The wedding that tried very hard to wash away

You can plan and plan and plan a wedding. You can tick every box, tie every bow, micro manage to the last flourish of ink on the 86th label of table favours… You can spend months of your life working on DIY table plans, table names (and did I mention those labels?) agonising over the seating plan and table positioning and which confetti won’t cause a bird to explode and in which order the flower girls should walk down the aisle and at what point in the music… And still, something might happen that throws the whole thing into unprecedented chaos and renders at least half your plans for the day completely superfluous…

Now, this may seem a rather melodramatic description for a little bit of rain.

At this point it really was just a little bit of rain...

And at this point it really was just a little bit of rain…

But things quickly escalated to the point where, following the short minutes it takes to make a man and wife, it became crashingly apparent we were no longer talking about a little bit of rain. We were talking torrential, apocalyptic, hammering rain. The sort of rain which gushes down narrow, picturesquely steep stone steps leading to churches and turns the little Devon lanes between Dartmouth and Bigbury into treacherous rivers of stone and mud which eventually have to be closed off by the police. The kind of rain which comes accompanied by 50mph sucker-punches of wind (no match, as it turns out, for my super-strength false eyelashes) and a thick fog which settled itself obstinately over the beautiful sea and island view at our reception venue and refused to get up until the cake was cut.

Twenty precarious miles later our driver was to confirm that they were the worst conditions he had ever driven in...

Twenty precarious miles later our driver was to confirm that they were the worst conditions he had ever driven in…

You may think there’s not much one can do when faced with that sort of weather at a predominantly outdoorsy wedding. Guests were turned away from the dangerously flooded roads and a few never made it to the reception. Our ushers waded through actual quagmires to shepherd guests from cars to the marquees. The caterers arrived to find their oven sitting in six inches of rainwater. Umbrellas were destroyed, the bridesmaids’ beautifully styled hair took a hefty battering… The romantic tractor ride down to the beach for photos never happened and the hay bales we’d hired never left their stacks… So yes, at the time you might think there’s not much you can do… but there is. You can smile, shrug, have a glass of champagne and get the hell on with having a bloody good time. Because even though it’s really raining and no one can see the view and the groom’s elderly grandmother is stranded somewhere on the flooded Devon lanes* and every trip to the luxury toilet trailers takes three umbrellas, four extra hands and a pair of wellies, it’s still your wedding day. The best goddamn day of your life. And you know what? It bloody was.

It rained. Oh, how it rained... but we loved every minute.

It rained. Oh, how it rained… but we loved every minute.

Despite the weather – and I say that still without quite feeling I’m giving enough emphasis to the word Weathereveryone arrived at the marquee with a smile on their faces. The storm, the bloody irony of six weeks of gorgeous, sunny skies followed by the End of Days, gave everyone something to talk about, something to smile about. As a consequence, the marquee was full of laughter – soggy, commiserating, hysterically-relieved-to-finally-be-under-cover laughter – from start to finish. Luckily we’d splashed (lol) for a larger marquee than we needed, which meant no one felt crammed in, the decorations and fairy lights looked wonderful and everyone being stuck in one place for eight hours meant they had no choice but to bloody well study and appreciate every single sodding grain of DIY wedding prep I’d planned and crafted over the last 18 months… The band were phenomenal, the dance floor was never empty, the food was excellent, the speeches perfect… and after a while the rain stopped and the fog lifted over the dramatic, tumbling waves.

fog-lifted

The fog finally lifted…

It may have been a bit late for sitting out in the sun with a bottle of bubbly, but it certainly provided a beautiful backdrop for the smokers and the toilet-trekkers. And there’s nothing quite like standing on top of a cliff next to your new husband, watching the ocean crash moodily far below you as the wind streams your veil in creamy waves towards a marquee full of all the people you both love the most in the world.

...but in the end, it didn't really matter

…but in the end, it didn’t really matter either way

And, you know, if it hadn’t been raining we would never have been graced with this gem of a photo.

If you haven't been to the toilet in a multi-layered wedding gown, veil, wellies, false eyelashes whilst a torrential storm is threatening to blow the whole trailer off a cliff, you haven't been to the toilet.

