Monday, 4 April 2016

Digby: Miniature Schnauzer transformed at groomers!

Just a quick post showing off the puppy now he's freshly clipped. (We've previously always had him stripped but his coat has got too soft and fluffy to do that currently.)

Before:

After:

If you're local to us, then I can completely and utterly recommend Mandy at The Dog Spa. She's absolutely amazing, a font of all knowledge, great with the dogs, a great groomer (and surprisingly cheap, which always catches me off guard!) She also runs the puppy classes we took Digby to, which were awesome, they made a lot of difference to Digby.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

My Mirena Coil Experience


I have never been one to shy away from TMI, however if you're someone who prefers not to read about periods, contraception, intercourse and intimates of the female body then I'd shut this page right down.



I wanted to write about my Mirena Coil because I feel real life experiences are often very useful to read when researching if something is right for you. Obviously it doesn't mean what worked for me would work for you in any way - everybody reacts to things differently.

  • Why did I get an IUS (intrauterine system)?
  • For a multitude of reasons. Firstly - I had heavy periods, which were badly affecting my body. I suffer from Antiphospholipid Syndrome (with secondary SjΓΆgren's syndrome) which meant I was often in a lot of pain. During my periods this often left me unable to walk, due to the joint pain in my back, hips and knees. This was treated in two ways - firstly a low level of steroids that I take as soon as I feel my body begin to take a downhill turn (this was life changing for me) and secondly hopefully reducing my periods through the IUS. Secondly - I had a long term boyfriend, and wanted a contraceptive that I trusted. I felt safer with something that was already in my system. Plus no faffing around with condoms.

  • And why the Mirena?
  • My doctor recommended the Mirena for me because (according to her, I haven't researched this myself) - it produces the lowest amount of hormones and therefore was the safest me. I suffer from a few conditions that mean anything producing high levels of hormones (the pill, for example) were not a viable option due to safety concerns.

  • What was it like having it put in?
  • Firstly (a week before? I can't remember now) you have to have a little smear test to check for existing infections. That means they can be treated before the coil is inserted. It actual insertion was painful in all honesty. I was recommended to take painkillers before the procedure (I regularly take mid-level painkillers, codeine and tramadol, so that's what I used) and that did help. The doctor was very nice. You have to strip from the waist, and lie on a bed with your knees up and spread. I felt insecure and ridiculous, but once the doctor came in I relaxed. She used a speculum to open my vagina so they can fit the coil inside, if you've had a smear test (if not, why not? It's very important!) you'll know the score on that one. Suffice to say you feel a tad uncomfortable and stretched but it doesn't hurt.

    Image from Mirena
    I was surprised how tiny the coil was - it just looked like a few tiny wires. They clamp it into your womb, just past the cervix. The clamping was the bit that hurt most for me - everything else was very background - but that was like me sharply nipped and then a bit of throbbing.

  • What were the immediate after effects?
  • I felt like I had bad period cramps. I took a lot of painkillers. The next day I was still a bit sore, but it doesn't take long for mind and body to forget. I've been in far worse pain (a lot of my dentistry has hurt far more than having the coil put in, for example.)

  • How did it affect my body?
  • Periods - For the first year my periods were irregular. Sometimes I would have a drop for three months, then I'd have two normal but light ones, then two more drought months and then a ridiculously heavy one. The Mirena did not stop my periods immediately. I invested in a Mooncup and still consider it the best thing ever. However as time went on the periods became less and less and in the last two years (I had the Mirena for 4 years) I had no bleeding at all and just a bit of spotting occasionally.

    Personal Health - I no longer had as many extreme highs of pain as my periods reduced. The steroids did do most of the work though. I do think having the Mirena Coil helped me deal with my APS and think it is partially the reason I got back on my feet (literally, metaphorically.) The doctors did a lot to help me, and getting a medicine regime that suited my body was highly important.

    Other - My breasts did become annoying tender quite regularly. As in: I don't want to wear a freaking bra because they freaking hurt so freaking much whyyyyyyyyy. I didn't associate it with the Coil at the time but it hasn't happened since it was removed. 

  • Can you feel it? Does it affect sex?
  • Image from Marie Stopes UK
    You should be able to feel the two tiny wires dangling just into the vagina. To be honest I often couldn't, but had it checked whenever I had a smear test or other internal examination and it was always fine. However if you can't feel it you should get it checked out as it may have shifted and you may no longer be protected from pregnancy.

    When I asked my husband (the long-term boyfriend got even more serious last year!) if he'd ever felt anything he said he hadn't noticed a difference from before, during or after the coil was in my system. I remember being really paranoid that it was going to scratch his penis the first time we had sex after it was inserted!

  • Why did I get it removed?
    As alluded to in my previous comment, I got married last year. We're considering starting a family and I wanted to give my body plenty of time to recover (I was concerned about a return to poor health, plus obviously needed my fertility to bounce back although that's pretty immediate.)

  • What was the removal like?
    Not too bad! Because the insertion had been painful I was feeling quite nervous. I was also at a completely different GP to when I had it inserted (moved from England to South Wales) so didn't know the doctor. It was very quick - strip off, speculum, and whip it out. I was so surprised and really happy. (Still demanded the husband got me a lot of chocolate though - got to work these things.) I did feel (again) like I had bad cramps as my body got used to it, but it wasn't too awful.

  • How do I feel now and would I use one in the future?
    I've remembered how much I hate periods. They are the pits. Mine came back pretty quickly and I think I was a bit out of it and shocked because I wasn't very well prepared. Everything hurt! I sterilised my mooncup and we're good to go again. I couldn't believe my mood swings, or how grumpy I was at work. So currently I'm hoping to get pregnant really super duper quickly and then have a new one put in a few weeks after birth. I would definitely have one again! 

