Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Mother of the Bride (7)

There are some loose ends to tie up. Traditionally, the MotB would have spent the days after the wedding sending out small portions of wedding cake by post and sitting at her bureau writing notes of thanks to the guests. The modern MotB has other preoccupations; focusing back at work, catching up on e-mails and updating her blog. Here is the poem I wrote and read as part of the ceremony. To fully understand the references, it's necessary to know that the groom is a designer who provides the graphics behind performers on stage. The bride is a town planner.

From the Start

Her first day, a new year, born to snow on mountains,
In the next crib a child called ‘One Owl’.

Then, she reaches out her small hand for a cherry.
There is an unseen friend; musical notes and stories
spin towards the spaces where we live.

His first day, born into falling leaves and a burnished sky.
Days filled with lego and alien wars, fights between brothers.
Now he creates new worlds, a stage for different stars.

Their paths, so diverse, came to this first day.
She is only just more beautiful than the day of her birth,
He, a grown man with soft eyes and a gentle smile

A marriage on a day in spring, you reach out in joy and hope.
Today, a new start for your new love.

Morag Gornall
April 2011

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Mother of the Bride (6)

I'm rather fond of Hitchin. Any small town that can produce a pink bra in my size at 9.15 am on a Saturday morning is worth a visit. I felt as if I were in Europe; the sun shone on the square, cafe owners were laying out their tables and chairs, there was a market and an ancient church. But I wasn't on holiday, it was my daughter's wedding day and the bra-hunt plus dragging my husband away from further work on his speech made us late arriving in Royston for the hair and make-up session. It is every bride's privilege to be nervous and stressed. It is a parent's duty to protect their daughter from stress On Her Wedding Day. Enough said.
To avoid any further parent-induced anxiety, The Bride and her father set off too early for the wedding and spent half an hour waiting in a lay-by in the Rolls Royce, while the rest of us, including the groom, gathered in hushed anticipation at Hitchin Priory Hotel for her imminent arrival.
The magic of a wedding is the suspension of belief, when a young woman who only hours before wore jeans, appears in front of her friends and family like a vision from an Edwardian watercolour. As she walked down the aisle my heart ended up in my throat. I found the honest words of the civil ceremony powerful.
Once the wedding ceremony was over, the rest of the day wound down through various stages of relaxation. After the photographs, most of the guests could relax. After the speeches, the key players could relax, once the first dance was over, The Bride and her new husband could finally relax. At the end of the day, when we released magic lanterns, everyone was relaxed, tired and possibly somewhat 'emotional'.
The Bride's father's speech showed the effort he had made but there was a moment of panic when after ten minutes he had only spoken of her first year. The guests exchanged anxious, sideways glances; there were thirty years still to be covered. Luckily, his precis skills redeemed the intervening period.
My favourite moments were a speech by The Bride, where she included a poem by Joyce Grenfell which I will try to post on my next blog, my first glass of champagne and watching my husband produce her baby wellington boots from his pocket. I loved the sunshine, the green parkland, the spring flowers and embraced her four grandparents who had faced a long and difficult journey to be there. The day was solemn, yet graced with humour; the couple walked back down the aisle to Abba's 'Waterloo' and their first dance was to the Eastenders theme tune. Like every MotB, I was filled with pride and joy for her, her new husband and their brothers and friends who cared for and supported them through the day. But like every MotB there was also a quiet moment of regret for the years that have passed.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Mother of the Bride (5)

