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!

Three Parties

I’ve had a few weekends fully of party. It’s no wonder I’m knackered.

Andy’s 30th

First, there was Andy‘s 30th birthday. Ruth, JTA and I slogged our way over to Cardiff to celebrate in style with pizza, booze, and dancing.

Dancing to Black Lace at Andy's 30th birthday.
Dancing to Black Lace at Andy’s 30th birthday.

Siân‘s got more to say on the subject, but suffice it to say this: it’s been a long, long time since I’ve found myself dancing in a nightclub until half past two in the morning, then grabbing a thoroughly disgusting-looking (but remarkably good-tasting) portion of fried food as an after-club snack. Oh, and Alec drooled all over himself long before he ended up sharing a bed with me.

Honestly, I didn’t think I had it in me to party like that any more: I’m such an old man (having myself turned thirty a good year and a bit prior). Didn’t stop me from getting up before anybody else the following morning for a quick geocaching expedition, though…

Summer Party On Earth

The following weekend was the Summer Party On Earth: an event that started out with Ruth saying “Let’s have a summer party!” and finished as a nostalgia-themed marathon of epic proportions.

This… was a party with everything. It had kids’ toys like Brio wooden railway, Lego bricks, and a marble run; it had soup and buffets and a barbeque and cakes; it had board games and party games and drinking games; it had beer and wine and cocktails; it had the world’s tiniest and most-nettley geocaching expedition… and from the time that we first started entertaining guests to the moment that the last of them left, it lasted for an exhausting 36 hours.

Some early guests play Ca$h 'N' Gun$, a live-action game of gun-toting gangsters.
Some early guests play Ca$h ‘N’ Gun$, a live-action game of gun-toting gangsters.

It was particularly interesting to get together with people from all of our varied social circles: workmates, former workmates, local friends, distant friends, partners of friends… all kinds of random folks coming to one place and – for example – pointing foam guns at one another.

Gareth, Rory and Adam put the finishing touches on their (second) wooden railway layout.
Gareth, Rory and Adam put the finishing touches on their (second) wooden railway layout. I’m pretty sure we ‘lost’ them for more than half of the party as they disappeared into the ‘playroom’.

In order to help us identify, classify, and dispose of some of the vast collection of booze that Ruth has recently inherited, JTA invented a drinking game. What can I say about it? Well: it certainly brought us all a lot closer together to suffer through some of the drinks we were served…

Everything seems a little blurry, and Alec isn't grimacing as much as he did with some of the other drinks he's been forced to try.
Everything seems a little blurry, and Alec isn’t grimacing as much as he did with some of the other drinks he’s been forced to try.

As usual for any party at which Ruth caters, everybody was required to consume their own weight in (delicious, delicious) desserts, and we only just finished eating the very last of the party food, almost two weeks later.

Matthew & Katherine’s Wedding

Finally, then, just the weekend after that, was the wedding of two folks I know via the Oxford Quakers: Matthew and Katherine.

Matthew and Katherine cut the cake in the garden of the Quaker Meeting House.
Matthew and Katherine cut the cake in the garden of the Quaker Meeting House.

I turned down the curious “What to expect at a Quaker wedding” leaflet as I entered: after all, I felt like an old-hand now, after helping make Ruth & JTA’s wedding into one of the most spectacular events ever. Well, maybe I shouldn’t have, because every wedding is as different as every bride and groom, and Matthew and Katherine’s was no exception. They’d clearly put so much thought into exactly what it is they wanted to do to celebrate their special day, and – with their help of their friends and family – had pulled everything together into a beautiful and remarkable occasion.

The céilidh. More weddings should have cèilidhean.
The céilidh. More weddings should have cèilidhean.

For me, particular highlights included:

  • One of the most adorable couples ever.
  • Not just a “vegetarian-friendly” meal, but one where vegetarianism was the norm (and guests were required to state if this wasn’t okay for them).
  • Catching up with folks who I don’t see as much of these days as I might like (and meeting new people, too).
  • A céilidh! More weddings should have these (although it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a “first dance” where the bride and groom were given instructions on what steps to do right before the music started).