This has all been my personal take on the Mirena Coil, and as stated previously it can and will affect people very differently. Please research the medical side of things as well (NHS on IUS) and discuss things thoroughly with your doctor to find something that works for you. I hope it was useful to read my experience of it.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Ten (Nonsensical) Thoughts

I read a lot of blog posts, encourage my husband to blog, and actively neglect my own (which admittedly is more of a rant-area and thought-dump than a beautifully curated personal space.) So that's a shame.

Ten thoughts of the moment:
  1. I have suffered from nausea nearly everyday for the past eight years. Now we're trying for a baby I am over analysing every second of horrible vomitiness. I am getting quite fed up of me.

  2. I have just realised I've been singing along to Justin Bieber at work for what feels like months. I don't pretend to be a musical knowledge, but presumed I had some instinctual awareness of what "good music" was. Fuck it, I enjoy Love Yourself. (See also: James Blunt, Pink & S Club 7 but with more self awareness.)

  3. The puppy is about to turn one. He seems more puppy-ish now (tearing up cardboard, futilely chasing birds, demanding to play with toys) than he has for months. Is he regressing?

  4. Husband has started learning German. This is seriously awesome (which should be expected from a seriously awesome husband.) Also reminding me that my crashed out of A Levels (yay illness!) were a reallly long time ago. According to his app I'm still 58% fluent though. I think that's good. I'm unsure.

  5. I spent months thinking my phone was shit because everybody could do those emoji things and I couldn't (but obviously I don't want to, they're really quite immature, and what really is the point..) Have now discovered if I hold down the "enter key" it magically turns into emoji world. So that's, πŸ†—πŸ†’✌πŸ’™πŸΈπŸ’‘πŸ˜‰

  6. Husband is a bad influence. He has introduced me to the Guilty Feminist and Parapod podcasts and now life is not the same (I'm certain each day has been reduced by about three hours.)

  7. Suspect I may like late shifts best at work because it's far less embarrassing to sleep in the evening after a shift, than if said shift ends at 1pm. Sleep is definitely required after work. A lot of sleep.

  8. Everybody is ill. Some seriously (friend rushed to hospital, other one cracked his skull, mum's paranoid schizophrenia) and some less so (man flu has infected every male I know) It is getting depressing.

  9. Customers continue to remark how nice it is that it's sunny. I continue not to cry and swear and over-explain how much it's hurting me. Equally, I am praised for being friendly. Find it bizarre - what retail worker isn't friendly? It's basically required. Concerned for shops everywhere.

  10. Suspect the spot on the really tight-skinned, hurty top bit of my forehead/hairline is auditioning to become a lighthouse. It will not bugger off. Rude. When will I be old enough that such things a) don't exist or b) no longer matter?
More highly interesting commentary on a bored, ill 24 year old's life as and when.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

An email from a constituent to their MP

I sent my MP, Owen Smith, this email today. I have been slowly getting more and more frustrated with the Labour Party and its weak-willed ways. I support the ideals I believe they still have, but abstaining from the Welfare Bill was the final straw for me.

Hi there,

I am emailing you today because I still haven't managed to come to terms with yesterday's news that you abstained from the Welfare Bill. This passive attitude has really, deeply distressed me. I want my MP, the MP I have voted for and supported, to stand up not only for me and my peers but for what he believes is right. As far as I am aware - and please correct me if I'm wrong - morally you oppose the bill, your tweet "I oppose the Bill & voted for our amendment to oppose it. If we do not win vital votes in c'mitee I will oppose at 3rd reading." is clear in that sentiment. So why on earth abstain from voting - I realise there must be a reasonable respect for Harriet Harman's decision - but I would far prefer you to be guided by your moral compass and what is just and good, than to let the bill gain a little ground before trying to break it. There is always hope. 22 Tories abstained, the smaller parties voted against - I wish Labour had gunned for a chance rather than conceding failure before even trying. I realise there is further to go - more readings, Lords, but I despise this passive attitude that Labour has adopted because they think (or the Leaders think) that is what they need to do to win votes. It looks weak. It is weak. For any votes it may gain you, you will lose many more. 

You have lost my vote. This election we had your sign in our garden, a poster in our window, we walked miles each day for Mari Williams, we took the time off work just so we could campaign (let's face it, we knew your seat was safe, we just wanted to do our best to help Labour win.) We sat in a committee room in Cardiff and watched the Exit Poll come in, and even then we had hope. It was devastating watching the votes come in. I have been Labour through and through my whole life - my father was a town councillor in Leighton Buzzard, and a South Beds district councillor for years (he tried to become an MP twice in fact, but it was sadly a strong Conservative seat by that point) He was a Labour party member for 51 years. He resigned during the Blair government, he found the party becoming more and more right-leaning distressing. Two years after that he passed away, there was no acknowledgement from the party for his decades of service. Now I find I'm following in his footsteps - hopeful for change, but ever more depressed by the cowardly nature of a once-loved party.

I was brought up in Chichester, a Tory stronghold, something I found very frustrating on the political front as a teenager. I was delighted to move to Wales so that I had the chance to make a difference. I was so pleased to be campaigning for you and the other local candidates. I believed Labour could - and would - make a difference. Now I believe Labour could - but won't - make a difference.

John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, said "I would swim through vomit to vote against this bill. And listening to some of the nauseating speeches in support of it, I might have to." I wish you might have said something similar, rather than just saying that later on you'll oppose it just not now.

I'd like to think you could win my vote back. Sadly, I don't believe you will. I don't believe the words you say anymore.  I wanted an MP who would stand up for his beliefs.

I didn't get one.

Regards,

Aimee Bundy

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Wed-threads: The Wedding! (Bride's perspective)

Photograph: Rob Grimes Photography

So we did it! I'm now a married woman. It was all surprisingly simple in the end - despite all the panics along the way! I wanted to write down my memories of the day, and the build up to it, before they completely fade into the ether - and hope Gareth will do the same! This is a long read, and entirely for my own memory and pleasure, so please don't feel obligated to read!

