Monday, 17 October 2011

the bloset

Or - the 'blogging closet'. In other words, the thing I'm going to need to emerge from this week. I think it's fair to say (without giving too much away) that this is the week that I wave bye bye to blogging anonymity. I know that most of you that read this know who I am now, in some capacity at least.

But I've been justifiably careful for a few reasons. One is my job. I work in the sort of line of work where people stumble across blogs. It wouldn't have taken a rocket scientist to work out that Claire of cakes and bunting was that Claire they knew, who was also getting married on a farm in Somerset. Secondly, J works in the line of work where it wouldn't do to have your fiance/wife wittering on about you (and I've been very careful not to). And thirdly - and really, tying in to the first two - is that I've laid myself rather bare on here. I've said what I think, said what I'm worried about, and written in a way that I could not have done if I'd been aware that friends would read it. Even J has promised he never will read it, though I may ask him to write something soon.

Blogging was good preparation, in a way, for the wedding. Helping me to understand how to behave and react and how to process things. It gave me the confidence to create a day in which we took away all the things we thought were irrelevant for us and just left the meaningful parts - and the most fun parts.

And the fact is that these things, and our wedding, were different to the norm. Maybe not the bloggy norm, where getting married in a golf club is waay retro trad (I'm awaiting the first ironic hipster '1991 themed wedding'). We had some of the things that are beyond traditional in blogland. Miles of bunting. Miles of it. Top quality, mum-produced stuff. A hogroast. But it was still different to any wedding I'd ever been to and I know it was the same for most of our guests.

In doing it differently, we laid ourselves open to criticism - you take the protective layer off the top and it's easy for someone to rub salt in. We were incredibly lucky that this didn't happen and that everyone there embraced it, enjoyed it for what it was.

And it's been the same with the blog. I removed a layer of cynicism and censorship and wrote, with some careful omissions for privacy's sake, what I wanted. Anonymity has allowed me to be much more open than I could have been otherwise.

And in doing this, I've found a support network that has helped me through difficult decisions and stupid ones. I've had help developing a great sense of perspective and a healthy wedding BS filter. I've also (groan) genuinely grown as a person through the wedding experience, and blogging has been an integral part of this. And I've even made friends. Actual real friends through the internet. God bless you, Tim Berners-Lee.

So I think this might be my last anonymous post. One day soon, you'll get to read a blog post broken up by pictures, rather than just my usual long ranty streams of text. I'll maybe finally tell you what I made, how I made things (if you care) and all sorts of stuff that I'd decided previously made me too identifiable. Ultimately, I had a blast and it was (whisper it) - kinda easy, mostly. Because we only did the important stuff. Plus a bit of bunting.

But first, there will probably be some pictures. Brace yourselves.

Friday, 14 October 2011

dear wedding bloggers: carry on, nothing to see here

If you read wedding blogs, or you're on Twitter, then you'll probably have seen this over the past couple of days.

It's a post by an anonymous photographer about how, in a nutshell, wedding blogs and their detail-orientation bias are stressing out brides and making them feel inferior. It's a plea for more of a focus on 'normal' weddings. And by that, they mean ones that are plainer.

I don't know if anyone has noticed this (the photographer perhaps hasn't) but actually, there are already blogs that feature weddings from the entire spectrum - from four people in a register office (or for our American friends, the courthouse) with no moustaches on sticks to ginormous traditional weddings with 500 people. From plain to elaborate. From handmade to out-of-the-box. And yes, some of them have had mason jars and bunting. Trends come, trends go. People like trends because they are exposed to them.

Of course, some blogs only feature thin, model-like brides. C'est la vie. Or rather, c'est la media in general. But if that's all you can find then you're not looking hard enough. I've seen weddings featuring people of all religions and no religion. Of all shapes, sizes and colours. In this wonderful world of acceptance, I've read about Pagan weddings, elopements, weddings that happened on the spur of the moment, second weddings, weddings abroad, weddings on farms, weddings in back gardens. Every single one of these has been celebrated.

