Or… What I Did On My Holidays, by Sarah Cawkwell.
At Black Library 2010, Dearly Beloved and I found ourselves in the company of a young couple who had recently become engaged. As he was one of the Black Library’s writers and I had also just found myself in the slightly surreal position of being one of those as well, we meandered across to Bugman’s bar and shared a drink. Not literally – we didn’t QUITE go down the ‘one pint, four straws’ route – but we did only get the one before we were booted out of the bar which back in Those Days closed at something like 6pm. Ridunkulous.
A couple of weeks later, we exchanged emails and declared that we had enjoyed ourselves far too much in that tiny window of opportunity and that we needed to stretch it out. As such, Dearly Beloved and myself found ourselves aboard an Easyjet plane to Belfast International in June, where we were picked up from the airport and taken to a tiny cottage in the middle of nowhere. We had one of the best weekends ever and since then, Aaron, Katie, Dearly Beloved and myself have been friends.
Katie brought me into the fold of the World of Warcraft Guild via which I have made other, very dear friends and all of us came together on Monday 4th July to travel to the Middle of Nowhere and witness the pair of them get married. The brief version is that we all had an outstandingly silly and laughter-filled through days; the wedding was in a beautiful place and was absolutely glorious and there were no mishaps related to the trip whatsoever.
That last bit, of course, is a terrible lie. However, it did end up filed under the ‘outstandingly silly’ section of the summary.
So here’s the broken-down detail of the past few days.
Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd July
The lovely Sander arrived from Holland to stay with us for a couple of days before the wedding. He arrived quite late on Saturday, so we picked up the World’s Biggest Pizza[tm] and forced him to watch The Inbetweeners. Judging from the snorts of laughter that he was making, I think this was a good choice of TV viewing. We particularly laughed loudly at the episode where the guys go to Alton Towers and all the car-related hi-jinks.
There is an important lesson in there, but we didn’t learn that until much later. MUCH later.
On Sunday, we met Heather, Dawson and Emma (more Guildies) in Durham where we had lunch, discussed in great detail Dearly Beloved’s Plane Velcro theory and then took a stroll up to the Cathedral. Once there, I mentioned to Emma that they had used part of the cloisters to film the earlier Harry Potter movies. Then Heather told us the same, then Dawson told us the same… and the ‘did you know Harry Potter was filmed in Durham Cathedral’ meme was born. It should have been strangled there and then, because it popped up in conversation at least once an hour for the next few days.
Monday 4th – Wednesday 6th July
We made our way up to Newcastle International Airport ready and lively for picking up the 4pm flight to Belfast International. We met up with the lovely Nikki (Xhalax) and Operation: Wedding commenced. The plan, such as it was, took the following form. Please compare and contrast the Plan [tm] with What Actually Happened.
- Arrive in Belfast at 5pm. NSH Ben and Dave will have arrived at Belfast City airport and made their way across to meet us.
- Pick up hire cars. I’m driving one (me, Dearly Beloved, Nikki and Heather. AKA Team Monkey Feather), Sander’s driving the other (Sander, NSH Ben, Dave and Emma. AKA Team Melon Farmer).
- Drive to Enniskillen to pick up the Admiral (Sander’s car).
- Head on to Drumrush Lodge, where we were staying Monday night. Approximately two hour drive. Get there for around 7-7.30pm (allowing time for Sander to adjust to the car and everything in it being on the wrong side).
- Pop out to pick up food and drink.
- Eat, drink, be merry.
- Drive to wedding Tuesday morning.
- Enjoy wedding, stay overnight at Lusty Beg hotel.
- Sander leaving early and taking NSH Ben and Dave with him.
- We’d leave later, me, Dearly Beloved, Emma, Heather and Nikki as we all have same flight back from Newcastle.
- Fly home.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
- Arrived in Belfast at 5pm. THIS IS ABOUT THE ONLY PART OF THE TRAVELLING ELEMENT OF THE TRIP THAT ACTUALLY WENT ACCORDING TO PLAN.
- Wonder where the entity temporarily known as BenandDave are. Ring them. They are still at City, but will be ‘with us shortly’.
- Wait half an hour. Still no BenandDave.
- Go to pick up the cars anyway, figuring that Sander can practise driving round the car park.
- Wait another half an hour. Still no BenandDave, but they are ON THEIR WAY. This is an advance.
- At 6.20pm, BenandDave finally arrive. We discover that the delay was down to Dave waiting patiently for his suit which went as hold baggage but is somehow noticeable by its absence. This is because it’s still in Gatwick. They have promised faithfully to express courier the suit to the hotel as soon as it arrives. We ring the Admiral in Enniskillen to let him know that we are running late. He retires to a handy pub. We also ring te hotel who were expecting us around 7.30pm and say it’s more likely to be 8.30-9.00pm. They are Not At All Pleased. Guilt sets in.
- People disperse to their respective cars. We’re on the road! HUZZAH!
- Ten minutes out of the airport, I glance into my rear-view mirror to see a huge plume of smoke billowing from Team Melon Farmer’s car and see them pull over. I similarly pull over and we ring the other car.
- They have a flat tyre. After a few increasingly anxious exchanges, we agree that Team Monkey Feather will continue on, we will collect the Admiral from Enniskillen and we will get to the hotel, otherwise the owners may explode and that would not be a good thing. Sander will ring Europcar and sort things. They’re only ten minutes from the airport, how hard can it be?
- Oh ha. Ha ha ha.
- We drive on in completely uneventful bliss for an hour or so, exchanging occasional texts with Team Melon Farmer. Sander has spent 45 minutes on the phone to various people, either being on hold or being hung up on, but they WILL BE SENDING SOMEONE OUT.