Leading up to the big day:
Originally I only had the Friday booked off work, getting married the day after. This was a foolish oversight and I am so pleased I bunged my leftover holiday days onto the start of my time off. It made it less stressful, I had time to reflect and plan - Friday was a mad dash as it was, I can't imagine what it would have been like otherwise!

Cake toppers by badgers badgers.
Cake by Little Cake Cupboard.
Photo: Laura Blakemore
I looked over my wedding checklist - it recommended I should contact all the vendors in the week leading up to the wedding. Seemed simple enough. I went about emailing and calling everyone - having lovely chats with the florist, confirming apartment details with the photographer, arranging to drop the cake toppers over to Little Cake Cupboard. Then the panicky bits started - the car company was based in the wilds of Wales and hadn't received the contract I had posted back to them. (They had received the dosh though, thankfully - I love bank transfers!) It was printed out again, carefully filled out, scanned in, emailed back, phew.

Then I called the caterers - who alarmed me generally, as they were very laid back but there had been no tasting or request for payment despite me asking for an invoice. (They had stopped tastings due to being unable to order single items - for a bride and groom to try a quail's egg starter they had to order fifty eggs. It created a lot of waste.) I called them and spoke to a lovely gentleman, who unfortunately didn't have a clue who I was. He checked his bookings for the following weekend - he couldn't find us. My blood went cold. He reassured me that everything would be fine, if I emailed him the final numbers (which was what I had been calling him with, originally), the courses and any other finer details then they would sort it all out. He suggested that perhaps we had been with a gentlemen who had since been sacked, and left no paperwork behind.

I hung off, politely agreeing to email him, with stressed fireworks going off in my head and panic stopping thought-processes dead. I spoke to my fiance, who unfortunately stresses even more than I do in this situation. He rang them back, was informed that they had found our booking, the gentleman we had been dealing with was not the sacked one but was instead on holiday. Unsteady, disbelieving relief descended on the room. We insisted on a meeting the next day to ensure we could talk over all the details. Thankfully that meeting went well!

We met the registrar - Elinor - a few days before hand. This was so calming after a stressful few days, she gave us a print out of our ceremony so we knew exactly what was happening at what point. This appealed to my fact-obsessive nature. We discussed our little surprise with her and she was delighted, offering to help however she could. She was fantastic - and coffee 1 in Whitchurch does fabulous juices and smoothies, which made us happier still!

Favours:
Welsh Slate coaster with handwritten
name in chalk (by moi)
Sweets: Just Favours
Photo: Ryan Farrell
The next few days were filled with last minute shopping trips - cards to write speeches, gift bags for presents, clothes for honeymoon, presents for each other - making the wedding favours (named slate coasters) and my mother arriving. As usual she was equally delighted with the garden as the planning for the wedding, and we spent many an hour discussing my ever-dying mint (who can kill mint bar me? Everyone confidently assures me it should go bonkers. Mine goes brown, wilts and dies - even when planted alongside other plants that thrive.) I spent many an hour hinting she should write her speech down. She then read the reading she had chosen (both mothers were delivering the readings for the wedding, and were our witnesses.) - and thankfully realised that it could be seen as a bit negative and miserable (something that had been a continuous worry for me.) We chatted, edited it together, and all was well.

Thursday was a day filled with terror and joy. It was the day I had to start attempting to be pretty. Not my forte, doesn't even really interest me. And as somebody who has very little clue about such things, I just booked everything and hoped for the best. The pedicure was nice - it tickled but I didn't kick anyone in the face, so that counted as a success. I felt awful for the poor Polish girl who was helping me, I'd requested a french polish but two nails in I realised I absolutely hated it, and language barriers meant it was very difficult for each of us to comprehend each other. Mortified that I wasn't making life easy for anyone, I picked the first colour I saw from the nail polishes - a very yellow gold. It was nice, but in hindsight I'd have picked something that went with my vampiric skin tone better. Of course, I was far too English and nervous to ever say anything other than it was wonderful.

Manicure: Wonderland
Awful photo? Me.
Hands were next - at least this time I knew I didn't want a french polish, and I'd found a picture in their catalogues of previous customers that I adored. Unfortunately this meant lots of discussion with the head nail stylist, as she talked to me in English and then explained the technique to my fabulous nail artist in Polish. It reminded me of when I was on work experience in Germany - having to give a tour of an art museum in German, knowing only moderate German and absolutely nothing about art. I hate putting people out, and felt pretty mortified by this point. My nails, however, were terrific. Sparkly, with little flowers on the accent nails. I love glitter (but not glittery vampires.)

Then it was time for the waxing. Waxing being something normally to only occur in my own bathroom, and mostly involved scary memories of burning my armpits the day before I met Gareth for the first time, and keeping my arms clamped by my sides for an entire week. The lady was amazing and we chatted about the differences between British and Polish weddings - she told me I was getting married really quickly, and that normally you'd wait eight or nine years (I've been with Gareth for four years.) My pain threshold being pathetic, it wasn't delightful but I loved chatting wedding and cultural differences so found the last few hours far more bearable than the abject horror of being a right pain in the arse earlier.

The day before:
Then it was Friday. It was the day before our wedding. My last day of using my surname. A day that would end without Gareth next to me. I was terrified. I cried a lot.

In the morning I texted every vendor - and relief flooded in as they all replied, saying 'yes you stupid woman you've paid me to be there and I will arrive' (they were all a lot politer than that, but I felt a bit like a nagging old woman by that point.) I had a chat with the car company who advised due to all the road closures ever - One Direction were in town - they were going to pick me up 40 minutes earlier. This meant contacting hair and make up who pushed their times an hour earlier as well, which meant I had to get the bridesmaids to arrive an hour earlier... It was a bit of a palaver, but unusually it didn't stress me out. I like to be early, so increased earliness I found comforting rather than a last minute stress.

