The wedding went off without a hitch, apart from the obvious one. Dove and I met up with Mockingbird in London, grabbed Dove’s old housemate Kite (now a UK res) and drove across England in a rental car, pausing to navigate the dangerously non-linear geography of Bristol to pick up a travel-hardened Drake before heading into the rolling hills and dales and glens and fens and heaths and copses and other topological forms which make Somerset so beautiful. Which it truly is, as was apparent from the first moments spent speeding through the countryside.
The winding roads are charmingly narrow, almost always bordered on both sides by ancient stone walls, thick hedgerows or abrupt drops. There are no pavements and indeed no hard shoulders along most of the roads, some houses even opening front doors directly onto the tiny two-lane highways. The extremely snug fit of all this means that a fractional misjudgement would mean a certain crash, and with Mockingbird at the wheel maniacally careening across the English landscape, this was a distinct possibility. Guy knows what he’s doing, though.
The night of our arrival was pretty quiet. We arrived at the church for a wedding rehearsal and walked all over Clevedon looking for a late dinner. We saw how grand and proud much of the town is, immense historic houses arcing up gorgeous sloping streets, most looking like converted churches. We saw how different our lodgings were. Warren’s Village is not, suffice to say, in Clevedon’s most sought-after district.
The day of the wedding itself kicked off with Dove being attacked by a cow. He’d risen early and wandered off down the meandering lane to get some supplies for breakfast. On the way back, he was ambling contentedly along a country lane, bordered on either sides by the ubiquitous hedgerows, and looking closely for hedgepigs (the quest for hedgepigs was one of the constants in our voyage). Suddenly he heard what I can only describe as a bone-chilling moo, and I’m pleased to think that you’ll never read that phrase again in your long-legged life. The cow-roar was accompanied by the sound of clattering hooves. Soon enough, around a bend in the road came a wildly cantering cow, and by his account, a cow with its hoof hard on the gas pedal is a deeply disturbing sight. It charged towards him, and a combination of shock, fear, and comic disbelief rooted him to the spot. Also, there were eggs in the shopping bags which might have been broken had he tried to jump a hedge. Just before it reached him, the cow veered to one side and he found himself alone again, with only the sound of a rapidly disappearing mad cow and a sense of unreality to accompany him. All in all, a nice way to start the day.
This comedy of errors continued when I noticed that Mockingbird had worn my contact lenses instead of his own. This wasn’t a problem for me, but since he was off somewhere driving around those narrow and perilous roads, I began to worry. Mine are about three or four times as strong as his. When he’d left to help set up the wedding, he’d commented on how filmy and blurred his vision seemed. To my shame, I’d told him (a new contacts wearer) that this wasn’t strange in the morning, when the eyes can take a while to adjust. These thoughts might have been ringing in his head as he barrelled through a crumbling wall on top of a picturesque bluff.
But that didn’t happen.
The wedding, of course, of course. Macaw and Starling were (and are) a gorgeous couple, as everyone remarked.
The ceremony was well attended, and the reception was unforgettable. Set in a green country estate replete with cows and goats, I danced with old people and children. This is always one of the joys of special occasions, though you’d never want to dance with old people or children at most other points in your life. There were speeches which managed not to be embarrassing or ill-judged, but instead came across as tender and aww-worthy (Mockingbird's best man speech wasn't as violent as the prep suggested):
There were slightly drunken relatives whom I’d never met but who nonetheless welcomed me as a fellow countryman, and applauded the fact that the strange young Australians were the first on the dancefloor, and the last to leave - although really, we weren't the first, since the bride and groom cut some rug to warm things up, in accordance with tradition:
There was a Scot who kept his iPod in his sporrin.
There were sunflowers:
And there were lots of people from Somerset. I’d never met someone from Somerset. They’re a breed apart.
A day or two later, back to London, where Mockingbird left for Italy and Croatia and the rest of us stayed another night. I went to the zoo with Drake and Meadowlark (staying in London for a while). There were giraffes.
And the next morning I woke an hour and 40 minutes after my alarm went off and dashed madly across London to make it to my flight to Sweden.
Which doesn’t answer your question, does it? What am I doing here?