it is important to remind ourselves that virtual reality is just that. Real beauty beats any fake “perfection”.

I feel lucky to have found someone that loves me for who I am, despite my quirks, foibles and bad habits. I still feel giddy when we are together. Through the twists and turns of time we stride on, six years strong.

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Thoughts On Turning 30

30. It sounds like a scary decade. Or at least that’s what my boyfriend thought as I reminded him that 30 is the marriage and kids decade.

It is strange to think that in ten years time that could be my reality.

If I don’t have children it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would  be heartbreaking because I’ve had maternal urges since the age of 18.

This sums up how I feel about being broody.

I know it’s just biology reminding you that your eggs are ready for fertilisation, but it is an unsettling feeling when you aren’t ready for kids – the biggest decision of your life. I go through intense broody phases every couple of years. I used to cure them by watching One Born Every Minute. Even that doesn’t work now. I find myself thinking yes, it looks like a horror movie, but after that she gets a beautiful bundle of joy to love forever.

Copyright: One Born Every Minute – Channel 4

Now I cure broodiness by watching Super Nanny. It should be compulsory viewing for potential parents.

“They won’t fear you with the naughty step. They will fear the punishment.”

When you see a couple going insane for two torturous hours putting little Freddy back on the naughty chair, you realise why so many parents resort to violence. It’s the easy way out, just like plonking them in front of the TV is easier than reading to them.

Copyright: Super Nanny

It was easy to see how parents could lose it when a child screams and screams…and screams. When a friend’s cat cried constantly from when I arrived to when I gave it food I was guilty of snapping at him. I raised my voice and told him off. He then avoided me for the rest of the day and I felt incredibly guilty.

You see it time and time again on Super Nanny. The screaming from parents to children, from children to parents, the slaps. One couple were even shutting their toddler out on the patio like he was some kind of animal. On the other extreme there was the complete lack of discipline, leading to children up all night running wild, children who are tired and cranky the next day. You could see how the couple were creating the nightmare they lived in. On the website debate.org 60% of respondents agreed that there was no such thing as “good” or “bad” kids,only bad parenting. Yes, some kids are just naughty, but who does the child copy? Their parents.

Think about it – by slapping your kids, what do you teach them? You teach them that you solve problems with violence. You teach them to fear you. Sometimes you even see the kids reflecting the parents behaviour, hitting their siblings.

Of course children need to learn that there are consequences for bad behaviour, but is control through fear what you want? Or would you rather control through punishments like the naughty step?

As Super Nanny wisely said in one episode: “They won’t fear you with the naughty step, they will fear the punishment.”

 

No child wants to be ignored and isolated and that’s how this control method works. Part of the reason I watch Super Nanny is that I am fascinated by the way the lady works with the child’s psychological perspective to get into their head and onto their level.

I saw my cousin successfully use a similar technique on his son. He asked his son to go out of the room for being cheeky and the child stomped his feet and had a tantrum. His father patiently let him do this and firmly repeated his request for his son to leave the room until he did so. He then asked his son if he was ready to come back in. The child said he was but continued to be naughty. His father told him to leave the room again. The boy cried and wailed at the perceived injustice. But my cousin did not falter, he simple asked his son if he was ready to come back in and behave again. The child said again that he was and this time he complied.

I have done work experience at nursery so I’m aware of the reality of kids. The endless questions and demands for stories, the tears and the tantrums. Toddlers have to be the focus of attention 24/7. As soon as you look away they are there in your face, thrusting a soggy book at you with that wide-eyed look that you just can’t say no to. There are only so many times you can ask a child what number comes after three. Even the fingers on my hands didn’t help – the kid was convinced two was the answer.

Too many would-be parents think of the cute pink baby and its massive eyes, of the love they’ll feel for this little beauty, of how that baby might somehow make their relationship stronger. As if sleepless nights and endless poo and vomit might somehow create some kind of unbreakable bond.

