The travel documents lie there for months in the drawer until one day those black and white dates and times which represented a day at an indistinct point in the future finally become tomorrow. No matter how often that happens, I always find it magical. On paper things look complicated; plane and train connections criss crossing in different directions and I wondered whether it was all a big mistake. Yet somehow everything worked perfectly and after a night at my brother's place in a cosy flat with a dinner of risotto with smoked haddock and asparagus over a couple of episodes of Frasier, which took me back to the Friday nights of my adolescence when I always used to watch it, I found myself heading back to Waterloo to catch the train down to Portsmouth. London and its outskirts still seem like a foreign country to me with as I gazed at rows of brown brick terrace houses with their patchwork gardens, high rise flats with colourful balconies before Battersea power station and the familiar skyline of the centre came into view. There was still a little time before my train so I paused to buy a cup of tea at the station. In front of me in the queue, a shaggy haired figure in an oversized jumper, with brightly coloured stripes which had seen better days and sandals, stood. I tried to work out whether it was a man or a woman before a strangely aristocratic male voice ordered a large cappucino. English eccentricity can be so charming. I took a seat behind a mother and son who moved between different parts of the carriage to find the best place for him to do his drawing before settling for the one in front. Unfamiliar countryside whizzed past; ploughed fields with large pools of water round the side reflecting the grey sky, meadows where cows and horses grazed. I asked myself what it must be like to live here. It always feels strange returning to a country you know so well where you have no job and no responsibilities. The girls opposite talked of holidays in Ibiza and trips to the country where one of them got a hedgehog inside her jacket and couldn't get it out. In between staring out of the window, I dipped into Diary of a nobody which often made me burst out laughing. Then suddenly, the masts of ships appeared in the distance along with the sea. I remember travelling down here as a child for holidays during which we visited the Mary Rose and the HMS Victory and my parents bought me a shipwreck in a bottle. Now I just felt strange and out of place as my eyes met those of the people waiting to buy a bacon roll on the harbour.
Last minute preparations before setting off
The day was damp and grey but I was relieved to find I was not the only one waiting outside the theatre for the red double decker bus which would take the wedding guests to the registry office. Familiar faces appeared alongside other members of the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) world and then I didn't feel so lost as the bus pulled into view, decorated with gold and white balloons inside and a bouquet of flowers at the front. We caught the briefest of glimpses of Abbie looking beautiful in her vintage white dress, which we immediately associated with Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, before she disappeared inside for those last few minutes before the ceremony. The room was warm and green and comfortable as the guests exchanged smiling glances. I felt so happy to be there. Abbie was my first good friend in Berlin. We met at the language school in Berlin Mitte and it was always a comfort to find her in the teachers' room where we could commiserate over difficult students, the Underground strike which went on and on or discuss ways of settling into a new city. I was often invited for wonderful meals or brunch at the flat she shared with Jeremy, crammed full of amazing books I longed to dip into. There were homemade scones with jam and cream, Nigella's chocolate cheesecake and Nigel Slater's spiced fish. Plays and walks through different parts of the city together were always charming in her company and I still miss them today. I will never forget hearing the song at the beginning as Abbie entered the room on her Dad's arm, the emotion in her voice as she repeated her vows or the look of happiness in their eyes.
Preparing to descend
The shot we all want to get
We came out to witness floods of confetti being thrown and bubbles blown over the happy couple before climbing aboard the bus again for a tour of Portsmouth. The sea was dark grey by a brown shingle beach. At the Groundlings Theatre where the reception was held, we gathered downstairs next to pillars bound in red and gold ribbons for sparkling wine and the cutest canapes before heading upstairs for an amazing buffet lunch in the main auditorium. The room was lit by a series of chandeliers high up on the ceiling and behind the table for the wedding party, the set for Romeo and Juliet was still visible, ready for the next performance the following night which seemed appropriate. There was roast meat, salmon en croute, aubergine and parmesan bake, roast vegetables and saute potatoes among other things and for dessert, treacle tart with clotted cream, red fruit charlotte, chocolate tart with strawberries and much more. My ambition was originally to try a bit of everything but sadly, I just couldn't manage it! Champagne flowed along with the laughter and the speeches. Evening was falling so the bride slipped into her gorgeous purple and black party gown with a nipped in waist, which I sadly failed to take a good picture of, while the younger members on the guest list rushed downstairs to check out some of the amazing costumes which the theatre has stashed away. The lights were dimmed and the music and dancing began as coloured disco beams appeared on the ceiling. The stars were Abbie's little second cousins who put us all to shame with their effortlessly cool moves. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun at a wedding and thanks to Abbie and Jeremy for letting me be a part of your big day! I can't wait to see you both again soon.
To my dear readers, sorry if I haven't been around much on your blogs but I hope to catch up in the next few days and reply to your comments too. In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend and next time, I promise you some photos of my stay in Britain.
Next in line at the registry office but where's the groom?
Some details of Abbie's beautiful vintage dress
Abbie looking beautiful on her big day
The remains of the set for Romeo and Juliet at the Groundlings theatre
...or is that cheese?
Abbie's lovely watch made of teaspoons
Dressing up in some of the theatre's many costumes
Aslan from the Narnia stories
Inspired by Abbie's example, I now never travel without my bear. This one's called Bertie (as in Jeeves and Wooster), bought at Oxfam in Schoenhauser Alle. Isn't he lovely?