Look at A Practical Wedding, Offbeat Bride, Any Other Wedding, Love My Dress and so many more (and people are setting them up as we speak) - and if you check out the comments on these blogs, you will find they link to personal blogs from thousands of brides (and some grooms too) who run their own corner of the internet, mulling these issues daily.

They curate their own idea of what's important, and if they care to do so, they can define what they find attractive. They can control the pretty, redefine it and call bullshit.

Blogs - in all their guises, whether they focus on the pretty, the dress, the groom, whatever - are what has given the confident voices to all of these women (and men). Blogs and the blogging world reinforces the idea that they can make up their own rules, and they can do whatever the hell they like for their wedding. Remember - just a few short years ago, all weddings largely looked one way. That they now very much do not all look one way - despite the fashion for mason jars and dressing up boxes, these sort of weddings are still a minority - is because of the popularity of the blog and the confidence it has given people.

(If you want to see how things have changed in three short years, its worth reading a little about Rock n Roll Bride's own wedding, as she explains how different the options available were in 2008.)

People who get stressed out because their wedding is "too plain" would find something to get stressed out about if there were no blogs. Because some people are just like that.

In short. Bloggers: as you were. Keep up the good work, team.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

the anticipation

In my bag is a CD of images from our wedding. The official wedding photos. I haven't looked at them, immense restraint that not doing so required. We will look at them together tonight.

But today, over lunch, I had a look at a few wedding blogs. Only the non-insane ones, I hasten to add. But I devoured them in the way that I have done so many times. Scrolling, scrolling, inhaling it all. All that effort, reflected in those few pictures.

The details, the banners, the bunting, the dresses. The dancing, the thin-ness, the bridesmaids, the flowers. The getting ready pics. The dress hanging by the window. This is how I digested every wedding I ever looked at on the internet. This is how I got a 'feeling' of their day, and interpreted it in the light of our own. Every one changed the view of our wedding, in a tiny way.

Now tonight, I will look at some more wedding photos. And I know that they will be amazing, because that's our photographer. She is amazing. But the content of the images will be our own, and that bride in that one dress, with her groom and her flowers, will be me. How will I feel? How will I judge it?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


(Picture from here)

On Sunday, some friends came for tea. Afterwards, I found myself giving driving directions to a friend heading back to south-east London. "Oh," I said nonchalantly, "you'll want to get to Hammersmith and drop down through Earls Court and cross the river at Vauxhall. Definitely quickest at this time on a Sunday."

Well, I thought, shocked: my Dad would be proud to know that I inherited this trait from him - of having a map in your head, and reeling off routes. Do all Dads do this? I think maybe they do.

But what I thought too, was - my god. I finally know this city, with its coloured lines under your feet, its hidden rivers and stinkpipes. I know its arteries and veins. I know how to get to somewhere, and how to get from somewhere, and that sometimes, depending on the time or the weather, these will be two different routes.

When I see a bus with a destination on the front, I know roughly where it's headed. I know that if I sat on that bus, I could get home. Routes light up in my head like a landing strip, a dotted line leading to where I need to be. The a40, the a4, the a406.

When someone tells me something about Acton, or Peckham, or Dulwich, or Park Royal, I know what they mean. I know where I shouldn't walk alone at night and where the tube map cheats tourists who pay £4 to ride 500 yards. I can stand in Soho and just know which way to turn, even though it all looks the same. I can reassure my parents repeatedly that Soho isn't full of prostitutes in windows, but after six years, they'll still worry.

I know precisely where to go for not just any curry, but the best. Ditto Thai, Japanese, Iranian, Ethiopian, Lebanese, Polish and god, even British food. I know where to take parents, friends, people new to town.