Liz & Simon

Last weekend, I got to go to the wedding of Liz and Simon. Particular highlights included:

Simon & Liz cut the cake.
  • Liz & Simon getting married! Aww. Congratulations to you both!
  • Catching up with ex-Aberites from far and wide. Drinking, dancing, and talking about religion, philosophy, and sex.
  • The céilidh, which is one of the best wedding ideas ever, not least because everybody gets to dance with the bride.
  • A fantastic venue: the beautiful St. Mary’s Guildhall, in Coventry (a city with, it seems, a half-dozen nice buildings nestled in between a thousand concrete monstrosities and a ring road modeled on Satan’s anus itself).
  • Delicious food! And cake! And (veggie) sausage sandwiches just as we were beginning to run out of energy to continue dancing!
  • Speeches – both moving and funny – from the bride’s father, the groom, and the best man… but all were beaten by Kellie, a 2 year-old guest whose own short but hilarious speech, “I’m pooing!”, which she shouted from the balcony of the dining room.
Simon & Liz heading off to take part in about a gazillion photos.

Further reading:

Remember Go Ape?

Many of you will remember that we went to Go Ape as part of Ruth & JTA’s stag/hen night, last year… and that we dressed as superheroes.

Superheroes gathered with civilians outside Jordans YHA, at Ruth and JTA's Stag/Hen Weekend party.

Well: it looks like we made a big difference to one little girl. Do you remember the kid who was scared to go on the big “tarzan swing” until she was cheered on my a group of us, hanging from the next platform along? Well, it turns out that we were mentioned in that girl’s family’s review of the day.

A review of the day out, by Emily Sarwa. Click on it to see it embiggened.

That’s kind-of sweet.

In other news, we’ll be doing another Go Ape trip on 27th March, to celebrate Paul‘s birthday. More of you ex-Aberites read my blog than has, so – if you’re coming – Paul’s asked me to remind you to fill in the form on his blog post about the event (we need to do this so we can pre-book for the appropriate number of people), and we’ll see you there! (superhero costumes are not mandatory, but you know I’ll be wearing mine…)

The Wedding – Unanswered Questions

The photos from Ruth & JTA’s wedding are coming soon, I swear. In the meantime, here are a few questions that I’m still puzzling over:

What kind of chord do I think I’m playing?
What does my mother think smells so good; and why does Becky disagree?
Why is Fiona kissing me?
Why is Chris saluting in this picture?
On what subject is Bryn pondering? And did his mighty brain come to a conclusion on the subject?
Why is Owen carrying Robin around? And is this truly the happiest day of Robin’s life?
Who choreographed Matt P and I’s dance moves? And why do we look so awesome?
Who’s just hit Matt R in the back of the head with a snowball?
To whom is Liz threatening fisticuffs? And does anybody other than Finbar even use the word ‘fisticuffs’?
What does that look on JTA’s face mean? No, wait… I know this one…
If Robin is interviewing Tom, why is he using an invisible microphone?
What has startled JTA so badly?

Some or none of these questions will be answered in time (and, perhaps, when you see the whole picture). Keep an eye on the wedding blog for updates just as soon as Ruth and JTA find the time to update it! And I’ll look forward to hearing your caption ideas for some of the “sillier” pictures.

Meanwhile, if you’re among the people who took photos at the wedding and who hasn’t yet given me nice, hi-res copies, please get in touch!

The Wedding – Feedback

Ruth & JTA haven’t gotten around to blogging about their wedding since it happened, yet, and I’ve so far failed to make available copies of many of the photographs I’ve been sent (although you can find a link to a few photos on this page) – although, in my defence, I’ve only just gotten the chance myself, this weekend, to see the official photographs. All of this will happen in time, I promise. In the meantime; here’s some of the feedback that I collected from around the web in the aftermath of the wedding:

Alec tells Facebook that he had a great time.
Alec tells Facebook that he suffered afterwards.
Ele tells Facebook that it was “Wedding-tastic.”
Before the wedding, Harriet tells Facebook that she’s enjoying being one of only two Trevor-Allens, before Ruth becomes a third.
Harriet looks back on the weekend, on Facebook, and answers comments asking about her journey home.
Matt P tells Facebook simply “wow. that was amazing!” Andy K, who couldn’t make it to the wedding, replies to ask if Matt was talking about University Challenge!
Sian tweets simply, “Aww, I love weddings me!”
Selina gets back to the land of bacon, Lego and beer, and congratlates the happy couple via Facebook.
Sarah, who couldn’t make it to the wedding, thanks Becky for delivering her wedding cupcakes.
Ruth gets back from her and JTA’s mini-honeymoon and tells Facebook about how many sugared almonds she’s eaten (ultimately, she made herself quite unwell).