Then it was time to takes boxes and boxes of carefully labelled stuff to the Castle - boxes of favours (named slate coasters and sweets), vases, decorations, table plans, reserved seating signs, the readings, the wishing well and all its sundry items and meet the fantastic Mike Pitt who was duty manager on the day. He talked us through the day with military precision, and again the happiness and calm flooded back for a few short moments. It was all happening! It would be okay!

My Wedding Dress!
Vanity Fair by Ian Stuart
Wedding Days of Cheltenham
All I did that day was driving - driving back to the house to get stuff for the apartment I was staying in, to get Gareth's stuff for him to stay at his best man's, driving to the apartment, setting it all up, driving to meet the best man to swap car contents (suits!) Then having to leave Gareth far too quickly because it was 5pm and I still had to drive to my mother-in-law's to pick up my mother's outfit, the bridesmaid dresses, and my wedding dress, and then drive back to the apartment. I got in at 7pm and then I realised there was a problem - I was parked underground. There were three doors and a lift between my car (containing the wedding dress) and the apartment. All the doors were fire doors - with very strict "KEEP SHUT" signs on them. The wedding dress weighed a ton, and obviously I had to hold it above the ground. It wasn't even in a plastic container but my mam-in-law's duvet cover as the dress needed to breathe and fan out all its layers. How the fuck was I going to get that to the apartment? It was late, I was shattered, I was tearful and stressed. It was not ideal. So I cheated and nicked all the door stops, left every door unlocked praying some dick wouldn't come in and steal my wedding shoes (I know they normally wouldn't, but it would be typical something shit would happen when I couldn't do much to resolve it.) wedged every fire door in sight open, grabbed the dress and flung it over my arm, got it up and flung it on the bed. Then I ate far too much lasagne, as I needed to recover.

Slowly I sorted myself out - vetoed the sauna and jacuzzi because I was shattered, washed my hair and went to bed. I slept until about 3am, at which point it seemed completely necessary to get up and have a cup of tea and then rub a lot of moisturiser in. I never really got back to bed - the butterflies had set in.

Wedding day:
At 6am I received a text from my bridesmaid, Cathy. She and my mother were up (a miracle as my mother is profoundly deaf and we were very worried about her wakening in time.) and would be there soon. I then annoyed her with lots of questions like "Have you had breakfast?" "Bring bread." "Bring milk." "We only have four cups. Bring mugs!" All in irritating separate texts like that. I'm sure she found that very helpful so early in the morning, but thankfully she bit back any irritation and just got on with it! Soon the intercom was buzzing and I was running around trying to get everybody in and comfy - Laura, my other bridesmaid, also arrived with a fantastic bag of useful "on the day" stuff. I have to say my bridesmaids was epically wonderful - from chief mother-wrangler (an impossible job) to organised-secretary-extraordinaire. Time for tea and toast. Nobody fancied my awesome chocolate orange tea though, boring sods.

Everybody getting beautified
around me. Beautycurl
Then hair and make up arrived - the lovely Heather and Charlotte - they got the room ship shape, rearranging it for the best light/power-point combination and started grabbing my mother and bridesmaids to be appropriately beautified. I lazed on the sofa watching the news merge into Saturday Kitchen, suddenly feeling very, very tired. Intercom again - the photographers were here! I said hi to Rob, who then went off to the boys and welcomed the lovely Chelsea. After hellos, Chelsea promptly disappeared into the bedroom to do detail shots of the dress, shoes, bridesmaid dresses etc while we all lounged around in our pyjamas. I was starting to feel a bit awkward - everybody was getting all dolled up around me, and I was sitting in my pyjamas as the bride is done last so she is the "freshest." I kept trying to get people tea and biscuits but everyone was too busy and I was too nervous. It was a stressful hour, which I spent cooing over what a good job Charlotte and Heather were doing - the girls looked absolutely bloody amazing.

A photo posted by Chelsea LaVere (@chelsea_lavere) on

Amazing hair by Charlotte.
Photo: Beautycurl.
Then it was my turn. When I contacted Janet Ashby-White (who arranges make up artists and hair stylists) she had told me only one hair stylist could possibly do the complicated rose plaits I wanted, and she was on holiday. Charlotte emailed me from holiday to say she was available and more than happy to try! The trial went fabulously and this time was even better - there were sparkles and a whole ton of hair spray (last time a trip to the cinema, and me leaning back had been a bit much for the delicate hairstyle.) I felt amazing. Then Heather got in on the act, and suddenly my stressed spotty skin (toothpaste at 3am had been utilised to bring down some particularly evil visitations - I may not be a teenager any more, but thankfully it still works.) turned flawless and my lips were reddened (I hate nude lips. It could only be red lips on my wedding day.)

Charlotte putting my veil in.
Photo: Beautycurl
Then it was time to get dressed. First it was time for the heels - gigantically heeled Irregular Choice beauties. I had been rubbish at wearing them in - one trip to the Coop at the end of the street, and then washing up a few times had been the extent of it. I was an utter fool, but thankfully coped. Then the bridesmaids had to hold the dress open, while I hopped about trying not to tear the tulle as I tried to find the floor. I'm sure it was very elegant(!) Then it was crochet hooks at the ready as they zipped and buttoned until I was suitably imprisoned. Then they got dressed and we all looked quite, quite fabulous.

Photo by Laura Blakemore.
Flowers from Forbesfield.




Then darling, darling Beth arrived with the flowers. I adored Beth - she put up with my scatty nature brilliantly and had sensibly reminded me to "keep breathing!" a lot. And her floral creations were breathtaking. Lots of different pastel colours, delicate and wild, with lots of foliage - exactly what I had requested but with her trademark style all over them. We all got rather excited at that point - and Chelsea was amazing and identified half the flowers in my bouquet before I had even noticed all the colours. Then it was time for photos! Laura had her instant camera out for cool polaroids, and Chelsea took me out to the balcony where I spent a lot of time panicking my veil would fall out and fly into the river. It was rather windy. She taught me how to stand, how to hold my arms and look in particular directions and was utterly exceptional.

