31 March 2009

A little piece of home

The gifts I've chosen for my bridesmaids just arrived! I won't go into much detail here, in case one of them takes a sneak peek here. But, I am thrilled beyond belief and the items are better and more beautiful in person than I even imagined. I just have to say a word or two about the designer, Keiko, who I discovered at Etsy.com.

India Knight had recommended etsy.com in a recent article she wrote in The Times about being thrifty and the joy of crafting. (If you hadn't noticed, I want to be India Knight when I grow up. Or Nigella Lawson.) 

Etsy.com is a source for all things handmade, where you can purchase and special order gorgeous things directly from crafters themselves. It seems to me that most of the artisans are from the States, or perhaps I just seem to find those folks naturally. I was thrilled to find that Keiko,whose label is called "Pear22" is from Brooklyn. 

Brooklyn, Manhattan, it's all New York, and it felt really nice to be able to support a fellow New Yorker. And, sometimes, no matter how much you love your new surroundings, you just need a little piece of home. 

29 March 2009

Fit for a Queen

I looked in the mirror, and I actually liked what I saw. After nearly 10 weeks of sweat and strain, I found myself standing before a large mirror in the alterations loft of Eternal Bride bridal shop in Warwick. Surrounding me were the smiling faces of Debbie, Eternal Bride shop manager, Morag, the alterations diva, and my friend, Karima. 

I made myself think of that famous portrait of Princess (later Queen) Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII, or that portrait of the Wertheimer sisters by John Singer Sargent. "You look beautiful," Karima, getting misty-eyed, said as she stood close by me.  

Karima has been an amazing friend to me throughout this process. A bit of background: Karima is the D.E.B.'s best friend. She stood by him, and helped him through the difficulties of his divorce. She is one of those incredible people that is just all heart. When I first arrived in England last August (can it really be seven months ago?), the D.E.B. had asked Karima to be at our place to receive a floral delivery for me. (Yes, the D.E.B. had arranged to have a beautiful bouquet of flowers waiting for me when we walked in, and he had written me a little card that said: "Welcome Home. You're home now, darling, here with me.") 

Karima kindly received the delivery, and went further. She and her sisters, "Fudge" and Salina, spent the day at our house, decorated our bedroom with flowers and candles, and they prepared a huge Indian meal for us (our favorite cuisine!), and laid the table for us. They even left us a little menu detailing the goodies on offer, complete with reheating instructions.

Karima, Fudge and Salina have adopted me, and have stepped up and taken on the role of "sisters," just when I needed them. (Isn't it amazing how God/the universe places people in our lives precisely where and when we need them? I am firm believer that we always have the family we need, when we need them. They may not always take the shape, form or number that we imagine, but one must trust that they will appear.)

Aside from teasing me mercilessly about the pending wedding night high jinks, they have mucked in and offered hands-on support with my (overly-ambitious) crafty wedding projects: the wedding quilt and my lavender jelly (the intended wedding favour). 

A funny moment: Fudge and Karima came round the other day to harangue me (much needed) about the quilt, and I had prepared my first attempt at Lavender Jelly (anything to not work the quilt). 

"I think it might be a bit on the sweet side..." I warned Fudge, handing her a small jar and a spoon. "Good god! That's awful!" Fudge shouted, running to the sink for water. "You need some help, girl. Let's work on this." 

I love their candour, their warmth, humor, and colorfulness. I'm looking forward to spending more time with them, and they have promised to introduce me to the wild and wacky world that is "Bollywood." I can't wait to discover the Asian side of British life.

Back to the fitting...

In true sisterly fashion, Karima fussed and fretted around me, advising Morag on the necessary nips and tucks, until I reminded her that Morag clearly knew what she was doing. (In a previous life, Morag was a costume designer for stage and screen, so she knows a thing or two about alterations...) Good-natured Karima stepped aside, and let Morag do her job.

As my darling friend, Christopher, likes to say I had chosen well. My dress, an ivory gown by British designer Helen Marina, is quite divine. And I felt absolutely gorgeous in it. 
It is a very simple and elegant. 