You might also be interested in the following things that people have been saying around the interwebs:

I’ll try to keep this list of links up-to-date, so if you’re aware of anything that I’ve missed, let me know and I’ll add it. And needless to say, you’ll hear a little more about this from me when I get the chance.

What’s that you say? You’re wondering about the strange parcel?It turns out it was an Amstrad CPC 464 that my mother found on eBay. More on that later, perhaps.

Action Stations!

It’s the morning of the wedding. Somehow I’ve found myself only the smallest number of tasks to be responsible for between now and the ceremony itself, at 10am, but I’m sure we’ll find some way to make that balloon soon enough! My primary mission in the meantime is to act as a communications hub in the lobby of the hotel at which most of the wedding party are camped. Nice and easy. Might even find time for a second rehearsal of my (rapidly-adjusted, yesterday night) speech.

Sounds like some of the bride & groom’s more-distant guests are on the road, too, from places like Oxford and Cardiff. How do I know this? Because they’re letting me know how bad the traffic is! Don’t yet know if any of this is a result of ice and snowfall: we were told that Telford would be unaffected and Rowton Castle (where the reception is) would be cold but clear, too, but looking out of my window this morning I saw small amounts of snow laying on the grass and pavements even at this low altitude. Drive carefully, folks!

Right: where’s Matt P: I need a crevat tying…

Off to a Wedding!

Ruth, JTA and I are on our way to Telford where, tomorrow, they’ll be married. Ruth is bouncing with excitement. The car’s chock-full of suits and dresses and cases and wedding favours. It’s been a crazy few weeks and a crazy morning, but the ball’s rolling now.

I’m feeling really energised about the whole thing. Bring it on.

(just let me finish writing my speech, first!)

Hectic (so let’s look at Paul, instead of writing a proper blog post)

Between SmartData work, Three Rings work, freelance work, strange new bits of voluntary work, and the rapidly-looming wedding between Ruth & JTA (along with handling all of the crises that come with that, like the two mentioned on the wedding blog and the threat of rail strike action on the weekend of the event, which may affect the travel plans of guests from Aberystwyth), things are a little hectic here on Earth. And I’m sure that I’ve not even got it the worst.

So in order to distract myself from it during this 5-minute moment-to-breathe, I’d like to share with you some photos on the subject of “living with Paul“. As usual, click on a picture for a larger version.

Paul – Single Lemon

Our shopping trips have become in different ways both more and less organised, thanks to Paul (seen here posing under a “single lemon” sign). More organised in that Paul does a sterling job of making sure that our shopping list whiteboard is up-to-date, and less organised in that we’re even less likely to comply with it… not least because it’s cute the way that his little head explodes when we deliberately and maliciously make minor deviations in our shopping plans.

Paul’s current status, according to WALL-E.

Well-known as somebody who outright rejects Twitter, Facebook and the like, Paul’s come up with his own mechanism for sharing his current status with those he cares about: the low-tech alternative – note cards. Held up by a WALL-E figurine at the door to his room, Paul keeps us up-to-date with a series of about half a dozen pre-written messages that cycle in accordance with what he’s up to at any given time. They’re quickly out of date (right now, it says “In. Please wave.” but he’s clearly not here), limited in length, and mundane, just like the vast majority of Twitter posts… but at least he’s not attempting to subject the world to them. I’m still not sure, though, whether this tiny protest against social networking (if that’s what it is) is sheer genius, complete insanity, or perhaps both.

Yorkshire pudding!

Paul is now officially in charge of all Yorkshire pudding production on Earth, after we enjoyed this gargantuan beast.

