Outside the church it's a tiny bit drizzly so not too much hanging about but definitely enough time to throw (biodegradable) confetti, most of which had come courtesy of number 2's wedding in November when the wind and rain whistling round us at high speed made any kind of confetti-tossing impossible. Then the bride and groom were first away in one of the three beribboned Land Rovers with Giles, our photographer, in pursuit whilst the rest of us sorted ourselves into various vehicles including minibuses and some even found time for a pint in the Royal Oak at Staveley.
Meanwhile nearly back at base camp, the bride and groom have stopped at the edge of Jubilee Wood which runs along a good length of our lane to have photographs taken amongst the bluebells. For once, Mother Nature really has knocked it out of the park and the bluebells are stunning. I know that from now on, each year when the bluebells bloom I shall be thinking of the happy couple and it will bring a smile to my lips.
Our original plans to have all the guests walk up through the garden (where I had been knocking myself out since September to create something that wouldn't be too far from Harlow Carr) were skuppered by the light drizzle so rather than serving drinks in the garden, the party moved straight up to the marquee in the field. By the time the bride and groom arrived there were a goodly number of guests and number 2 was set the task of marshalling folks for the photographs - and I promise you, nobody marshals like number 2! The very long shot list had been heavily abridged so now the progress was much more rapid though I might have liked a few moments to straighten my hat a tad - multiple hugs from all angles had definitely knocked it off its original perch.
Back in the marquee all our lovely guests are arriving - new friends and family, fellow hens, old family and friends and especially for me, number 1's godmother and my oldest friend, Alps. Alps and I met aged 10 (she calls me Stigs for reasons too complicated to explain) and as she is the chef at the fabulous Circus restaurant in Bath http://www.thecircuscafeandrestaurant.co.uk we haven't seen much of each other over the last few years though it makes not a jot of difference when we get together. She is a very special lady.
Before we sit down, the incredible cake, made by Ninny, which is set under the chandelier of 1000 origami cranes, must be cut by the bride and groom with my father's sword. My dad would have loved this. Then we're sitting down at long trestle tables decorated with flowers in jam jars and above us, hanging from branches are twinkly tea lights in glass baubles. Stunning.
In this entirely unconventional wedding, there is no top table and friends and family, old and young, folks who know each other and those who've never met before are all jumbled up, getting to know each other over James Brown's delicious antipasti sharing plates. I'm sitting between Alps (so much to catch up on and so little time...) and Guy who lives up to his billing as good looking and clever. Thanks Mr and Mrs O'Hara! Opposite is my beloved (completely giddy by this point which could be risky in a kilt) and our chums from Guernsey whose daughter (my goddaughter) will be doing all this in July.
The idea of the order of play was not to have a big wodge of speeches at the end so as soon as the antipasti had been cleared away the bekilted one took to the dance floor, microphone in hand. "It's fine," I told Guy. "I've read it - it's not too long!". And of course, we had printed the speech out for number 1 who would find it hard to hear all the flattering - and other - things her father had to say about her. But immediately he's gone off piste! Lordy, we could be here for days and there's a pig to eat!!
Well, a little off-piste but not bad and when he reads out Hugh Bonneville's glowing testimonial of her acting skills having played her father, I can see he's getting all emotional. How I love that man! He was brilliant - even in the truly 'what on earth is he going to say next?' moments and as Giles said later "Every daughter should have a dad like Robert." Oops, getting teary again.
The main course was a hog roast and jolly good it was too, with all the trimmings. Then it's time for the next speech and the groom and the bride stood up for their double act. I suspect that the groom may find it hard to make his voice heard throughout their marriage without the bride having her six penn'orth. She does after all stand up on stage for a living. They are funny and the banter between them is tender and touching. So much for just letting the groom speak!
Pudding is Ninny's fantastic cake cut up and served with summer fruits and our evening guests are suddenly starting to arrive because we're running about 30 minutes behind time - thanks in no small part to the off-pisteness of the bride's father's speech. But it doesn't matter because the best man is ace. My new son in law had wisely chosen two best men - his delightful brother for the church bit and Sean (yes, another one) for the speech. Sean is like John Bishop. His oration on the subject of Alexander the Great (you had to be there) is a belter. Surely he should be on the stand-up circuit?
Then the bride and groom take the dance floor for their first dance - Let It Be by the Beatles. Classic. And within moments the floor is packed and everyone is singing and we are so happy we could burst. Fortunately this didn't happen - would have been messy in a kilt and we would have missed the ceilidh which bore more of a likeness to full contact rugby than any dance I've done before. But how very appropriate with two rugby teams present. The following day there was time to compare bruises and scratches but for now everyone was carving out their tiny bit of space with elbows out and plenty of barging.
Whisky and cigars served, cocktails - margueritas and my new favourite, espresso martinis - served in, yes, jam jars and the bar and the disco are all in full swing. Outside the lights are twinkling in the trees, the path is lit by tea lights (in jam jars, of course) and someone has lit the fire pit where there are straw bales for seats by the fire. The fire pit is actually a washing machine drum ingeniously dreamed up (or pinched from Pinterest perhaps) by my son-in-law. If there was any other party on April 30th 2016, it couldn't have topped this.
Finally and all too soon, minibuses and taxis are arriving and folks are making their way across the garden, some more nimble on their feet than others. And by the time I had left the marquee, my beloved is in the kitchen, already cooking up a storm with the bacon and eggs. Clearly some people who were leaving were drawn back by the delicious smell of frying bacon and there are rather more folks looking for beds and sofas than anticipated. But it didn't matter one bit. The Barnsley Lodger thought she had bagged the Intrepid Granny's bed because she had decamped to the O'Ks in the village for a proper night's sleep but by the time I headed upstairs her bed was already occupied by unscheduled but nevertheless very welcome guests. Fortunately no-one was in my bed as I might have been less welcoming but number 3 gamely shared his bed with two guests and every sofa was occupied.
The next morning we served breakfast for 40+ people (I'm sure the bride and groom said that they would take ownership of this...hmmm) but the big team helped do a magnificent clearing up job in the marquee with both dogs (Milton is now back) hoovering all manner of treats which will probably be coming back up or down later. Last guests left at 6.00pm and we are exhausted but so happy.
As I write this, the marquee has finally come down today and the only tent left is the catering tent (very small party in a tent anyone?) and I miss its towering presence in the field. But some of the lights are already twinkling in the monkey puzzle and willow trees and amongst the blossom of the cherry trees in the garden. And all my memories of this wonderful weekend are stored away. But as long as the bluebells bloom...
Probably the best dad in the world...
Did anyone think he'd be allowed to make a speech on his own?
The Intrepid Granny!
Just love it when number 2 gets giggly!