If you haven’t been to the toilet in a multi-layered wedding gown, veil, wellies, false eyelashes whilst a torrential storm is threatening to blow the whole trailer off a cliff, you haven’t been to the toilet.


Why is my bathroom so filthy?

So the blog posts have fallen by the wayside of late, and it’s definitely not because I’ve been cleaning my bathroom. Here is what has been keeping me away from WordPress and the Cif…

  1. The Wedding is officially Less Than A Month away. Somehow we’ve gone from the comfortable safety cushion of  Plenty Of Time to the final countdown, complete with increasingly wild-eyed and short-tempered replies to the simplest of questions (“How’s the wedding planning going?” “Are you all organised?” and “What do you want for lunch?”). Every day has begun to herald new and surprising bills and every intake of breath has a tremulous quiver of panic at the bottom of it. There is just so much to remember, so many lists which have gone missing, so many details that rely on my ability to remember them…

    I even fell a tiny bit out of love with my beloved the other week. No, I’m not talking about Gary. Turns out a lovely, multiple-layer wedding dress, 30C heat and my thighs unfairly resorting to two large legs of ham that’ve been left out in the sun until they take on an unhealthy, perspiring stickiness do not mix well. Let’s just say the dress and I parted ways with a distinct air of resentment between us – I weak-kneed with dehydration, she needing to be “aired out” as the seamstress solicitously put it. But it’s not all been a mad stress; I get to strap on my crafty pants and inflict the (poor) fruits of my AS-Level B-grade art skills on my wedding stationery, and I went on the hen do of my dreams last weekend, complete with laser tag, an Ice Bar, penis straws, games and a LOT of mummy dancing…

    10 points for spotting the penis straw

    10 points for spotting the penis straw

  1. The Move. Let’s move next year, we said. We need more space, we said. But don’t worry, we said, we’ll time it really well so it’s after the wedding. Whatever we do and wherever we go, it MOST CERTAINLY WILL BE AFTER THE WEDDING. So, naturally, our completion date is a slim three weeks before. But, you know, last time we did a House Move it was in the weeks before, during and after the birth of our first child so really if it didn’t happen at a time fraught with ground-breaking life-changes, we probably wouldn’t know how to do it. That’s what I tell people, anyway, when they ask me if we really understand the mountain of stress we’ve put upon ourselves. There’s nothing like a bit of humour to cover up the rising impulse to punch a person in the throat.

    It's happening...

    It’s happening…

  1. I’m officially a full-time WAHM (work at home mum). That’s right, I’m working the most I have done since the days of my waddling commutes back in 2013, and I’ve managed to somehow get an editor’s role behind my name. True, it’s by default due to a close colleague’s illness and I’m not making a big deal of it or presuming for one moment that the position will continue once my contract runs out, but ironically enough my career has never flown higher. And, one of the best things about it is that I get to work from home. I knew writing those novels over my maternity leave would be useful for something – it might not have landed the publishing contract I was looking for, but it’s certainly given me a hard dose of the discipline I need to knuckle down and churn out trade news, features and interviews while everyone else frolics in their paddling pools. And sometimes, on a quiet day, I can take a little break and frolic too. Because perks.

    Perks :)

    Perks🙂

  1. I’m still a mummy first and foremost. Yes, I’ve had to rely on help with childcare a lot more recently, but that’s ok. Maybe it’s even a good thing. Lara loves spending time with her grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. She loves going to pre-school two mornings a week during term-time. The days when we can go for a walk and feed the ducks or head to the park are all the more precious. But, schmaltz aside, I do feel guilty for not having her as my sole focus anymore. And I do miss those carefree days when my only responsibility was entertaining my little girl. I know one thing for sure – if and when I have another one I certainly won’t take one moment of my maternity leave for granted.

