Countdown to a wedding...part 2

Well here we are, back home in Chabanol on a beautiful sunny day having had the most wonderful wedding weekend in the UK. I promised you all an update when we got back so for the first time in the nine years that I have been writing his blog, here is the second part of May`s news.

The journey to the UK went well. Our house sitters, Margaret & John arrived on the Tuesday afternoon & we got immediate vibes that this was all going to go well! They settled in & were very calm about the whole deal & we just knew the house & animals were going to be in good hands whilst we were away. We set off early on Wednesday morning & drove to Limoges, playing our usual game of “count the minutes between cars” on the busy (not) motorway! The flight was on time & the plane was packed, but there were no problems & we arrived in a cold & wet Liverpool, had a bite of lunch & collected the hire car. We then went to visit Geoff`s mum for a short while – she really can`t cope with long visits these days, but I had time to sort out an outfit for her for Saturday. She is getting so frail now but we hoped that she would make it to the church at least to see her grand daughter married. Then we drove to Manchester, thoroughly enjoying delights of the traffic jams everywhere. How quickly we have forgotten those! We stayed overnight with Matthew & Susie & of course really loved seeing & playing with Ethan. He is growing up so much & is walking really well now. Needless to say he is also getting into all sorts of mischief as he explores...wonderful to see at first hand. Our brief visit was over all too quickly & we found ourselves back on the motorway heading north the next morning.

We arrived at Carlisle about lunchtime, met Hazel for a rapid bite to eat, & then (not as expected) set off on a trail around the charity shops to buy big mirrors! Now believe me...Carlisle has lots of charity shops so this took quite a while but we were successful & Geoff lugged 2 massive mirrors back to the car - along with lots of other last minute purchases, all of which were giving me a sense of foreboding at how much there was still to be done! Geoff then did the sensible thing & went off to check in at the hotel whilst I was taken back to the chaos of Hazel`s flat “to do crafty things”! To say there was not a spare inch in the flat living room would be an understatement & we added to that chaos, 3 large mirrors, pots of paint, bags of fudge etc etc! A “fun” afternoon & evening followed painting the said mirrors with black chalk paint turning them into sign boards, white glossing the frames, finishing off the cake decoration (oh yes the 3 cakes were in amongst all this too!), & starting to fill jars with fudge ready to make the table favours. Eventually, after several hours graft, we all met up again & we joined Phil`s mum & family for a meal before we escaped to the relative peace of our hotel room!

Another early start next morning- believe me there was still so much to do! Hazel & I went off to have our nails done while the boys went to Hazel & Phil`s new house to try & get it ready for Phil`s sister & family to stay there over the weekend. This, I found out later, involved moving beds, a mega clear up of tools & painting stuff, & building a bed for them to sleep in! Then it was back to the flat chaos to try & get everything finished. I spent most of the afternoon making up the fudge jars (ran out of fudge & ribbon twice leading to emergency trips back into town for more), writing out & attaching the labels, helping Phil with his speech, wrapping string around bottles to make the table number stands & generally having a mini panic as I couldn`t see how we were ever going to be ready! I drew the line at more painting & string wrapping as I had just had my nails done! At 5.30 we all went off to the church for a wedding rehearsal so we were able to have an hour of relative peace working through all the steps for the ceremony. Geoff & I then escaped to check in at the beautiful hotel (Willowbeck Lodge) which Hazel had chosen for us all to stay the nights before & after the wedding. It was a haven of peace & tranquility amongst all the chaos & I just wanted to curl up on the bed in our beautiful room...but no...back to the chaos it was! We collected our good French friends, Marc & Michelle (Hazel`s exchange “parents” from 22 years ago who are now family friends & who were thrilled to be invited to their first English wedding) & headed to the house for a “welcome” BBQ. It was really not exactly BBQ weather...cold & damp...but it was nice to meet up with Phil`s family & some friends from both sides before the big event. Needless to say our French guests were well wrapped up & did not take their coats or scarves off all evening...even inside the house! By now everyone was getting a bit tired (me especially) so we left & went back to the hotel. Hazel & Rachel (bridesmaid) went back to the flat to finish off the rest of the “to do” stuff, eventually bringing some of it to the hotel to finish in bed with a glass of wine - or two - I understand! Are you all getting the true picture of my “last minute” daughter now??