I went out this morning without make-up, wishing for a Harry Potter cloak and casting envious glances at muslim sisters in their burka and niqab. I have worn a full make-up since I was twelve; every day using foundation, blusher and mascara. I don't know how I got away with it as girls were not allowed to wear make-up to school but I suspect the teachers stopped noticing. There was no such rule for the boys, since men and make-up were largely unheard of in rural Scotland before Boy George. I was surprised how quickly I forgot about my bare face and even went for coffee before my manicure and facial.
Touch is so important for emotional well-being. I felt as if threads of elastic linked the therapist's hands and my skin, particularly over the forehead and between the eyebrows, as she drew the tension away. Baby massage courses are now routine in Sure Start Children's Centres and the massage in schools programme is becoming established. I can imagine how massage would have gone down in the testosterone-fueled secondary school I attended, where girls were in the minority.
I love the professionalism of other people; how the condition of my hands and nails or the skin on my face can be the subject of detailed discussion, close-observation, frowning and note-taking. It feels like it matters. They are serious people, their jobs and training are important. Of course, I always leave with products because those are the tools of their trade and I'm impressed.
My husband disagrees. The woman who cleans our house every week likes to use a range of different cleaning materials; a specific, branded, bottle, tube or spray-can for each task. She can talk with enthusiasm about every one and scans the market to keep abreast of the latest developments. Left to him, she would be asked to use a small range of eco-friendly generic cleaners and he is probably right from an environmental perspective. But if she did this, I argue, she would be diminished. She would lose her sense of being a professional, with a unique set of skills and knowledge acquired over many years.
I have reached the weight I want to be, just in time. I'm afraid I have some sympathy with the anorexic prayer 'nothing tastes as good as slim feels' but there has never been any chance of my developing anorexia as I enjoy food too much and have the reverse self-image of an anorexic; I think I'm slimmer than I am.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Mother of the Bride (4)

Some towns unexpectedly become important. At one time I'd never heard of Kettering but my father worked in Northampton when I was in my late teens and I remember him saying the name with his Dundee accent, drilling down on the 'r's'. Ten years ago in Kettering I was trained in TEACCH (a framework for working with children with autism) by Gary Nesibov of the University of North Carolina. But Kettering is most often a blur, glimpsed from the high speed train from Leicester to London. If the train ever stops, the smell of roasted grain from the Weetabix factory drifts in through the open doors.
Kettering is half way between The Bride's home and Leicester, which explains its sudden significance. We met there on Sunday and the visit was poignant because the next time we meet will be her wedding day. She has decided to lose her maiden name, which would not come as a surprise to you if I was able to print it.
The garden centre we chose turned out to be little more than a shed in a field; a supermarket for ordinary plants and gifts which are a puzzle and disappointment once unwrapped. The MotB could not find anything to buy, not even a birthday card. Since we'll be regular visitors to Kettering I've trawled the internet for alternatives:
Kettering Park Hotel: a modern hotel with Spa...definitely.
Rushton Hall Hotel: an ancient hotel with Spa and afternoon tea served in the Great contest.
Triangular Lodge: built between 1593 and 1597. Symbolism reflects the number three (the Holy Trinity)...maybe later.
Wicksteed Family Theme Park...much, much later.
Naseby Battlefield (Civil War)...never.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Mother of the Bride (3)

I have my fascinator. It looks like a mid-air collision between a blackbird and an Asian Paradise-flycatcher. We went out early, The Bride and me and after breakfast at Mbriki, we wandered along the Leicester Lanes in early spring sunshine and found Impeys, an MotB shop that really belongs in a 'heritage' theme park. There, a very elderly assistant sold me a very expensive fascinator, writing out a paper 'chit' as the receipt.
I haven't heard much about the Hen Night but I understand there was a moment involving masks of Kate and Wills, a toilet and a camera, which was probably treasonous.
My friend and I stayed on in the restaurant, drinking more wine and coffee and having refused a pudding, eating the chocolate hearts I had brought for the table. Despite my fears, the staff were relaxed and good-humoured and the food was brilliant.
The 'old' for The Bride was a white heather favour from my own wedding, the 'new' some wedding tights (yes, such things do exist), the 'blue' a new pair of knickers and the 'borrowed' my diamond earrings made from a ring that originally belonged to my grandmother. When my grandparents lived in India before partition, the myth is that my grandfather bought the diamond one night from a merchant who appeared at the back door with several uncut diamonds wrapped in a dirty rag.
For the two of us left behind, it was a new experience to wander through the town late at night, looking for a taxi. It was so busy, so loud, so crowded and everyone was SO drunk. We decided to do it again; maybe find a champagne bar playing good jazz and pass the whole evening watching. Beats Saturday night TV any day.
I didn't hear The Bride come in but the next day the house was Very Quiet. The words 'never again' were overheard.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Mother of the Bride (2)

