Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Big speakers and big hair

It all gets a bit Glastonbury in the mother-in-law's back garden. All that's missing is the beer tent.

April's a great month this year. With two four day weekends on the trot thanks to Easter and the Royal wedding, we have the luxury of spending our last weekends before the big day chilling out with our families in the countryside, and having extra bit of time to tie up loose ends and finalise details.

So last weekend we were up in Yorkshire with the Mother-In-Law-To-Be (MILTB), enjoying the sunshine, pootling around the countryside and stopping every five minutes for a beer in a proper country pub.

And we managed to get a few things ticked off that eternal list of things to do. Which somehow never seems to get any shorter.

But thankfully two big things were ticked off - hair and sound. MILTB Pauline very kindly trimmed my ends then did a dress rehearsal for the styling. Once again it was a miracle. The velcro rollers created just the right amount of oomph for my 'do' and exactly as I wanted, it looked natural and professional without being over-styled/looking like a wig. So thank goodness for Pauline, cos I would have never have been able to twiddle my cobweb-fine hair into that look all on my own. If I had, it would have probably ended up looking like I'd styled it with my feet.

And while us girls were titivating my barnet, the men folk were twiddling knobs and playing with jacks and microphones. Pauline's partner Lloyd had very kindly offered to lend us his PA system for our music. (Lucky for us, he used to be in a band many moons ago and still had all his equipment!)

You see our mate who is DJ-ing, is putting together playlists on his laptop, and using some sort of fancy mixing programme so that it sounds like he's physically slipping the record on with his own bare hands. (The magic of computers eh?) And by plugging all that into Lloyd's big speakers and box of buttons (I'm a girl I dunno what the technical names are) we can recreate a real 'disco' and properly belt out all those cheesy tunes requested by our guests. So all the fun of a 'real' DJ without the cheesy commentary, stacks of coloured lights and Oops Upside Your Head. Thank the lord.

So once again, I found myself realising just how incredibly lucky we are to have friends and family who can offer up their various services, skills and equipment.

And apologies to the residents of Haxby, York for shattering the bank holiday Monday peace and quiet when Lloyd and my Fiance blasted out the Kings of Leon as they tested the equipment. Not sure the farmer in the field next door fully appreciated what we were doing and I was mildly worried he was going to put his hoe to an altogether new use. But thankfully, the tests didn't require the playing of the entire album.

So bouncy hair with natural styling - tick.
Big speakers for a professional looking and sounding disco - tick.

This picture sums it up - Lloyd's in the foreground tinkering with his speakers and in the background you can see how the conservatory has been temporarily transformed into a hair salon!

Next weekend we are back in Shropshire for the viewing of the Royal Wedding in HD on Mom's big telly, a trip to the garden centre for some bits and bobs, a meeting with the vicar and (drum roll) the final dress fitting. I hope anyway - am mildly nervous as this was meant to happen two weeks ago, but Joan the dress-fitting lady was ill with shingles, which delayed progress. At the time of writing, Joan is much better, but still working on the frock. Yikes. However she has assured us it will be ready for Saturday. I might quietly weep if it isn't.

I will also weep if I can't get in it, I got rather carried away with chocolate eggs and hot cross buns at the weekend. Not sure poor Joan would be too chuffed if she had to sew an extra 'back fat' panel in to it after all her hard work! Looks like its lettuce and fresh air only for me this week...

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A little bit of history

St Mary's of Acton Round - where we shall be married! Squeal!

I never imagined I'd get married in a church. But then, I never imagined I'd get married. But I'm so glad we are having a religious ceremony because I absolutely love our little church in Shropshire. It's very old and has bags of character (not forgetting a wonky organ.) And even better, it's perched at the top of a hill in Acton Round, which means the views from the churchyard are stunning. Just acres and acres of gorgeous rolling countryside.

So I was very excited to find this watercolour while rummaging around the t'internet. It was painted by Reverend Williams on 31st August 1789. Interestingly, a bit of blurb beneath the painting said that the church consists of a predominantly Norman nave, 14th century chancel and a timber framed belfry containing two ancient bells. And it was altered and amended around 1750, when it was the family chapel for the Actons, and the north side and south doorway were added at this time. (oh I am such a geek aren't I??)

