Monday, August 24, 2009

Blue John Cavern


In the little intermezzo between our wedding and our honeymoon, we took our friend Danni to the Blue John Cavern. I must have started close to a hundred mountain bike rides from this spot, but have never before been down into the cavern.

The cavern is actually both a natural feature and a working mine of the unique Blue John stone found there which is crafted into jewelery and sold in the nearby settlement of Castleton.

It was a trip notable for the fact we had to descend around 300 feet down steps carved into the stone through some twisting and narrow passageways. Oliver walked down but I had to carry Lucy as the steps were large and slippery. The deeper we got the more I feared having to carry them both back up in two trips. In fact I needn't have worried. Lucy walked up some of it and Oliver walked up the whole 300 feet without complaint, an impressive feat.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Wedding

It would be impossible to even start to attempt to cover our wedding day in a single post, so I'm afraid you are going to be hearing about it for some time. But here's a summary.

What a fantastic day!

Thanks to everyone who came along and made our wedding day a truly wonderful event and a fantastic party.

And thanks to all those who sent their good wishes by whatever medium.

Until I get time to reflect on it all, here's a rough timeline of some of the highlights of the day.

6.30am. Lucy wakes me with her customary shouts of "Dadddddyyyyy. I want get up!"

8.00am. The weather, which has been forecast as cloud for the last few days is now looking like we may get a little sun too. My delight is tinged with guilt, as I think of all those people getting married in Wales today where it will rain.

8.30am. As I take Oliver's waistcoat out of its bag to check it, a button drops off. The button is broken. I hasten to town where the outfitters supply a spare button. Then to Somerfield for a sewing kit. Marcy and then Zoe (Hayley's hairdresser) stitch on the new button and tighten up the loose stitching on the others.

10.00am. I am kicked out of the house by Hayley as she is about to start having her hair and make-up done. I am now in such a rush I nearly leave without Oliver!

10.30am. Down at Manny and Sara's house to change, I realise I forgot my shoes and Oliver's shoes. Best Man Dave is re-directed on route to pick them up.

11.00am. I get myself and Oliver dressed, Oliver also being helped by Dave. Oliver looks absolutely stunning in his wedding clothes. Dashing and adorable. I fear Hayley might cry when she sees him.

11.35am. The groom, best man and best boy set of for the hotel. Despite the fact we've all been there before and Dave lived near the hotel, we soon realise that none of us know the right route. We head in the generally right direction and sure enough we get there in good time.

12.20pm. Checked into our room, where the double bed is flanked by a travel cot for Lucy and a mattress on the floor for Oliver. It may be our wedding night but appropriately, as it has been for 99.9% of our life together, the kids are there alongside us.

12.30pm. Our photographer arrives and we take some shots of me, Dave and Oliver. Dave and I enjoy a swift whisky (a 12 year old Glenfiddich, the best on offer in the little Gold Suite bar). More photos and more people arriving.

13.10 At a loose end, so a last swift one before the bride arrives.

13.15. No sign of the bride. I discover that one of the flower girls has not arrived. Hayley, it later transpires, drove past and saw no-one was in the main room, so drove round again, eventually sending someone in to make everyone take their places.

13.25. Hayley has arrived and been photographed and is about to enter when the final flower girl, Cara, arrives.

13.35. Still no Hayley but I can see she has arrived as part of the wedding car is visible from my position at the front. I feel, as I have all day, perfectly calm and happy. Not at all nervous. People have told me how they cried and choked and were nervous but I am confident I will keep it together.

13.36. I take my place as the curtain is pulled back to reveal Hayley looking stunning, Oliver holding her hand and the flower girls in front of them, Lucy at the front looking small and slightly vulnerable with the cutest curls you ever saw. Suddenly a massive tidal wave of love for my family nearly overwhelms me and I have to look to the front for a few seconds as my calm nearly desserts me and I think I might cry!

13.36. Recovered from my momentary wobble, as the pianist starts to play Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, I turn round to see Lucy start to walk in on cue, taking a few beautiful smiling steps with Cara, before turning round and running back to Mummy. So the other flower girls lead in, followed by Hayley who now has Oliver on one hand and Lucy on the other.

