Tuesday, 26 April 2011

the hen do and the hangover

So, I am back from my hen do, exhausted but very happy. The weekend, as many of you know was almost a complete surprise, in that I knew I was going, but I had no idea where we might be headed or what it would involve. I’m going to tell you the story below, with pics to follow. This is by far and away the most obvious post I’ve ever done, so if anyone I know stumbles across this blog, I’ll definitely be discovered. But never mind – I’m still going to share.

So – Friday. Several of the hens convened at out flat at 9.30 in the morning, ready to be picked up by hen/best lady L. We drove out of London on the M40 (with me in the back, under strict instructions not to look at the sat nav).

We drove out, past Oxford, and our favourite wild swimming spot and then carried on, off the motorway, and up the A40. We got deep into the Cotswolds and then up a single track road, leading me to believe we were almost there. And then we pulled into a sort of farm set up – five giant cottages set in the middle of fields. Beautiful!

When we arrived, another friend pulled out a box of decorations she’d made: bunting, garlands, hearts etc. I was in awe of her craftiness and she was recruited to team bunting. We strung it up and admired. Then we found a 1000 piece Charles and Diana commemorative Royal Wedding jigsaw in a drawer. I considered stealing it.

We dumped our stuff and then started sunbathing and picnicking on the grass while waiting for the other hens. I still had no idea what was going on but it was just lovely to see everyone. There was some top class gossip going on.

I had anticipated a mixture of civilised activity and debauchery and this is what happened. My first activity was revealed: a trip to a spa in Cheltenham, where we had a three hour ‘twilight’ session booked – and they had booked me a massage! I have never felt luckier to have such disgracefully wonderful friends.

Spa attendant: ... and over there, you’ll see a table with water and magazines. Make sure you drink plenty as it’s very warm in here. [Leaves]

Friend J, staring at the patrons in the pool drinking huge glasses of red wine, panicking slightly: But where’s the bar? They told us where the water was, but where’s the bar?

We lazed around for three hours, gossiping, reading trashy mags, some of us drinking wine, dipping in and out of the pool and steam room and going for our treatments. Bliss. Really, no, absolute absolute bliss.

Then a trip to the pub – a pub dinner, then back to the cottage for wine, where we broke the first bottle opener on the immense stash of wine. There were 12 people. There were approximately 40 bottles – plus gin, martini and homemade schnapps.

The next morning: breakfast and an activity solely designed to allow for serious gossip and proper catching up. I think this was my favourite bit of the whole weekend but it’s not really in keeping with the theme of a raucous hen weekend. Dear reader: we went to a National Trust garden. You can dock even more cool points as I got in for free, being a member. Yes, this whole 20-something bride to be malarkey is just a front for a 75 year old retiree. Sssh...

This involved a picnic, cava and then a retreat to a quaint village for cake. There was a lot of cake.

Then we went back to the cottage, I was banished to my room to get ready while my amazing hens prepared a three course meal, a series of games and upped the decoration quotient. When I was allowed back in, my place was marked by a single item of hen paraphernalia – a fluffy halo. Quite restrained of them, I think and as tasteful /cute as hen paraphernalia could be.

We ate some antipasti type snacks, broke another bottle opener and played the games – beginning with a wonderful Mr and Mrs quiz. Dinner was consumed, plus most of the wine. Then we played more games. I won’t lie – I didn’t think I’d enjoy this bit, but it was actually brilliant fun. Even when I stood on a chair and two teams created me some very stylish wedding dresses out of bog roll.

Someone then decided it was time for shots. But what to do with no shot glasses? Oh dear. Eggcups.

Then there was dancing. More dancing. Dancing. There was dancing until 4am. Some of it may have been with a broom version of J with balloon arms and legs and a felt-tipped head. I couldn’t possibly confirm this.

The next morning, my friends got up bright and early at 8.30 sodding AM. I could barely move.

Friend W: What do you normally do when you get a hangover like this?

Me: lying in bed, blocking out light with head under duvet: I don’t normally get hangovers

Of course, all friends thought this was hilarious and even documented it with photos. I breakfasted lavishly on two paracetamol and a nausea-inducing cup of black tea. Around midday, I managed some toast.

We had to get in the car and go home. I eventually managed to pack my case, which in an attempt to find some crucial item at 2am the night before, I had scattered the contents thereof far and wide.

I spent the journey to Oxford with my eyes closed, drinking gallons of water. We stopped at the services and I visited the loo. Out of the haze, my eyes closed on an advert on the back of the door, promoting the deliciousness of a range of crisps. A neuron fired in my brain: SALT. It said. You need SALT. I sat on the loo, gazing at the ad, deciding between Salt and Vinegar Discos and Bacon Wheat Crunchies.