And then I discovered that Acton Round is known as Achetune (which means Oak Town) in the Domesday Book and kept this name until at least 1251. By 1283 it was being referred to as Acton la Ronde.

How fascinating. Well I thought so - but as I say, I'm just channelling my inner history geek. Perhaps I need to get out more.

Anyway, here's our little church as it looks today:

...and here's inside, see how weeny it is! And look, there's the dodgy organ!

Ahhh I am so excited!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The world's gone wedding mental

It's quite funny that Kate and Wills are tying the knot a few weeks before we do, because it means we are not the only ones obsessed with all things wedding. The whole world seems to have gone a bit wedding mental (or 'wental' as I like to call it).

You can't go more than six feet in London without walking head first into swathes of Union Jack bunting. It's actually worse than when England were attempting to play in the World Cup and everyone inexplicably replaced their curtains with a george cross flag. In fact, the council have actually hung massive Union Jacks around Regent Street. They should go the whole hog and also install some shirtless white van drivers clutching a copy of The Sun and a can of lager.

And it seems every shop on the planet is finding a way to cash in on the royal nuptials, most of them with excruciatingly tenuous product tie-ins and promotions. While it's perfectly logical for Morrisons to flog sausage rolls and quiches for street parties, I think it's a step too far for the Body Shop to dress up a BOGOF promo by slapping a Union Jack sticker on a body cream and shower gel set, and call it 'The Perfect Pair'. (I can hear the marketing manager desperately selling that idea in: "cos y'know, it's like Kate and Will are the perfect pair? Geddit? Yeah?" Agh.)

And of course there's no escaping the commentary and speculation in the news. What's the dress gonna look like? How will she have her hair? Will she wear a tiara or flowers? Can we find another picture of Diana wearing a slightly similar outfit and compare them side by side? Has the stress made her lose so much weight, she looks a bit like a lollipop head? (not surprised the poor girl's stressed really - I'm nervous about having a piffling 50 people staring at me as I swalk down the aisle, but she's got to worry about tripping up in front of the entire world, the Queen and David bloody Beckham.)

I've also just read that there's a huge shortage of Prince William lookalikes. One particular lookalike claims to be so rushed off his feet that he has left his former full time job to appear at events and engagements across the country. He's charging a thousand pounds per appearance! And a client of mine told me that her friends were going to be watching Kate and Wills get hitched while wearing their wedding dresses. Why would you do that?! Utterly wental.

But regardless of the mass media-induced hysteria, I quite like that fact that this royal story is supporting our own wedding build up. As my Fiance pointed out last night, it's something to tell the grandchildren. (He actually bought a small tear to my eye - he said he wants to get a cheesy commemorative Wills and Kate coin, so he can say to the grandkiddies "look, the King got married just before Nanna and Grandad!" awwww sniffle sniffle!)

However, last night I couldn't help feeling slightly sorry for Kate. I'm no Royal Wedding expert but, as we went through our RSVPs and made a list of all our guests music requests for the DJ, I felt pretty certain that she won't be enjoying a really cheesy dance with all her favourite people once the speeches are done and the cake's been cut. (and after compiling that list of music, I am SO looking forward to this part of the day!!)

Then I wondered, do the royals actually get a DJ in?? Is it Tony from Essex with his stack of multi-coloured flashing lights? Or is it more like a scene out of Pride and Prejudice where ladies flutter eyelashes and fan themselves to the sound of lutes and violins. Like this:

Either way I bet no-one at her wedding will request Lady Ga Ga, Girls Aloud or Take That. (well, Harry might, eh?)

Anyway. I better go. I just spotted a window that's crying out for a string of Union Jacks...

Friday, 15 April 2011

Bunting update!

Apparently 185 trangles are required for 60 metres of bunting, if anyone's interested!

This post is a huge round of applause to Best Girl Emma, who has spent her Easter break (she's a teacher) making our wedding bunting! She even managed to rope her Mum Lois into helping out with the sewing and dashing to the shops for extra ribbon (thank you Lois!). From these pics I can see it looks gorgeous - I can't wait to stick it up around the marquee, it'll look fab with the napkins.