Too many parents find out later that actually, what seemed like a solid relationship pre-baby wasn’t as strong as they thought, as sleep deprivation and drudgery take their toll.

A study of 2,000 couples in Germany found that the happiness of parents decreases temporarily after the birth of their first child. It even causes 10% of parents to decide that they do not want to have another child.

Knowing all this, I am slightly terrified about the idea of having children and I know my partner is too. I know it’s something I want and I hope he does too. But could I handle the stress?

It’s not just me that is worried about the idea. My mum had a nightmare last week about me being pregnant. She asked again whether I was definitely just overweight and not expecting. She said in her dream, her and dad were panicking, wondering what they could do. I know it would be tough, because I find it hard to function with less than 7 hours of sleep and I would be reluctant to give up work to become a nappy-changing milk-machine.

Scientists have discovered that how well we tolerate sleep loss is actually written into our DNA. Nothing can change that, and if all those affected remained childless, this gene would have been bred out in a kind of natural selection. But people are prepared for the pain and the sacrifice of children. As a friend said: “The sleep loss is only for two years and it’s worth it”.

I think I want to leave it at least five years. When I said this to another friend she warned me about fertility – we have been told that levels decline from the age of 37, or maybe even 35. I want to have two children, so I don’t want to wait too late.

Before I have children I need to be living with my boyfriend and preferably married. At the moment we are no further forward than when we met four years ago, because we are not even living together.

It’s only now that I’m 30 that I’ve started to worry about our current inertia. Suddenly I am aware of the fertility clock ticking in the background.

We women are born with all the eggs we will ever need. They just grow older every year until they become genetically damaged, increasing the risk of conditions such as Downs Syndrome. Genetic code starts to be eroded by the passage of time.

What if we leave it too long and it’s too late? This has happened to other couples. Women who have left children until they were ready and financially stable have found that they cannot conceive naturally anymore and some don’t even have any luck with IVF. What seemed like such a sensible decision in their twenties backfires. The fertility clock has stopped ticking and their time is up. They will never have children naturally or even with assistance, and they have to make the difficult decision to adopt or remain childless.

If I can’t have children naturally, I doubt I will bother going through the long, frustrating process of IVF. I’ve been into an Assisted Conception Unit and the room was full of miserable, defeated and exhausted couples. I promised myself I would never end up there. I’d rather adopt and help a child less fortunate than myself to have a stable, loving home to grow up in. I feel like I have too much love just for my boyfriend. At the very least I would need to get a pet, something to fill this child-shaped void in our relationship that is becoming more and more apparent as I get older.

Who knows what the future holds. Hopefully our relationship will survive whatever fortune throws at us.

If you’re thinking about having children please consider the reality first, think about the practicalities.

Discuss who is going to do what and how you are going to manage the extra responsibilities. Think about how the child will impact on your current lifestyle. If you don’t have sufficient time to devote to your children then don’t have them. It isn’t right to leave them in the care of others almost 24 hours a day.

You need to be prepared to support and guide each other through what is the most intense, stressful yet rewarding time of your lives. Or at least that’s what parents tell me.

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My First “Airbnb” Experience

Prodigy 1

For my birthday I was going to see Prodigy in London with a friend. I was delighted that my cousin had decided to join us.

It was the weekend before the event so there were hardly any places left in the bed and breakfast (bnb) houses we were looking at. Only the expensive or low-rated options were left and the nearest hotel was 5 miles away.

A “B ‘n B” breakthrough

“What can we do?” I asked my cousin “this place only has a single room left! and this one is a bit too expensive isn’t it.”

My cousin would know best as she was an experienced traveller. On a break in between her Masters degree she had gone to Spain spontaneously on her own. She is a student and I am saving for a big holiday (of course I will blog about it) so we are both skint. We had already shelled out £50 for the gig ticket.

“Well…” she replied “when I was in Madrid I stayed in a really nice air bnb place. It was really cheap and overlooking the main plaza! It would have been really expensive to stay at a hotel in that location.”