So there you go – we’re currently living in that limbo between exchange and completion on a house move; those uncomfortable few days where the bathroom is steadily becoming more and more filthy but there’s no point cleaning it until the Big Clean of next week. Wedding prep happens in the scrambled moments when work is quiet and Lara is not paying attention (she loves her some lace and craft paper). Somehow I’m managing to edit the entire editorial contents of a fortnightly trades magazine in between all of the above… And Lara is still alive, thriving (albeit on slightly more screen time than she probably should be) and hasn’t yet climbed out of a window or stuck any of my centre-pieces to her head. But, you know, there’s still time…


The Laments of Lara W, aged two and three quarters…

LamentThe carrots I asked for were too crunchy to eat,

There was a single, dastardly crumb on my seat.

I did not grant permission for my hair to be brushed,

Nor for the contents of my potty to be flushed.

I think it’s you, not me, who’s the loon,

for not wanting to wear a bobble hat in June.

And of course a tutu is suitable attire

For splashing in puddles and swinging on tyres.

 

We’re finally at the park, but my face is still grim

There’s a child on my slide, and you won’t remove him!

That girl has an ice cream, you must get me one now

No I won’t be distrac- oh, look a moo cow!

What do you mean it’s now time to go home?

We just got here, I have every right to moan.

But if your suggestion really won’t be parried,

Well then I must insist I am carried.

I don’t care if your arms hurt, I’m quite happy here,

Rubbing my muddy boots on your rear.

 

We’re home and it’s high time my dinner was made

But I’ll scramble my eggs, and I won’t accept aid.

What? Why would I eat them? No, this sort of spread

Is only acceptable when spread on one’s head.

Oh look, there’s some honey, let’s add that in too,

And some milk and ooh, sugar! Well, what’s wrong with you?

Don’t make such a fuss, it’s just honey, eggs and sugar

See, I’ll pull it out, oh no, oh wait – Aaaaaagh!

Get it off, get it off, get it off, get it off!

Oh God, you’re not moving FAST enough!

What’s this stuff on my plate – green isn’t a food!

No cake till I eat it? Well now that’s just rude.

I don’t remember agreeing to such a decree.

Oh was there ever a life of such misery?

 

I can’t just be rational – I’m not yet even three,

And there’s so much that doesn’t make sense to me.

Some days I don’t think I’ll ever reach the prize

At the end of all the why, why, why, why, whys.

But one day you’ll look back with a nostalgic smile

When you recall my hair in this great, eggy style.

And the memory of my frowns will make you laugh,

but in the meantime I absolutely will not have a bath.

But if you insist on my undressing, you really can’t blame me

For running away… Oh look! A wee wee!

Yes it has been a while since my last random wetting

But sometimes I just can’t help forgetting.

 

It’s bedtime, so you must read me ten books, let’s go

And don’t scrimp on any of the words or I’ll know.

Daddy must read to me too now you’re done,

With all the voices and actions I like, every one.

I need water, I want doggy, I’m hungry, I must poo…

What will it take to bring me downstairs with you?

Ok, fine. I’ll stay here… but I want one last kiss,

And we can all agree, I’m not happy about this.

Because it’s really not easy to be quite so small,

No, I wont say night night… I’m not tired… at… a-….

 

PS – your earrings are in the toilet.

IMG_9296


The Great Wedding Quagmire

wedding quagmire

Totally not panicking at all in the slightest at all.

In a little under five months I will be getting married. Which means that I am currently neck-deep in the quirky, sticky, confusing and oh-so-expensive quagmire of Planning A Wedding. Or, in perhaps more accurate terms, Planning A Stupidly Complicated And Perilously Open To All Kinds Of Disasters Including Losing Elderly Relatives Off A Cliff Marriage Of Persons. That didn’t fit on the invitations, however, so for continuity’s sake we shall hereby refer to the former labelling.