So thank you, thank you, thank you Emma (and Lois!) You will be rewarded with a porky bap and several glasses of champagne. And thanks to Walter the labrador for not running through the hallway with mucky paws when this picture was taken:

And here's the Bunting Queen! Best Girl Emma slaves over a hot sewing machine. Faster, Emma, Faster!

Emma's also our wedding photographer (she proved her skills marvellously at the Hen Do, I still have no idea how she kept a steady hand while Axl was strutting his stuff). So all in all she's been a huge help - so much so, I am thinking of renting her out. Anyone need a Wedding Emma???

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Cecil’s wonky organ

I thought I’d seen all the dodgy organs I needed to at my Hen do.

We’re just back from a gloriously sunny weekend in the ‘Shire. Mom and Rob had accrued even more chickens, (most of whom Josh had named after my Hens), the fields surrounding their house were a beautiful lush green, lambs were gambolling in the fields, the flowers were blooming and Bernard was hurtling around in his tractor and sawing up logs. Spring was definitely in the air. We love our weekends there, it’s like a little oasis of bliss and calm for our hectic London lives.

The main reason we were visiting though, was to hear our Banns being read at the church we are to be married in.

Now, this was something of a milestone for me amidst all the preparations – not only because it’s quite an important preliminary to our actual ceremony, but also because I was mildly concerned that our rather relaxed vicar would completely forget to do it. Which would be a small disaster, seeing as in some cases, a marriage will only be legally valid if a reading of the banns has taken place.

So given the scatty nature of Reverend Patterson you can understand my nerves.

But, God must have taken time out of his hectic schedule of sorting out recent natural disasters, global warming and what-not to watch over the very important matter our wedding, because miraculously, it was all ok.

The vicar who greeted us on Sunday morning (it was Rev Patterson’s right hand vicar I believe) not only knew about us, but was expecting us and had already done the first of the three readings last week.

I was genuinely gobsmacked. Not to mention massively relieved. Rev P’s slapdash attitude was a clearly a cunning rouse to maintain the ‘local friendly countryside vicar’ manner. In reality he’s actually incredibly organised and on the ball. He probably conceals a clipboard in his cassock and has a meticulously completed wallplanner in his vestry. Hooray. Huge sigh of relief.

Little did I realise how soon this theory would be dispelled.

We all took our seats and the vicar began the Holy Communion service. But before he did anything, he very kindly read our Banns first – “just in case I forget to do it later!” he chortled, in a very vicar-ish kind of way. (cue nervous laughter from me.)

And to be fair, he made a lovely job of it. He announced our names, asked if anyone had any objections (thankfully no-one burst through the door a la Benjamin Braddock in the The Graduate) and he said a prayer for us. And my folks, my fiance’s folks (who’d come all the way from York to attend) and me and my hubby-to-be had a slightly dewy-eyed moment. In just one month we would be here making our vows and promises to each other. All the talk and discussion of marquees and bunting and hog roasts and teapots and such like doesn’t really matter. This was all about me and Paul declaring our love to the world.

But then we were all brought back to reality with a bump when the organ kicked in for the first hymn.

As we stood to sing, (out of tune and out of time) we all noticed something a bit bizarre about the music. There seemed to be one long bum note playing continuously in the background. Now I’m no expert at organ playing, so maybe this was a crude attempt at adding some sort of bass line?
We thought nothing of it, until we reached the end of the hymn, and the long bum note continued long after we’d all stopped singing. The vicar had to wait until it had decided to stop before continuing with his sermon.

Maybe it’s a technical hitch, I thought. You know, old wooden instruments probably need warming up a bit after sitting for so long in a cold, draughty stone building.

But lo and behold, the same thing happened in the next hymn. And the one after that. Upon hearing it a fourth time, I realised it sounded very much like the low, agonised wail of a mating walrus. Which isn’t the ideal accompaniment to All Things Bright and Beautiful is it?
Either the organist was deaf and was inadvertently resting his elbow/hymn book/cup of tea on that one note throughout each hymn, or something was seriously wrong with the organ.

Turned out it was the latter. But you know, even though it was rather reminiscent of a trapped animal/stuck elbow, I really didn’t mind too much. It sort of added to the character of the whole thing. A wonky organ was the perfect match for our wonky vicar.