What I love most about it is that it has a delightfully Edwardian feel about it. That luscious, Lillie Langtry-esque "Here-are-my-curves, you-may-adore-them" look that is sexy, but elegant all at the same time. (I have said before that I have often felt I've been displaced from the 19th C.) 

"Such a regal look about it," Morag said looking up at me, her mouth full of straight pins. "I feel like a Princess," I said, happy at last with my reflection. "No," admonished Karima taking my hand in hers, "that day, you'll be the queen."

26 March 2009

My way

Yesterday was my day of reckoning: my official “first fitting” at Eternal Bride in Warwick. It was the end point of a journey that began a little over 10 weeks ago.

Expectations were high, and not just mine. Oh, no, this has been a group, nay, village effort from the beginning. I’m not kidding when I say that everyone I know—and even a few people I don’t know—helped me in this. Yes, it does indeed “take a village” to achieve some goals.

From Sonya, the Barford “Lollipop Lady” shouting: “C’mon, get joggin’, then!” across the road at me, as I walked (or crawled some days) to the gym every morning, to “the Monday-Wednesday Swim Club” (Beryl, Judy, Julia, Jackie 1 and Jackie 2) keeping me honest in the pool, I have had a dedicated team of supporters.

I’ve had overwhelming support and encouragement from people I didn’t even think were paying attention. One morning, as I dashed to the gym between cloud blasts, I ran into a very stately Barford resident who I refer to as “The Gentle Gent” – because he is. In his mid to late 60s, he is absolutely lovely. I adore the way that whenever I encounter him around the village, he dips his head ever so slightly, and touches the brim of his hat as he says, “Good Morning” or “Good afternoon.” (That’s from a different time and place, isn’t it? Someone should start a campaign to bring back some gracious manners.)

“How are the fitness efforts coming along?” the Gentle Gent inquired, softly puffing on his pipe. “Very well, thank you.” I said politely, more than a little surprised that he had had any notion of my “Dress Quest.” (Clearly, news travels fast in Barford.)

“Well, keep up the good work. I have no doubt that you shall be even more beautiful and radiant on your special day than you already are every day.” A smile, a slight nod, and another touch of his hat brim as he walked away. I smiled to myself all the way to the gym.

Of course, I have already mentioned my wonderful gym mates who have been there quite literally, all the way. Eva wasn’t letting me off easy on “Fitting Day,” no way. This was our last stand, and she wasn’t joking.

“Did you come in on Tuesday?” she said, meeting me at the gym door. Eva has Tuesdays off, and I think she fears that I might slack off when she’s not around. I reminded her that on Tuesday I go to Pilates at the Village Hall, do a bit of work on my arms in the gym, and then go for a swim.

“And besides,” I explained, “Mireck gave me some exercises to do as well.” “Mireck?!” Eva said with surprise.  I closed my eyes and nodded. Mireck is one of Eva’s compatriots, a brick wall of a man who covers the gym when Eva’s off duty.

Mireck is another “I-had-no-idea-he-was-even-paying-attention” person in the Dress Quest. I went in on Tuesday, after getting my butt kicked at Pilates, only to have Mireck stop me as I grabbed a towel and headed for the changing room: “Wait, you want to work arms for dress?” he said. I was speechless. Mireck is towering, Polish body-builder. His muscular arms are roughly the size of my legs. I was hesitant at first—I don’t have any body-building ambitions—but then I thought, if anybody knows about arms, it would be him. So, I let Mireck put me through my paces with free weights in preparation for Fitting Day.

On the day, Eva had me huffing, puffing and sweating like never before in our last ditch effort before my afternoon fitting.

“Today’s the day!” the “Monday-Wednesday Swim Club” chimed in unison as I sank into the nicely heated pool. “And haven’t you done well? I think you’ve lost a bit of weight, haven’t ya?” Judy said in a kindly mothering voice. “Just be careful, lovey, I reckon you’re not going to have any energy left for your honeymoon if you keep up at this rate!” cheeky old Beryl said slyly, giving us all the giggles. I just blushed and dove under the water… 

So, D-Day had finally come. I rushed home from the gym to get ready for my trip over to Warwick. I was gleeful because I knew I’d worked hard. And besides, I had a back-up plan for extra support: Trinny & Susannah’s “Magic Knickers.”