The wedding morning (bright & sunny as ordered) started early (no surprise there then) with Hazel & Rachel going off to get their make up & hair done, dropping me off at the Tithe Barn en route so that I could help to set it up. Lucky me eh? My own fault I suppose as I had turned down the offer of a hair do but then didn`t realise I would be putting up tables & chairs instead! Where was Geoff I hear you asking? Back at the hotel with coffee, newspapers & feet up putting the finishing touches to his speech, of course! The setting up all went smoothly with our wedding planner, Annabel, in full flow & earning every penny of her money today - she was wonderful. Everyone was very efficient & I was able to see the empty room being transformed into the most beautiful setting for a wedding reception imaginable. The caterers, chair coverers, ceilidh band, DJ, all arrived on time & worked so hard. My lovely cousin Ken & Joy, his wife, worked hard too sorting out all the beautiful flowers & to set up the tables with floral decorations, favours etc which had miraculously arrived from the flat chaos. By the time the girls arrived to collect me, the place (which was not quite finished) looked spectacular. We went back to the hotel, grabbed a quick bite to eat & then got ready. By the time Rachel & I had gotten Hazel into her dress, the wedding car & photographer were there & after a couple of photos, Rachel & I were off to the church, leaving father & daughter to have more photos taken & be calm before they too set off.

The wedding went so well. The ceremony was lovely, the bride looked beautiful - & miraculously arrived early (yes this was Hazel folks!), the groom looked very handsome & smiled all day long, the sun shone, the flowers looked wonderful & everyone was so relaxed & happy. It was just what we all had wanted. Geoff`s mum made it to the ceremony – though not in the outfit we had agreed on, as an accident with a cup of coffee had put paid to that! However she was there to see Hazel & Phil get married, which was the most important thing, & we were able to get a few photographs with her before she went off back home. The reception was great too. Geoff & Phil`s speeches went down well, the food was wonderful & once again I think everyone enjoyed themselves – which you can see from all the photos which are appearing on FB at the moment. The evening do was also great...a fantastic ceilidh- which included a 20 minute long Strip the Willow (great fun but oh, my aching legs & feet!), great atmosphere & so relaxed. We were able to speak with most of the guests & everyone told us that they had had a great day, so we couldn`t have asked for more. We crawled back (literally) to the hotel not long after midnight, happy but totally exhausted!

It was not the end though! Next morning we met up with, everyone who had stayed overnight, so there was another chance to sit & chat with friends & family who we don`t see very often. It was also my birthday & having all my family there with me was an added bonus. We eventually said goodbye to everyone...including the new Mr & Mrs Royle who were off to pack & try & sort out some hotels for their honeymoon in Italy(yes you did read that correctly...the flights were booked but nothing else & they were flying out on Monday morning!) They got there only to find it was a holiday weekend so had to head out of Venice in order to find somewhere to stay! The “last minute” girl strikes again! Geoff & I left just after lunchtime & had a lovely leisurely drive through the Lakes & along the coast until we found a hotel to stay in near Liverpool with a view of the sea - another birthday treat for me. The flight & drive home the next day all went well & we got back to a spotless house, happy dog, cat & hens & a lovely meal courtesy of our house sitters.

So now its back to reality. A mountain of ironing awaits, B&B guests this week, & Geoff has lessons & document revision work to do. We have to earn some money to pay for all those wedding bills! I`m sorry to have rambled on so much with this but I wanted to have a record of events for me too so I hope you have not been too bored with it all. I promise it will be blog post “as normal” next month!