But some of the locals in the congregation – including the incredibly posh Kennedy family who sort of own this tiny church and most of the surrounding land – heartily disagreed and promised it would either be fixed or substituted in time for our wedding. Which I thought was very sweet of them. (I love Mr Kennedy – he is the archetypal posh country gent, whose interests include blowing up huge drums of diesel and petrol, shooting small animals or mending chainmail for museums. So just your average, run of the mill bloke next door really. He even offered to stick gunpowder in the organ to sort it out. Bless him.)

After the service, the organ player asked us who will be playing at our wedding. I told him Rev Patterson had mentioned Cecil might do it.

The man looked flummoxed. “But I‘m Cecil, and I know nothing about it."

And bang went my theory of the Reverend being secretly super-organised.

Worryingly, Cecil then rolled his eyes and mumbled "This is so typical of Hugh" while rummaging for his diary. Thankfully he was free, so we booked him on the spot.

Cecil went on to apologise for the wailing organ, and said it was very embarrassing as a musician to play such a poor sounding instrument. He assured us he would sort it or bring his own to play. Which again I thought was very kind. (And then I felt bad for initially thinking he was just bit rubbish and was leaning on his keys. Sorry Cecil!)

We had a quick chat about our hymn choices and he seemed pleased that we wanted the traditional ‘Here Comes the Bride’ music for me to walk up the aisle to, and the Bridal March for us to exit the church as man and wife. (eeek!)
I think he was of the same school of thought as Mom who said, quote, “I don’t get why people choose bloody Celine Dion. Or Westlife."

So all in all, it was mostly a successful day.
Banns read, tick.
Organ player, tick.
Organ, well, not quite ticked. But maybe it will be when the Kennedys blow it up.
Chance of our vicar remembering to turn up, questionable.

Is there such thing as a back-up vicar?

No thanks, Celine.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A teensy bit of fame

While organising our wedding, I have become addicted to having a good old nosey at how other people are doing theirs. This includes watching programmes like Don't Tell The Bride and Four Weddings (so bad they are good), hoovering up bridal mags and reading lots of wedding blogs.

I think a lot of it is to do with the creativity involved in planning a wedding. You suddenly find yourself being a set designer (what will the reception look like? How can I decorate it? How many fairy lights will the garden need?) an art director (how do we want the photos to look? How shall we design the invites?) a florist (suddenly I'm a mini-expert on spring blooms and colours), a make-up artist (I have discovered a foundation that makes my skin look beautiful, rather than muddy!), a wine taster (yum!) a needleworker (I think I have too many felt love-hearts) and whatever the official name is for a person who thinks of 'finishing touches'.

So I guess, as someone who loves the creativity of it all, it's nice to see what other brides do and absorb ideas like a sponge.

So imagine my delight when Claire, the lovely blogger of English–, read this very blog (because I sent it to her!) and asked me to write a guest post for her.

So now, maybe my ideas will be read by other brides (and I'm secretly hoping that a book publisher will read too, offer me a book deal which will then lead to a movie and huge amounts of fame and fortune. Or am I totally getting carried away here?!)

Anyway - big thank you to Claire for bigging up my ridiculous ramblings. It's an honour to appear on such an inspiring blog! Anyway, check out my half a minute of fame:

Monday, 4 April 2011

Let's choose the booze!

Let the wine sampling commence!

In the grand scheme of our planning, this weekend was one I’d been particularly looking forward to – tasting the wine for the big day.

Now, neither myself or my hubby-to-be are wine experts. We know when a wine isn’t right/tastes of vinegar and we have our firm favourites at our local pub and in the supermarket. And I'm certain my wine tastes have improved slightly since my days as an impoverished post-grad, when I would just locate a five quid bottle of pinot to swig while getting ready to go out.

Nowadays I actually read labels and consider regions, and enjoy matching a good red to a lamb dinner. I also avoid saying things like “just the house red” (aren’t I grown up!).

You see I do actually love the smells and tastes of wine, and I find the descriptions rather poetic. I love the berries, the oaks and the chocolates of reds and the crispy, zesty, vanillas and citruses of a decent white. I find it fascinating that so many different favours can come through a drink that’s simply made from a grape. But I'm buggered if I can remember which wine goes with what and which grape is good to drink when.