I know the brilliance of driving through London at a quiet time. Between Christmas and New Year, joining the dots in the dark between the Houses of Parliament and Piccadilly Circus and gazing up afresh at the big flashing sign. Turning a corner and seeing a landmark, any of them. I still feel a humpback bridge whoosh of excitement when crossing the river. I've never bought anything from Harrods. But that doesn't stop me, sometimes, on a winter's night, getting off the Tube at Knightsbridge, bundled up in my scarf, just to look at the lights.

I've sat in baking, baking traffic to reach a large patch of green, where I've jumped into my bathers and leapt into an icy pond. I've had an engagement picnic on the Heath. I still get lost, on occasion. I can hail a cab like I've done it all my life and no one would guess I'm a girl from the Midlands. I know places where you'll never get a cab for a million pounds, but I know which street to cross to find a thousand of them.

I know where my local underground river flows. I know what was there before that block of flats. I know the little secrets of my parts of town.

And today, I bought an old map of our area from a local antique bookshop, to hang on our new wall. A present for J, who loves maps and was looking at it longingly the other day. And as I paid, a book flashed at me from a stack on the till. It had a cover criss-crossed with red and white stripes, tartan. It was called 'The Clans of Scotland'.

It really struck me that I'll be living in another country, rather imminently now. I have no idea what a clan is. Maybe no one gives a toss. Maybe it's something you're just meant to know. Or maybe any Scots reading this think I'm a dick for talking about clans. Who knows. I'll soon find out.

Right now, there's just a gap where Glasgow should be. I've never even seen it. So very soon, I'll have to know nothing and start again.

I won't know what topics of national discussion cause seething resentment until I've put my foot in it, probably a few times.

I won't know what it means when someone tells me they are from Lumloch or Glenboig, or how I should get back if I accidentally found myself in Nerston.

I am lucky that through this blog, I seem to have found a disproportionately high number of wonderful people in the vicinity. I hope they can tell us where to get a curry and find a fish and chip shop that sells mushy peas.

We'll start again with the street we end up living in. We'll find our feet in the flat, then venture out to find the local, and then realise, perhaps a year later, that there's a much nicer pub two minutes round the corner, if only we'd known to look.

We'll slowly learn which newsagent sells out of the good papers by 11am. We'll work out a route to the airport to collect friends and family, but even with the help of two satnavs and a map, it may well involve traffic and/or bickering.

We'll find a supermarket. This will be very much like any other Asda, Sainsburys or Tesco in the country - except there will be some crucial differences which mean I won't be able to find the noodles.

Just as I've got my head around the sociological implications of the North/South divide, and where exactly the East Midlands sits in that binary system (it's North, incidentally) no one is likely to note or care that I still said bus, rather than bahs, or grass, rather than grahse.

I've allowed myself to feel what I've been ignoring, and London is starting to feel alien. The masses, masses of people. The skyline. When my parents last visited, as we crossed the a40 above Edgeware Road, my mum looked up and said: "the sky is just so... full... you can only see buildings..." and for a second, I saw it too.

When we drove back in the dark, past the floating illuminated mass of Westfield, I felt like I was seeing it for the first time. How did you possibly reach that? How does one get into that big green iceberg? How does it make sense? Like landing in a foreign country and trying to work out the nuances of catching a train.

When I stepped off the bus yesterday, I looked at up at the people who got off with me, rather than just ploughing on and ignoring them (the London way). How could all these people be getting onto one tube train? There were thousands of them.

London, you've been great fun. I should think I'll always remember what you taught me. Hopefully if I can cope with the Northern line in 30 degree heat (ok, I didn't cope, it made me cry the first three times, but THEN I coped) then, Glasgow, I can deal with your subway and buses. I might get used to it, even. I might find I'm home. Maybe we'll be back one day. Hopefully the good takeaways won't have changed.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Sometimes there are things that come along like a smack in the face and make you understand a lot more about life in one fell swoop.

Sometimes, those things make you embarrassed about your previous thoughts and behaviour.

This is one of those things. This blog, written by an engaged lady with terminal cancer.

Please go and visit.