Sunday, September 23, 2007

Home, and Chris Pepper gets Married!

Late Arrival at Heathrow and the Consequences
The flight is uneventful, with breakfast then lunch served. Arriving, we whizz off the plane, and leg it to the transfer area. I’m quite excited about this, as I’ve never transferred in the UK, how does it work? It’s not that exciting really, we just get on a bus going to the terminal we’re headed for (T1 in our case), which leaves as soon as we board and only takes about 5 minutes. I start to wonder whether we might actually make our flight. Presumably even if we do, our bags won’t.

All this becomes irrelevant though as we reach security. A long queue snakes its way back and forth. That’s the end of that. We queue patiently. We reach the front, and there are still a few minutes for the flight. We might make it. I have to take laptop out, and then we’re told to remove shoes. The other side, I grab my bag as I put my shoes on, and dash off. Only later in Edinburgh do I remember the laptop. Oh dear!

Anyway, we dash on, and the chap says to go to gate 74. But first, immigration. There’s a queue for “health-check” and a queue for passport check. It looks like health check is first so we wait there for a precious couple of minutes before being told that is just for long-term visitors to the UK. We go together through passport control. The chap changes Thuzar’s employment status to employed on our form. Dashing on, we make it to gate too late. The plane is still there, but they won’t let us through.

BA ticketing give us another ticket for the next flight which is in about 20 minutes, so no problem. Just enough time to pop into the Terraces lounge before going to gate again. We’ve gone from having seats at the front which I chose online to being in row 34 on a small plane, i.e. the last row. Oh well. We watch as the plane is delayed about 30 minutes because of pulling off bags from delayed international connecting passengers. All this joke security by BAA muppets must be costing BA a lot of time and money.

At Edinburgh we collect our bags, and I notice my hand-luggage is a bit light, i.e. my loss of laptop at Heathrow. I try calling Lost Property but they don’t answer. Bugger. Since we had been delayed, Rob had asked us to catch the bus into town, where he’d pick us up (instead of the airport). However, as we’d been delayed further, he could now pick us up here. Hurrah! As an avid reader of the blog, I feel sure he’ll recognise me as he pulls up!

Back at his house, Louis and Leia are waiting up for us!


They’re slightly suspicious of me at first, just like all the adults who haven’t seen me since the hair “exploded”! It’s Sophie’s birthday… Happy Birthday! The kids go to bed and we pop out to buy some wine. It’s cold. How wonderful! Thuzar doesn’t think so, but I walk along relishing the bracing breeze. There’s a blue sky as the sun goes down. I’m so glad to be home (well almost – Edinburgh is all English or American people anyway, all the Scots are in Glasgow!).

So we have a birthday dinner cooked by Rob. It’s our 10th meal of the day, but is tasty food so we enjoy our modest portions. Afterwards we’re put upstairs on a comfy sofa bed, replacing the squeaky one from last time! I query lack of matching sheets, something I know Rob and Sophie have noticed before – when does one go from being a student and having lots of non-matching linen to being an organised Country Living grown-up where everything is coordinated? Finally also, we get to wash! Hurrah!

Shopping in Edinburgh
After a scrumptious breakfast of home-made bread with the kids, we head out to walk up the hill near their house. It’s a beautiful morning, the sun is shining and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky! Little does Thuzar realise how unusual this is, though perhaps everyone remarking on how wonderful the weather is should have tipped her off. Up at the viewpoint there’s a good view over the whole of Edinburgh, and right up to the Scottish highlands on the horizon.

Rock climbing

Back down, we head out, walking to Chris’s place. Somehow I have no recollection of it at all. Perhaps it’s something to do with approaching from the other side? Anyway, Chris looks calm and collected for a man getting married the following day, so apparently there’s not much for me to do.

I wish him luck, then we go into town together on the bus, passing Sophie and Leia heading to a party. In town, Chris shows us the George Hotel, where the reception will be held, and we bump into his bride-to-be, Renata, and her whole family, doing the same presumably.

Finally, I get to enjoy my beloved Starbucks, though incredibly they still haven’t rolled out Green Tea Frapps to the UK! What’s going on, Starbucks, you should be taking advice from your Global Ambassadors, of whom I am surely one – get the GTFs into UK stores! The rest of the world has them, why do you deny the honest Brit their sugary goodness?

We have lunch at Monstermash, which Chris has taken me to before. You choose your sausages, your mash type, and you have a choice even of gravy. They have springbok sausage. I presume this is some sort of South African sausage. Nope, it really is a sausage made from actual Springbok meat! Just like England’s gonna eat SA in the rugby in a few days. Gulp!

Thuzar does some wedding dress shopping, and finds a bargain at 10 pounds for a pretty summer dress. Only afterwards does she mention that she already has one she’ll wear. Ah well, an age-old female trick.