The problem is, I have the memory of a sieve and fail to write down the names of the decent wines we find. So you’ll often find me in our local wine emporium trying to explain to a very patient sales assistant that I’m looking for “that red wine with the picture of a bird on the label.”

Beyond that, my fiancé and I like a good Chilean Merlot. And there’s that Californian one that you can only seem to purchase in a Co-op. (That's the one with the bird on the label.) For our wedding we knew that we wanted a ‘session’ drink, (ie one that can be guzzled all day without getting to heavy/getting all vinegarish) and we needed something that would go nicely with our pork feast. We also fancied a New Zealand wine because we are honeymooning there and it’d be a nice touch. On top of all that, it needs to be on budget. So there you go Oz Clarke, nothing to worry about.

Armed with our shot-glass amount of wine knowledge, we trundled down to Majestic’s and plundered their free samples (We had no intention of getting a rose or champagne, but that’s what they had open on the tasting bench and hey, I needed to limber up my palate!) We then bumbled around looking confused and with the help of some enthusiastic staff, we picked out three reds and three whites that were in our budget and sort of sounded like wines we would pick.

That night, we settled down in front of some sort of Ant and Dec Saturday night fodder with our glasses and bottles lined up. At the time, it felt a bit of a waste to crack open six bottles just for us. But it turned out we needn’t have worried about that.

And what a very interesting experiment it turned out be. The differences in flavour and body were remarkable (ooh get me!) and it was surprisingly easy to see which ones would go the distance with a porky bap and some vigorous dancing. (What a romantic summing up of our special day eh?)

So the winning red is called Graham Beck Anthony’s Yard from South Africa. A third each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Spicy blackcurrant fruit dominates the nose, leading to a chunky chewy savoury fruit with a spicy finish. And I’d love to say I noticed all that myself, but sadly I didn’t. That’s just what it says on the Majestic website. Our own verdict was a bit more along the lines of “It’s nice and light but with a full flavour, I can easily drink it all day, and it tastes nice with this chicken pie so the pork should be fine.” Quote, unquote.

And for the white, we went for a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc called Vavasour from the Marlborough region. Now this was delicious. It displayed an expressive note of tropical fruit, melon and citrus, with underlying mineral notes on the palate. Said the label. And it really did!

Again, our conclusion was a little more simplistic – it was light, fruity, didn’t go all vinegary after two mouthfuls, and there’s a picture of a rooster on the label which ties in nicely with location of our marquee (next to Mom’s chicken coup).

Always important to get a nice looking label don’t you think?

Once decisions were reached, we polished off our favourites (well they were nice) and then just to double check we drank our way through the second choice too. My fiancé passed out before we could make in-roads into the third bottles, and I was so drunk I decided to stick Britney Spears on the stereo and rehearse my dance moves from the hen do. Surprisingly, I’d remembered most of them!

All in all, I'd say the wine tasting was a huge success.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The hen of all Hens - a big fat thank you

I love my Best Girls!

We all woke on sunday morning aching. Our legs were aching from the dance steps. Our arms and shoulders were aching from the rigourous air-punches a la Britney. And our faces and sides were aching from laughing for three days solid.

It had been an amazing weekend, without a doubt the funniest and most memorable of my life. I consider myself very lucky to have such thoughtful, funny and creative friends.

But there was one more surprise left for me. As we gathered around the kitchen table for bacon butties, left over cake, cheese and biscuits (wedding diet well and truly blown) and in Annabel's case a helping of left over chilli (bizarre!) the girls announced they had one more surprise.

Ahh heck...not more fancy dress I thought. But it was in fact a present. My best girls had put together a wonderful book - each hen had supplied photos and anecdotes of their adventures and memories of me over the years, and compiled them all into this beautiful keepsake.

Honestly, I cried when I read it. They'd all written such lovely things, I felt utterly overwhelmed. It was the perfect ending to a phenomenal weekend - I still cannot believe the effort and time they all put in. I will never forget it. (and I certainly won't forget Axl!)

So I'd like to dedicate this post to each and every hen, and thank them all for providing me with the best send off ever. Kirsty, Hannah, Annabel, Helen, Mom, Sandra, Emma, Jenny, Claire - you are the best.