Chelsea taking photos of Laura and her gorgeous bouquet.

Then we sat for a nervous hour wondering where the car was - I had stupidly turned my phone off, relying on the intercom which people had to dial just to be allowed entry into the complex. Ten minutes after arrival time I switched my phone on and called Sharron - the gates had been open and she was waiting outside! Time to go! We bundled into the lift and then jumped into Benny, a gorgeous ivory London Taxi.

The drive seemed to go smoothly - we were chatting with Sharron, who had been so amazing in the build up to the wedding, checking post codes and calling the venue to arrange which entrance we were coming in. Then we got to the Castle! There was a bored looking security guard at the entrance, who stopped us as we waited patiently at the gate. He had no clue who we were, and was clearly there to ensure the lorries could get in and out that were carrying the staging for the Manic Street Preachers concert, which had been on the night before. He radioed through, and we waited. This was when my nerves really set in, I wasn't wearing a watch and kept anxiously asking the time - I felt certain we were going to be late. And not bridal late, but wrecking the wedding late - we had a tight slot with the registrar and she had warned me I couldn't afford to arrive after 2.45pm. We waited for ten minutes, with poor Sharron carefully explaining to the guard that she had already arranged this with the Castle and that the roads for the other entrance (which they now expected us to go in) were closed. Time ticked on.

Car: Benny from LoveDub Weddings
Photo: Rob Grimes Photography
Then finally we got the go ahead! We swept into Bute Park, with Sharron asking if I wanted to stop for photos as I had originally intended. I couldn't bear to. I was so stressed about timings at this point, I just wanted to get into the Castle. Besides, the lovely drawbridge entrance was covered in detritus from the concert and wasn't providing the beautiful backdrop I had hoped for. We pulled in and there was Mike Pitt happily directing us - suddenly I felt reassured again, everything was back on track. We stopped for photos, Rob had appeared from the depths of the undercroft and was directing us - where the car should be, where I should be, the bridesmaids, I smiled and panicked, and smiled and panicked and just went with the flow at this point. I was at the Castle. Everything was okay. My brother was standing by, he was giving me away. Everything was okay.

The radio peeped - all the guests were seated. It was time to go into the Undercroft. The standard entrance is down some twisty, steep stairs - in my heels I was terrified but Mike went ahead of me so I could grab him if I tripped and my bridesmaids stayed behind to keep my dress off the ground. Why had I chosen such a cumbersome outfit?! But it was sunny and dry, the day was lovely, and I was getting married. There was no point questioning these things. We went into the bar area, where Carol (the other registrar) came in to check a few details. I remember her asking my name, which I confirmed. Then she asked me what I had formerly been known as. I was baffled. Seconds passed. Then I remembered I'd changed my name - moved my mother's surname from my middle name to double barrel my surname, instead. It sounded identical, but legally there was a difference. I passed the test.

Then Elinor came in, she confirmed which side my brother, Ian, would be walking on as on the day we had become confused about the most obvious of things. Then we were ready - the children, now nervous themselves clutching on to their mothers' hands, started to panic and grizzle - it was a quick decision to make sure the mams walked down with them. Weddings aren't about upsetting children, you just go with the flow. They waited for my nod for the music - I had to explain it would be a long intro, and we didn't go in until Jeff Buckley started singing. There was that distinctive twang in the music, and I knew we were nearly ready to go! The boys left, holding on to Helen's hand - one carried the rings, the other a little sign declaring "Uncle Gareth here comes your bride!" Then the bridesmaids, who had both insisted neither one of them wanted to go first. Mike flipped a coin, Laura went for heads, Cathy for tails. Heads it was. Laura got the choice, and Cathy had to go first. They left. Then I had to walk up more steps - trying to not muff up my train at the same time. Paused. Then I walked down the aisle on my brother's arm.

Photograph: Rob Grimes Photography
Venue: Cardiff Castle Undercroft
I had been told time and time again to enjoy walking down the aisle - not to rush, but go slowly and take in the moment. I don't remember anything but faces - my cousin David beaming, Gareth's aunt Ros winking at me, Liza, the best man's girlfriend, looking stunning. Then I was by Gareth's side. He looked so pale, so stressed, with wet tearful eyes. He was - is - the man I loved most in all the world. I wanted to kiss him, but knew I was meant to wait. It didn't take long to grab his hand. The ceremony went in a blur - we repeated everything Elinor said, slowly, fumbling the words in our nervousness occasionally. My mother performed her reading - an extract from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. We said our vows,  tried to push the rings on to our sweaty, shaky hands. Then it was Gareth's mam's reading - an extract from Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres - her tears nearly meant I lost it as well. I broke away from Gareth to give her a cwtch. Then so, so quickly we were married and signing the register as Elbow played. There were so many photos, but now we were giggly and delighted - we'd done it, we were man and wife! As people took pictures, we messed around - pretending to sign different signatures, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, we were high on the moment and we knew our surprise was about to happen and would either be amazing or really go horrifically wrong.

Signing the register. (Well..)
Photo: Rob Grimes Photography

Photo: Ryan Farrell
We prepared to walk back down the aisle together. In the background Elinor knew exactly what to do. I Am The Doctor started to play, and down we walked, with a monster declaring "Exterminate!" in the background as it swung through the Undercroft doors. A Dalek had come to our wedding. Gareth walked us down the aisle so quickly, I barely took in the chaos around us! I can't wait to see the photos - only a very select number of people knew (the vendors, the best man, the kids - we were worried they would be terrified - and their mum/gramma.) The bridesmaids had been winding me up all morning trying to work out who the mysterious Bob was while I, Chelsea, Charlotte and Heather giggled in the corner - I'm glad they failed!

