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Married in a Barn

I've just spent a couple of days in England, attending the nuptials of ajntornj and the delightful Lizzy Lee Stuart-Bennett. The wedding actually took place in a converted barn near Henley, although it was a lot nicer than that makes it sound. It was a long, half-timbered hall with dark wood flooring, hung with dried hops in tribute to the fact that it is now part of a winery and brewery. Everything happened in there: the wedding ceremony itself, the dinner and the dancing late into the night - the latter two of course fuelled by the fruits of the surrounding vineyards and hop-fields.

I flew to B'ham first, and then took the train southwards at an unpleasantly early hour of the Friday morning to hook up with the Oxford lot and progress onwards in taxis into the rural wilds of Henley. After a little confusion and consulting of maps, we arrived in plenty of time to enjoy some milling around and admiring of Chris' Dad's shiny black two-seater Morgan before we were ushered in for the ceremony.

I wasn't quite convinced Chris and Lizzy had got all that they deserved out of the venue for the ceremony itself. Apart from the fact that the lady conducting it spent the first five minutes eulogising the barn (rather than, say, Chris and Lizzy), some of the venue staff could also be heard talking loudly to each other through a door off to the side during the "I, X, take thee, Y" part of the proceedings. The bits which they had masterminded themselves were excellent, however. They had written their own vows, which rhymed (no less!), and also scheduled in several readings by Chris' younger brothers (Josh and Leo) and Liz's friends. I know they had the section from Plato's Symposium where Aristophanes talks about how the original human beings were cut in two by Zeus so that everyone is now seeking for their severed 'other half', as well as 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' by W.B. Yeats and 'Love's Philosophy' by Percy Bysshe Shelley, but I think there was at least one other that I've forgotten now. And then there was Kissing the Bride, Signing the Register, dazzling grins from the pair of them, and walking out to 'Escape' from the Plunkett and Maclean soundtrack.

Outside, the weather was behaving well enough for sipping Pimms in the sunshine in between getting called up for various photographs and taking our own (mine to follow once developed). A late lunch followed, back in the barn, for which the tables had been scattered with sequin hearts and stars, and provided with Goth Party Poppers, blowing bubbles and rocket balloons which tore round the room making a screeching sound at regular intervals throughout the meal. When everyone had had their fill of a selection of delicious meats, vegetables and salads made from fine, fresh ingredients, the speeches began. There were quite a few of these to get through, since Chris, being chronically indecisive, had chosen no less than three best men (Bob Duerr, Dan Thomas and Mike Newson), while there were also contributions from Lizzy's 'page boys': in fact, a pair of army lads in uniform called Rich and Alan. All was kept to a strict, and tight, schedule, though. Thanks were given in rapid succession, gifts distributed and glasses lifted. I was only sorry the best men's speeches were so Family Friendly, given the rich potential of their subject. ;)

Back in the courtyard again, we drank and chatted some more as afternoon passed into evening. Pictures of Chris and Lizzy as children were admired (including the obligatory embarrassing naked ones), a wedding book was filled with tributes in pearlescent coloured pens, a huge chocolate fountain complete with pineapple, melon, profiteroles, marshmallows and strawberries was indulged in, and finally it was time for the dancing to begin. Very appropriately, the DJs occupied a minstrels' gallery at one end of the barn, and Chris began his married life dancing to 'The One and Only' by Chesney Hawkes. Ah well. The music which followed ranged from 'The Bad Touch' (aka 'You and Me Baby We Ain't Nothing But Mammals') by the Bloodhound Gang to 'Poison' by Alice Cooper, with occasional forays into The Cure ('Lovecats') and The Wonderstuff ('Dizzy' with Vic Reeves: "Sixth-form-tastic!", declared M, running for the dancefloor). Europe's 'The Final Countdown' was never actually played, but we could hear it hovering in the air at several points during the evening. Me? I danced like crazy, loving every minute of it.

The best thing about the day for me was catching up with old friends: Chris and Lizzy themselves, of course, plus edling, angeoverhere + James M, mr_flay, Bob + Tree (who deserves special credit for organising the taxis), Liz + Denzil, Emerson and more. I even found myself rocking it up on the dancefloor with people I haven't danced with since I left Bristol. To me, there's nothing quite like giving your mutual all with a friend to a really good song, singing the lyrics at each other and sharing grins at the sheer enjoyment of it all, so that was really special. And given my current state of rosy-tinted nostalgia about Belfast, it was a good thing too to be reminded of what fine people await me when I move back to England again. It's just a pity I have to leave the Belfast lot so far behind in the process - damn that Irish Sea!

Eventually, we all piled into taxis again and made the return trip to Oxford. Late-night sake-drinking went on in edling's lounge, but I'm afraid I was utterly wiped out by that point, so retired to bed and passed swiftly into oblivion. In the morning, we hugged mugs of tea and coffee to our chests in the garden, before edling, M, angeoverhere and I ventured out for a greasy breakfast at the St. Giles' cafe. A mini-tour of Oxford followed (cunningly designed to force them to come back down and visit us for the full version), and finally it was time to get the train back up Birmingham way.

So that was my final visit home from Norn Iron, and next time I go back there, I'll be an Oxonian again. Only not quite the same, because this time round I'll be an Oxonian with a reason to visit Belfast. Here's to a new era of trips in the opposite direction.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 14th, 2005 09:30 pm (UTC)
Does it say anything about me that I clicked on the link to the Chocolate Fountain then immediately added it to my favourites list???
Aug. 14th, 2005 09:52 pm (UTC)
Hee-hee - just wait till you see my photos of it! Real hard-core chocolate porn. :)
Aug. 14th, 2005 11:02 pm (UTC)
OOOOOooooooo, chocolate porn! I can hardly wait!!! My mouth is watering in anticipation! ;)
Aug. 15th, 2005 09:15 am (UTC)
the minute I do something he's always Had to do it too


Aug. 15th, 2005 09:18 am (UTC)
Ah, but his bride didn't have a pink limo, though. I think your status is intact.
Aug. 15th, 2005 09:23 am (UTC)
I bet he would have got a pink limo if he'd known..............

and to think that john robb is the bit I'm immensley proud of
Aug. 15th, 2005 09:55 am (UTC)
I've now got The One and Only attempting to stick in my head.. Out, damn evil!

Was fab to see you, and M sez to remind you about the moomins diving into the sea..
Aug. 15th, 2005 10:11 am (UTC)
the moomins diving into the sea

Eh? *looks blank*
Aug. 15th, 2005 10:26 am (UTC)
One of Chris brothers' stumbling over (I think) the Shelley reading..
Aug. 15th, 2005 10:33 am (UTC)
Ah! Yes, it was one of Chris' brothers (although I couldn't say which), and it was the Shelley.
Aug. 17th, 2005 02:28 pm (UTC)
The final poem reading was Pooh And Me, by AA Milne. Which I actually found to be the most moving of the lot, in a silly sort of way. Though the extract from Plato's Symposium was also delightful.

The Darkness was also played. Twice. And thanks to you, I now have bloody Chesney bloody Hawkes stuck in my head.

It was lovely to see you again at last, hope it won't take eighteen months again next time!
Aug. 17th, 2005 02:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes - of course it was. I remember it clearly now. Thanks!

I've just picked up the film which ran out as they were doing the signing the register thing, so I have two photos back now - one of Chris and best men by the Morgan, and one of the signing. Others will take a while, though, as they're on a different film which I haven't finished yet. Once they're all developed, I'll scan the best ones and stick them up on LJ.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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