I pick up a Pay As You Go sim card for my mobile, as I’ve been finding the travel sim a bit expensive for use in the UK. Overall I’d say that the sim is good if you’re in a country where it’s free to receive, but it’s certainly not that cheap to call people, and you have to put up with this incredibly annoying callback system which means you’re lucky if you manage to get through to anyone anyway!

I want to buy the latest album from the lovely Monkey Swallows the Universe guys up in Sheffield. Name is The Casket Letters. Almost every CD shop in town has had it but has sold out. Well that’s good I suppose, but I want a copy, dammit! We give up and take the bus back in time for story time!

The book of choice is of course “Sam I Am”, or Dr Seuss. Fondly I remember the days at COLT with Rob chanting the lines to me over and over: “Do you like Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I am? I do not like Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I am!”. They doze off, and we head downstairs to watch Crocodile Dundee, which I’ve bought at Fopp because Thuzar is Mick Dundee! After we head out for some beers at the Morningside Glory down the hill, a cool walk down, but a nice place as it was still busy at 11pm when we arrived. Unfortunately a few gulps into my pint I started to doze off myself, so we headed back. I hopped on Rob’s 3G T-Mobile wireless before retiring.

Chris Pepper’s Married!
It’s the wedding morning, and I have to iron a shirt for the first time in a looooong time! Thuzar reveals her dress to all.

Pretty in pink

We head down to Chris’ place for 12. My shoes hurt, and the wasps apparently like Thuzar’s handbag. There’s no answer from the doorbell or Chris’ phone. Eventually a neighbour lets me in. I’m worrying Chris has got cold feet or something, but he’s just pottering about, right as rain. Phew! He’s leaving this flat share after the wedding and moving in with Renata, so has all the last minute hassles associated with moving house. I help with the hoovering.

Well this feels.. strange..!

Chris has bought funny yellow cravats for all the best men. It looks roughly like a napkin tucked into our neckband. Ah well, I can see the appeal of us having a uniform of sorts. We head out and hop on the bus across town to the church, which is in Leith.

Strolling into the church

South Leith Parish Church is a beautiful old church in a mixed area. Chris chose it because the original minister he spoke to at his church of choice was a bit arrogant. This priest (what is the terminology) is friendly and turns out to conduct a lovely and well-spoken service.

The programme

Parts of the church date from 1380, though there obviously have been additions over the years.

Church ceiling

There’s actually not much for us to do as best men apart from greet people, make sure they sit in right place, hand out the order of service etc.

Getting the man ready

It gets busy, then starts, and we proceed through the well-chosen hymns, readings and the vows. It’s a lovely service. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect as Chris and Renata are both devout Christians – most weddings one goes to these days are fairly non-committed affairs, even the ones in churches. However, it was standard (in a good way) – in some places following Celtic traditions, for example not asking whether people object, and not throwing the bouquet (I was able to unlock Thuzar’s handcuffs).

Da da da daaa

We met all the relatives along the line outside – I felt sorry for Chris and Renata, who being last were standing outside, where it was fairly nippy.

Chris and Renata seemed so genuinely happy, which was lovely. I’m sure if I’d smiled for that long my jaw would be aching.

Old friends

The men

Once everyone heads off, we go round the corner to a pretty secondary garden part for more photos.

Catalogue poses

The lovely couple

We bus to the George Hotel (thank god for that, my feet are agony), and to my great surprise it’s almost 5pm already! Only one hour to go, so we pop across the road we head to Starbucks as a group.

Relaxing and chatting, I find that Thuzar is suspicious of her coffee, an extra dry cappuccino. Back at the hotel, complimentary drinks are provided including whisky! Truly a Scottish affair!


The girls

I have a peep into where we’re going next – the dining hall looks grand. Chris had suggested modesty but it would do anyone proud.

The room


Of course, always plenty of excitement as to who one will be sitting next to at such do’s. We take our seats and find ourselves with a nice bunch for, as the announcer says as he hails us in, the “Wedding Breakfast”. Chris’ Dad says grace then the dinner commences. It had to be good as Renata has Italian relatives over, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Parma Ham and Melon kicks things off.

Then a main course of chicken, before the treat.. pudding!


I spot a gap in proceedings, so sneak off to the bar in the next building for a pint, which beady-eyed Chris spots from the high table!

Speeches commence with the father of bride.

Next Chris, who is halting but funny in his inimitable style, weaving in discussion of Argos and how young British children spend hours pouring over the catalogues, before thanking himself for all his own work in making today happen. Good work fella!

Steve, as the lead Best Man was up to make the high-pressure speech, made doubly-hard as he hasn’t known Chris for long. He got through okay, though I have to say (from my position of not having the chore or honour) that both needed some practice. Making up the speeches on the day certainly takes some balls, but I reckon you need to have had written out the majority of it, or at least had a few run throughs a few days in advance.