You see, our wedding is no ordinary affair. For starters it is to take place a sturdy 200 miles away from where 80% of our guests live (including the bride and groom). A ‘destination wedding’ if you will (which makes it sounds a lot more idyllic and palm tree-sy than the cowpatty, sand-in-all-crevices reality). Actually, it’s more like a destinationS wedding, due to our genius decision to locate our reception a good 25 miles or so away from the ceremony – and by ‘good’ I actually mean winding, one-lane, boggy, proper-country-lane miles which will take our guests at least 45 minutes or so to navigate. That is if they don’t go the route with the honest-to-God ford slap bang in the middle of it. (Unfortunately we learned this the hard way on our first venue visit… “It’s not too deep, look it’s just a like really big puddle… Hmm, getting a little deeper now. Is that an entirely normal sound coming from the engine? Oh my GOD there’s a BOAT MOORED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PUDDLE, TURN THE F*CK AROUND!” Gary’s Passat still hasn’t forgiven us.) Unfortunately this is also the route insisted upon by all satellite navigation systems. But, you know, so few wedding receptions these days lack that air of tense, wrangled, last-nerve-twitching air of harassment among their arriving guests…

My point being, this is not the easiest wedding to plan. But I still think we’re doing ok… I mean, when I sit and plan and make lists and talk myself out of having an attack of the vapours over the mother-fudging cost of every mother-fudging detail, everything does seem to be ticking along ok. There’re a few things left to sort out – the coaches, Gary’s suit, the bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, the reading of the banns, those pesky 5lbs I’d quite like to lose… But the big things are sorted. The invites have gone out. The RSVPs are trickling back. People haven’t yet started turning up on our doorsteps with large mallets shouting about how complicated we’ve made everything with our double-destinations and coach ride options and hard-to-access ceremony location necessitating a one mile walk to the coach pick up point… On the contrary, most seem to be genuinely excited about the whole thing, and those who can’t certainly seem disappointed and not at all relieved…

I don’t have any real cause to feel anxious at the moment. So why, when I have no real reason for it, do I still feel that tremulous, insistent bite of panic when people ask how the wedding plans are coming along? Why do I give that nervy, wild-eyed stare and start barking off my check lists in their faces? Why do I always finish in an incrementing crescendo along the lines of: “I think we’re ok… I THINK so… There’s nothing URGENT I need to be figuring out right now… right? RIGHT? WHAT DO YOU THINK, THOUGH, IS THERE SOMETHING I’VE FORGOTTEN?”

That, I think, is the key point. Planning a wedding is just so undeniably important. It’s fun, it’s stressful, you meet wonderful people, you get frequent bubbles of joy when you plan and book a detail that’s going to be SO AMAZING, you have wine-fuelled late nights with your intended other half and plan details and share brilliance and have those moments when you look at each other and know you’re thinking the exact same thoughts… But it’s all still just so undeniably important and undeniably terrifying. And the most terrifying thing of all isn’t the cost or the potential for things to go wrong on the day or the fact it will be all over far too fast… Those are things I can’t control. I know the day won’t be entirely perfect. I’m not expecting or even hoping for perfection – after all, some of the most memorable parts of a wedding day, the incidents which inspire the funniest stories (shout out to Mrs R-C and the malfunctioning Austin Princess bridesmaid car) are the parts which go a bit haywire…

What I am terrified about is messing something up now. I know how easy it would be for me to forget to do something, overlook some little detail which turns into a glaring, blackly obvious hole on the day itself… So please, please, Gods of all Inadvisably Complicated And Unintentionally Hazardous Events, if something is going to go wrong on my wedding day, please let it not be a big deal. Let it be funny – along the lines of a beautiful vintage car full of bridesmaids drifting to an idle stop in the middle of a busy junction as its elderly driver swears loudly… Please just don’t let it be because I forgot to return a phone call or dress a flower girl or invite a distant aunt at some point during this sticky, expensive navigation of the quagmire in which I, like so many before me, find myself currently residing.


Your toddler is perfectly normal. Now shut up.

Is your child a budding Michaelangelo? The next Darcey Bussell? Destined for a life of OCD-like repeated rituals? Or are they just a NORMAL TODDLER?

OMG. Better start saving for art school!!!

OMG. Better start saving for art school!!

