Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Hen of all Hens - Chapter 2

Claire plots my downfall...

As dawn broke on our hangovers, and the waft of bacon drew us out of bed like a bunch of Bisto kids, a feeling of mild intrepidation washed over me. Then SandraHitler and Emma appeared still wearing their moustaches, which simultaneously made me laugh and wince cos my sides were still hurting from laughing so hard the night before.

After feeding on bacon butties and doing our best to rehydrate, I was ordered to go and sit in a room with a copy of Heat and not come out until told. All I could hear were the hens scampering around giggling.

Worryingly, I heard Mom say “If I blow my nose it’ll all come off.” I can’t even begin to describe my confusion at this point.

Suddenly, a blindfold was thrown through the door, and I was ordered to put it on. Tight. I was then guided into the lounge and Jenny cryptically said:
“Lou, what did you most like to do on a sunday night when you were young?”

Not a bloody clue was my initial reply. Then the music started and I removed my blindfold. The scene that unfolded was one I will never forget. One by one each hen appeared dressed as a well-known popstar, and each doing a small dance routine to ‘their’ song.

As Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love blared, one of the girls from that iconic video was dancing in front of me. Or was it Sandra with an inflatable guitar?
Next out of the door was Cheryl Cole Jenny, in a ‘Fight for this Love’ military outfit, complete with split trousers. Then Emma as Bananarama (I wondered why she’d been scrunching her hair over breakfast) and
Claire as Gary Barlow, complete with spangly knickers from their ‘Do What You Like’ video. Next, came Kirsty as Madonna, all crucifixes and bangles, Hannah with bright pink hair as Cyndi Lauper, Annabel as a magnificent Lady GaGa (she was wearing a big fur coat and flashed me some spectacular underwear as she danced past). Then Avril Lavigne’s double appeared - my sister was the spitting image. But the one that made me laugh the most was my Mom – she was Michael Jackson and moonwalked, yes moonwalked across the room. (Her outfit also explained the bizarre nose comment I had overheard during my incarceration)

It turned out the Sunday night activity they were referring to was my weekly habit of making mix tapes by recording the charts on Radio 1. I have such fond memories for those prehistoric days BA (Before Apple) when the likes of iPods and iTunes were fodder for Tomorrow’s World, and all we had was a wobbly C90 and a tape deck to compile our favourite music with. And the hens had latched onto this ‘hobby’ and bought it to life 20 years later in a cottage in Birmingham. Unbelievable.

From left: Mickey Jacko, (check out the nose!) Avril, Cyndi, Cheryl,Gary Barlow, Gaga, Robert Plamer girl, Madonna
Front: me looking utterly stunned with Bananarama.

As I gawped around the room, taking in the sight of my hens and wondering where Mom learned to moonwalk, that feeling of intrepidation returned. What or who would I be dressed as?

Then someone’s finger slipped on the iPod (that wouldn’t have happened with a tape deck would it??) and the unmistakable opening chords of one of my favourite ‘guilty-pleasure’ songs filled the room.
“Boom boom boom. Oh baby, baby, how was I supposed to know…..”

The penny dropped. And just in case I hadn’t got it, Jenny reminded everyone in the room that, as well as recording the charts, I once spent several hours (days? weeks?) trying to learn the dance routine to Britney Spears’ chart topper Hit Me Baby One More Time. (Tragically, at a time when I was old enough to know better I might add. Or have a real hobby.) And after a few glasses of wine, I would be prone to showing off my dance moves whenever the song came on.

To my horror, I realised this nugget of information had been logged. I was escorted from the room, and given my outfit. This is the look they were aiming for:

and this is what they got:

Before I had chance to gather my thoughts, or indeed run and hide, the taxi men from last night came back. They didn't even looked surprised by our outfits by this point. It was almost as if they had expected us to be wearing something ridiculous. And as the line up from an episode of Stars in their Eyes piled into the cabs, it dawned on my that it was only 11.30am and I was stone called sober. And I was going somewhere dressed in a red lycra cat suit.