Right: my break’s over and I need to get back to my mountain of work. If you’ve not had your fill of Paul yet, then I point you in the direction of a video he’s just uploaded to YouTube

Ruth & JTA’s Stag/Hen Party Weekend, Part III

With their wedding just around the corner, Ruth and JTA had a combined stag/hen party weekend, a couple of weeks back. You’ve probably already seen part one and part two – here’s the finale! Click on pictures if you want to see them larger.

Sunday

A Simpler Breakfast

Compared to the big fry-up of the day before, Sunday’s breakfast was a far simpler continental-style affair with croissants and fruit.

Sunday’s breakfast. Help yourself!

Suit Up

For today’s event, many of us had decided to dress as superheroes/costumed heroes/costumed vigilantes (Paul wouldn’t let me use the generic term superheroes to describe those without superpowers, and JTA objected to the notion that his costume – Rorscach from Watchmen – could be considered  a hero, so I’m using these three terms together in order to satisfy everybody).

Superheroes/vigilantes/whatever gathered with civilians outside Jordans YHA.

I was The Flash, which pipped my first choice – Bananaman – to the post after I became concerned that Bananaman’s cape would prohibit me from wearing a climbing harness (in actual fact, it wouldn’t have caused any problem, as Owen – dressed as Batman – demonstrated).

The Flash picks Batman up by the neck.

Needless to say: all being dressed as comic book characters quickly lead to a series of play fights and staged photos.

The Flash, Batman, Robin, and Catwoman beat the crap out of Kick-Ass.

This silliness persisted all the way to our destination.

Batman and Catwoman face off.

Which, in case you hadn’t guessed already, was…

Go Ape!

Ruth and I had been together to a Go Ape! centre before, while celebrating our third anniversary last summer, and she’d decided that it was so much fun that it should absolutely be on the list of activities for the Stag/Hen weekend event. As Siân once wrote: you get to channel your inner Indiana Jones and traverse ricketty bridges between the tree tops, jump from platform to platform, scramble across cargo nets and… fly down the zip lines.

The safety briefing.

Of course, everything is even more fun when you do it wearing a silly costume. Except perhaps putting on a climbing harness: this was particularly fun for Robin – dressed as Robin – when the instructor discovered the padded bulge in his tights while helping him tighten his straps.

The Flash climbs from tree to tree above the forest floor.

Climbing, leaping, swinging, flying. Even the most cautious in our group got into the swing of things as they hopped from tree to tree across the ropes and bridges that stretched around the forest. The tarzan swings – and especially the second one, with it’s “drop off” before the rope catches you – were particularly awesome at the Black Park Go Ape course. Needless to say, we got plenty of attention from confused-looking ramblers on the ground as they saw costumed heroes leaping around above them.

The Boy Wonder on the Bat-Zipline.

There’s also a lot of fun to be had in playing at being superheroes and fighting atop a high platform, punching your opponent and sending them flying (secured to a wire, of course) off the side and away. Yes, we played like little kids, and it was awesome.

Kick-Ass slams into a cargo net at the end of the smaller of the two Tarzan Swings.

After we’d come down from the trees, we ate lunch – leftovers from breakfast, mostly – and greeted passing children with calls of “Did somebody call for a superhero?” The original plan would have seen us go to a nearby sauna/spa to chill out at the end of such a long weekend, but we’d spent so long playing about at Go Ape! that we decided to drop this from the plan, and instead call an end to a fantastic weekend.

Catwoman dodges Batman’s flying kick in the Go Ape! car park.

All in all, a fantastic weekend. Huge thanks to everybody who came and helped to make it a success. See you at the wedding!

Photos

If anybody’s interested, there’s a gallery of many of the photos we took, including the ability to download the high-resolution versions in a convenient ZIP file for your offline use, here.

Ruth & JTA’s Stag/Hen Party Weekend, Part II

With their wedding just around the corner, Ruth and JTA had a combined stag/hen party weekend, a couple of weeks back. I wrote a little about it already – here’s the second of the three parts. As usual, click on pictures to embiggen.

Saturday

A Mighty Fry Up

Matt, Paul and I kick-started everybody’s morning with an enormous fry-up. We’d be needing every calorie for what was to come next.

Paintball

We spent most of the day at a nearby paintball centre. We got quite horribly lost on the way there, and it took a few attempts for our convoy of cars to finally find the place. I’ve never seen a paintball centre so large, before – everywhere I’d been has catered for up to about 80 people at once, maximum, but this place was enormous. Packed in with hundreds – maybe thousands – of other players, we were herded like cattle through our boot camp and equipment handout.