But, like so many things I have assumed throughout this Bridal Quest, my best laid plan, came to nothing. I ripped open the box of my T&S magic pants, and tried them on excitedly. I caught sight of myself in mirror, and it struck me. I had huffed, puffed, panted, sweated and cried my way to today.

My victory was going to utterly sweet, and I deserved for it to be utterly mine. I looked myself in the eye and I realized, that there was no way I was going to give this victory to (or even share it with) Trinny and Susannah. I did this.

Okay, I hadn’t lost as much weight as I’d hoped (5lbs in total lost), but I am leaner, meaner, stronger and fitter than I was 10 weeks ago, and maybe that’s all that really matters. I’ve also dropped a full dress size, on my own, and without a latex body suit.

I did it my way.

24 March 2009

March madness and Magic Knickers

It has been a day of deliveries!

First a special delivery from California, a pair of Vera Wang wedding shoes that I bought in a fit of madness off eBay. Thankfully, in the midst of my insanity I was shrewd. I choose the “Make me an Offer” option, and offered the seller the ridiculous and insulting price of $100. USD for a pair of brand new, gorgeous Vera Wang shoes!

After she stopped laughing, the seller wrote back, and suggested a compromise at $300. USD.  I laughed, and wrote: “$125. USD.” She wrote back and said, “$170. USD,” and with that, we were done. A bargain.

I don’t how or when I actually gave into to the “designer shoe temptation,” and I must confess some extreme disappointment with myself, and a wee sense of failure on my part. The shoes, for all the hoopla they inspire are actually, well, quite ordinary-looking, plain and uncomfortable. Much of a muchness, I think. Expensive lesson learned. 

Let’s hope I have more success with the second parcel of the day, fresh from John Lewis, my new favo(u)rite shop. The DEB has been dying to get me over to John Lewis in Solihull for weeks, and I don’t really know why I have resisted going.

We went over to Solihull on Sunday afternoon, after a late brunch, and we had a splendid day out browsing through John Lewis, followed by dinner and a movie. (I never managed to make that roast on Sunday, but that’s another story.)

So, John Lewis. Imagine all that is bright and beautiful about Target, Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, and Macy’s, take away the hordes of tourists and other spatial-challenged shoppers, and you have the English wonder that is John Lewis.

The DEB and I decided to have our Gift Registry at John Lewis, and I was happy enough to do the hunting and gathering online via www.johnlewis.com, but what an adventure I would have missed!

John Lewis has everything, and they are all about Customer Service. Yesterday, I began to panic about my first fitting at Eternal Bride in Warwick. Yes, it was meant to happen the first week of March, but, I chickened out and rescheduled to give myself more of a chance to tone up/get fit.

But, now, I’m ready, thanks to Trinny and Susannah! At John Lewis.com I discovered “Magic Knickers” created by none other than the Trinny & Susannah of “What Not to Wear" fame. (I used to love their show when it was BBC America.) I order them straightaway yesterday, and they were delivered to my doorstep in under 24 hours!

In this cute little box, with the ever-comic duo, T&S, camping it up on the cover, there is a device that promises to be the feminine fashion equivalent of Harry Potter’s “cloak of invisibility.” My new “Magic Tummy Flattener Thong” promises to make me look as if I have dropped a full dress size. We shall see. Lord knows, I deserve to look that good. I have worked hard enough!

Trinny & Susannah’s “Magic Knickers” will set you back more than a bob or two, a hefty £30. GBP to be exact, but the claim is that the results are worth it. For the more frugal, Marks and Spencer have created a rival product, rather unimaginatively called “Magic Pants.” (Rough about half the price of T&S’s brand.)  Who doesn’t deserve a bit of magic?

Speaking of knickers, pants, and the like, reminds me of the many joys and woes of “the common language” Yanks and Brits supposedly share. 