That 'somewhere' turned out to be the centre of Birmingham. Still not sure what was going on, we headed straight to the nearest Walkabout Bar. ("Suave bars won't let us in looking like this!" explained Jen.) Hilariously the bar was gearing up for the imminent England footie match, and as we took our seats to order some stodge, the place slowly filled up with fairly unattractive brummy blokes, looking to watch the game. Without girls getting in the way. Whoops. Thank goodness for the hypnotic distraction of over-paid chavs chasing a bag of air in a field - because no-one seemed to notice that Michael Jackson, Madonna and Britney were in the room. Phew.

But suddenly, we were exiting the Walkabout to head to THE location. The Best Girls whispered and nudged each other excitedly as we went...just next door. To a rather cheesy looking night club. But it was lunchtime. And it was empty. What were we doing here?

Next thing I knew a young bubbly dance teacher appeared before me, introduced herself as Nichola and announced that she was going to teach us all the dance routine to Britney's Hit Me Baby One More Time.

In my head the theme tune to Jim'll Fix It played loudly. It was a dream come true. No more pausing and rewinding the video, trying to amateurishly cobble together the routine myself. Here was a professional person, who could show me precisely how to replicate Britney's moves.

I could have wept with joy. And then I realised I was 34 not 14 and needed to get a grip.

Two hours later, and Nichola had taught all us hens the entire routine. She said we looked amazing - but she was probably being nice. I didn't care. As I busted my new expert moves in my red cat suit and blonde wig, for one moment I really was Britney Spears. (Before she shaved her head and went barmy obviously. Y'know, while she was with Timberlake and was still a pop sensation rather than a smack head. Allegedly.)

Look at the concentration!

The hens post dance lesson. "Shall we audition for Britain's Got Talent??"

We had an hour or so before our taxi men returned, (those guys were rapidly becoming an integral part of the whole weekend - I might invite them to the wedding!) so we all trundled off for a cocktail in the busiest part of Brum, for just a fraction more humiliation.

Sober and in broad daylight. Had anyone really thought this through?

As I necked my cocktail and a couple of Jaegerbombs, while forcing my little sister to do the same (sorry Mom), I quietly celebrated the fact that the official 'stitching up of the hen' was over, and surely all that remained was a nice quiet night in with the girls.

Oh how wrong can a person be...

"Oh baby baby, how was I supposed to know that my best mates would make me wear a skin tight lycra cat suit???"

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Hen of all Hens - Chapter 1

If only they knew that 10 girls had spent a friday evening celebrating their work.

Yes, I have survived my hen do. Goodness knows how, it was huge. All that sneaky planning, plotting and scheming was finally unveiled and I have to say, it was the funniest weekend of my life. I still ache from laughing so hard. I cannot believe the work that went into those three days – I am so lucky to have such brilliant, thoughtful and highly creative mates.

And I know what goes on tour stays on tour as the stags might say, but I have to write down some of the shenanigans – simply because I have never experienced anything like it! However, as this is a wholesome family blog and so that I don’t frighten the life out of my mother-in-law-to-be, I might not give you all the goriest details. (But you’ll probably get the idea.)

So after rendezvous-ing in Wimbledon on Friday lunchtime, (and promptly losing each other as we got over excited buying snacks for the journey in M&S) myself, Best Girl Claire, Annabel and Kirsty hit the motorway… and appeared to be heading south. I still had no idea where we were going at this point, I immediately assumed it was coastal. But no, Annabel was simply taking the scenic route - to actually head north.

After much troughing of jelly sweets, and a quick and unplanned stop at Bicester Village for some random outlet shopping (it was weird, like we were drawn in by some gravitational shopping force – but I did find my wedding shoes! Hurray!) we arrived at our destination. A cottage in the countryside on the outskirts of Birmingham. (not Blackpool as they’d led me to believe throughout the journey up.)

I was greeted by Best Girl Emma, Best Girl Jen and Sandra who were already squealing and drinking wine through a comically shaped straw (no prizes for guessing what shape). Hannah arrived shortly after, followed by my Mom and sister Helen. After introductions and troughing of the crisp buffet that Emma had laid out, I was then instructed to slip into a checked shirt and blue jeans.

I was completely baffled...until they put me in a weird brown wig, slapped on a ‘tache and informed me that, tonight Matthew, I was going to be one half of the ‘hilarious’ double act, The Chuckle Brothers. To me, to you and all that.

