Surprises, e.g. a Brother-in-Law

Last weekend was an exciting and unusual experience, full of exciting (expected) things interspersed with a handful of exciting (unexpected) things. Let’s go chronologically:

Thursday/Friday – Mario, Magic, Marriage

I left work, picked up a rental car (having unfortunately forgotten to take my counterpart driving license to the rental place, I had the choice of either cycling for an hour to collect it or else paying a fiver for them to run a DVLA check, and I opted for the latter on the grounds that an hour of my time (especially if I have to spend it cycling back and forth along the same stretch of road) is worth more to me than a picture of Elizabeth Fry. I drove home, packed a bag, said goodbye to Ruth, JTA, and Annabel, and drove up to Preston.

"I just found this card."
“I just found this card; is it yours? Maybe it will be, later.”

There, I spent most of Friday playing the new Mario game with my sister Becky, gave a few small performances of magic (did I mention I’m doing magic nowadays? – guess that’ll have to wait for another blog post) at various places around Preston, and went out for a curry with my mother, my sisters Becky and Sarah, and Sarah’s boyfriend Richard. So far, so ordinary, right? Well that’s where things took a turn. Because as Becky, our mother, and I looked at the drinks menu as we waited for Sarah and her boyfriend to turn up… something different happened instead.

Sarah and Richard announce to the rest of the family that they're now married.
Never before in our family has a marriage been conducted with so little pomp nor pre-planning. Except for our mother’s, of course.

Sarah turned up with her husband.

It turns out that they’d gotten married earlier that afternoon. They’d not told anybody in advance – nobody at all – but had simply gone to the registry office (via a jewellers, to rustle up some rings, and a Starbucks, to rustle up some witnesses) and tied the knot. Okay; that’s not strictly true: clearly they had at least three weeks planning on account of the way that marriage banns work in the UK. Any case case, I’ve suddenly got the temptation to write some software that monitors marriage announcements (assuming there are XML feeds, or something) and compares them to your address book to let you know if anybody you know is planning to elope, just to save me from the moment of surprise that caught me out in a curry house on Friday evening.

Richard pushes Sarah around Sainsburys.
Tie some cans behind that trolley and spray “just married” on it in shaving foam, would you?

So it turns out I’ve acquired a brother-in-law. He’s a lovely chap and everything, but man, that was surprising. There’ll doubtless be more about it in Episode 32 of Becky’s “Family Vlog”, so if there was ever an episode that you ought to watch, then it’s this one – with its marriage surprise and (probably) moments of magic – that you ought to keep an eye out for.

Saturday/Sunday – Distillery, Drinking, Debauchery

Next, I made my way up to Edinburgh to meet up with Matt R and his man-buddies for a stag night to remember. Or, failing that, a stag night to forget in a drunken haze: it’s been a long, long time since I’ve drunk like I did on that particular outing. After warming up with a beer or two in our hotel room, the five of us made our way to the Glenkinchie Distillery, for a wonderful exploration into the world of whiskies.

Still #1 at the Glenkinchie Distillery.
It’s hard to appreciate how large the pair of stills at Glenkinchie are, if you’ve only seen the stills at other Scottish distilleries before. See the people in the background, for scale.

And then, of course, began the real drinking. Four or five whiskies at the distillery bar, followed by another beer back in the hotel room, followed by a couple more beers at bars, followed by another four whiskies at the Whiski Rooms (which I’d first visited while in Edinburgh for the fringe, last year), followed by a beer with dinner… and I was already pretty wiped-out. Another of the ‘stags’ and I – he equally knackered and anticipating a full day of work, in the morning – retired to the hotel room while the remainder took Matt out “in search of a titty bar” (a mission in which, I gather, they were unsuccessful).

The Glenkinchie Distillery bar.
The Glenkinchie Distillery bar carries a full range of Diageo Scotch whiskies, plus a handful of other brands, and expert staff are on hand to help with tasting.

Do you remember being in your early twenties and being able to throw back that kind of level of booze without so much as a shudder? Gosh, it gets harder a decade later. On the other hand, I was sufficiently pickled that I wasn’t for a moment disturbed by the gents I was sharing a room with, who I should re-name “snore-monster”, “fart-monster”, and “gets-up-a-half-dozen-times-during-the-night-to-hug-the-toilet-bowl-monster”. I just passed out and stayed that way until the morning came, when I went in search of a sobering double-helping of fried food to set me right before the long journey back to Oxford.

All in all: hell of a stag night, and a great pre-party in anticipation of next weekend’s pair of weddings… y’know, the ones which I’d stupidly thought would be the only two couples I knew who’d be getting married this fortnight!

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Went to church with Alecia and Richard. There’s a weird experience for me. Tasted the new flavour of Juicefuls from Brewsters while I was in town – Strawberry flavour. They’re just as addictive as all the other flavours. Though I had intended to use the remainder of the day to finish tidying my room (the end of a mammoth task) and doing homework which is due later this week, I was instead distracted and played on Civilization II, watched TV, and other such mind-expanding activities. Went to bed in the wee small hours, after updating the Castle with my latest Åvatar Diary accounts.

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Went into college for Pure Maths, and for the first time in 1999, arrived on time (as opposed to one or more hours early)! Went out for tea to McDonalds with my dad and sisters in the evening. Went to my mum’s house, and spent five hours (almost breaking my personal record of 5 hours 27 minutes) on the phone to Fay, and, after failing to go to sleep afterwards, sat up and watched the sunrise before dropping off. If anyone asks about why I was on the phone to her at that time of night, I’ll tell them that I’m running a phone sex line as a way of making extra income. No – that won’t work… It was my call… Hmm… Let me think of an explanation, then…

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Maths in the morning. How is it that the first lesson in a new module always makes so much more sense than any other one? Went home for lunch in my three-hour break, returning for Psychology. Watched a video on “Eyewitness Testimony”. We’ve seen the same one three times now. Alecia took the second half of the lesson to preach to us – usally the kind of activity for Monday’s Psychology lessons – and persuaded Richard and me to come with her to church on Sunday. Promised I’d go, and I think I’ve persuaded Rik too, as well (even though he let her down on the Carol Service). “You can’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it,” I told him, with my usual democratic tact.
Couldn’t sleep again tonight – same as last night – watched TV until about 4:30am…

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Psychology in the morning was low-tone, and everybody seems to be under excess stress. Bunked off General Studies, because the recently-done exam paper hasn’t been marked anyway, and it’ll be cancelled as usual… Everything seems to be this week. Instead, took off into town with Fay, browsed the shops, put in my application for a Switch card at the bank, and ate hot potatoes for lunch. Returned to college at 2:00pm for my Mechanics exam, arriving just on time by taking a short cut through the building site. The exam wasn’t too bad.