Six weeks to go and 'Team MG' has swung into action. Over the weekend I had the first of three manicures, the haircut before The Wedding Haircut and the wax before The Wedding Wax. In education we call this 'scaffolding'. Essentially, it's about planning the small steps needed to reach a desired outcome by building on what is already there; as difficult a job in beauty as in teaching, requiring targets and goal setting by the staff at Femi and George's.
I won't be going clubbing next Saturday night with the rest of the 'girls' on the 'hen night' but I am allowed to bring one friend, so we will sit and drink champagne while they go out into the cold night to shake their brains about in a noisy barn packed with teenagers. They are going to Ragdale Hall for the day and we're meeting at The Case for dinner. The early part of the evening was mine to organise as The Bride isn't having any bridesmaids. I won't go into any details as The Bride may read this but it is 'all in the best possible taste' to quote the late Kenny Everett. The restaurant rang today to confirm the booking and there was a pause when I told them that our booking was for a hen night. How to convince over the phone that you're actually quite respectable? Pathetically, I ended up quoting our respective ages and professions but they still banned table sprinkles, banners and balloons with 'hen night' on them. Luckily, inflatable willies weren't banned (just kidding).
My friend and I decided to dress up, since opportunities are few and gorgeous dresses many, so after a great deal of searching, on Saturday I bought a grey/blue silk shift dress from Coast. The dress was reduced by 25% in John Lewis but I paid full price in House of Fraser in order to get my size. The Bride then telephoned to say that they're going to an Indie club, so don't want to be too formal. One of us will definitely be turning up 'too formal'.
My body prefers to gain weight rather than lose it, particularly if it suspects a diet is being imposed but it has finally acknowledged defeat and I am shrinking. Only four pounds to lose!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Mother of the Bride (1)

It's seven weeks until the wedding and I have five pounds to lose. It may well have been a mistake to buy a dress last summer, which now doesn't fit but I haven't seen anything I like better. It's a fuschia pink, silk, shift dress from Hobbs. I have the shoes and the pashmina, both in black and am still to buy the 'fascinator'. A friend said to me that a 'fascinator' sounds like a sex toy but I can reassure any worried reader who is not up to date with wedding lore, that it is a feathery thing worn on the head at a jaunty angle instead of a hat. I am relieved about the hat because having rather a large head and lots of thick hair, hats tend not to be a good look. The question remains: what is so fascinating about a 'fascinator'?
My daughter's wedding has been easy for us because she and her partner are organising it themselves. We have been spared the responsibility of searching for a venue, ordering and sending out invitations and poring over the social minefield of the seating plan. They have chosen Hitchin Priory Hotel in Hertfordshire, which is close to where they live. The package comes with a wedding planner, so now that the flowers, the wedding car and the photographer are booked, there is little more to do except get nervous (her) and spend money (me). I am accused of spending more than the bride but my argument is that in order to look passable, I have to commit money and time to the project, whereas the bride could turn up having just got out of bed and still look wonderful.
The biggest challenge has been writing something to read during the ceremony. For those not yet involved in the wedding industry, there are pages of readings and speeches on the internet. Studying these gave me insight into the themes; some dwell on love and romance, others on the joy of the wedding day itself and some, not without an edge of bitterness I felt, dwelt on the trials and endurance ahead. In the end I wrote my own poem, which has been approved gladly by the young couple. It now has to be scrutinised by the registrar. After the wedding, I will post it here.