Yes, of all the minor achievements and accomplishments from my 34 years on this planet, my mates chose to celebrate the day I bumped into The Chuckle Brothers in Waterloo’s Burger King and had a photo taken with them.

Not my most glamourous look

Even more hilarious though, I wasn't the only person dressed in this ridiculous outfit. For some unknown reason, all my hens decided they wanted to dress like stars of slapstick and each and every one wore checked shirts and a comedy ‘tache. Even my Mom:

Val wishes she was a drinker

Before the whole premise of this ridiculous concept had chance to properly sink in, two taxis had pulled up outside the cottage, to chauffeur all the Chuckle Brothers to the nearest pub. To say the drivers looked bemused is an understatement. I think they wondered why we were all dressed as Corrie’s Kevin Webster.

So off we went to the nearest country pub to completely ruin a quiet Friday night drink for a handful of locals. Any hope of a ladylike evening plummeted further when the Best Ladies produced a papier mache phallus (sorry Mom) that was filled with random statements about each Hen. My task was to guess who said what to win a prize. (As you’d expect, many of these seemed to have been purchased in popular hen paraphernalia purveyor, Anne Summers).

Now, the randomness of these statements baffled me. Some were odd, (“I fancy Michael Portillo”) some were fairly sensible ( “I’m a keen gardener”) some were a bit weird (“I have a sambucca burn on my bottom”) and some were absolutely filthy (too rude for me to repeat on this wholesome blog). It was mindbending – especially after a litre of white wine. But full marks to the girls for coming up with a creative take on a raffle.

What's the collective noun for a group of chuckle brothers?

The taxi men returned to collect us at 11.30pm, and were probably a little disturbed by Sandra who was more plastered than most of us and had somehow morphed into Hitler:

Back at the cottage, HitlerSandra opens a biscuit tin to reveal some rather unusual shaped homemade gingerbread. Put it this way, if Greggs had a top shelf, they’d be perfect. They were certainly not ideal for accompanying a cup of tea with the vicar. Our task was to set about decorating these unique biscuits with glitter, icing, sweets and sprinkles. It’s probably best I don’t go into detail here – let's just say it would have made even Nigella 'I love a good baking innuendo' Lawson blush.

Once our creations were complete (and in most cases eaten) and knowing we had a full Saturday of nonsense ahead of us, we eventually all stumbled off to bed. My sides were already aching from laughter at this point - so how on earth could this evening be topped? What would Saturday hold for me? Could the Chuckle Brothers be beaten?? Needless to say, I had a restless night's sleep. (Though that was mostly due to the wildebeest-style snoring from a hen-who-shall-remain-nameless.)

"To me, to you..."

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Learner plates and wobbly willies?

It's my hen do tomorrow.

I am bricking it.

I still have no idea where we are going or what we are doing, therefore I have no idea what to pack. Apart from a mars bar and spare knickers, swimming cozzie.

My boss made me laugh. He lives in Brighton and says every friday night, the London Brighton train turns into the Hen Party Express, each carriage filled with gaggles of girls slurping cheap pinot and wearing crowns made of dildos. (His words not mine.)

I hope for his sake I'm not on that train, cos knowing my mates, I have a feeling I will be wearing something much, much worse....

Watch this space for a full report next week.

Monday, 21 March 2011

A wedding night outfit?

Paul forgot to take his jim-jams to the 'Shire this weekend so Josh kindly lent him his spiderman jarmies.

As you can see in the pic, they looked good and Josh kindly said his future brother-in-law could borrow them for his wedding night if he wanted.

I can't work out whether that would be weird or not.

Worries I never expected to have about our wedding

There's a reason it's called Muckley

While up in the ‘Shire for the dress fitting, a few 'mild concerns' sprung to the fore. And they weren’t the usual, run of the mill wedding worries either.

