I had a large bedroom, a vast four poster bed, a huge walk-in shower and a ginormous bath. And all I wanted to do at the end of the day was make a cup of tea and watch the telly.
So my busy five-week schedule has finally come to an end, and some semblance of normality can return to my life.
August is always like that for me, but this year especially so – everything just seemed to get flung at me at once, with the ultimate goal being to make it to Shaun and Caroline’s wedding on Wednesday and perform my duties as best man.
The day started as any day can with me: I woke up at 7:00am and sent Shaun a text saying are you up for it, big boy? A short while later, the other Shaun in my mobile phone’s contact list replied saying wrong number? I do bloody hope so!
Eventually, the groom Shaun arrived at the pub in his 1963 Land Rover Defender, all cleaned up and ready to transport the two of us to the wedding venue. First, though, was the obligatory breakfast before the event. The two of us, plus usher Peter, headed to that bastion of British breakfasts in East Anglia: the Red Lodge Transport Cafe.
Some sausage, egg, tomato and beans later, Peter got in to his reasonably new Volvo and buggered off. Shaun and I climbed in to the beautifully restored Landie. Which refused to start. For a few moments we sat there listening to the engine chug and chug its way over and both of us were thinking about our nice clean finger nails and how much trouble we would be in with our respective wives (or wife-to-be in Shaun’s case) if we arrived at the venue covered in oil smudges and with lines of mechanical dirt trapped in difficult-to-clean parts of our anatomies.
Just as we were both thinking it was time to climb out of the car and open the bonnet, the old Land Rover fired in to life and we headed off in the direction of Quendon Hall. Our first stop, however, was to drop Shaun’s black Labrador off at a nearby kennels for the night.
Pooch deposited at its overnight hotel, we then completed the journey. It was a bright, sunny day and both of us were in a good mood, laughing and joking and trying to pretend that Shaun wasn’t, in any way, nervous of the day ahead. Going around a corner we spotted another church on this fine day, with a large congregation stood to the front of it. Wanting to wish them just as much congratulations as we would hope they would wish Shaun and Caroline for their special day, we sounded the Landies’ horn (which makes a sort of Road Runnerish meep-meeping sound) and both leaned out of our windows stick our thumbs up and shout “Congratulations!”
And then we followed the funeral car away from the church…
Four miles we sat in that procession before we were able to turn left and escape, laughing hysterically.
We would like to apologise to the family and friends of the deceased; no offence had been meant!
Quendon Hall is a beautiful, large venue with rolling scenery around it and a deer park that kept the wedding guests occupied throughout the tortuously long photographs. I’ve never been to a wedding held outdoors before, but Wednesday’s weather was perfect, the venue beautiful and the ceremony short. All-in-all, it was a stunningly wonderful day for the new Mr & Mrs Cross.
During the dinner, Caroline’s dad Ron, Shaun and myself kept winding each other up about the speeches, but eventually the moment came. It was time for us to stand up and do our bit. Ron stood up and did a hilarious speech that had the crowd in stitches. Shaun stood up and made an emotional speech about his new wife, his mum, and the fact that I came from a parallel universe and was prone to making up fictional stories about him.
And then it was my turn.
Now, I consider myself to be a fairly confident speaker. I run a pub, so every day I am stood up in front of any number of people, working hard to make sure they all have a good time, confident in my ability to stand in front of anybody and say what I like, often getting a laugh from it. Before I bought the pub my job involved standing up in front of crowds of people, some small, some large, and presenting sales and training presentations, always to good reviews. Surely, then, standing up in front of fifty people and telling a couple of stories about Shaun couldn’t be that hard, could it?
But, as my moment came, my heart rate raised and I suddenly became very nervous. Ron’s speech had been inspired, amusing, and had the audience in stitches. Surely his was meant to be the weeping, mumbled speech? It often has been at weddings I’ve been to before.
I’d never have thought that Shaun could stand in front of a crowd and speak so eloquently as he did. He usually just mumbles his way through some rubbish at the bar. Yet he moved everybody, and made them laugh at the same time.
Shit, I thought. This is going to be harder than I expected. Standing up, I started my speech by recounting the morning’s amusing faux pas, and then produced a box containing reams of dot matrix printer paper, a gag against the fact that the other two had written on sheets of A4. It was going smoothly, and people were laughing.
But I had got wind that Shaun was going to tell a story of the time we got a brand new, £30’000 Land Rover Discovery that was on loan to me, stuck in the mud at Wild Tracks. And that story was in my speech too.
I had got Vince, the excellent host at Quendon Hall, to provide me with a thick felt pen so that I could make a joke of striking through that particular page where the story sat. But, when I turned to that page, the pen had become stuck in my jacket liner and I couldn’t get it out. My speech ran aground like an off-course oil tanker and from that point on I was flummoxed.
Especially when, as I tried to carry on, Peter – who was sat to my right – removed the pen for me and placed it on the table in front of me. Unfortunately, I was several words further on from that point and couldn’t go back, but my brain decided it would.
So, when I decided to give some advice to Shaun and wanted to refer to Caroline as his beautiful bride, I actually referred to her as his woman. I heard somebody hiss at that, and I couldn’t wait for the moment to be over. It was time to get to the bar and consume some alcohol, but even when that opportunity came I couldn’t drink.
The evening guests arrived and the party started in earnest; the evening stayed warm and everybody was able to socialise outside in the glorious grounds. As others drank, I simply sipped at a Bacardi and Coke and took in the atmosphere.
Shaun and Caroline were having a great day, everybody was enjoying themselves. Despite a couple of slip-ups in my speech it had been an amazingly good day and soon it was over. The newly weds headed off in a Mercedes, and the rest of us retired to our rooms.
Ours was the largest in the venue. In fact, the bathroom was so big it was actually larger than my bedroom at home, and that’s pretty big. The bedroom itself was huge, with a vast four poster bed that you could have an awful lot of fun in. In fact, I contemplated it. Talked about it in great detail.
Then, at midnight at the end of a good friend’s wedding day, with a pleasant buzz in the air, Ali went and ran herself a bath and I made myself a cup of tea, climbed in to the four poster and settled down in front of the telly to watch Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in Die Another Day on ITV2.
Being Best Man at Shaun and Caroline’s wedding, I thought as I sipped my tea, has made me realise something:
I. Am. Getting. Old.