“What is air bnb?” I asked. I vaguely recollected an advert on it.

“Is it that one where you sleep on people’s sofas? cos I’m not doing that!”

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I had spent one night on a sofa and hadn’t slept a wink as I tried to find a way to get my long legs spread out without having the arm of the sofa digging in. There wasn’t enough width to curl up. It was a nightmare and there was no chance of it being a dream. I had emerged from that student house looking like I’d spent the night in a hedge, and that probably would have been more comfortable.

My cultured cousin laughed. “No it’s not that one! Though I think there is one like that. It’s called couch-surfing isn’t it? This is similar but you get a proper bed.”

“A proper bed? isn’t that the same as a proper bed and breakfast then?”

“It’s like that but it’s where someone rents out their spare room. You get to meet lots of different people doing it and the ones I’ve met have all been lovely. You don’t always get breakfast but they’re usually in good locations.”

I was intrigued. The other choices were pretty limited so I thought we should give it a try.

You just needed an email address and password to set up an account and it was free. You could search by country as well as by city.

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The places were advertised with a picture of the bedroom with the Google map location on the right. Perfect. We looked and most of the good places were taken but there was one that stood out.

London Luxury

The photograph that I liked featured a beautiful white “Victorian” bathroom with a vintage bath (a new bath in an old style, not a tin one). The house looked modern and spacious for London. Not only that but it was a 10 minute walk from the venue. There was a paragraph or two about the owner, a smiling middle-aged lady who had travelled around Ecuador and liked the theatre. There were good reviews and it wasn’t too expensive.

The house was close to the station and my cousin was already there.

As I walked up to the stained-glass front door I felt a bit nervous. It seemed odd to walk in to a stranger’s house and stay there like one of their friends or family. But my anxiety subsided when our host opened the door and greeted me, grinning from ear to ear.

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She was a warm, friendly lady with a healthy glow and a slight tan. She served us tea and sat with us in their airy conservatory with a view onto a verdant garden. There was a little shed at the end and a trellis with flowering plants.

My cousin looked relaxed and had enjoyed a pleasant chat. I had not expected such peace and quiet. But it was a privileged residential area and of course, only parts of (mostly inner) London are chaotic, dirty and noisy.

I felt that I needed a shower on arrival to the house, as I had been on the Tube and became conscious of the grimy soot sticking to me. I couldn’t see it but I could feel it. That and the gig atmosphere turned the bathwater grey the next day.

Double delight

We were amused that we were sharing a double bed. We had dark wooden drawers and a wardrobe to match, with a fluffy turquoise carpet and curtains tied back. I laid down some ground rules – no farting in bed and no trespassing over the middle line. My cousin broke both rules by the next morning.

We got glittered-up for the rave and headed out. We clip-clopped in our heels through the drizzle along rows of tall neat Victorian houses, shivering. Pretty soon we felt rather lost and decided that we would turn back after ten minutes.

“Did you see the pictures in the bathroom?” my cousin asked.

“Yes, interesting weren’t they!” I replied. There had been pictures of the couple in skimpy 1930s-style carbaret outfits with feathers and pearls.

“Do you think they’re swingers?” my cousin giggled.

“No it’s just fancy dress.”

“Yes but there was more than one of them like that.” We laughed.

Fortunately after a 20 minute totter we found the pub our host had directed us too. But as it was 9pm they had closed for food so we went to the takeaway opposite. It took ten minutes but the kofta kebab was well worth it. As we were late we had to eat waiting for a taxi, sheltering under a tree from the relentless rain.

ProdigyCard

The Gig – Prodigy the-prodigy

I enjoyed the band, especially the classics that reminded me of student days. Thousands filled the hall with a high ceiling and the lighting was great but unfortunately the sound at the gig was focussed at the front and there were no speakers further back. The sound system was clearly not built or configured for the electronic music either. One of the band did make an effort to remedy this by coming near us to sing (or rather shout, it is that kind of music) on a mini stage in the middle, dreadlocks swinging. Cheers erupted around us as people surged forward. Eyes bulged and hands shot up to follow the beat.