Punch the air - we did it!
Photo: Rob Grimes Photography
Out to the bar, a few moments to catch our breath and then it was time for the fastest formal photos ever known to man. I had armed Simon, the best man, and Chelsea - the second photographer - with named lists for each one, and Rob focused and snapped with utmost precision! Something that I had expected to take an hour, took less than half of that! Then came the best bits - the fun bits, the romantic bits, the passionate bits. Rob directed us and like nervous pupils we endeavoured to do as instructed. We jumped (yes in my heels that was terrifying!), we messed around with the bridesmaids, we hid away from the crowd on the balcony and had a proper first kiss (watched by incredibly awkward bridesmaids!) It was amazing. It was beautiful. Every time Rob showed us his viewfinder I wanted to cry. He was a joy.

Told to act natural. So I tickled Cathy and she batted me away.
Laura and Gareth were the only adults here..
Photo: Rob Grimes Photography

Photo: Ian Bishop
Then it was time for the wedding breakfast. Again we waited for everyone to be seated and then were announced by Mike Pitt. In we went - though trying to get my gigantic dress to the table, or to sit on a chair (or a throne as Gareth and I had, even if neither of us noticed until the speeches!) was slightly difficult! Alan started playing some great rat pack tunes and the atmosphere settled into happy chat as relatives got to discuss old memories, and acquaintances reconnected. Then the food arrived - a starter of Welsh Rarebit with Carmarthen Ham, which was lovely and quickly gone. We had fantastic waitresses, who kept magically refilling your wine glass. It was really hard to work out how much you had drunk! I stopped drinking very quickly - I get drunk easily, and I really wanted to have clear mind so I could remember the day as best I could, as everyone had warned me the memories would fade quickly (hence this far-too-detailed blog!) I couldn't believe my eyes when the main course came out - it was a massive shank of lamb, with enough meat on for two. I was delighted - to my brothers' constant regret I am an unrepentant carnivore - but incredibly nervous for my dress. I borrowed practically every napkin on the table, and splattered most of them with gravy. I'm not a tidy eater, but thankfully the dress survived my onslaught.


I felt sorry for Gareth - nerves had got to his stomach, and were clearly affecting a man who is normally highly capable of devouring his own plateful and scraps from anybody else's! Poor sod - the food was delectable. Finally it was pudding - a trio of citrus tarts: an incredibly tangy lemon tart, a Cointreau mousse, and a lime and coconut ice cream on biscuit. Delicious, we were stuffed but were getting nervous - it was nearly time for speeches and there were a lot of them! Simon stood up, thanked everyone and introduced my brother. He spoke about my father, about Gareth, and I wanted to cry - I spent most of the day desperately trying not to burst into floods. Then it was John - my father-in-law, who gave a lovely funny speech, but unfortunately had forgotten his reading glasses! It became even more endearing when my mother-in-law stepped in to help him read it. My mother was next, and thankfully I'd already done my crying over her speech in private as I'd proof-read it. Again my father was a highlight, and I loved her words about my new family.

It was my turn next. I quickly realised I hated the microphone and got rid of that irritation speedily. I had expected to be far more nervous but thankfully it seemed to go well, possibly because I'd chosen to make most of it a quote from The Girl Who Waited (Doctor Who): "You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful, and then you actually talk to them and five minutes later, they're as dull as a brick. Then there's other people and you meet them and you think, "Not bad, they're okay." And then you get to know them and... and they're face just sort of... becomes them, like their personality is written all over it. And they just... they turn into something so beautiful." Gareth is the most beautiful man I have ever met.

Photo: Ian Bishop
Poor Ga's turn was next - and he technically had a simple speech: thanking everyone and giving them their gifts. He got into the swing of it quickly but possibly a bit too well! He forgot to give the first gift, and then had to continue the rest of the speech without them. My questioning eyes were on him, but it was too late - at that point there was nothing we could do bar have a muttered discussion about how best to give the gifts afterwards (privately or one of us giving yet another speech!) Thankfully it was Simon's speech next and it was a cracker - full of jokes and memories, it made the room come alive. I cannot thank Simon and Liza (who expertly wrote it I believe!) enough. I couldn't believe it when he later told me he'd accidentally missed a page - he'd carried the performance with such vigour and charisma. Everybody came up to me afterwards to say how much they had enjoyed the speeches - often I think this must be a politeness, but they were so lovely and people so genuine on the day that I really do think they went down quite well!

Then out to the bar - for the guests it was time for another drink, for us it was time to go out with Rob and Chelsea again. Rob had an amazing light that he was using to alter the outside lighting conditions, and was taking some gorgeous photos of us with the Castle as a backdrop. It was so clever and I love these photos so much:

Photo: Rob Grimes Photography

Photo: Laura Blakemore
Then it was time to kickback and relax - we were wandering back to the Castle and noticed our friends had congregated around the Dalek (they're not predictable, honest!) They were all having turns in it. All day I had suggested Gareth tried driving it, and all day he had protested saying he didn't want to. Finally he was persuaded, and in he went chasing after Simon and spraying him with a water gun "You have ripped your trousers, you may as well wet them too!" and then nearly knocked into my mother! It was such fun to watch him chase about. One of the many things I love about Gareth is his ability to have fun with himself, and not take things too seriously. I was jealous though - I wanted a turn, but how the hell was my dress going to fit into that?! Bob's owner, David, who had been so incredibly patient and wonderful all day had a solution though - off came his head (Bob's!) and in I stepped, to be quickly christened Bride of Davros/Queen of the Daleks. It was mad, it was hardly flattering, and I didn't care a jot - I chased after Laura, and went for a kiss with Gareth. Life is for having fun.