But in particular, I'd like to say a huge thank you to the Best Girls and ringleaders who made the whole weekend possible - Jenny, Emma and Claire, I love you dearly.

Gary, Britney, Cheryl and Bananarama

I'd also like to give SandraHitler a special mention for being the Best Girl's 'henchman' - I know she was involved in many planning meetings. And her biscuits were something else...

Sandra prepares the board for some rude drawings.(Sorry Mom.)

And one final bizarre twist, my little brother Josh turned up. As we all said our emotional fairwells and prepared to leave Hen Do HQ, My stepdad Rob and him arrived to pick up my Mom and sister. He was most excited about meeting the hens and I think he kissed a few of them. I notice he's since befriended most of them on Facebook too. He likes the ladies - and now he's met all my mates, he'll be one to watch at the wedding!

So there you go. It's taken four separate posts to document it and I know I'll be laughing about it all for a long time to come. And I can't wait for us all to do our dance routine at the wedding when the DJ plays Britney!

I couldn't resist adding this photo - how many mothers would have painted their nose white and moonwalked at their daughters hen do?!?!? Loving Mom's legendary work!

The hen of all hens - Chapter 3

Me, blissfully unaware of what was to come...

I won’t lie. The the minute we returned to the Hen Do HQ, the first thing I wanted to do was get out of my red lycra number. It was starting to chafe – how Britters coped I’ll never know.

It was revealed that, after the non-stop high jinx of the last 24 hours, we were having a nice evening together of food and wine in the cottage. (And the taxi blokes probably needed a break anyway.) So we all slipped into comfy clothes and jim jams. Some of us had a little practice of the dance routine, while Emma and some of the others shut themselves in the kitchen.

"right leg, left leg, lunge and pop and left arm punch and ...oh sod it pass me a biscuit."

It turned out they were preparing a starter of tomato, mozzerella and basil, followed by a chilli con carne served with naan and rice. Bless BG Emma, she'd made it in the week, frozen it and bought it with her to feed the hens! It was delicious and in between being bowled over by the military-style planning ahead of an evening meal, I began to wonder why the girls were relentlessly filling my glass. It was like that film Speed where Keanu isn’t allowed to let the bus drop below 50mph, but a pinot grigio version. The contents of the glass must never drop below the brim - hurry she’s taken a sip!! Top her up before it gets any lower!!

Why were they trying to get me drunk? They couldn’t possibly be up to something else. Could they?!

Emma's in charge of food, Jen's in charge of penis shaped cutlery. Nothing changes.

After the cheesy starter and before the main was served, we were ushered into the lounge to gather around the TV. Oh nice, I thought, maybe a girlie movie while we paint our nails? How stupid of me. Hadn’t I learned anything from the last 24 hours??

No, what came next was the inevitable Mr & Mrs style style quiz, a popular staple at the last three hen dos I had attended. Except this one had a twist. Claire flicked the telly on, and there on the screen was my fiance. With Best Girl Claire’s husband Ross.

Now, I don’t think I can go into too much detail here in case a) someone is offended or b) MI5 see this blog (well they might be reading eh?) and arrest us all for suspicious behaviour. Let’s just say Ross was pretending to kidnap Paul and pump him for information. And in a way that was less than politically correct.

So the basic premise of the video was Ross asking hubby-to-be a question about us, and then Claire would hit pause while I guessed his answer. (accompanied by hollers of “drink while you think Lou!!” from Jen). If our answers matched, ace. If not, I drink even more – if that was at all possible.

To my joy (not) many drunken antics from my dim, distant and often quite embarrassing past popped up in this quiz, and with each question my Mom's jaw dropped lower. I think the bit that horrified her most was the answer to the question "What did your fiancé do wrong the night you met?"

The answer was he snogged me so much his stubble burned and grazed my chin. (I'm all class me!) At the time I was mortified, I had what looked like a large branflake on my face, and I had to strike a permanent ‘stroking chin in a thoughtful manner’ pose for an entire week to cover it up. (Plus side, everyone at work thought I was concentrating mega hard.) If anyone did see it, I told them I had fallen off my bike.

Anyway the video was genius. And now I understood why he’d come back drunk from that evening without me at BG Claire’s house.