May I confess, here and now, that there are times, within full-length conversations that I have no idea what anyone is saying to me? That secretly, I have developed a very clever and highly-effective trick to navigate such moments: I smile, nod, laugh a little, and throw in an occasional “Yes, it is, isn’t it?” Then, as the Brits say, “Bob’s your uncle!” and no one has a clue, that I haven’t a clue as to what has just transpired. One must learn, however, to use this little trick judiciously, and where possible to avoid using the breathy laugh, “Yes, it is, isn’t it” response when someone has just informed you that their Granny has died.

Another linguistic “sticky wicket” for me has been asking for things. For example, for New Year’s Eve, the DEB and I attended a formal soiree, for which I had the most luscious gown to wear. (I have waxed lyrical about this dress in an earlier post, wherein I dubbed it “the Rita Hayworth dress”.) There was no way on earth I could wear this dress, low cut as it was, without what we Americans call “pasties.”

Pasties, pronounced in a way similar to how one would say “toothpaste,” are adhesive tabs applied to cover your nipples, in place of a bra. I searched high and low for “pasties” – no one had any idea what I was talking about. In one shop they looked at me as if I were quite, quite mad. Then, it dawned on me: same spelling, different pronunciation, entirely different word...

Pasties (pronounced like the word "past"): filled pastry cases, commonly associated with Cornwall, United Kingdom, made by placing the filling on a flat pastry shape, usually a circle, and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal.

A simple lesson to learn: In Britain, the devices that one uses to cover one’s nipples in lieu of not wearing a bra, are called, quite simply…“Nipple Covers.” Genius.

Slowly but surely one gets to grips with such fine tunings of the English language, and hopefully, it will become second nature that the First Floor is the Ground Floor, and that “Band-aids” are “Plasters.”

To be sure, the phenomenon works both ways. A while ago, the DEB & I had a meal with a fellow American and her British beau. At some point during the course of that very jovial evening, she and I revealed and shared a kinship with “Wednesday Addams”. She and I laughed hysterically. Our two Brit Boys smiled adoringly, and I think one of them may even have said something that sounded a little like, “Yes, it is, isn’t it?” We tried explain the significance, but really, it’s just one of those things.

A few days later, while out walking our beloved Lucy around a dark, grey, wet and rainy Barford, the DEB turned to me, and said: “Bit of a Tuesday Addams day today, isn’t it?” 

22 March 2009

Another Sunday in Barford

Lily toying with shrews in the freshly mown garden, while Lucy chomps away contentedly on celery sticks (at least her diet’s going well)…the DEB busy (always busy) at something, today its washing the car. And me. Sat outside, in the sunshine and brisk breeze, with my laptop and a cup of tea. Paradise.

The DEB and I played truant today, and missed Sunday service at St. Peter’s. We were a bit naughty and had a lazy (or not so lazy, rather…) morning in bed. (Have I mentioned lately that I love this man more than words can say?)

We deserved a bit of lie-in today (and yesterday…) as we’ve had quite a busy time lately. On Friday night, the DEB along with his chum, Ewan, were the headlining act at The Chase Folk Club, near Birmingham. I was there in the front row, the beaming, proud fiancĂ©e. The DEB dedicated the last song of the evening to me, “Who Knows where the Time Goes.” To my own surprise, I did not get teary, but just felt, well, happy and content. And perhaps, more than anything, relieved that he is finally mine.

“Folk nights” in England are a bit like “Quiz nights,” in that they are events that are frequented by what one might call “the usual suspects”. In other words, after a while, you know what you are in for. The serious Folk crowd is typically older and greyer. I enjoy these nights immensely as I get to play “the wee, young thing” for the night. (She says with her tongue firmly in her cheek.) All joking aside, the folk scene is quite interesting. I’ve met the most amazing people through the DEB’s musical hobby. I shouldn’t call it a hobby, really, I mean, he is in fact earning more from his guitar twanging than I am from my writing, so there! (I’ll lament about my writing ambitious some other time, there is far more interest stuff to share.)