Photo: Laura Blakemore

The fun was just starting - it was time for the first dance. This was exciting for two reasons: all the evening guests had arrived, and afterwards I could finally take off my blasted high heels which were really starting to kill. Being a lady of great grace I'd packed some muddy flats for the occasion - always intending to clean them, and never getting round to it. I reasoned that nobody would see them under so much dress, but oddly people pulled my dress to see those far more than the beautiful Irregular Choice booties! The evening reception came quicker than planned - the Castle staff were absolutely outstanding at turning round the room!

Photo: Rob Grimes Photography
Our first dance song was Piledriver Waltz from the OST of Submarine - a little known indie film that had been filmed in Swansea and Gareth and I both adored. It was quite fast for a wedding dance, and everyone had been carefully threatened/bribed to come and dance with us after the first thirty seconds. We clearly didn't offer good enough bribes because nobody bloody came over until we called them. For somebody who loves dancing but is terrible - and I must stress terrible, I have no rhythm at all, I can't follow music and I'm a foot shorter than Gareth which makes dancing testing at the best of times - this was somewhat stressful! So I just hid in Gareth's arms and cwtched and swayed, and decided that as it was our wedding nobody would be rude enough to point out that hardly counted as dancing. (They didn't!)

Afterwards went very quickly - we danced, we sang too loudly, we chatted to people and felt rude constantly as we tried to juggle 80 guests all trying to talk to us at the same. That was awkward and I felt pretty awful about it all night - it really was two minutes and then somebody else would come up for a hug or to say goodbye. Obviously we took moments that were just for ourselves too - I remember 'Reach' by S Club 7 coming on and me yelling for Laura and Cathy (the bridesmaids) to come and dance - we're all of that age that our childhoods were full of Steps, S Club 7, Busted and McFly. I remember being confused that Cathy wasn't around at that point - but danced away as stupidly as ever with Laura and Chelsea LaVere. (Gareth came up to me afterwards saying Rob had whispered to him that Chelsea never dances, so I considered that a particular triumph!)

Bunting: Apple Blossom Lane
Photo: Ian Bishop
Later I went out to the bar, and unfortunately found Cathy cwtched up with my cousins feeling really unwell. I cannot thank Wills and Holly enough - you were both so utterly fabulous. It took a few more return trips, and some plain-speaking (I suspect, perhaps, I am sometimes too good at this - I remember telling Cathy rather loudly she looked 'shit' - when of course I meant something more ladylike such as 'terribly unwell, dear chum.' I imagine she understood, however.) before Cathy decided to call it a night and was escorted to a taxi by my lovely cousins. One Direction again meant nothing was simple - and instead of popping over to the taxi rank opposite the Castle as you would usually, it involved walking down past the road closures towards the closest hotel.

Photo: Rob Grimes Photography
Soon after, family members who had further to travel were starting to leave and the party was becoming divided between the chatty non-dancers, and those keeping the disco going. I continued to dance badly, continued to implore Gareth to come and dance (he was often caught up with relatives and friends and all the necessary talking stuff I am so bad at.), danced a lot with his cousins, (the Bundy girls! I remember asking Hannah - another new Bundy bride - if she had any tips. I don't think there are enough tips in the world to keep up with Gareth's folk, however! They are full of fun.) watched people take increasingly bad photos of me as being awake since 3am took its toll, and snuck drinks from Gareth's beer.

Cake: Little Cake Cupboard
Photo: Laura Blakemore
The evening buffet was served at 9pm, and I went and grabbed lots of wedding cake before heading to the bar to get some iced water. I always meant to head back to try the bacon sandwiches and glamorgan sausage rolls, but never got round to it - there was always so much to do, and I really was beginning to flag. I stayed and chatted at the bar - we had utterly delightful bar staff who by the end of the night were pouring glasses of water for me before I even needed to ask, and I was giving cake to. They were frightfully patient and fantastic. At about half ten, I went and sat down with Gareth's eldest nephew. He was dozy and drunk, I was high from the happiness of the occasion but shattered. It was a quiet pairing, but lovely. Then Ashton, one of the younger nephews turned up and I swept him up on my lap. His mum took a lovely photo of us. Ashton took a less flattering photo of Helen and myself, but then he is only four.

Photo: Helen

11pm. It was the end of night. Officially it was time for us to head off into the night. Pity the road - due to open now, had an extended closures for an extra thirty minutes. Due to all of this chaos and despite the Castle's endeavours throughout the night - Gareth and I didn't have an easy way of getting to the apartment. My fault entirely - it was the one thing I had forgotten in the build up to the day (that and order of services - which even when Cathy stepped in amazingly to fix, we still managed to bloody forget leaving them in my mam-in-law's handbag in the early morning panic.)

So Gareth and I left Cardiff Castle hand in hand and wandered along Castle Street with all the kicked-out drunks and hoards of One Direction fans. It was a unique end to the night as everyone called out "Is it your wedding day?!" and asked to pose with us. Gareth and I have been out so many times on a Saturday night that this somehow felt perfectly right and it was a good laugh after a busy day. Then we had to try and get a cab. This might perhaps have been easy, if either the other Saturday night revellers, the police, or the taxi drivers themselves had worked out how pick ups worked on this night of heavy traffic and overlong road closures. Each person we asked gave us different answers, queues formed all over the place but nobody arrived, and taxis sat parked for thirty minutes with no custom. Gareth - my excellent husband - took charge and just started talking to taxi drivers until one agreed to skip all this faff and take us. Ten minutes and we were at the apartment, kicking off our shoes and turning on Radio 4. We had been married just hours, but with four years behind us and many more years ahead of us, it was time to cwtch up and doze through the starry night.