So we scooped Mom’s chin off the floor, topped up my wine glass (because it was a millimeter below being full to the brim after all) and got stuck into the main course. If that wasn’t enough, for dessert Em produced a Nigella malteser cake! And before I had chance to forget that this was a hen do, it was served with comedically shaped forks (guess?) and the top was decorated with maltesers in the shape get the idea.

Thank goodness my jim jam bottoms were elasticated cos I was stuffed. So we all then adjourned to the lounge and I was placed in what I referred to as the throne of danger - the chair they placed me in every time something outrageous happened.

I was positioned in front of a white wipey board, which Emma had brought with her – I assumed it was because she was a teacher. Don’t all teachers carry a wipe board with them at all times? You know, for impromptu maths lessons and such like?

Up until now, we’d been doodling phalluses on it, (sorry Mom) but it was actually about to be used for a game of Pictionary - with all the clues about me. Of course.

I love pictionary, my favourite part being when the artist gets all frustrated that no
one can guess the answer so resorts to just jabbing at the picture with the felt pen, hoping that will help. Which of course, it doesn’t.

And it was at the point where poor Hannah was frustratedly stabbing the board with a blue marker pen and I was trying not to spill my overly full wine glass, that I noticed a few hens were missing.

Suddenly someone nodded at someone else, and a nudge turned into several winks. Then furniture was swept aside and the unmistakable intro to Lady GaGa’s Bad Romance suddenly blasted from the iPod.

Then someone whispered, “not ready, go again.”

And once again the unmistakable intro to Lady GaGa’s Bad Romance suddenly blasted from the iPod.

There was an air of tension in the room and a feeling of fear washed over me. No surely they hadn’t?!? …they couldn’t have…??..we’re in the middle of the countryside…!!..I’m in my jim jams!!…I have cake around my mouth…..!!

Suddenly the door swung open and in marched a policeman.

A very big policeman.

Was I about to be arrested for crimes against red lycra? Was I going to be frog-marched off the premises for stealing that jar of coffee from Tesco when I was a student (sorry Mom) or not completing my Census form before the deadline?

As he did a little dance routine, followed by some press-ups and then gyrated his nether-regions far too close to my face, I began to suspect he might not be a real policeman.

I could see no walkie-talkie for a start. Although there was clear evidence of a truncheon. (oh come on, if I can't wheel out a truncheon innuendo here where can I?!?).

And then he started taking his clothes off.

Now, I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow (ooh matron) account of what he did. I am pretty sure you can use your imaginations. Let’s just say he was very strong, rather athletic and I’m pretty sure that’s not what handcuffs are designed for.

And all I kept thinking was “I AM IN MY BLOODY PYJAMAS!!!”

(Which was quickly followed by "Why aren't I wearing my glasses?!?!")

After quite possibly the longest three minutes of my life, he exited the room as quickly as he arrived. I glanced around to see that my hens were wearing looks of horror/glee/shock and my Mom appeared to be hiding behind the sofa.

BG Claire popped her head around the door, and explained that Axl (for that was his name. Hmm really??) was just velcroe-ing his trousers back together in the kitchen while BG Emma was feeding him some of her cake. With a penis shaped fork. (only my mates would be watching him get dressed while feeding him cake...)

Apparently he was explaining to them (as he mopped the baby oil off his shaved chest) that he was on his way to his next job, where he would magically appear as a surgeon for a bunch of people from the medical profession. Lovely!

Me, post ‘arrest’. (Insert gag about taking down my particulars/large truncheons/shiny helmets etc etc etc)

Once Axl had left the building, there was an obvious air of relaxation from all the hens – it was weird, they all visibly collapsed, clearly mentally exhausted from keeping so many secrets for such a long time and from the effort of two days of whispering up corners. Meanwhile I was completely dazed, unable to fully comprehend exactly what had just happened. Or in fact what had kept happening to me over the course of the weekend.

I noticed my glass had stopped being topped up, and judging by the slumping of each and every hen, I felt confident that everything they had planned for me had happened.

And oh my word, what a LOT had happened (three chapters worth in fact!!)

Hoarse from laughter and with the smell of stripper baby oil on my jim jams, the Hen finally toddled off to bed.

ps the swimming cozzie, spare pants and mars bar were all red herrings. Very funny ladies.