First up, were the pyromaniac tendencies of Bernard over the road (who I’ve already mentioned is kindly lending us his yard for car parking). Last weekend the hunt came to Muckley, and many expensive horseboxes were parked in his yard while they all went chasing things in fields. And as it was a nice day, Bernard decided to have a particularly stinky bonfire. But then promptly abandoned it. According to Mom, thick plumes of smoke not only filled the air, but also filled the posh horseboxes, and Mom’s garden. So we’ve had to make a note to remind Bernard that bonfires are banned in 14th May. (We’ll be doing this on the 13th May because we don’t trust him to remember.) Apparently the posh folk from the hunt weren't best pleased with the way their equipment stank when they returned...

Bernard chortles as he describes to my stepfather the pandemonium he caused with his bonfire. Oh dear...

Then it turns out that Saturdays are usually the day the cowshed next door to Brownlow gets mucked out. So that farmer needs a word in his shell like too. I’m no dining ambience expert, but I’m guessing the smell of a truckload of fresh, warm, slightly moist cow shite might put people off their pig baps and champers. (Honestly, I bet Kate Middleton’s not fretting about manure and random fires is she?)

The last worry is the local farm dogs who generally run amok in Muckley, as any half decent farm dog ought to. Hector is a big, boisterous Labrador, who lives next door and likes eating (chickens, cow food, biscuits, pheasants, get the picture.) Then there’s Megan the collie over the road who often just turns up in Mom’s garden for a quiet poo or to say hello. Or both. So on the day, Mom’s garden is going to become the ultimate temptation as the scent of juicy, fresh cooked pork, fine cheeses and cupcakes wafts into Megan and Hector’s finely tuned doggy noses.

I now keep having visions of all the guests returning from the church to find all the cupcakes demolished, and half the pig gone. Round of toast anyone?

On a slightly more positive note, we found out this weekend that some baby micro pigs are due to be born on a farm over the road on the day of our wedding. So that’s some consolation for the fact we'll be stuffing our faces with a hog - as one leaves the world (smothered in apple sauce and sandwiched in a bap) another one enters. Maybe that will also appease my Fiance’s aunt and uncle. I’ve been worrying about making them sit in a tent for a day with a dead animal when they are hardcore veggies...whoops...

One of Mom's porky neighbours. I hope he's not offended by the smell of our wedding breakfast.

Frock fitting weekend

This sign should probably read 'beware of the chicken poo'

We’ve just returned from a weekend of ‘wedmin’ up in the ‘Shire. It was a lovely relaxing weekend and we ticked a few more things off one of my many lists. (“Can you please just make one list in one notebook??” – quote of the weekend from Fiance.)

Upon arrival at Brownlow (Mom’s house/reception venue) we were astonished by the lawn. Bless my folks, they’d not only chopped down a massive tree and dug up the roots, but they’d also turfed over some flowerbeds, all in readiness for the marquee. It’s a good job they aren’t avid gardeners isn’t it? Alan Titchmarsh would have had a pink fit at the prospect of digging up his hardy perennials. But the lawn now looks huge, and I could almost picture our 50 guests on it. Almost. It’s still very hard to imagine the whole affair to be honest.

No more tree, no more flower bed, but lots of room for us to dance like loons.

Fiance cutting the grass and a Norman Wisdom-esque 'lawn mower in border' scenario waiting to happen.

Mind that wheelbarrow...

That afternoon, we visited the florist to check out the trial-run bouquet. My Mom and hubby-to-be were both with me and after some debate about whether it was unlucky for HTB to see it (apparently it is – I thought it was just the dress?) we sent him to stand in a corner like a naughty child, and all was revealed.

It was gorgeous and exactly what I had in mind. So much so I filled up when I saw it. The florist must have thought I was a right idiot – and want on earth am I going to be like on the day if I am weeping over a handful of flowers?!?

Anyway, despite me doing the blubbering bride routine two months early, the florist very kindly allowed us to borrow the bouquet for the afternoon. She knew we were on the way to my dress fitting and thought it’d be a good idea to see how it looked with the frock.

Now, I’d been nervous about this fitting, in case my arse/backfat had expanded since I last tried it on, (trust me, this really could happen – I only have to look at a cake and I put on five pounds. And I'd looked at a lot if cake lately). But it was ok, all those sodding rice cakes (bleurgh) had paid off and I won’t need elastic panels sewn in to accommodate extra blubber. Though cruelly, my boobs have suffered a bit if shrinkage. So ironically, I will need a bra with scaffolding to ensure I don’t look all Keira Knightly. Isn’t nature cruel? Why couldn’t that weight have come off my bloody thighs or my bingo wings?!