Vendors:
Photographers - Rob Grimes Photography, with Chelsea LaVere as second shooter
Flowers - Forbesfield Flowers
Car - LoveDub Weddings
Hair - Charlotte Tattersall (Beautycurl)
Make Up - Heather Perrott (Beautycurl)
Cake - Little Cake Cupboard
DJ - Alan Matthews
Venue - Cardiff Castle Undercroft
Apartment - Porto House, Century Wharf, A Space in the City
Dalek - David Smith, Charity Sci-Fi

Sunday, 8 March 2015

#IWD2015

Sylvia Pankhurst
Strong women always inspire me, I read into them looking for where I identify, looking for where I ask questions about their choices and where I differ. I am inspired because we strive for a better place, and whilst we all go about it in different ways - their efforts cannot go unnoticed. For  I recognise those who have influenced my learning and my beliefs, those who have cut some of bullshit out of the world. 

I applaud my historical icons, whose philanthropy, socialist ideals and a common sense that people may well call "before their time" but I consider to be far closer to "bravery that was just in time" - reading about clever, informed women such as Sylvia Pankhurst who supported women's suffrage and fought hard to keep it linked to a political movement. Yet she recognised the horror of war in a way that many of her peers failed to, and worked hard provide relief - a "cost-price" restaurant for the hungry, setting up a factory for those women who had lost their jobs, fighting for the rights of soldiers' wives.

Philanthropist Octavia Hill found her own way to find better housing for the poorest citizens of London who were still being failed by a too-slowly improving system - she became a landlord, creating a housing scheme which focused on regular visits by volunteers who acted akin to social workers, whilst collecting rent; improved sanitary conditions; the creation of open space (she later became co-founder of the National Trust) - her ideas and inspiration to improve social conditions helped develop the management of local authority housing in the inter-war years, ironic considering her complete opposition to government and bureaucracy! 

Celebrities often have an enormous hold over the general public, and due to that I applaud the women in the public eye that challenge the stereotypes the media pushes on us, who respond to nonsense in an appropriately scathing fashion and time and time again highlight that being a woman is about being a human being - just like anybody else - rather that tits, a pretty dress and a polite smile. 

Interesting, thoughtful unapologetic women (and even that descriptor is horrible - what do they have to be apologetic for? Being clever, sassy, sexy, witty women with thoughts in their head and a mouth to define those words with? I still get excited when Victoria Coren is on my television screen, being human and cool and always, always well-considered in her utterances.) are some of the best people of the planet - just like interesting and thoughtful men are, the world sparkles when we are equal and your consideration of another is based on their words and actions, without regard to whether they've got a cock or not or whether society has pushed its sexist ideals and morals on you. 

I am so lucky to surround myself with amazing women, women I envy to be like - whether that is my mother-in-law just down the street who defeats every burden that comes at her, or the friends who will call out every episode of sexist cack because there is only one way to defeat sexism: look it in the face and call it out for the shitty thing it is. I am so lucky to be surrounded by amazing men, men who aren't blinkered by the traditions of patriarchy - my brother and his wife whose children have their mother's surname, by men who are rightly furious by the stories they hear and the everyday instances of derogatory media towards women. 

Applaud those who know not to accept the bullshit. Everyone considers feminism and how to be a feminist differently, but we stand united in declaring our utterly disdain for the bullshit that still permeates modern life.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Friendship

Like Gareth, I seem to start most of my blog posts with "Oh no, I've been neglecting you - but I've got lots of new stuff to say, so expect regular posts from now on!" He's a bit better at actually keeping that promise, though. So what's been going on? My health is being especially dick-ish again, so I've been down about that - stressing out about tests, worried about medicines, and generally being a right misery to be around.

I can't change that overnight; I feel so on edge that I keep grabbing at ferns and long dead roots to keep me from falling off. However, gloom is not my master. I was cooking dinner tonight and a thought kept spinning though my head, 'If S hadn't spent so much time telling us about potatoes, the best ones for each season and for different types of cooking, our meals would be far less tasty right now. Yet none of us were very appreciative at the time.' I wanted to tweet him, but every time I tried to condense the thought into 140 characters it looked even more ludicrous than it had when I started. And yet all I was trying to do was express how much I appreciated his friendship, his shared knowledge and care that he applies to all things.

Despite my tweeting failure, it reminded me how much I loved our friends - of R who I miss terribly because he's moved away and tends to keep himself to himself (a problem I know far too well), and was the other foodie nerd, always creating things that seemed so refined and ridiculous for breakfast but then lived on Pepsi the rest of the time. And L, who wouldn't know a frying pan if I hit her over the head with one, but is the best listener, ridiculously patient and has the most common sense of anybody I know.

Our little motley crew (and motley really is the best word to describe us: young and old(er), educated and less so, extroverts and introverts we're tacked together by the glue of geekiness and years of love and shared experiences.) grew with R2 - the quietest of us all and yet probably the most witty, with a dry intellectual humour that has us in fits. Cinema became something regularly discussed rather than just an indoor activity on a rainy Cardiff day.

And then there are those who can't be there all the time - those that have commitments or live away, but every time they come out for a drink, or to play a game or simply a chat, Gareth and I always drive home saying 'It's always so nice when R3, or B, or L2, or P, or R4 and J is out, I wish we could see them more often.' The conversation drifts depending on who is out - to the utterly geeky about minute details of things, to singing randomly and joyfully just because (a few too many gins have been had) or to discussing the best gossip in town with brightly-lit eyes.

And then there's C, the rare star I keep in touch with from the horrible pre-Wales years, who knows me better than any other silly bugger on this planet and will always - and forever, I hope - bring me back down to earth with a bump and then the next second send me floating away again on some ridiculous scheme.

Gloom has a way of being all-consuming, of gripping you tight in an uncomfortable cwtch that you can't shake off. Worse, you stop wanting to shake it off because those cold arms become normal, become what you're used to and you start worrying how the air will feel against your skin once you're released from that soulless cuddle. My friends shine so brightly, the gloom fades to the background. I love them more than my rubbish words could ever say, and hopefully they are well aware of that.

And thank you, Ga, for always holding my hand and kissing my worries away.