Party people planning paintball play preparations.

My team – Team Black – kicked arse, and not just because there were more of us than our rivals, Team Gold (which was especially true after a handful of Team Gold members were thrown out after one was messing about with his mask). I particularly enjoyed working alongside Ruth’s brothers as a three-man assault team during some of the more team-oriented scenarios.

Paul doesn’t approve.

It wasn’t for everyone, though. Perhaps because of the atmosphere, or the stretched-to-breaking-point old equipment, or the half-arsed attitudes of the staff, it was only to be as much fun as you made it. And, of course – as with any war – there were injuries.

That’s gonna sting in the morning.

The moral: in future, stick to the small, friendly paintball centres and not the behemoths.

Leaving the paintball centre.

Troma Night On Location

We raced back to Jordans to fight for the limited supplies of hot water for showering, and then got started at setting up for a wedding-themed Troma Night On Location. Ruth & JTA had chosen four films – an old one, a new one, a borrowed one, and a blue one – to use as our theme, but after a day of running around and being shot at, not one of us was particularly optimistic that we’d be able to sit through all of them!

Troma Night On Location kicks off.

Our first film was the topical How To Murder Your Wife, an underrated and fabulously funny adventure in lost bachelorhood. We ordered pizza from the nearest Dominos’ (still a couple of towns away), and had a large stack of pizzas dropped off with us only about 40  minutes; not bad considering the distance and how well-hidden the hostel is.

The film is paused for a surprise interim activity.

And then we stopped showing films for a little while…

Nurse Kitty

You see: as a Best Man, I have certain responsibilities, and there are certain traditions that ought to be upheld. One of these traditions is that it’s not really a stag night unless there’s a stripper. So I hired a stripper.

Given our mixed-gender/sexuality/outlook group, I made sure to warn everybody that this was going to happen… well, everybody except JTA, anyway, who seemed quite genuinely surprised when I announced that there was a special guest here to see him, and opened the door to “nurse Kitty”.

Nurse Kitty checks JTA’s temperature and remarks on how hot he is.

“Did somebody call for a nurse?” she said, “Is… JTA here?” JTA’s hand went up, slightly sheepishly, as Kitty slid around in front of him and checked his temperature (I’m sure that when NHS professionals do this it involves less breast-on-face action) and pulse (I’m not sure that conventional medical practice requires that this is done with a thigh, but who am I to argue with a nurse who’s suddenly wearing a lot less than when she came in.

Peeping at the contents of her nurse’s bag as she put away the thermometer, I caught a glimpse of what was yet to come: baby oil… whipped cream… and – Lucky Stars? That’s a new one on me. But all became clear by the time the CD player had started the second song and the slender young lady in front of us was wearing tine cones of whipped atop her nipples, each topped with a small milk chocolate star. “I didn’t think I liked Lucky Stars,” JTA said, later, “But those were pretty good.”

Ruth had been worried that this diversion from the night would be incredibly socially awkward, but it wasn’t. Thanks to a little injection of humour and a little bit of warning (at least for everybody except JTA), everything was fun and friendly (as well as pretty hot). And Kitty hung around with us afterwards for a while to drink and chat, and turns out to be a really interesting person with a fascinating “day job” (I won’t mention what it was here because the last thing we want is to “out” her as a stripper to her mother, who doesn’t know about her other job).

(there’s a video somewhere which I’ll share with you if the person responsible for it ever gets me a copy)

There’s actually a whole blog post worth of writing about hiring a stripper to come to an inaccessible village in the middle of nowhere, how to handle cancellations, and more – but I’ll save that for another time, if anybody’s interested.

Back to Troma Night

And so we got back to Troma Night and our second film – one of my favourites – The Mating Habits Of The Earthbound Human. I really love this film, and it was great to be with folks who’d never seen it before; to see their happy little faces at the conception analogy used in the film, for example – a wonderful little joke in a brilliant movie.

Hanging out at the end of the evening.