Sweaty beer cheer 89067_ORIG-pig_pen_smelly_kid_peanuts_charlie_brown

The hyperactive crowd fully compensated for the muffled performance when he went back, as they thrashed around with reckless abandon. Beer flew everywhere and drenched us. The air was thick with the smell of that and foul body odours. Every so often I had to move as I would end up in a cloud of it and I decided that I’d grown out of grunge.

Pint pouring

When my cousin had a pint poured down her she lost it, turning round and shouting at the miscreant. He apologised and moved away. She angrily said to the man behind him “I hope you’re not going to pour that down me too!”. This started a conversation which went very well and she ended up on the bearded bloke’s shoulders waving her arms around.

We rocked out until the early hours, leaving as the orange streetlight sky started to pale. It was about 4 when we finally went to sleep after a hushed chinwag.

Healthy host

Four hours later I was woken by the sound of the front door closing as our healthy host ran to the gym. As you do on a Saturday morning. I was impressed but seriously sleepy and dozed off until an hour before our checkout time. It was a quiet area and we were in a little guest room down our own hallway with our own bathroom at the other end.

After a bath I felt rejuvenated (and much cleaner). We had a nice chat with our host, who was back from her early morning workout, and her husband. They were a good-looking, kind and knowledgeable pair. I felt guilty when I asked her if I had woken her up and she said she had heard the door shut when we came in. She assured me that it was fine and we were very quiet. She said she was a light sleeper.

We left in search of the nearest pub breakfast. As we stumbled along I decided that although I would not be going to a Prodigy gig again, I would definitely be staying with airbnb for my next trip…

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A Country Wedding

bride and groom 2 My boyfriend’s housemates were getting married. They had been together for five and a half years when Tony popped the question in Italy at the top of a tower. If you did say no at the top of a tower you would have a long awkward walk down but no was never an answer that applied to this couple.

They had been together happily in the two years I had known my boyfriend. I had rarely seen them argue and they are both warm friendly people with a healthy sense of humour.

They had moved in officially for about a year, as before that Jess had been working nearby and visiting. But then she managed to get a dance teaching job in the same city. Tony manages a promotional film company and is likes Star Wars and Lego, so Star Wars Lego figurines decorated the front room.

The first time in their house I was intrigued by the bizarre collection of Tony’s former mobile telephones decorating the wall by the stairs. The oldest one was an early 1990s cordless. It is great to have Jess’s company around the house. She ensured that there were no more random socks and beer/wine bottles/glasses littering the kitchen and front room. The previous housemates had moved out and got married too. Eventually it will be our turn to move out of separate houses and try living in one. Who knows, maybe we will even get married too.

The epic celebrations began on Friday night. As the groom was a Beaver/Explorer leader, they helped cook pie and peas. My boyfriend said he would help but unfortunately as it was in the middle of the countryside I was reliant on a lift (I am halfway through driving lessons…). He had to wait until I could finally escape from work, getting home about 6.30. So when we arrived some were obviously irritated that we did not appear “after lunch” as my boyfriend had suggested. He had just told me to leave early as possible and regrettably that was not an option. darwin lake birds eye

We arrived in the middle of the countryside where in the middle of farmers fields stood a circle of new build cottages around a lake, with a “barn” – a modern stone hall at the back. On the grass stood a massive white marquee complete with tables, chairs and decorations. darwin tent Almost everyone had enthusiastically participated in the beer-brewing competition and someone had even made a lovely fruity cider. There were beers with ginger, apple, a smoky flavour and the bride’s family homegrown honey. The beer tasting glasses had a little sticker on the base with a cartoon couple, their names and the wedding date. You could tell the bride was a teacher. Everything was immaculately planned. We had a pub quiz as a friend brought his own beer taps and questions along. This was accompanied by a hilarious game featuring a ball tied into tights around your waist. You had to hit a ball on the ground with it which involved a lot of thrusting. thrust game   At about 11 we called it a night and returned to our self-catering cottage. In the morning woke up to sunshine. The Scout boys staying with us organised their own breakfast, so we had cereal. Then we rushed out to Matlock to get a cable for the Wii, as this was to be set up in the bassment of the barn for the children.

