Monday, 9 May 2016

Diary of the Mother of the Bride

(First published in the South Wales Evening Post)

Valentine Countdown
1st January 2003
New Year resolution number 1: I will no longer leave everything until the last minute but will emulate boy scouts and be prepared, and well-organised.
New Year resolution number 2: start serious diet as of now.

Shall begin by taking in hand organisation of daughter’s upcoming nuptials. Consult Ms Etty Kett’s Guide to Modern Marriage. Page 43, Invitations should be sent out at least three months in advance.
Wedding is 14th February, giving us, let’s see, six weeks and two days precisely. Bother. Must be a record – breaking New Year resolution that quickly - even for me. Christmas truffles offer consolation. Mmmm, feel better already ... oh, bother, bother. 

Will not be downhearted at obvious flaw in resolution plans i.e. me, but will persevere. Make list of ‘things to do’, in no particular order.

Slightly concerned about length of list and number of times word ‘buy’ crops up. Tell myself that that, at least, is husband’s worry, not mine and concentrate instead on most important task: write piece to read at wedding. Plan to write moving and sensitive piece to ensure wet-eyed delight, foiled by daughter saying, ‘you won’t write anything cheesy and sentimental, will you?’ Bother, bother, bother. Could be a long and too short six weeks.

Stressful afternoon making wedding invitations. Not helped by son-in-law-to-be ‘mushing’ daughter’s hearts and me guillotining hand, resulting in tasteful bright red splodge additions to invites. Tell daughter that red is a very romantic colour, often associated with hearts, especially bleeding ones. Son-in-law-to-be decides to visit long lost friend, daughter takes long lasting bath. I am left to devise ‘economical with the truth’ method of telling Grandma that the invites are on their way. Really.

Diary 2
On 14th February, my daughter, Anna, will marry Steven. That gives me ... not long to find an outfit. Set off for Mumbles. Park illegally for five, yes, five, minutes, and return to find car clamped. Not good start to the day. Plan to shout at man who comes to release car but change mind when I see size of him, and seethe inwardly instead. 

Follow this with visit to dress shop but waste of time as too clamp-raged to concentrate so return home to grumble at everyone.

Sit at computer to start writing piece for wedding. While waiting for inspiration, play Spider Solitaire. Complete it at fifth attempt. Reward myself with choccy bar, saying, ‘it has to be eaten.’ Decide to write w.p. when more inspired.

Pre-wedding plan for new me: 1) attend first Pilates exercise class. Jackie, the teacher, says my stomach contraction is ‘brilliant’. Swell with pride, belly flops and I get told off. 
2) buy anti-wrinkle cream. Wish manufacturers had spotted link between ageing skin and failing eyesight before printing labels. Want to believe it will do what it says on the pot, whatever that may be, but can it do it in four weeks? 

During regular night-time read of Ms Etty Kett’s guide, discover that licence is needed for marriage to take place. Make note to remind self to remind daughter and son-in-law-to-be of this fact. Own wedding is vaguest dim memory. Assume all was done properly then. Won’t check … don’t want to give husband excuse to cut up credit cards.

Trek round clothes shops again. Singularly unsuccessful. Determined not to panic. What I really need is a shop called Clothes-R-Not-Me but cup of tea and muffin will have to do for now.
Reluctantly visit Allison Jayne. Have been putting this off because a) not me i.e. too smart, and b) too expensive. Surprisingly, find outfit that is me. Unsurprisingly, v. expensive. Go home outfit-less to panic.
Pippa, lovely lady who makes incredible hats, says, really, she needs a month if I want one to match my outfit, and have I got it yet? 

Have first hot flush. Give hormones good talking to. Cannot put up with menopausal attacks as well as everything else. 

Phone Dylan Thomas Centre regarding evening party. Wayne says there’s plenty of time and no need to do anything yet. I think I love him. 

Diary 3
Take daughter to see outfit I had tentatively, and foolishly as it turns out, thought to be ‘quite nice’. She declares it too reminiscent of the old hippie me. Yeah, cool, what’s wrong with that, man? 
A lot, apparently. Agree we will look elsewhere but keep it in mind if I get desperate. 

Suggest local Hotel as possibility for happy couple’s wedding night but snooty man on reception there looks down his nose at us and tells us they’re full – this in spite of me being assured there was plenty of room when I enquired earlier (and again later). Make note to avoid local Hotel in future.

Book hair appointments for bridesmaids. Two maids and ... two different dresses. Daughter decides it will be all right as they can be linked together with contrasting bouquets (as opposed to my suggestion of heavy metal chains). 

Husband starts to plan speech. Will not allow me power of veto. ‘Should I be concerned?’ I ask. He responds by enquiring if I have written my piece yet. I leave room hurriedly and head for teapot.

Find myself hiding behind doors to avoid the inevitable, ‘Have you got your outfit?’ Even shopping for food becomes stress-inducing as old school friends recognise me from the newspaper and ask the same question.

According to Ms Etty Kett’s timetable, by now, we should be sitting back calmly waiting for the great day. Ms Smarty Pants Kett is beginning to irk.

Relax at Limeslade collecting stones for wedding. Dog eats sticks while I am distracted by variety of colours and shapes. Find one that bears striking resemblance to Sean Connery. Take it home to keep with stick that looks like aardvark. 

Become aware that I am talking to myself as I wander around. Talking to myself not a problem – everyone does it, don’t they? It’s the hysterical high-pitched giggle that causes passers-by to do so rapidly.