And then, we gradually drifted off to bed, one by one. Nobody had the energy for even a third film, never mind a fourth, and we’d need a surprising amount of energy for tomorrow’s activity… [to be continued]

Ruth & JTA’s Stag/Hen Party Weekend, Part I

With their wedding just around the corner, Ruth and JTA had a combined stag/hen party weekend, a couple of weeks back (yes, I know it’s taken me a while to blog about it. Here’s some of the highlights. As usual, click pictures for bigger versions.

Friday

Jordans

Most of the party was to take place at the youth hostel in a Buckinghamshire village called Jordans. With a little sweet-talking to the lady who runs the hostel – which we’d rented outright for the weekend – we were able to check-in a little early, to at least be able to leave our bags and cars there.

Jordans Youth Hostel

Matt, who was to join us for the next part of the adventure, was running late, so we explored the nearby Quaker meeting house – one of the oldest, right on our doorstep, and the burial place of William Penn – while we waited for him to show up.

Ruth, JTA, and Paul, standing around wondering where Matt could have gotten himself to.

Eventually we had to set off to London without him, on the train. We hid his train ticket inside the least-likely-looking leaflet we could find at the train station, texted him instructions to find it, and got underway.

In which leaflet do you think we’ve hidden Matt’s train ticket?

Paul split from us shortly after Marylebone Station to pursue a quest of his own: to find a stack of foreign candy and purchase it. Meanwhile, we went on to…

Volupté

The festivities started with lunch in Volupté for Ruth and JTA, accompanied by maid-of-honour Matt (when he caught up with us) and I. You might recall that Ruth, JTA and I had been before for their “afternoon tease” a few months ago, and loved it. Volupté is a fantastic little burlesque club buried in the middle of London, and we enjoyed their ostentatious and eccentric cocktails as we ate our dinner, listened to some live music, and watched JTA help a young lady undress by tugging on the end of one of the series of wrap-around dresses she wore.

JTA and Ruth at what we’ve now decided is our ‘usual table’ in the cocktail lounge, waiting for Matt to arrive.

Given our dormitory-style accommodation, he probably thought that this would be the only time he’d be helping a young lady to undress all weekend, but this assumption would turn out to be false later in the weekend…

Ruth & Dan’s Stag/Hen Party Game Which They Couldn’t Agree On A Name For

Back at Jordans, our other guests were beginning to arrive. Ruth’s brothers, Owen and Robin, were among the first, followed by Alec and Suz, Siân, Adrian and Abby. That’s when we got the phone call from Liz.. giggling as she went (perhaps from the painkillers?) she wanted to apologise that she and Simon wouldn’t be able to make it, because she’d suffered a rather unpleasant injury. And so began the first of our evening’s entertainments: coming up with awful and tasteless puns about poor Liz’s accident.

The drinking begins. Here’s to you, Liz, for being so unflappable.

As our chefs in the kitchen prepared everybody’s dinner, Ruth and I began to explain the rules of Ruth & Dan’s Stag/Hen Party Game Which They Couldn’t Agree On A Name For.

Paul, Robin, and Ruth prepare dinner.

Two teams were formed. The aim for each team was to help their team-mates traverse a Twister mat by competing in a series of challenges to win a number of “spins” of the Twister spinner. When a team-mate got across the mat, they were awarded a hat; and the first team to be entirely “hatted” is the winner. Easy, right?

Sian stands with one foot on the mat as her team-mates struggle to complete their first challenge.

The challenges were about as varied as Ruth and I could manage to come up with. The first, for example, had blindfolded players trying to solve a jigsaw under the (verbal-only) guidance of the rest of their team. Another required the team to transport water from a stack of jugs to a distant bucket using only a leaky length of guttering. A third had each team playing charades.

Alec and JTA, blindfolded, attempt to solve jigsaws.

Remarkably, few people were hurt. Sure, the water-pistol-fight-while-carrying-lit-candles game was pretty safe, but the “human jousting”, which saw piggybacking riders attempt to dismount their competitors by beating them with foam swords, stopped barely short of bruising poor Suz as she was repeatedly whipped by Matt.

Human Jousting.

Quite-remarkably, Alec lost to Paul in a doughnut-eating competition. Meanwhile, the most spectacular bobbing-for-apples competition ever seen – between JTA and Owen – ended with a spectacularly close and exciting finish… and water pretty much everywhere.