Before that they would play a live video of the wedding for a friend with locked-in syndrome, Nick. I first met him at the end of last year at a housewarming party for him. Someone told me he was joking with me through interpretation of his eye movements and I was inspired by his positivity. It was a moving experience. There was a scene about this type of communication in the film about Stephen Hawking and it made me cry because it showed what a challenge it was. Like Stephen, Nick was an Oxbridge graduate, and was in his 40s helping to run Scouts when he randomly had a brain stem stroke which paralysed him.

After going round all the video game shops in the small town we rushed back and had one of my boyfriend’s best dishes for lunch – omelette with caramelised onions, cheese, olives and salami. On returning to the cottage I saw a glamorous slender tanned lady with blonde waves get out of a Jaguar with a man in a sharp suit. We were later told that the man was a military commander in Brazil.

We quickly changed for the main event. We got back in time to help the groom get the wedding room free of clutter. I wore a sleeveless A-line dress that was lined and navy with pink roses on. There was quite a breeze making things chilly but we stayed outside to drink quartetchampagne and listen to the lovely male quartet sing. They were wearing white suits, red bow ties. The songs were old-fashioned classics.

Then it was time for the wedding itself. We filed in. The groom swayed from foot to foot anxiously, fiddling with his watch and looking around, chatting to his best men in front of the registrar, a middle-aged lady with round cheeks and blonde cropped hair. There were about 200 guests filling the floor. There were waves of whispers and the air was heavy with anticipation . There was a small wooden trellis in the middle of a stage with ivy round it but other than that the decoration was minimal. Then the music started and the bridesmaids slowly entered, all wearing slightly different outfits but in the same dark navy.

There was a pause and then we finally got to see the dress. Normally when I see the bride it is after work so she is usually exhausted, sleepy and hardly has energy to smile, but today her face was illuminated with joy from her rosy, natural complexion and perfect plaited dark hair as she glided along with her train, perfectly poised in her strapless white satin folded gown. The groom, on seeing her, appeared to breathe a sigh of relief in his flattering dark suit and smiled broadly in return. vows and dress

They said their individual vows and the registrar spoke of the sanctity of marriage and how it was about cherishing and supporting each other. Then we were invited to sing “Stand By Me” by Ben King. It was a beautiful moment, the couple so perfect for each other, two kind, lovely, cheerful souls combined for evermore, and the music of so many voices, young and old, in harmony. I welled up with the emotion.

As we filed out I turned to my boyfriend and saw that he had tears in his eyes too. I had never seen him cry before and I was touched.

We were then seated in the marquee which was decorated with (fake) ivy and carpeted. It was beautiful with little wedding gifts for guests of the bride’s family honey and lego for the groom’s touch. lego and honey Every little detail had been planned. We had a starter of nice Italian meats and olives. Then lasagne and brownies.

There were several short speeches and the groom thanked everyone for their efforts in helping bring the wedding weekend/festival together. Then there was the longest speech from the best man. Apparently it was timed at an hour and 25 minutes and featured raffle prizes for gifts such as a bottle of Fanta that featured in the story of how the groom and his best man met. It reminded me of an embarrassing time at junior school where I did a competition which hardly anyone entered and then I presented sherbet sticks in assembly as the prize, after trying to sell them for 25p each.