When you’re pregnant, all you want is to meet the little passenger in your belly. You’re consumed by questions to which you have no way of knowing the answers… What will they look like? What will they be like? Will they be musical? Will they grow up to solve crimes? Will they inherit your talents for baking/DIY/remembering erroneous tidbits of celebrity trivia? They are literally swathed in fleshy, protruding mystery. And then they are born and, save perhaps the question of their appearance (and that can be temporary) you still don’t really know any of the answers…

I seem to come across so many parents who seem determined to label all their children’s quirks and preferences as early as possible. Their child likes to clap their hands to a piece of music. Destined to be a conductor. Two year old likes books with rhymes: obviously a budding poet. I’m not saying it won’t happen… Sure, it’s possible a child destined to be a mechanic or race car driver might show an early interest in cars. It’s also just as possible the child might grow up to shun all forms of motorized vehicle and insist instead upon traveling everywhere in a pony and trap.

I don’t mean to rant; I’m genuinely mystified about the clues behind who toddlers are and who they will become. The other day my daughter burst into tears because I couldn’t understand her when she kept telling me to “shut the door” as she brushed her teeth in the bathroom (the door to which was firmly shut… you see my confusion.) Turns out she wanted me to close the lid of the toothpaste. Does that mean she will grow up to be fastidious about lids and germs and tidiness? (Given her genes I am inclined to think not…) Or was she just being a demanding, frustrated toddler?

If my child throws herself down when I refuse to hand over my laptop is it just her tiny toddler brain rendering her temporarily insensible due to an excess of exhaustion? Or am I preventing the next Steve Jobs from their earliest enterprising explorations? Earlier today we took a particularly muddy walk around the lake and she insisted I carry her AND her boots which she didn’t want to wear AND her scooter bike. Because it was “too muddy to walk.” Now this is probably just her being a stubborn toddler, right? RIGHT? SHE’S NOT GOING TO DO THIS WHEN SHE’S 15, RIGHT??

And then there are the times she pulls a pair of pants over her head, catches my eye and we share a laugh. I like to think at times like these that we are in-sync, bolstering an unbreakable mother-daughter bond that will see us all the way through the dreaded terrible-music-taste tween and mother-hating teenage years. I like to think it, but I don’t really, truly believe it. Because no one can predict what a person is going to truly be like from the age of two… You could possibly hazard a guess. Maybe even a good guess. But you can’t tell for sure.

Right, must be off to baby ballet class now. Because whether she is or isn’t the next Darcey Bussell (again, the genes are sadly a precursor towards the likelihood of the negative) there are only so many years I will be able to get her into a tutu.


The Art of Peeing in a Pot in my Living Room

So you're going to let me play with your iPad and eat chocolate and all I have to do is sit here?

So you’re going to let me play with your iPad and eat chocolate and all I have to do is sit here with no pants on?!

It has begun. There’s no putting it off any longer, no excuses, no way back. Some mothers hate nappies. They long for the day when their child can piddle on demand in a toilet, the early morning cries for help wiping their fragrant bottom, the end of rank nappy bins, rash-inducing, knuckle-peeling wet wipes, the daily hoist of the legs to encounter the wonders beneath… I’m not one of those mothers. I like nappies. I don’t mind changing them. It’s 2 minutes of my time as opposed to, oh, 20 minutes chasing a wet-legginged two-year-old around the house while she insists that she does not want to get changed and she is perfectly happy being soggy-bottomed because “it smell nice, Mummy,” and as far as she’s concerned there’s absolutely no problem at all with climbing onto and rolling around your freshly-made bed. Not to mention the five hour stretches of bargaining, bribes, tears, tantrums and hard-won, foul-smelling triumphs circling the union of bare buttocks and plastic pot in the middle of the living room.

But this is it now. We are officially potty training. Or, at least, we’ve made a sizably conscious effort to start. Mainly because Lara had begun to scream whenever I told her I was going to the toilet and insist she needed to come with me to use the potty. (She didn’t, but I figured that if she was old enough to use the potty as a manipulation tool, she was old enough to be taught, you know, how to actually use it.)