Alec having lost a doughnut-eating competition; still wearing the blindfold, tiara, and earrings from two previous challenges.

Drunk, tired, and – in some cases – wet and covered in doughnut crumbs, we went to bed. Tomorrow was to be a long day… [to be continued]

On This Day In 2003

Looking Back

On this day in 2003 I wrote a short blog post about a very important event in the lives of two of my friends. This was the end of the week during which Fiona came down to visit us in Aberystwyth: the week where she first met Kit in person. And the week where they became a couple.

In my blog post at the time that it had been a long time since I’d seen Kit so happy. Normally a reasonably controlled and sedate young man, his mood this week could be better described as “bouncing off the walls”. He’d had a hard few months of unemployment, and the contrast in his mood was spectacular. I also noted at the time that I’d never seen Kit so loved-up: the closest I’ve ever seen him to that sickening lovey-dovey phase that many new couples go through was at about that time.

Kit wrote about the event, too, in his usual charming style; almost downplaying the significance of this awesome event by starting the post with a deadpan explanation, “Well its been an interesting few days. Somewhat busy too – which explains at least partially the lack of posts.”

Looking Forward

Kit & Fiona married in October 2004, and the same folks who’d been around when they first got together made a spectacular road trip all the way to the North of Scotland for the wedding. They still live in Scotland, and we see a lot less of them than we would like. They came down to Aberystwyth early this year, though, and introduced us all to geocaching, for which nobody has yet forgiven them.

This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.

Weddings and Secret Gardens

Ruth, JTA and I – later joined by Matt P – went to Jen & Nick’s wedding over in Belfast this weekend, and it was awesome. They’re an amazing couple and it was great to get to be part of their celebrations, to meet the fabulous folks they’re related to, and to drink ourselves under the table. Ruth has already written a little about it, so I’ll just point you in the direction of her blog.

Jen & Nick's Wonderful Wedding Cake - each of the four layers is a different cake, including a layer that's gluten-free and a layer that's suitable for vegans. The sunflower theme was carried through the entire wedding.

In other news, I’ve been exploring OS maps and it turns out that the garden here on Earth is actually about 20-24 feet longer than we’d previously believed! There’s a fence at the “end” of our garden with a concealed mystery gate, behind which is land overgrown and bramble-filled… but a little research indicates that this, too, is our garden, and we’re now preparing to mount an expedition (with machetes!) to explore and conquer this new land. And then turn it into a vegetable plot.

The end of our garden, inset with some of the annoted maps I've been using to find the boundries of the property.

Right: time for lunch and to register with a local GP.

Alice Cooper, Richard & Kathryn’s Wedding, Etc.

A very brief summary of some of the things I got up to last weekend with Ruth:

Nottingham

  • Alice Cooper concert in Nottingham.
  • Absolutely spectacular: it’s amazing that this over-60-year-old man can spend a couple of hours singing and dancing and leaping around and being executed – I was tired just watching him.
  • Great to hear a setlist with a good mix of his older material as well as stuff from his latest album. Vengeance Is Mine was particularly brilliant to see performed live.
  • Support band Man-Raze were pretty good, too.

Grange-over-sands

  • Wedding of my old college friend Richard to his wife Kathryn.
  • He works as a tax inspector these days, and we found ourselves sat at a table of his tax inspector buddies and their (bored-looking, during a brief period in which they were “talking shop”) partners.
  • Think we managed to upset the bride quite a lot (although, to be fair, we were only the messengers): after picking up a slice of wedding cake and returning to the table we presently shared with the bride and groom, Ruth turned to the bride and said “We must have missed you cutting the cake?” She replied, “We… we didn’t cut the cake, yet!” Whoops. Turns out that the hotel staff got the wrong end of the stick somewhere and sliced the cake for them!

Ruth with a large cone of ice cream, at about midnight.

Preston

  • Was nice to see my family. Sarah and Ruth seem to be getting along a lot better than they used to, as well.
  • Preston has a late-night ice cream parlour! How cool is that? (I know perfectly well that it sounds like slang for a drug dealer, as in, “I’m going to the late-night ice cream parlour: want some tutti frutti?”, or perhaps a brothel)