After that there was a break to get ready for the evening event. I kept the same dress on and we sat and chatted in the barn. Then we went upstairs to watch the bride and groom’s choreographed dance. It was beautiful and the delivery was flawless. wedding throw The disco came on later – the wedding room had been transformed with the chairs and the stage was gone. The LED backdrop ensured there were coloured lights across the dance floor. My boyfriend sorted the children out on the Wii and showed them how to use the controls. wiiii He looked like good father material helping and chatting happily to an inquisitive boy but of course I did not tell him that. He was concerned enough by me hinting that maybe it would be our turn for a wedding at some point. You should have seen his face when my cousin and I looked at diamonds in the Natural History Museum in London and then went on to accidentally (honest) walk through the maternity and baby clothes sections of Harrods. He frogmarched us out of there when I cooed over a baby duffle coat.

We danced the night away at the disco and he barely took his eyes off me. It was lovely and it was nice to see the groom getting into it at the end of the night. Tony and Jess made sure they had time for everyone.

The lake of the venue

Wonderful shot by Martyn Miller, the retired photographer. All other photographs are courtesy of him as I forgot my camera. The lake of the venue

My main impression from the weekend was that it was completely inclusive. Everyone was made to feel special and welcomed. There were people of all ages and backgrounds there and they were so friendly and enthusiastic. We were not sure whether to stay on Sunday but we soon discovered that the toilet paper and washing-up liquid were running out and the heating and television had gone off, so it was time to make a move. It was overcast and still windy, not ideal for the summer clothes I had brought, hoping for warmer weather (you can never hope for better weather in England. If you don’t bring a coat it will be cold, if you don’t bring an umbrella it will rain). I had forgotten my coat. The Scouts in our cottage all left.

We went out for brunch at a farm cafe which was expensive but tasty. I had spinach soup and a cranberry and bacon panini and felt less sleepy. When we got back my boyfriend said he wanted to help and I was expecting there to be a team already on the case. I had told my parents we would be back for dinner. But it turned out that aside from the bride and groom’s immediate family we were it. I felt that we were fully justified in arriving too late to help at the start after our efforts packing up.

We collected the rubbish and heaved the sacks into a little cart. We pushed the dripping smelly things into the bins. We carried piles and piles of chairs from the big white tent into the hall. Then we started on the tables. We unpeeled the black masking tape keeping the strips of carpet together, wrapping maggots and whatever else had got from the soil into it. We took up all the nails holding down the carpets and rolled them up.

I drew the line at lifting up the muddy boards and entertained the best man’s baby instead. The mum jokingly asked whether I did babysitting and I wished she was serious. The little girl with large dark eyes looked at me in wonder. She liked my shiny purse and kept trying to chew on it, so I would distract her with the tassles on my scarf, which she then pulled into her pram, choking me, so I untangled it from her tiny fingers.

Finally it was time for the baby’s nap so I then said if I was walking on the mud with muddy boards I would need to change my footwear. Once in the car I finally stopped shivering and couldn’t face going out again. I was in a t-shirt, thin cardigan and a pashmina scarf. I sat there for 10 minutes with my walking boots on before heading back out and running through the rain. Thankfully it was done. lego wedding cake I forgot my slice of the wedding cake, so eager was I to leave the cold and get back to a home-cooked meal. We said our goodbyes to the pale sleepy couple and went on our way.

In the car on the way back I asked my boyfriend whether the wedding had made him want to have a big event if we got married.

“Are you joking?!” he said.

“Didn’t you see how stressed they got? Nah, what’s the point? Why not save it for a house instead?

I’d just go to a registry office.”

“But what about my big white dress?” I asked.

“Do you really need one?” He replied.

“It didn’t happen this time, but I’ve seen the meaning of marriage lost in a big wedding, it becomes all about that instead.”

He had a point, but hopefully we could compromise on the dress…

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My First Hen Do

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I’m coming to the age now where friends are getting engaged. After watching Don’t Tell the Bride I assumed that these always involved pink sashes, penis accessories, tiaras, tutus and competitive drinking.on-it-until-we-vomit-hen-do-t-shirt

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But this was a classy do, especially as the bride’s mum was in attendance. There were pink sashes but no phallic items here, the organiser proudly announced. We had a private room booked out in one of the most fancy places in town. The tables were grouped in an upside-down U-shape enabling conversation with more people.

