Back safe from the UK. Back in Guelph. SIGH. Man, was it ever hard to leave. I kept thinking, "oh well, at least the weather is generally nice in Guelph" and returned to pouring rain. Hmph.
Had a great trip, though. Far too much rushing around the country (there was an extra trip to Bournemouth that I totally could have skipped but didn't want to disappoint Del) but a great time in general. I got in to Gatwick after telling my ride that it was Heathrow (oops). Luckily he checked the e-ticket I sent him before leaving, but it was an extra hour's drive for him. Double oops. But since we were down in that end of the country anyway, we decided to see Brighton while we were there. We drove down and had a gorgeous English breakfast - exactly what I needed. Brighton was pretty awesome despite the rain. I happen to like crashy waves, and there were plenty of those. We also played around on the pier and I got to ride on a Mary Poppins-style carousel. I rode side-saddle, of course.
Brighton is actually a really cool town. I wish we could have stayed longer. Even in the rain, we had a great time. I remember trying for weeks to get down there when I lived in London, but there were railworks at the time and the only option was a four-hour coach ride. Needless to say, I didn't bother. Will definitely have to go back some day, though. Lots of tacky seaside stuff, jellied eels for sale, excellent-looking places to go out and (for some reason) a designated gay charity shop.
I spent Wednesday and Thursday lying low around Oxfordshire and recovering from jet lag - one day out in Oxford, one in Banbury. Nothing too exciting. On Friday we drove up to London for Del's friend's wedding. We had two nights in the hotel where his friends were staying, which was excellent as his friends were awesome. My mate Aonghus from my Masters was there too. I was very pleased to see him, as he skipped grad. We also ended up randomly going to a tiny Italian restaurant run by tiny Italian women - the food was AMAZING. It was clearly the kind of place where you have to reserve days in advance - but we happened to wander in just as a two-person table came free. Yum.
The wedding itself was amazing. I loved it! It was a backyard wedding and absolutely lovely. They had set up a tent with a table for the wedding party and family, and the rest of us were on rugs on the grass under a marquee thingy. Each rug had a picnic basket with a loaf of French bread and two or three types of cheeses, plus a bottle of champagne. (There was even a seating plan - "You're on rug two, back corner"!) It was BYOB, but all the alcohol was put on one table and served to you as you asked, so it was essentially a full bar for the cost of a bottle or so per guest.
The ceremony was Humanist - new one to me, but pretty nice. Lots of stories about the happy couple and lots of poetry readings. After the ceremony, we all queued for a fish supper - they actually had a fish'n'chip van parked outside the house! This was the only party that sucked a bit, as it took a LONG time to serve everyone. Still, the fish was really nice so I can't complain. Then, later in the evening, there was a hog roast and everyone got a bun with meat and apple sauce. This must be some kind of tradition, as it has featured in both UK weddings I have attended.
The best part, of course, was the 1940s theme. The wedding invitations were designed like ration cards from 1947 and looked amazing. Everyone really got into the challenge of dressing the part. There were a lot of RAF and army men, one Biggles, one Rosie the Riveter, and countless women in excellent hats. I even saw Indiana Jones wander past. Del was in an RAF uniform (very dashing, although one of his friends commented, "Although I don't dislike the uniform, you have to admit that there is something of the bus conductor about the man.") I cobbled together an outfit from the Vintage Advantage here in Guelph, pulled together by a few key accessories. I found a perfect red necklace at BHS for three pounds (plastic jewellery had just come out right about then, and was all the rage) and made Del pick me out some red lipstick because he is so much better at that sort of thing. I think it made the outfit, in the end. Black dress, black lace top, black pillbox hat with veil, black shoes, stockings with seam, and then red necklace and lipstick. Very striking. I also attempted victory rolls (that 40s rolled hair look) and Del was kind enough to curl the hair down the back for me!
Of course, everything didn't go as planned. Someone had told Del that the wedding was "five minutes around the corner". We were late getting ready, of COURSE, and late leaving. However, we decided to walk so as not to have to worry about the car. 25 minutes later, my feet were bleeding and there was no sign of the wedding venue. I asked Del if he had Mapquested the route, and he said yes. "How far did it say it was?" "Er, 2.3 miles" "!!!" There was no way I could walk that far in my fancy shoes, so I sat down on a wall in full 1947 regalia while Del ran back to get the car in full RAF uniform. In the end, we turned up almost 45 minutes late - and missed nothing at all. PHEW!
The most amusing moment of the wedding was during the ceremony. Del's friend Edelle was giving a gorgeous rendition of "Danny Boy" and it was totally silent. Suddenly, there was a huge BANG as the person beside me accidentally let off a champagne cork. In his struggle to control it, he caught the cork with his face! Champagne sprayed everywhere and it was almost impossible not to giggle through the remainder of "Danny Boy". Sorry, Edelle.
Being an Irish wedding, it went on all night and I had a great time. The next morning was not quite so pleasant, but never mind. I definitely wouldn't have missed it.
On Monday, I went back into London to see some friends. Man, I don't miss that place. I felt grimy, stressed and exhausted by the time I got back to Banbury. And my eyes were itching! I totally blamed it on London when I got conjunctivitis twice in a row when I lived there, and I think I was right.
Following London was a flying trip to Bournemouth (about 3 hours' drive) to visit Del's friend Ciara. I was promised beaches, so despite being exhausted I went along. We got there and sat around in Ciara's backyard chatting for a while. Finally, we packed up the gear for a picnic on the beach and headed down. We arrived, sat down, and... the heavens opened. Ciara's boyfriend made a run for it back to town, but luckily for me she was made of sterner stuff. We grabbed our gear, found an arch to shelter from the rain, lit the portable BBQ and had our picnic while watching the storm!
Wednesday, we drove back from Bournemouth and then up to Bangor. Long, crappy journey, not helped by the roadworks that diverted us through Flint - INTO another set of roadworks. The queue of cars was endless, and so slow that the locals were sitting on the walls of their gardens, chatting with passing (sort of) motorists. Once we were through that, the detour then directed us up a mountain... ah, Wales. Sigh.
Having finally escaped Flint, I texted Thandi for directions. "Take Junction 9", she replied. So we duly took Junction 9, only to find that none of her other directions seemed to apply. After some discussion, Del managed to bring up a map on his Blackberry. It told us to do a loop, head back in the same direction, and take Junction 11. After finally arriving, three hours late, Thandi said, "I DID say Junction 11, right?"
Grad itself was quite good, and not nearly as long as I had feared. Everything was in Welsh and English, but they kept it quite snappy. One shortish speech and a nice harp recital, and that was about it. Walked across the stage, collected degree, took obligatory photos. I was quite excited that Will was able to make it, though. I didn't think it would matter, but it made a huge difference having a family member in attendance. And anyway, he gave me a gorgeous necklace for grad!
Anyway, this is getting insanely long and I want to go to bed (jet lag!) Suffice it to say that the after-grad party was seriously fun, Bangor was same as always, complete with pouring rain and restaurants that are always closed just as want them to be open, and a good time was definitely had.
Oh,and I managed to collect a bunch of stuff I had left with Thandi and Del and bring it back here. My bags were 10kg overweight, but the guy didn't even mention it and just waved me through. Del was watching and later told me he looked at the scales, looked at me, looked at the scales, looked at my chest and waved me through. This is unconfirmed, though (ie. I totally didn't notice) so I will just be happy for the lack of extra fees!