13.37 Hayley stands beside me for the short ceremony. Lucy spends some of the time in Hayley's arms, some in mine. Oliver delivers the rings on request without hesitation, giving his Mummy a lovely unprompted hug after giving her ring to her. Becky reads "Yes I'll Marry You" by Pam Ayres and Scott reads "I rely on you" by Hovis Presley. On reaching the 'I do' part, Hayley makes it "I certainly do!" with a big smile. We exit to Mendelssohn's wedding march and a glass of champagne which we drink with arms entwined. And the formalities are over.

2.00pm. There are lots of pictures with the photographer outside where the sun is shining: possibly the most beautiful day of the summer! Then it's free time as they set up for the meal. We mingle and chat outside, playing with the kids who have lots of fun in the gardens and down by the bridge over the little River Dean where two escaped horses are grazing: the highlight of the day for the kids without a doubt. I initiate a game of pooh sticks with Oliver and the flower girls. The first I've played with him.

3.30pm. We are announced into the dining room for the wedding breakfast. The atmosphere is good and the seating plan seems to be working. Oliver is tired and a bit grouchy but manages to recover his cheeriness by the end of the meal.

5.20pm. Speeches. Nigel makes a well-rehearsed (if a little long-winded!) and eloquent speech which touches upon the absence of Hayley's Dad. He also makes several jokes based on entirely fictional scenarios involving me and Hayley. But apparently everyone could tell they were untrue from the looks on our faces! I reply with a short speech thanking the flower girls and best man and of course Hayley. I also give my Mum flowers for her help and her birthday the next day. I take the opportunity to tease Hayley in the speech with extracts from her profile. Dave then gives a perfect Best Man's speech. It is by turns respectful, generous, funny, witty and occasionally suitably risque. He is aided by having placed pictures of me aged three upwards at every table. Finally a few of Hayley's friends shout for her to speak, so she does. Un-rehearsed, she says how grateful she is to everyone for coming and how touched she is to see so many people from her past. Finally, as she start to choke up a little herself, she says that her dreams have come true. It is the most honest and perhaps for that reason the best speech of the day and several of Hayley's friends are in tears by this point.

6.30pm. The band arrive and start to set up while we mill around and relax outside in the evening sunshine.

7.45pm Hayley puts a tired Lucy to bed.

8.40pm. First dance. "This Way" by Jewel.

8.45. The band kick off with Soul Man. They sound fantastic and the dance-floor quickly fills.

9.45pm. Food. Not entirely as ordered and difficult for the veggies to identify but most seem to find something to tuck into. Hayley is caught on camera eating a chicken leg as she boogies away.

10.25. Band back on.

10.30. I go to put Oliver to bed. Lucy is woken in the process and won't settle. I miss the whole of the second set as a result and return to the reception with Lucy still not settled but with the babysitter trying to settle her! It is the only low point of the day. Thankfully, just as Hayley and I are about to desert our reception to sort it out, our babysitter appears on her way home, saying my Mum is with Lucy and she's better. Sadly by this point I have missed the chance to chat to several people before they leave. I guess it's always the way at weddings (not helped by this little interruption).

11.30pm. Much dancing and drinking and chatting and eating. Several people are leaving or have left to put kids to bed, but the party is still in full swing.

1.00am. The final song is New York, New York and everyone pushes me and Hayley to the middle and dances round us. It's a great finale to a wonderful evening that has flown by all too fast.

Several of us stay up chatting and finally head off to our rooms around 2am.

I'll be posting photos and reflecting more on this in the coming days and weeks. The journey has only just begun.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The evening of the day


Tomorrow Hayley and I get married. Man that's come round fast.

This evening our 2 days of arrivals from the US and UK culminated in a pre-wedding dinner for 25, a kind of Rehearsal Dinner without any rehearsal. (Actually we did a rehearsal on Monday and I might post video of that after the event.)

We had the meal at the Heatons Tandoori as it gave our guests a taste of what we enjoy. Even the kids joined in. Oliver and Lucy both had Chicken Tikka, with some rice and garlic naan (or "Indian garlic bread" as Oliver described it to me).

It's been great to finally meet some of the people Hayley has so often talked about. Dani arrived yesterday and her daughter Stephanie arrived today. The Rubinsteins arrived a couple of days ago but went straight to the Lakes so I only got to meet them today. It's been great having them all here and I hope they are enjoying their trips.

The kids have absolutely loved all the new faces. Oliver in particular has been areal chatterbox. This evening, he spent the first half hour of the meal sitting at the very end of the table engaging Jay and Stephanie in conversation with not a care in the world that his parents and sister were half way down the 22 strong table.