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Everyone was dressed up and looked lovely. The bride-to-be is a dance teacher and her teacher friends enthusiastically complained about their ridiculous workload and the panic surrounding Ofsted (government evaluation) visits. Then the talk turned to dogs – one of the girls had brought one over from China that had lived with them while she’d taught English. He’d had to go back weeks before they did and his flight was more expensive. Then he’d had to have lots of jabs. He’s an enthusiastic Golden Retriever that we’ve seen on occasion, his big fluffy self scurrying towards us biting a slipper.

I said I would quite like a pug, a chihuahua and a cat and they didn’t seem to know what to say. I always thought pugs were ugly creatures with their wrinkles, squashed nose and scary goggle eyes. But then I met one. It looked up at me and I walked away in disgust. It trotted behind me wagging its tail. I sat down to watch TV and it looked up at me with it’s massive eyes. Then it braced itself, arched its back and launched itself onto the sofa. It sat next to me on its hind legs with its little front paws dangling in front, panting heavily and making Darth Vader noises.cute-pug27

I haven’t met a chihuahua but they look cute and cuddly and a vet told me that a dog should have a canine companion to play with.

Ok it's a corgi but you get the idea.

Ok it’s a corgi but you get the idea.

They’re also a lot cheaper than children and I won’t be ready for them for a long time. I’ll also get practice on caring for something that is dependent on me and they’d persuade me out in this atrocious English climate which currently oscillates between sleet, rain and the occasional spot of sunshine, but always with temperatures below 10 degrees, at least until late April I expect.

The three-course meal was delicious and the quizzes were a great idea. They both tested how well you knew the bride and groom with some interesting questions (what film/TV couple does the groom say they most resemble? Hans Solo and Princess Leia. What film/TV couple does the bride say they most resemble? Peter and Lois Griffin from Family Guy). The winners received rosettes.

The plans had been shrouded in secrecy, so we found out what the girls had been up to that day. They had been at a village hall making t-shirt necklaces, sushi and doing competitions. Then they’d put together a useful book of “wife advice”, from food and cocktail recipes, DIY tips, all beautifully collaged with their own photos and craft items. We wrote a message in it.

The hen looked lovely and smiled broadly all night, excitable and enthusiastic. She made sure she spoke to all the guests.

They are a lovely couple and I’m sure they will have a long happy future together. They’ve been together six years after being set up by a friend. You can see love when one of them walks in and the other’s eyes light up. They work as a team supporting each other, effortlessly co-ordinating daily life and making each other laugh.

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The Beginning (Our First Date)

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I think it’s time to tell you about my first date.

Recently we celebrated our anniversary. I want to make a patchwork quilt of experiences that I can look back on when times aren’t as rose-tinted and to keep them fresh. You never know, I could by some freak chance (and I seem to have rather too many of them), end up like the girl in the film “50 first dates” and need reminding.

So, let me tell you about that night…

We had been messaging each other for two weeks and had found out the basics. He had two sisters, he was the oldest,  he was a Scout leader, he was an engineer.

I’d seen his photographs and his description: “tall, dark and handsome, well tall and dark, you can make your mind up about the rest”.

I’d told him he was tall and handsome, but not particularly dark-haired. We discovered that we shared some friends, having gone to neighbouring schools, that we lived in the same area and even went to the same weekend running event.

I carefully selected a knee-length blue wool dress with sleeves, which I wore with black tights. It was blue which brought out my eyes. I straightened my hair and applied subtle make-up. I cinched in my waist with a thin leather belt. I decided on flats – I can feel self-conscious in heels and I needed to feel comfortable. I took my small purple leather handbag which made any outfit feel classy.

I arrived at the venue with my heart in my mouth. We had arranged to meet at 8.15 on a Friday night. I scanned the room and couldn’t see him. I felt dazzled by the lights. I went straight to the bar. There was a bit of a wait, so I nervously checked my phone.