Anyway Joan the dressmaking lady was a legend - I was worried the adjustments wouldn’t be do-able, but she wasn’t fazed. She just hoisted me up onto a small table and got stuck in with her pins. Turns out Joan was an expert - she must have been in her 70’s and has had a lifetime of adjusting posh clothes, wedding frocks and more recently, a bishop’s cassock. (I wonder if he was worried about his backfat?)

We were actually having the fitting done in a boutique in Much Wenlock where Mom bought her dress and had it fitted. It was only four o’clock, but Gail, the owner of the shop, saw it as an excuse to close early and even booted out some potential paying customers. It was astonishing – no shop in London would dare to close before 7pm on a Saturday for fear they might get struck by lightening, or in case the God of Retail placed a curse upon their till. Or something.

So Gail, Joan, Mom and I all chatted while hems were pinned, and there was all round approval of our idea not to spend thousands on our big day. Joan had a cracking nugget of advice - don't spend too much money on shoes, ("I’ve seen so many brides just kick their shoes off before the day’s out!") and instead, spend the money on a good pair of knickers instead. Sound advice, I thought. Good undercrackers are vital in any situation, but probably more so on your wedding day.

Back at Brownlow, Mom and I tested out the cake stand that had arrived earlier in the week. We did this by placing her fairy cakes on it. And then eating them. Well, it had to be true test right? We also worked out that Mom’s sponge is better than mine and my butter icing is smoother than hers. So we’ll be setting up a production line of Mom baking the cakes, and me in charge of icing and decorating. So excited. Squeezing icing bags is massively therapeutic.

Testing the cake stand: Place cake on. Look at cake. Take cake off. Eat it.
Yep, that works fine. Tick.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

My stag weekend

Healthy blueberry and banana muffins are only healthy if you eat one, not three.

So after we toasted the month of the stag and the hen with a small glass of champers, my husband-to-be left London for his stag do in Edinburgh on friday.

And I promptly settled down for a weekend of getting stuff done without him getting in the way/messing up the bathroom/complaining about me watching Location, Location.

I had a very productive time. I ticked off a few things on the never ending wedding-to-do list and also ticked off a couple of things on the list about the list. I think I have Compulsive List-Making Disorder. In fact, here's a list of what I did: (see!!)

- I started putting together our guest book for people to write us nice messages on the day.

- I made boxes for some special gifts for my Best Girls. (can't post pics cos sometimes they read...!)

- I made lots more felt dangly lovehearts.

- I stitched lots of tags on lots of napkins.

- I experimented with my makeup to test the longevity of my eyeshadow when applying a base first. It was nothing short of a miracle - why why WHY have I never used eyeshadow base before?? My sweaty eyelids will be a problem no more. (Do anyone elses eyelids sweat or am I a total freak?)

- I found a lippy that didn't make me look like Ronald Macdonald - and it actually stayed on through several cups of tea!(I think it's essential that I also test with champagne. And cake.) I'm a bit rubbish with lippy, I usually just slap on some lip-gloss cos it doesn't rely on a mirror or a neat application to look good. But my fiance always complains about my sticky lips when he kisses me, and a groom that's also wearing lip-gloss after he snogs me at the altar isn't a good look is it?

- I sniffed many perfumes in search of something light and floral for the big day. I think I found one that smells like fresh daisies, but want my fiance's approval. It'd be awful if he thought I was a stinker on the day wouldn't it?

- I made a wicked curry and also healthy blueberry and banana muffins. Bugger all to do with the wedding, just for the fun of stuffing my face.

So all in all, I did well.

By sunday afternoon however, I admit I was missing my fiance. Although Toby's an intelligent dog, there's only so much he really understands and even he was getting annoyed with me talking to him cos it was disturbing his naps.

Then, at 11pm, my fiance stumbled through the door, looking (and smelling) a little worse for wear. He'd left as a stag and returned as a tramp. But at least no limbs were broken and nothing was shaved.