The Crunchies won and I left the bathroom as fast as my weak legs would carry me in search of SALT. I bought the crisps (Grab Bag – oh joy) and a bottle of water and almost opened them in desperation while in the queue. I had stuffed half a bag by the time my friends came back to the car and we’d all had the same thought – the others had turned up with crisps, Burger King fries, onion rings. The effects were magical – we’d all clearly had too much water and no salt and I felt a lot better – well enough to sustain a conversation for the first time that day.

Which I think, is as it should be.

Monday, 11 April 2011

genuinely alternative first dance wedding songs

Wow, we really, really cannot decide on a first dance song. In a way, it's a nice situation to be in. We can't decide because we love music so much. Our CD and digital music collection is immense and grows often weekly, sometimes by rather a large number. Thank god we got plenty of iTunes vouchers for Christmas and there is wonderful record shop near where I work (though they are part of the reason we (uh, I) buy too much music).

Anyway. Any of the following could very much still be our first dance song, but I thought you might appreciate the list of the rather more unusual choices that are under consideration, in case you're in the market for something similar yourself or would just like to listen to some lovely tracks.

So. Our first dance song was always (from about two years after we got together) going to be Pulp - 'Something Changed'. Then something did change, and we this song slightly receded into second place. I also had an issue with the line: "would I be singing this song to someone else instead?" though J maintained it was fine. It could still be fine - it could still be the song.

I had a short phase of wanting Elbow 'Starlings' but it isn't really a song you can have a first dance to. But it is a good walking down the aisle song. So we think we're going to go for that there instead.

The upbeat song that took Pulp's place? 'You Couldn't be Cuter' - but emphatically NOT the Ella version. The one you want is Al Bowlly with Lew Stone and his band. Have a listen. Bloody ace. I also loved this because it's a man singing about how brilliant his lady is.

Then that got slightly knocked off its perch. Guess what did it? Mint Royale 'Don't Falter'. Remember the 90s, kids? Lauren Laverne sings the immortal line 'You must decide/To risk your heart for love to find you' and says something about her fella being 'officially mine' so it's apt. Plus it would get the party started nicely, or more nicely than a slow, sway-ey number. I love this song.

The current final wildcard option? Home, by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros. A fantastic song, though pretty hard to sway-dance to but we could get some lessons and learn something a bit more upbeat.

Others that would make good first dance songs that crossed our minds: Zorbing, by Stornoway; Be My Baby by the Ronettes (the vaguely traditional choice? Would also require learning to do more than sway.) There are a number of other Phil Spector songs that would also do a decent job here.

A number of National songs have also been discussed, but none ended up in the running. If you want a short song, then you can always go for Laura Marling 'Crawled out of the sea' (an album interlude and about a minute and a quarter). Another contender very early in our relationship was James 'Just like Fred Astaire' but this was rejected because of lyrical uncomfortableness but it could work for you.

Anyway, there you have it. All of these songs were picked for their lyrics. Neither of us can really dance anyway (90% enthusiasm, 10% ability - at most) so we don't mind dancing like idiots to a song that is perhaps a little harder to dance to, but says nice things.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

you think you've got it hard

The other night, i got a text from a friend. "Are you free to talk one night this week?"

Why would she ask? She must be upset.

An immediate phone call ensues, where she tells me, through sobs, that she can't come to the wedding.

She can't afford it: she's got a house, a mortgage, and she thinks she's going to lose her job. She currently supports her partner, who is signed off work sick and not earning. She has a chronic illness herself.

She does this all on her own. She's my oldest friend.

Immediately I tell her she's coming - we have rooms on the farm she can have, or I will buy her a room. I can find the money. I need her to be there.

She refuses to be a charity case but it's not that. She has to come. And she will. She's so upset - from the certainty that she won't be coming to the realisation that she will.

She had been trying to tell me for weeks, losing sleep over it, trying to work it out and panicking.

(*Today, she works out a way of making it work. It's all fine, she tells me. She's got it sorted, she's booked a hotel, which was half price. She's going to save enough. She's a very proud person. She won't take the place of someone else on the farm. But she doesn't realise that she isn't. She comes before so many people.)

Then, last night, at Slimming group, a woman confessed that she did find it quite hard to be good, day-to-day, because SHE OWNED A BAKERY. Shite. Rather put the moaning of everyone else into the room into perspective. Would we be on a diet if we ran a bakery?

My days right now are not that challenging, on the whole, for which I am continually grateful. Other people never cease to amaze me.