He had text to say he would be about 15 minutes late, he had been visiting a friend. So I asked what drink he would like, keen to reverse the stereotype that the man buys the woman a drink on the first date. He said “bottle of beer? surprise me”. What a wide choice, I had been hoping for something more specific, more foolproof for a girl whose only dabbling with alcohol involved Malibu and the occasional cocktail.

“Excuse-me”, I asked the bartender, “what’s your finest ale”? I’d heard ale was classier than beer and if I got the right one I thought I would definitely be a hit.

He looked at me sideways, frowning slightly. “Sorry?” he replied. I raised my voice a little and stood on my tip-toes so he could hear me better, “what is your finest ale?!”.

He still looked a bit puzzled so I explained in more hushed tones, “I’m on a first date and I asked him if he wanted a drink, and he said he wanted beer or something”.

He saved me the embarrassment of repeating myself. “Ohh” he said, grinning. Well…I wouldn’t recommend ale to be honest because there’s too much choice, you could quite easily pick the wrong one. But in terms of beer…Peroni’s probably the best one we sell here.”

“Ok, I smiled, relieved,”I’ll have that please”.

I found half a table in the corner that was free. There was a happy couple on the other side and they didn’t have a problem with me sitting there. I was still feeling rather anxious, and struggled to steady my breathing. So I looked around to distract myself. Damn. I’d chosen the wrong place. This was a middle-aged wine bar. Would he judge me on my choice?

It took me a while to get comfortable. Should I sit cross-legged? No, not good for the circulation and would make me look too unavailable. Or was that a good thing? Should I sit with my back to the room to look more mysterious? No that was a silly idea. I shifted about, fiddling with my silver bead necklace, checking my hair was still neat. By the time he arrived some 20 minutes later, I was feeling completely relaxed. I had drunk about half of my Malibu and coke, and had decided to sit facing the room with one arm on the table, laid back but not slouchy, attempting to project an air of sophistication.

Suddenly I saw him and life became cinematic. The clock seemed to stop and sound faded as I zoomed in. In a bar full of those near pension-age he stood out like a sore thumb. It seemed like there was a halo of fuzzy light around him. I blinked to refocus.

I decided to observe him and let him notice me. Then I’d have a little more time to check him out, seeing as this was the first time we had met in person.

The first thing I noticed was that he had lovely skin. He looked like he looked after himself. He had a nice neat haircut (he later admitted he’d had it cut that day) and a good figure.

Then I noticed his eyes – dark, bright, intelligent eyes darting about looking for me. But what a pity about his attire – he’d opted for a hoodie and jeans. He hadn’t put much thought into that. But at least he looked like the photographs.

He walked right past me and was about to look outside,  so I announced my presence. He visibly relaxed a little, flashed me a dazzling smile and settled down next to me, gratefully accepting the Peroni.

I asked him about his work. He clearly enjoyed talking about what he did and I was intrigued. We talked…and talked.

From there we went over the road into a square to a bar with a French name and red, dimmed lighting. He bought me a drink and another Peroni for himself. The choice was a good one then. We chatted about running and he showed me the impressive jog routes he’d done on his phone. We went on to a Cuban-themed bar, with salsa music and lovely cocktails. 

All too soon the night had come to an end. We didn’t want to miss the last bus home and we took that together, seeing as he lived nearby. As he left, he bent down and we nearly bumped heads as he clumsily kissed me on the cheek.

I was enjoying single life and I thought “if I don’t see him again I’ve had a great night and I’m pleased we met.” But a bigger part of me was drunk with excitement (the only drunk you should get on a date) and couldn’t wait to see when and where date two would be. Hopefully soon. But did he like me? Did I score enough points to make it through the first hurdle?

He text at midnight saying he’d had a good night, with kisses. Two. Things looked promising…

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Filed under Days out/nights out, Life of Lydia