He didn't reveal much (what goes on tour stays on tour blah de blah blah) but it didn't take Bergerac to work out that he'd spent much of his weekend inside a pub. I am sure there are other gory details, but I really don't need to know how many times they were sick, who went missing, who upset the locals, who instigated a trip to a strip club (oh come on, they must have done right?) or how many whiskies were poured down my future husband's throat. Because, I think I can guess.

Lots of sewing = lots of needle related injuries.

Thirty napkins done, thirty more to go...

Bloody good lamb and cauli curry with carrot salad and chapattis. Nom Nom.

"Toby, what do you think of the current situation in the middle east? And shall we watch Waking the Dead now?"

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Little tiny bunting sample

Bless my Best Girl Emma. She's kindly volunteered to make some bunting for our marquee. And for quite a while now, she's been beavering away, sourcing nice fabric, worrying about length and generally putting a lot of effort in.

And last night in the post, I received a miniature, scaled down version of her bunting so that she could double check the fabric was right. And not only is it utterly gorgeous and totally spot on (it compliments the napkins perfectly!) but the mini-bunting is just incredibly cute!

I know it was only intended as a sample, but I will have to hang it somewhere...oooh maybe I could hang it on Mom's chicken house!

Thank you Emma - you are a star! x

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

An impending stag, more hen secrecy & relentless lists

Can someone invent a pause button for time please?

Suddenly time is running away with me. I cannot believe there are just 65 days left until the big day. If my life was a film, this is the point where there'd be a montage of calendar pages flipping over very quickly and clocks with fast spinning hands. Probably accompanied by some panicky music.

Most of the planning is in hand, it’s just daft bits and pieces left to do really. But still, I have lists on top of lists, and lists about the different lists. I am literally driving myself mad.

And this weekend is my fiancés stag do already! Now, I am 50/50 about the stag: 50% worried he’s going to come back shaved or with a limb in plaster. And the remaining 50% is absolutely delighted at the prospect of an entire weekend with sole control of the remote and several girlie films that I would never usually be allowed to watch. (In fact I’m making a list of things to watch as I type. Cos I haven't quite got enough lists have I?) I’m also going to enjoy a weekend of creativity, ploughing on with my various sewing projects for the wedding.

Heck. I might even go completely crazy and eat parmesan. My hubby-to-be loathes pongy cheese and always pulls a right face when I sprinkle it on my food. You’d think I was covering my spag bol with grated camel droppings the fuss he creates.

And meantime, the girls STILL seem to be planning, plotting and scheming for my hen. Honestly there's more conspiracy and secrecy surrounding my hen than a day in the office at MI5.

The other night my fiancé disappeared off to Best Girl Claire’s house for several hours, and told me I was banned from joining them because it was ‘hen preparation.’

He returned home completely pissed and mumbled “I needed to be drunk for what she made me do.” Then he passed out.

I am now genuinely very frightened.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Lord of the Wedding Ring

Last weekend we returned to the jewellers where my fiancé bought my engagement ring. The time had come to choose the wedding rings.

Now, we were a bit naive about this process because a) we didn’t have the faintest clue what the rings would cost and b) for some reason we didn’t discuss a budget beforehand. (probably because of 'a')

So we might have looked a bit foolish when we trotted into the jewellers and said to the man (who was called Greg) “We want some wedding rings please. Not too expensive. What can you show us?”

Thankfully Greg didn’t seem to mind that were naeve, skint and rather northern, and he very politely showed us his wares.

It was all going well until he told us the prices. Even though he was showing us his more reasonably priced rings, we still struggled to believe that Paul’s ring would be more expensive than mine – and mine had a teeny tiny diamond in it!

My hubby-to-be went a funny colour when we added it all up. Greg noticed this, and said it was just an estimate, it was probably over, he’d call us tomorrow with the real price and then we could order over the phone if we were happy.

The first place we went after leaving the jewellers? The pub. I have never seen Paul drink a vodka so quickly. In fact i don't remember the last time he drank vodka!

As it turned out, Greg did over-quote, and the actual price wasn’t as scary as we first thought. Phew. So the rings were ordered. And then it was time for me to get excited - I’m getting another diamond!!!

P.S. It it really only two months to go?? Eeeeek!