Lucy went out shopping today for about 4 hours with Margaret, Kris and Andy. By all accounts she had a great time.

It's been hectic but fun for the last 2 days. I just hope tomorrow doesn't fly by as quickly as I think it might. Oh and hopefully I'll remember the rings.


(There are more pictures from this evening's dinner here.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

BBC NEWS | Health | Charity seeks end to lunchbox ham

BBC NEWS | Health | Charity seeks end to lunchbox ham

I've blogged a similar article before. We're going to take more heed this time.

The thing is, our family is abit funny with food. I used to be veggie, now eating fish for health reasons and to be honest a bit of practicality too. (As one friend put it, "you use to be a veggie, now you're just a fussy eater".) Hayley eats almost no red meat, doesn't like "fishy" fish and though she eats chicken won't eat it cold.

And our kids will eat meat of all kinds til the cows come home.

Looks like we are all going to have to try to eat more Quorn ham and chicken and the other three can eat more real chicken and turkey.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lucy's 2nd Birthday

Today Lucy is 2 years old. To celebrate we arranged a fab picnic party in the park. Of course, thanks to our wet summer we ended up having the picnic on blankets in our living room, but hey, that was great fun too!

But before all that we started the day by coming downstairs to find the living room decorated with balloons which Lucy immediately spotted. Oliver then made a bee-line for the small pile of presents that I had intended to leave until Hayley got up (as Saturday is her lie-in and having got up to wish Lucy a happy birthday she had gone back to bed after an hour or so). Oliver then offered one of the presents to Lucy so I let her open it. It was a rather cute matching necklace and handbag which Lucy immediately put on for our Tesco trip.


After breakfast we came home and helped get ready before the party kicked off at 11am. There were 16 kids, some Lucy's age and some Oliver's age, but Lucy thinks she's four anyway so that doesn't phase her. When food was served it was in their picnic boxes. Lucy settled her Mama dolly down on the blanket.


She then presided over proceedings as well as getting some food herself.



The picnic boxes consisted of some sandwiches, raisins, crisps and a fruit shoot.... amazingly some sandwiches got eaten, albeit with a little persuasion from the parental overseers.

Then there was some games of pass the parcel. Two in fact: one for the two year olds and one of the 3 and 4 year olds. Stopping the music to make sure everyone gets a go is not easy with two games on the go.


There was pin the tail on the donkey and a rather splendid round of musical bumps reversed, where the kids sit down to dance and then have to stand up when the music stops. The last to stand up is "out" and gets a sweet. Everyone's a winner!

Lucy was a doll all afternoon. Here she is presenting Nanny with some chocolate.


Finally Lucy was presented with her cake.

To our surprise, one guest, Amber (a little girl Oliver's age who Lucy loves) turned up with her Mum half an hour after the end of the party. It turns out that Hayley had been in "wedding mode" when writing her invitation and had accidentally put the start time as 1.30pm like the wedding! However, all was not lost, as we had more fun with the few remaining friends and kids, including indulging in some ice-creams, ever popular with Lucy.


And anyway by this point the sun was out, so we eventually headed off to the park where Lucy had a great time with Amber.


We had a great day and more importantly the little lady loved it too. She got lots of nice presents, favourite amongst which was undoubtedly the ceramic tea-set in a wicker picnic basket.

And with no nap all day, she was out for the count after her bedtime milk. Probably dreaming of a picnic with her tea-set.

There are more pictures from the day here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

BBC NEWS | UK | Education | Science questions baffle parents

BBC NEWS | UK | Education | Science questions baffle parents

Surely the answer to the first one is Ask your mother.

Just kidding.

In fact Oliver somehow managed to get one of his string of "But why?" questions round to how babies are made. Taken by surprise, I said something about Daddy putting a seed in Mummy. Understandably he moved on without further questions.

Must do better.

Monday, August 10, 2009

BBC NEWS | Health | Flu drugs 'unhelpful' in children

BBC NEWS | Health | Flu drugs 'unhelpful' in children

As Lucy coughs her way through the night, the prospect of flu remains unwelcome. So this sort of news is not what any parent wants to read.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Lashings of hot buttered everything


Lucy has developed a near obsessive fascination with the art of buttering toast. And buttering bread. In fact if it can be buttered, she is probably prepared to do it. Things have got so bad that we have bought two lots of butter/margarine/spread/whatever-21st-century-term-you-prefer in order that the cheaper one is what Lucy uses when she has reached the point where she is spreading for the art of it rather than in much expectation of eating it.