We’re not yet doing the hardcore staying-in-all-day-every-day-until-she-gets-it approach, mainly because I just can’t watch Finding Nemo that many times. But we are wearing big girl pants as soon as we get up in the morning and after nap time, and we are sitting on the potty in exchange for stickers and ‘chocolate butts’ (buttons, incidentally, but I’m too delighted with the pun to correct her) and we are seeing results in the potty occasionally and on the floor often. It’s going ok. I mean, she only actually goes in the potty when she’s been plonked on it (usually only under the condition she is allowed to play with Mummy’s ‘i-dad’) and happens to need to go. And when I gleefully turned her round this morning and joyously asked her what she had done – so cleverly, so miraculously! – in the potty, she replied, in a very bored voice, “S’ juice, Mummy.” So I’m fairly sure we’ve got a way to go before she really fully understands what we’re getting at with this crazy new game, but when you consider she’s had two and a bit years of letting rip whenever and wherever, it’s not hard to see why it takes time to change such an ingrained behaviour. In fact, if I think about it in those terms the whole task tends to take on disproportionately large and looming qualities and I find myself fighting the urge to bury myself under a duvet of wipes and Pampers, so what keeps us going is the mantra of taking it all one day at a time.

In a way, it’s oddly similar to the gargantuan task of planning a wedding: one day at a time, try not to think about how much money I’m spending and hope that when the big day comes, no one is peeing on the church floor.


The Great Santa Debate: Why I am a Proud Liar

 

IMG_8794

I took my toddler to see Santa this week. She was pretty excited about the prospect of meeting “Fada Wissmus” beforehand, but when we actually stepped into the grotto she went completely silent, stared straight ahead and pretty much refused to acknowledge the poor guy with the red suit and the passably good beard. There were a lot of one-sided questions, furtive attempts at jollity and a decidedly awkward moment when Lara decided she was more interested in trying to steal Santa’s little decorative reindeer than receiving her gift. Sure, the whole concept of Father Christmas is a bit much to expect from a two-year-old, but at least we got some fairly ridiculous photos and a rather nice jigsaw puzzle out of it.

There has been some debate in the press recently about the morality of perpetuating the Santa myth. One line of argument is that we’re promoting what is essentially a big fat lie, making hypocrites of parents who bring their children up to believe lying is wrong. My problem with this is that it asserts, out and out, that lying is always wrong. I’m sorry, but I just don’t agree. I have no problem with lying if it’s with good intentions. When my dad was dying and shaved his head he asked me if it looked good. I lied then. Was that wrong? Is it really, truly wrong to lie to children about a kind, magical man who gives them and every other child on the planet presents on Christmas Eve without expecting a thing in return?

I don’t remember asking my parents whether Santa was real, probably because by the time I was old enough to ask, I was old enough to know I didn’t really want to know the answer. It didn’t damage our relationship. On the contrary, I credit them with the reason why Christmas time was so tummy-squeamingly exciting for so long in my life. Come to think of it, I don’t actually know anyone whose relationship with their parents has suffered as a result of them lying to them about Father Christmas for however many years. Nor do I know anyone who has suffered in any way whatsoever as a result of having once believed in Santa. So what’s the big harm?

We’ve already covered the grey area around the ‘evil’ of lying. What about kids getting freaked out about a strange man coming into their bedrooms at night? Call me naive but isn’t part of believing in Father Christmas believing in his goodness, his innocence, the great equality of his generosity towards all children in all the world? Our kids are going to become as cynical and suspicious as we are soon enough, why hurry the process? And, if your kid really is that freaked out, just put the damn stocking downstairs like they do in America.

It all comes down to childhood, I think. If your Facebook newsfeed is anything like mine, there aren’t many days that go by without someone sharing a meme lamenting the loss of those carefree, innocent days. Who doesn’t miss the reaches your belief could stretch to when you were little? The days when the tooth fairy, Easter bunny and, yes, Father Christmas were perfectly reasonable… That’s why we keep trying, for so long. That’s why we lie in bed at 12 years old, eyes determinedly shut as dad muffles a swearword as he stubs his toe on his way out with our empty stocking. Even in those days of heady adolescent awakenings, there still flickers a tiny, iridescently vaporous glimmer of belief that maybe, just maybe, it’s not dad at all… The tiniest shadow that’s only there because it’s trying so hard not to die. Something you may no longer remember or want to acknowledge now you know – so irreversibly – better.

 


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