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.
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.
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.
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 They’re quickly out of date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.
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…
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.
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.
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).
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).
Needless to say: all being dressed as comic book characters quickly lead to a series of play fights and staged photos.
This silliness persisted all the way to our destination.
Which, in case you hadn’t guessed already, was…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All in all, a fantastic weekend. Huge thanks to everybody who came and helped to make it a success. See you at the wedding!
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
The moral: in future, stick to the small, friendly paintball centres and not the behemoths.
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!
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.
And then we stopped showing films for a little while…
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”.
“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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
Right: time for lunch and to register with a local GP.
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!
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)
Alec and Suz‘s wedding was
this weekend, and I went along to the wedding reception on Saturday evening, along with Claire, Jimmy, Liz and Simon. We turned up stylishly early, and took advantage of the bar while we waited for anybody else we knew to
appear (okay, so there was the bride and groom, of course, although they were generally pretty busy socialising with all their other guests, and a handful of others like Andy and Siân).
All said, the night was amazing. The venue the happy couple had chosen was County Hall, the Marriott hotel across the river from Westminster Abbey and a stone’s throw
upstream of the London Eye, which is an amazingly beautiful hotel in a great location. The balance of traditional and modern wedding reception themes was strikingly cool. Oh, and Alec
and Suz both looked fabulous, if a little exhausted.
It was great to catch up with so many folks I haven’t seen even remotely enough of late, like Bryn, Matt R, Matt P, Liz, Andy, Siân, and
Sundeep, as well as hanging out with folks I still see regularly, like Ruth and JTA. It was also fab to re-meet folks I’d only ever met in passing before (in Aber, like Caroline, or in the bigger wider world, like
And so we drank and danced the night away to a (generally) great selection of music. Liz has an impossible supply of energy and kept dragging Aber-folk up to the dance floor, and
getting down to the bangin’ choons with the old gang filled me with a sense of nostalgia. I’m pretty sure I even saw Jimmy dancing when there wasn’t a girl dancing with him,
which is a first, although he’ll certainly deny that ever happened.
Also of note was the hotel’s response to Matt P’s arrival. Matt P turned up late in combat pants and a t-shirt, and carrying a backpack, and strolled in to the five-star hotel, and I’m
pretty sure that – as I helped him change into the suit he was carrying, in the gents toilets – at least one member of staff came in to check what somebody dressed like that
was doing in their hotel. Fun and games.
There was other stuff. Having travelled as far as London it made sense to do a couple of touristy things, too, as well as to meet up with a London-based potential new volunteer
developer for a software project I’m working on, but the wedding reception will remain the highlight of the weekend, and perhaps the social highlight of the year. It’s occurred to us
that with QParty last year, Alec & Suz’s wedding this year, and Ruth & JTA’s planned wedding in
2010, that we’re lacking an excuse to get the usual suspects together for any reason in 2009. As it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll see a wedding or similar event on behalf of, for
example, Andy & Siân, we may have to find some other reason to have a get-together in the coming year. Claire’s looking into the possibility of a group holiday (like the Pembrokeshire fort trip early this year), which is an option, and Matt R proposes Cardiff Is Amazing 2009, a party which (so far) has no more premise than can be inferred from it’s name. Nonetheless, Alec & Suz’s wedding has reminded me
how much I miss many of the people I used to spend time with on a weekly basis, and I’m keen to see one or both of these plans come to fruition.
Oh, and – congratulations, Alec and Suz! Have a great honeymoon, and enjoy the rest of your married life together!
Bryn, Paul, Claire and
I went to Kit and Fiona‘s wedding this weekend. Despite the hideously
long drive (almost 11 hours, with driver/navigator pairs driving and sleeping in shifts in order to maintain progress) throughout Friday night – and the equally long journey back on
Sunday, it was a most fantastic and memorable experience.
The event took place in Aberlour and
Knockando, which is pretty much as far North as you can get in the United Kingdom and still recognise people as being human. It’s actually only about 50 miles from Inverness, where
I was born, set in a beautiful string of valleys North of the Grampian mountains.
The service was great – despite a few early setbacks (such as the bride arriving and wondering where the groom was… he hadn’t run away, it turns out, but was with the best man and the
reverend, sorting out some of the mandatory paperwork…) – the Knockando church is built in the style of the 700-year old one that stood there until six years ago, when it burnt to the
ground. Fiona looked fantastic, everybody sang along to silly Christian verse, Steve didn’t lose the rings, and nobody fluffed their wedding vows. That said, when the vicar who was
officiating the ceremony asked Fiona to repeat, “And I promise this in the name of God, the father, the son, and the holy ghost,” she looked shocked for a moment – having just forgotten
the first bit – and said, “Umm… help?” to request that he prompted her again. Which was sweet, in it’s own special way.
The reception was held at a lovely hotel in Aberlour – The Dowans Hotel – which, to the joy of Bryn and I – hosted an impressive 80 different
varieties of whiskey, including treats like Oban, McAllans, and the very palatable locally-distilled Aberlour. The area is deep in whiskey country and Bryn and I had tried earlier in
the day to visit one of the distilleries, without success (seemed to be closed for the winter, despite signs to the contrary, so we instead went and bought four kilos of shortbread,
which will keep Paul happy for some time). Kit’s speech – which, as is traditional, spoke of how he and Fiona met – was particularly touching, describing the fascinating story of how
they came together, and gave thanks to the project I did for my dissertation, which was in fact what Kit was giving a presentation on (in my absence) when they first met! Steve – the
best man – also delivered a good speech: fighting against a moderately-obvious fear of talking to an entire room at once in order to take apart some of Kit’s more obvious flaws, such as
his ability to get lose even given a map (he later gave them very carefully-delivered and well-described directions to their honeymoon venue, perhaps just to rub it in).
We ate a great meal, and then took part in several traditional highland dances – embarrassingly, all alien to me, but we soon discovered that the best approach was simply to ask a local
to join you in a dance, and you’d soon understand what was going on… or fall over trying. Bryn, in particular, seemed to enjoy dancing with several pretty Scottish lasses, and was
actually really quite good (lesson of the day: despite his protests, Bryn is actually a good dancer!). Between the alcohol, the company, and the dancing, Bryn seemed to have a
fantastic time – I’ve not seen him quite so happy in many months! Restricted by tight-fitting trousers (I really should have gotten myself a kilt in the Huntley tartan before the
wedding) I did a little less well, but still really enjoyed drinking myself silly then whirling around with random party guests.
Kit and Fiona left for their honeymoon in the northern isles (the mad fools!) in style, sent off by a cheer from the hotel courtyard and with tin cans trailing behind their car, and – a
few drinks later – we made our excuses to leave, too: we had, it must be remembered, not slept properly since the previous morning, as we’d spent all of the last night travelling up
there! Breaking with Scottish wedding tradition, nobody got involved in a fight (although Paul and Steve almost did at one point, and I’m pretty sure that if I’d have worn the Huntley
tartan, some long-forgotten inter-clan battle would have begun again after centuries of peace). We retired to our (also lovely) bed and breakfast down in the town, taking turns to carry
Claire (who’s feet, squeezed into quite impractical shoes, were hurting pretty badly).
All in all, a fantastic event. I’m really glad that I made it up there to see Kit and Fiona get married, and the party thereafter was wonderful too. Well worth the drive.