Of course, when you combine her faultless generosity with this new habit, you have problematic consequences. The other day as Hayley and I sat eating dinner, Lucy sat in her high-chair and applied several tonnes of butter to a piece of baguette I had given her. Much to Hayley's amusement she offered it to me and I was obliged to eat it, secretly removing butter by the spoonful when she wasn't looking. Then Lucy set about the other piece. "Is that for you Lucy" I asked nervously. Still intent on her task and without looking up from her bread and butter she said with a tone that could have been Marlon Brando in The Godfather "Mummy's havin' it". Hayley's face was a picture and both of us could barely contain our laughter. Hayley went on a diet late last year to lose weight for the wedding (something regular readers will have noticed she has done pretty darn successfully). And she wasn't about to abandon her regime just before the big day. Nonetheless she too dutifully ate some before distracting Lucy's attention and avoiding any further consumption.

This evening while Hayley was out, I fed the kids dinner which concluded with a chocolate dessert each. In a moment of incredible naivety I left the room for all of 2 minutes. When I returned I fund that Oliver had decided to decorate his face with chocolate.


With this result.


Lucy obviously found this hilarious and joined in.


With this result.


I had to laugh, before managing to recover a more responsible demeanor and asking them not to do it any more (then going back into the kitchen to secretly laugh some more). Oliver obliged but unsurprisingly it was far too much fun for Lucy to listen to Daddy an I eventually confiscated her new face-pack.

Talking of finding it hard not to laugh, the other day Lucy surprised me by eating an apple and not spitting it out. After a few minutes however she walked over to where I was sitting on the floor and spat out, with loud raspberry noises, all the apple she had been accumulating in her cheeks for the last few minutes. As I implored her to stop and tried to catch the falling mush, she then turned on her heels and ran away laughing into the next room. All Hayley and I could do was double up laughing at her whilst trying not to let her hear. Sometimes it's hard to be a serious parent.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Time flies...

If time flies when you are having fun then I am Funtime Franky from Chucklesville, Laughter County. Or more likely I am realising there is WAY too much to do before the wedding. Consequently posting to this blog is an activity that hasn't been getting much of a look-in, which is a shame as there's so much going on.

Skyride Manchester
At the start
Yesterday we joined 15000 other cyclists at Skyride Manchester, riding a traffic-free loop linking Manchester city centre with the velodrome. For one day only the city centre's roads were cleared of all motorised traffic. We took the kids on the bike seats and all had a great time. There are photos from our day here. Oliver's highlight was meeting Spongebob Square pants (even though he never watches the TV show). Lucy just seemed to enjoy the whole day. Another highlight was riding inside the velodrome. But nothing beat seeing the kids smiling and dancing in their seats to the sound of a PA system being towed by a guy on a bike just behind us.

Starting off

Inspired perhaps by the Skyride, Oliver has tonight mastered setting off on his bike from a standing start.

And his speed is picking up a bit too.I took him for a ride in the park tonight and got a good jog out of it myself.

Wedding plans

With less than three weeks to the big day things are getting a bit hectic now.

  • Hayley has her ring. I should have mine about a week before the wedding.

  • We have drafted a table plan. Thanks to a combination of us pushing the numbers up and then having even more people want to come than we had anticipated, the seating will now be long tables rather than round, which is a shame but can't be helped. It did make the seating plan much harder! In fact it is still not set in stone. And sadly I am sure someone or other will be disappointed not to be exactly where they had hoped, but it's a very hard balancing act and I think we;ve done the best we can.

  • We have a band. It took a lot of searching (including some soul searching) but I think we made a good choice. Fingers crossed!

  • Hayley has her final dress fitting tomorrow. I remain completely in the dark. Part of me wonders if I'll recognise her, but then I'm thinking the wedding dress is going to be a bit of a giveaway.

  • Holiday plans

    We've managed to make arrangements to get away for a few days at some point after the wedding. The kids will be with us so it will be a kind of honeymoon come family break. We are all looking forward to it. I can't say where we are going, but Lucy's passport has arrived.

    I wish I had more time. Both kids deserve a post each right now as they are so full of character and such great fun. With all the time-accelerating fun I am having, I just need to find a way to add a few more hours to each day...