Thirty years ago it was the, now either defunct or possibly renamed as something more attractive, Hotel Nora on the outskirts of Hersonnisos on the north coast of Crete. The weather was hot and sunny except for the last few days when a Sirocco blew in large amounts of sand from North Africa.
Twenty years ago it was a hotel (the name of which escapes me) in Bournemouth. The weather must have been the best that the south coast of England had experienced in March for many years and while swimming in the sea wasn’t advisable the hotel did have an adequate indoor pool.
Fifteen years ago it was our first family visit to CenterParcs at Elveden in Norfolk. At such places of course the weather is largely irrelevant as all of the facilities are indoors which was just as well as it snowed!
Five years ago it was a long weekend in London following a surprise party arranged by our daughters Hope and Charity (not their real names you may remember). On that occasion the weather was quite reasonable for March in the UK – that is it only rained when we were indoors!
Well I’m sitting on a sun bed by the largest of the three pools at the Barceló Santiago Hotel on the west coast of Tenerife with a view of the sea and the island of Gomera in the distance. I’m not sure what the temperature is but I’m wearing swimming trunks and a hat while wishing there was something else I could take off – it’s THAT hot!
And what do all these events have in common?
Well, as you’ve probably worked out by now they all relate to either our honeymoon or Faith’s and my celebrations of subsequent “special” wedding anniversaries.
Yes, as of 29th March 2010 Faith has been putting up with my funny little ways for THIRTY YEARS!
I cannot fully believe that, especially as I’ve been married now for more years than I’d been ALIVE when it happened!
It’s also very confusing in that I’m fond of stating that internally I’m only 26 and that would make me -4 when I got married!
Let me share with you my slightly befuddled recollections of that far off day.
In March 1980 I was working at the Barclays Bank Trust Company office in Norwich and living in the house that we were buying 10 miles south in Long Stratton. This village was 2 miles in length – hence the name – and sat astride the A140 which I always described as the best road in Norfolk because it led directly to Ipswich!
But I digress.
Faith (although a transfer to the Long Stratton Branch of Barclays Bank had been arranged for post-honeymoon) was living and working in Chelmsford where the wedding was to take place. We were, therefore, living about 75 miles apart.
So on the morning of Friday 28th March 1980 I got up, strapped the large bag containing my wedding clothes onto the small luggage rack on the back of my Suzuki 250c.c. motorcycle and set off.
Not as you might expect for Chelmsford because the “master-plan” would have meant leaving the bike at my new in-laws’ place when I would need it in Norfolk to get to work when we got back from honeymoon. Either that or Faith and I would have to travel back to Long Stratton after the reception on or in separate vehicles – my bike, her car. Believe me; I didn’t even CONSIDER that as a possibility!
Instead I took advantage of an offer from one of my colleagues in the Norwich office. He rented a lock-up garage not far from the railway station (it worked out cheaper than the city centre car park charges!) which was plenty big enough to accommodate my motorcycle and his car. Fortunately he had a spare key which he very kindly lent to me.
So, I rode to Norwich, locked the bike up at the back of the garage and sauntered over to the station to catch a specific London-bound train.
Because I had previously arranged with my Best Man (David Davies, who has already been mentioned in these articles – and no doubt will be again) that he would board the same train at Ipswich, that’s why.
We changed at Colchester and were met at Chelmsford by Barry Palmer (one of the few friends of mine from there who didn’t work for Barclays) at whose house we were to be staying overnight.
After dropping off the luggage the three of us had a few lunchtime pints at one of Barry’s local pubs and in the evening went to another for a meal and a few more drinks – not enough to cause us any problems on Saturday of course!
Actually, while none of us did have any hangover issues we DID apparently get through three bottles of wine with the Steak dinners followed by a bottle and a half of Pernod which we drank in large glasses with liberal amounts of water.
Bright and early on the Saturday morning Dave and I went for a brisk walk around the fields surrounding Barry’s house and I then ate a hearty breakfast, showered and had my hair blow dried (yes, I had enough to have that done in those days) by Barry’s wife, Joan.
At an appropriate hour Barry and Joan dropped us off at the London Road United Reformed Church in Chelmsford and went off to park.
We had been instructed to be there at least 30 minutes before the time of the service – not just to make sure that we turned up but to sort out the money side of things.
My instructions were to go to the Minister’s office and pay her (Yes, HER – the URC was way ahead of the Church of England in that regard) the grand sum of £15 to cover her fee, the organist’s fee and a contribution towards the flowers in the church. This was to be paid in £1 notes to make it easier to distribute.
With the sordid financial arrangements sorted Dave and I took our places at the front of the still largely empty church to await the 1 o’clock “kick-off”.
I took advantage of the wait to check that Dave had not done any of the traditional Best Man tricks such as painting the words “Help me” on the soles of my shoes to be visible to all during the brief kneeling part of the ceremony.
He hadn’t done THAT but what I missed was that he had somehow managed to set both his watch and mine 10 minutes fast so that when 1 o’clock appeared to arrive and pass he could loudly whisper “I don’t think she’s coming you know!” just to make me even more nervous!
Can I just make it clear at this point that men do NOT get nervous at weddings because they don’t really want to get married! No! It’s because they are terrified of cocking it up in some way and incurring the wrath of the Bride and her family for all time!
OK is that clear?
Faith was in fact exactly on time and things went without a hitch.
Or perhaps that’s the wrong expression as we did indeed get “hitched”!
It seemed no time at all before we were outside the church again and the seemingly interminable photographs began!
It was a dry but windy day and on the “official” photos my hands were never in view because I was usually holding down Faith’s headdress with one hand and the brims of either of our Mothers’ hats with the other.
A totally irrelevant digression that was not in my notes pops up here!
Remember that my original draft was done in pencil while lying on a sun bed? Well sometimes suntan lotion can make your hands slippery and the pencil moves in ways that make your handwriting difficult to read afterwards. That happened to my manuscript of two paragraphs ago and the words “the brims of our Mothers’” APPEARED to read “the BUMS of our Mothers’” which is a variation that I really don’t want to dwell on!
Once every conceivable combination of guests had been photographed with us it was off by the traditional Rolls Royce to the reception a few miles away at a place called Margaretting.
There it was considered necessary for MORE photographs to be taken and my smile was starting to feel a little strained. Eventually, however, we were able to sit down, eat and proceed to the speeches.
I was a bit worried about that part not only because I’m a bit shy about that sort of thing but also because my Best Man has a sense of humour that was, if anything, more surreal than mine and I wasn’t sure if some of the older relatives would follow what he was talking about!
He began it by stating “Your Holiness, Ladies and Gentlemen…” which confused many of them straight away and then continued to describe a fictitious stag night (the actual stag party had taken place two weeks previously on a Felixstowe to Zeebrugge ferry) ending with the words “…and the Zookeepers tell me that the Aardvark is expected to make a full recovery!”
And THAT left a great many more looking puzzled!
I don’t have the faintest recollection of what I said in my speech in case you were wondering. I’m sure it was entertaining and educational though. Or brief and nearly incoherent with nerves. One of those.
And after that we returned to Faith’s parents’ house, Barry delivered my bag to me and Faith then drove us (I didn’t then have a car licence) the 75 miles to Long Stratton. All in the same day!
A few days later (after a brief trip into Norwich to recover my motorbike) we flew out to Crete which brings me back to my starting point.
It has been a really great 30 years and I wonder what I’ll have to write about on the 40th, 50th and 60th Anniversaries!
I’ll be 87 by the last of those mentioned but I’m sure it’ll still be fun!