A week before the big day Littlehampton was subjected to unseasonal and widespread flooding, this meant that one of the two fields we’d hired for our reception was waterlogged right up to the thursday when we arrived to welcome the marquee company at 7 in the morning. So they put up the huge and beautiful traditional canvas marquee in the adjacent field, which was closer to the beach and had no hedges around it. The significance of this will soon become apparent. It turned into a lovely day so, after unloading all our boxes of carefully collected and packed crockery (which had taken six months of boot-sale trawling to get), the fizz etc. and all the tent-dressing props into the marquee everyone buggered off on various missions and left me with my mother babysitting the marquee for a few hours at 6pm. Then it started to get windy. Really windy. By 8pm this had developed into an unforecast severe gale force 10 and I had to give up trying to hammer wooden tent pegs back in. I knew that it was time to call the marquee company’s emergency number when I saw the force on the windward side start to jack the three foot long metal pins that hold the main guys out of the ground in front of my eyes. At 9.30pm we lost the marquee, had to get everything and everyone out in a hurry and were still sitting in the van with best man at midnight waiting for six teams from the marquee company to pack everything up and take it away. Members of family went back to stay at their B&B’s and we went to stay on the boat with nowhere to hold a reception for 160 people.
The next morning we were awake before five, and by 7.30am we’d somehow been offered a modern steel barn on an industrial estate in which to do the do, by 9am we’d removed the combine harvester from it and evicted the rats. So instead of a village green style tent, we now had a warehouse party to organise. Thus began the busiest, most stressful day ever. Launching a restored tug had nothing on this. We couldn’t get the drinks license moved at the last minute due to predictable local council bureaucracy so Becky’s sister rang round the list of every guest and told them firstly about the change of venue and secondly that they’d better bring some booze. The marquee company very kindly came back and dressed the barn up as best they could with carpets and some marquee linings and as our guests began to arrive we strongarmed them into helping get the show on the road. Everyone was, without exception, a bunch of superstars. We all mucked in sorting all the hurriedly repacked crockery out (miraculously unbroken from its ordeal) and dressing up the party space, which took some time. We were done, and righteously frazzled, at midnight and Becky and I parted company. She went with her parents and friends back to a B&B and I took my best men (they multiplied) back to the boat, and passed out. After everything had gone so sideways the previous 48 hours, the first thought I had as I woke up on my wedding day was ‘whatever I do, I must maintain a grip on things’, and my second thought was ‘and anything I’ve forgotten to do will have to go hang, possibly including the previous statement’. With a head full of these two thoughts we stomped off to the beach for a little cobweb blasting, which worked a treat, but I still struggled to get the bacon sandwich my best men provided down my neck. I didn’t have to worry though, the day turned out to be almost perfect. The ridiculous wind dropped off and the sun came out, I had a shower in a horsebox whilst chatting to me Dad over the back gate and got dressed up into me specially tailored coat. I turned up far too early at Arundel town hall and at 3.30pm on the 23rd June 2012, in front of all our friends and family I married Rebecca Hewlett. She looked radiant in her dress. I even managed to say my vows clearly without a lump forming in my throat, a fact that I’m inordinately proud of as I was struggling during the registrars meeting just an hour before and it had threatened to make my mascara run. Afterward we had a really lovely blessing conducted on board our boat by my aunty Heather, watched by 90 or so people on board. Yep, they all fitted, just about. And then Becky’s father William drove us to our rather unusual new party venue in his rather grand little 1929 Humber motor car. The party was brilliant, after some great food a live band- The Duplicates- played an excellent set, well, half of it- because at that point the rather harried lady that we’d originally hired the field from arrived to shut us down. At 11.30pm. I shit you not. Her brother had lent us the barn, and he had also assured us that since no-one lived anywhere nearby we wouldn’t get any complaints. So who complained? Him, apparently. Go figure. By this point I’d given up on the whole stress thing as a bad idea and was just trying to enjoy myself, but it did rather kill the party off so Becky and I were home and tucked up in bed by 3am.
The next day was almost as much fun, Becky and I got ourselves back to the barn and we enjoyed an energetic day, like setting up but without the stress, packing everything away. We cleared the barn, ferried people to train stations, and even managed a few extra guided tours of the boat for people who’d missed it the day before. AND made it to a reasonable hostelry for a late lunch with everyone who was still around. Although B and I had gone to bed on our wedding night completely sober (seriously), quite a lot of my mates in particular were busily banishing sore heads in the time honoured manner, we just enjoyed finally being able to relax and speak to people properly. Everyone says a wedding day is ‘your day’. That’s not really true is it?
The biggest mistake I made immediately after our wedding was to lose my mobile phone charger in the rush, and the subsequent move (see below). It being a cranky old steam driven device which isn’t compatible with anything this meant that I was out of touch for a week during our ‘honeymoon’. This does have its advantages...
Also in the week long honeymoon after the wedding we moved to stay on the boat full time, which was a fairly big operation too. Living on board is GREAT, and a long awaited dream made real. But certain things are very different. I am surprised at how effectively in just under a month, we’ve managed to move boxes around, over and over again and settle into what is still very much an ongoing project. We washed all the calico that we’d used as tablecloths at the wedding feast and stretched it around all the unfinished hull sides inside and it looks surprisingly domestic, and is excellently keeping the dust down. As the boat is unfinished, we only have sporadic 240v power, like when I fire up the big generator. or plug in the ‘my first inverter’ I got the other day. So everything in married life seems different and new, from cooking (woodburner and gas stove) to washing hair (tin bath, team effort) to communications with the outside world (paper cups and ball of string)! There’s also an hour plus commute each way for Becky to deal with as she’s maintaining her livery stables business in Epsom. I’ve even managed a couple of days of woodwork on board, after first sealing myself into the engine room with clear plastic to avoid dust getting into the bedroom or galley. The framing for wing tanks and real bathroom-to-be has begun in earnest. Becky has been oiling and waxing finished woodwork in the wheelhouse cabin using a pure tung oil/black bison wax combo, and after about a million coats we started putting books onto finished bookshelves in there. It looks divine.
Dunno what’s going to happen to the blog, being on board with my wife sort of feels like mission accomplished, and being away from regular contact with computers for now may hamper regular updates, but I’ll try. For now it feels sufficient to say that right now it feels like all the years of torturous expense, hard work and massive sacrifice have suddenly come to fruition.
PS. I’ve suddenly remembered about the tale of two and a half toilets, and a visit from the Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Unit, and the adventure of selling half the crockery at the first boot sale we visited after getting wed, oh god, and a bunch of other stuff.
That does it, I’ll have to write more soon as I can.