After cake we were all moved out for the dance floor to be cleared.


First dance

After a conventional first dance, the teacher for the Ceilidh (pronounced "kaylee") Scottish dancing comes out. He’s good, and seems to be fluent in nearly every European language, a bonus given the international crowd. We join in a couple of them, and I discover that remarkably Thuzar has less coordination than me! The dances are mostly line dances, with all sorts of fun swinging about in between.


It’s pretty hot in the room, but standards have to be upheld so the jacket stays on, though an occasional cool break outside is welcome. At the end it’s wrapped up with Auld Lang Syne then, a stroke of genius, bacon sandwiches!! We say bye to Chris and head off.

We find the bus to Braids is not for 45 minutes so hop in a taxi, which costs ten pounds.

Down South

Of course, and the reason I admire Sophie and Rob so much, is that whatever time you go to bed, you’re up early for the kids! Rob goes off to work wearing the suit I’ve just taken off (thank-you so much Rob!) then we take Louis and Leia to school with Sophie.

Back at the house, we pick up our bags and take the bus to the airport. Being Silver Card, we go down the priority check-in lane, only to get Mr Muppet behind the desk. He can’t find Thuzar’s booking. I checked in the night before so I know he’s just being stupid. I patiently explain her name as its listed in the booking, and what seat she is already checked in to, but he still can’t find her. Goodness me. I offer to replace him and come round and check her in myself, but after about 15 minutes (!) he manages it. Why do we have humans involved at all?

I’m almost proud that my backpack qualifies for “oversized luggage” channel now, though it’s a bit of a nuisance. Never happened before, and interestingly happens again at Heathrow, so I assume it’s BA tightening up procedures. Worse than this is BAA “so-called” security insisting that because of their numpty “one bag policy” my smallish camera case had to be inside my main hand luggage, which is just an inconvenience, jamming the hard bag into my backpack when the security grunts can see it will fit. They’re clearly not paid to have any common sense though, and woe betide anyone who argues with them, that would be “threatening an officer” and presumably result in jail.

Into the BA Terraces lounge with my silver card, we have a bit of breakfast before the flight.

It ends up being a bit late for no apparent reason, and before long we’re at London City Airport, which I’ve never been to before. Ralfy use to rave about it. It is certainly small, with room for about 4 planes to sit on the tarmac. Pippi has done me an enormous favour by picking up my laptop, so we’re going to meet her before taking the train from Liverpool Street. After I get a couple of Oystercards, London’s smartcard system (the girl took me as a tourist and tried not to sell them to me.. just gimme the cards, woman!), we take the DLR light railway, without drivers hurrah, to Tower Gateway.

This we get to do first touristy thing, i.e. drag all our bags over to see The Tower of London (from the road) and Tower Bridge.

Next Fenchurch Street, where I pick up our tickets to Sheringham. It’s 2 hours and 45 minutes, and a bloomin’ expensive too, plus a network railcard for an additional twenty pounds. Along the old streets, we arrive at the Old Tea Warehouse, my old haunt from before. I ring Kalpesh, but he’s at Powergate, and no one else shows up. Buggers! Anyway, Pippi does, with my laptop, thank goodness!


After a few pints of Greene King IPA, we walk together to Liverpool Street. It’s mayhem, apparently a train line bridge has been knocked so all services are suspended, though our train only starts ten minutes late. On the train, there’s a chap in our reserved seats. Oh no, he says, no reservations when it’s like this. It’s only 10 minutes late, I’m about to say, but instead ask nicely if he’ll move to the single seat across the row, which he agrees to.

We stop start on our way out of London, and all my pride in British trains compared with India evaporates. Same service but ten times the price! At Shenfield we are detrained, there’s apparently a problem with our engine, we’re moved on to the train behind us, which of course is already full. Fun with our big bags.

Eventually we arrive at Norwich, and of course the Sheringham train hasn’t waited for us, so we have 45 minutes till the next service, which we sit out in the waiting room as it’s a bit nippy. On Dad’s recommendation I ring to book a taxi at Cromer, just as well as another person jumps in before us, but the misunderstanding is soon cleared up. Eight pounds later we’re at my family’s cottage in Aldborough, Norfolk. It’s dark and takes a while to find.

Aldborough, in the daytime, is a beautiful quintessentially English village. Centred on a green with cricket pitch (fielding two teams), it has a post office, a well-stocked shop, and remarkably for the size of the place, two pubs! The cottage, Fox Cottage, used to be a chapel, and has been beautifully done-up by my family, especially my parents and Hedgy. We whack the heating on, then hit the comfy beds!

Incidentally, if any of my friends want a break, the cottage is unused most of the time. Speak to me (or Dad if you know him!) about using it.

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