New term at El Greco’s dancing class. Husband and I took it up in order to trip the slightly overweight fantastic at wedding party. Suspect we will only look good if we don’t have to do corners. Perhaps could use analogy of dancing lessons in piece to be written for wedding. “As you waltz through life, remember that, on a small dance floor, there are many corners and the man always leads.” Then again...

Diary 4
Have developed intermittent twitch in lower left eyelid. Hope it goes before wedding. Have already had wink returned by strange man in woods. Must remember to avoid that path for time being.

Momentous news of week – have bought outfit. But discover that, apparently, I need hat, shoes, underwear (mine has given up uneven battle and dangles limply along with body parts) and handbag (have to carry bride’s make-up on the day but carrier bag will do for that, surely?)

Put body in capable hands of lovely lady in posh underwear shop in arcade. Leave with everything I need and new shape. Realise I have bigger boobs than Barbara Windsor. Obviously missed my vocation in life. But wait, I feel inspiration coming on ... “In the soap opera of marriage, may you never meet Phil Mitchell.” No, perhaps not. But really must start writing wedding piece.

Remember world outside wedding and squeeze anti-war march in between hat fitting and shoe hunting. 

Wonder what’s happened to all the shoe shops. Oxford Street used to be underfoot with them — now I can’t find any.
Give up, and seek refuge in tea and cake. 

Reminds me that diet seems to have oozed away. Similarly anti-wrinkle cream having no obvious effect on furrows.

Come up with alternative plan and stock up on vitamin C, evening primrose and cod liver oil. Would buy some of that stuff that helps slow memory loss but can’t remember what it’s called.

Must decide on table decorations soon. So that no-one who thinks they should be sitting on table 2 finds themselves sitting on table 7, decide to name tables after beaches. Langland, Caswell, Three Cliffs, Rosil ... Rhosyl, Worm’s Head and so on. 

Deliver cake to Barbara, who will ice it. Great sense of relief on handing it over, knowing won’t see it again until the reception. Can no longer prod it and worry if it’s overcooked. 

Make practice alternative carrot wedding cake, for those who don’t like traditional. Looks a bit soggy in middle, better eat my way in to check.

Mike, who is to play drums at wedding, is admitted to hospital. Feel this is not good timing. Must speak sternly to him.

Plan to spend evening punching hearts thwarted by punch losing its grip. I can empathise.

Diary 5
Shoe shopping expedition. Lose interest two minutes into first shop. Have never managed to persuade myself that things sticking out at ends of legs look anything other than peculiar. Not helped by irregularly-digited foot. End up with shoes that fit but don’t match anything. Tell myself that no-one looks at shoes anyway.

Think outfit just about complete but then friends say I have to have a handbag to put my ready-for-crying tissues in. Am told that a carrier bag will not do.

See advert on television: “Big day ahead? The last thing you want to worry about is constipation.” Hadn’t realised it should be on my list of possible problems. Then friend says he was constipated on honeymoon. Obviously potential cause for concern here. Will definitely stock up on All Bran for whole family. But what if we overdo it? Now I’m worried.

Flick through magazine while standing in queue at supermarket. Read how stars lose weight in a hurry. Can’t afford their methods so decide short crash diet only way to go. 

Later on, manage, at fifth attempt, to make number of meals required at reception equal number of guests. Reward self with single grape. Sigh like a true martyr.

Have to eat dinner on trays as dining table covered with place cards and Order of Services. Leave trail of glitter and silver hearts behind me everywhere I go. Rather like pantomime fairy. Or possibly Dame.

Wonder why ‘to do’ list appears to be getting longer rather than shorter. And days in which to do it getting fewer. Wish people would stop pointing out this fact.

Make second practice carrot wedding cake. Attempt to avoid sogginess of last one results in burned edges. Smother it with lemon icing and explain crunchy bits away as nuts. 

Final visit to Castellmare to confirm reception details turns out not to be final visit as have forgotten to take vital information with me. Janey, the wedding co-ordinator, is calmly reassuring.

As is Wayne at Dylan Thomas Centre. He’s not even ruffled when I tell him which menu we want for evening buffet and then ask if we can change half of items on it. “No problem,” he says.

Sun shines and crocuses and snowdrops in garden blossom. Makes me smile. It’ll be all right. 

Diary 6
Wedding Day minus 2
‘To do’ list gets longer. Includes collecting driftwood and finding bit of old rope. 

Search unsuccessfully for dark purple handbag. Carrier bag alternative seems more and more appealing.

Spend an hour cutting out tissue paper petals that become more tooth-shaped as minutes tick away.
Husband draws up timetable to get us through next two days.

Wedding Day minus 1
Make alternative carrot wedding cake. At least, would do if hadn’t run out of eggs and sugar. Adjust timetable to include trip to supermarket. 

Spend afternoon skewering order of services together. 

11 pm and still have problem with icing, which persists in sliding off cake. According to timetable should have been asleep an hour ago. Tear up timetable.

Wedding Day
In town at 9 am waiting for shops to open so can buy handbag. Any handbag.

Rest of day is perfect. We are blessed. The sun shines and everything, absolutely everything, is wonderful. A brilliant start to married life for daughter and new son-in-law.

It’s early Saturday morning before we flop into bed, exhausted but happy. And looking forward to relaxing by watching Wales beat Italy...

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