- We drive on a little further until we’re almost at Enniskillen. Heather rings the Admiral to ask him where he is. He tells us he is in ‘that pub, on that street, you know the one.’
- NO, ADMIRAL, WE DON’T KNOW ENNISKILLEN AT ALL.
- We still manage to find him and bundle him into the car. He is now officially adopted into Team Monkey Feather.
- At about 8.30pm, we find the Drumrush Lodge Hotel. There are no staff present, but she is On Her Way. We marvel at the glorious view from the lodge, for it is indeed glorious. I go to the back of the car to get out my new camera to take a photograph of the fact. See? See how pretty it is?
- Go back to car.
- Boot is closed.
- Keys are in boot.
- Car autolocks.
- Keys are in boot.
- Car is locked.
- Keys are in boot.
- It is now my turn to ring Europcar in an effort to determine what I should do. The… what word can I use here… helpful young lady who answered the phone brightly suggested that maybe I could smash the car window. It was one of those stare-at-the-phone moments. I politely suggested that I didn’t think that was a good idea, particularly not since I had a £600 excess on the hire car insurance. The following, quite brief and increasingly angry exchange took place.
- “You need to ring this number.”
- I rang that number. “Our offices are now closed.”
- I rang her back. “Try the number that’s in the car, on the back of the tax disc.”
- “We can’t see the back of the tax disc. There’s a door post RIGHT IN THE WAY.”
- “Just open the do… oh. Oh, I see. Hold on.”
- I held on. For fifteen minutes. At this point, we discover that Team Melon Farmer are still in Belfast. Inspiration strikes! Perhaps they can pop to Europcar and pick up the spare key! OK, we won’t be into the car for all our stuff for another two hours – but it’s infinitely preferable to ‘smashing the window’.
- Helpful Young Lady returns. “I got one of the guys to look for the number for you. Here it is.”
- “Our other party are still in Belfast… could they maybe swing by and pick up the spare key?”
- “We… don’t have a spare key.”
- (I know. That’s what I thought, too). By now, I am on the verge of tears. Then it suddenly stops being stressful and the funny side of it all begins to emerge.
- I ring the new number. I get through to a VERY nice, helpful man who promises to send someone out who will most likely be able to get into the car without any problem.
- We also hear from the airport. Dave’s suit has arrived! Huzzah! There is a very real chance it’ll arrive at the Lodge before he does, because Team Melon Farmer have only just left Belfast with their new tyre. It is now 9.15pm. Raye and Harry arrive and wonder what the hell is going on. They’re not alone.
- The incredibly lovely lady who runs the hotel takes Steve and Heather into Kesh to buy beer and snacky food. She provides us with a tray of coffee and tea and chocolate and backs out, possibly wondering what the hell is going on. We have coffee. I cannot settle as am waiting for breakdown truck and have constant anxiety about Melon Farmer’s safety.
- Breakdown truck arrives at about 10pm, just as the light is starting to leave the day. Within fifteen minutes, he has the back door open and the key is relocated. Whilst he is sitting back in his truck filling in the paperwork, I hug his leg in gratitude. It’s been that sort of day.
- Unable to relax until Team Melon Farmer arrive. At 11.45pm. Frequently check whereabouts of the key.
- We then raid the beer and the snacks until Very Late, before retiring to sleep and listening to the rain bounce off the skylights. It is pissing it down out there… BUT WE’RE ALL TOGETHER! Finally.
And that was just Monday.
Tuesday dawned grey and overcast and people emerged from their assorted pits, showered and sat around lethargically for a while. That’s the thing about weddings; there’s a lot of milling around. We stared out the window at the greyness of the weather and then suddenly a sliver of blue light appeared in the sky. This was to bode well for the rest of the day.
In due course, Raye and Harry appeared, looking incredibly dapper and shame us into getting ready. We do this and then we pile off in our respective cars to head for the Lusty Beg Island car ferry. Which is only big enough for two cars. We are transported across to the island, where we indulge in lunch and relaxing before we check into our beautiful rooms and head back to the bar. We find Aaron who is looking pretty amazing in his suit and we mill around some more before the Actual Wedding kicks off.
There is not much I can say about the wedding. This is not because it wasn’t glorious, because it was one of the most beautiful, elegant weddings I’ve ever been to. But when everything is flawless, what can you do? The Queen of the Pixies looked simply stunning and the whole service was wonderful to watch. Katie’s fantastic brothers provided usher services and readings and even musical accompaniment. Talented swines. The registrar stumbled over ‘Dembski-Bowden’ a couple of times which was entertaining and in due course, the new Mr and Mrs Dembski-Bowden were Officially Knotted Together.
We went outsde for photographs and what have you – and the sun was now blazing away merrily. The Guild had a GREAT photograph taken with the new king and queen of the pixies.
We determined that we had used up all our bad luck on Monday and that there was nothing that could go wrong now. And you know what?
We were right.
The reception was brilliant; the food was utterly delicious and extraordinarily plentiful. The speeches (all one hour and 12 minutes of them) were fun and heartfelt and the disco was beyond fun. Had many conversations with many people, although every single time Aaron and I were about to start a conversation, someone stole him away. It really was a great wedding and I know how honoured and privileged I feel to have been a part of it. Even WITH the pre-wedding chaos.
Wednesday dawned much the same as Tuesday – sunny and warm – and after a brief trip to Aaron and Katie’s house (where Dearly Beloved’s hand was dutifully savaged repeatedly by Loken), we got back to the airport and before you could blink, were back home in Newcastle.
It was a whirlwind couple of days and there were parts of it that were faintly surreal. But you know what? For the honour of seeing two people I love dearly becoming husband and wife, I’d do it all again tomorrow.