On Friday, I re-discovered Leamington Spa, on my own. I got myself there for the first time on the Stagecoach bus – and what a treat! It’s a lovely little spa town, bigger and more cosmopolitan than Warwick; and it actually felt like a little enclave of my beloved Greenwich Village -- stylish, buzzing, with a great mix of people. The guy asking for spare change at the bus stop made me feel right at home!

I was on a mission this week to find someone who could give me a decent hair-cut. I’m experimenting with possible looks for the wedding. As I was walking down the Parade, I saw this young Asian/Indian girl chatting to a friend. Before they hugged and parted, I heard her say: “And then I’m going to get my hair cut.” That was a sign from the gods, as far as I was concerned! She had dark, thick hair like mine, so I was in like a shot. She recommended Toni & Guy a little further up on the Parade. And what a super find it was. Even at “top end” prices, the cut and blow dry was still miles cheaper than what I would have paid in NYC. The stylist chap, Pardeep, did a stellar job, and I am feeling much more at ease about looking the way I want to for the wedding. 

Feeling fresh and springy, after my hair cut, which didn’t take very long at all, I treated myself to some girlie gear from Boots across the street. (How did I live before Boots the Chemist?) Nail varnishes/polish, lipstick…joy, joy, joy!

I allowed myself just this little bit of hedonism as my Thursday this week was completely and utterly spiritual. I spent the day on Thursday on a silent retreat at  the Convent of the Sisters of The Poor Child Jesus, in Southam, Warwickshire.

I’m a real fan of Quiet Days and Silent retreats. When I was university/college, while most of my friends spent their final days of our undergraduate life in debauched hedonism, I spent the week before graduation doing the “Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius” -- a five-day silent retreat on the shores of the Atlantic in Narragansett, Rhode Island. It is one of the fondest memories of my life.

I can honestly say that my day at the convent in Southam was comparable. Although brief, it was a very, very intense day. The retreat leader, Sister Sharon PCJ, a plucky pistol from Maine no less, was simply amazing. She reminded me of, well, okay, a thoroughly modern version of Debbie Reynolds character in the movie “The Singing Nun.” (I’m a closet Catholic, remember.) Basically, just imagine a big heart on legs, with a super singing voice.

This day was just what I needed, precisely when I needed it. Just when I was about to nose-dive into Bridal Vortex Overdrive, Sister Sharon was there to pull me up short, and remind me what it’s all about. I would recommend it to anyone. I went along with a group from St. Peter’s, but Sister Sharon and her team often create and administer quiet days for individual seekers who come on their own. And, you don’t even have to be of any particular faith, creed or belief to go along. Anybody who is looking for a bit of spiritual peace and quiet is welcome.

Right. The sun is out and there is laundry to be hung, and a roast waiting to be roasted!

Sorry, Martha

One question: Where has Delia Smith been all my life?

Her recipe for Roast Beef is so simple, it’s almost too easy! And her recipe for Roast Duck is simply to die for! Her roast duck was the most heavenly meal I have ever made!

A confession: sometimes, when I am using a Martha Stewart recipe, I just get overwhelmed and give up. A feminine failing, I know. But Delia’s here to make it all better!

Here’s Delia’s recipe for Roast Beef, as she puts it, “one of the world’s greatest meals”! 

"How to Roast Beef"

Happy Sunday!


12 March 2009

Call me Kate...



"Fie, fie! unknit that threatening unkind brow,/And  dart not scornful glances from those eyes,/To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor:/It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,/Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,/And in no sense is meet or amiable./A woman moved is like a fountain troubled,/Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;/And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty/Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it./Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,/Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,/And for thy maintenance commits his body/To painful labour both by sea and land,/To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,/Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;/And craves no other tribute at thy hands/But love, fair looks and true obedience;/Too little payment for so great a debt./Such duty as the subject owes the prince/Even such a woman oweth to her husband;/And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,/And not obedient to his honest will,/What is she but a foul contending rebel/And graceless traitor to her loving lord?/I am ashamed that women are so simple/To offer war where they should kneel for peace;/ Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway,/When they are bound to serve, love and obey./Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,/Unapt to toil and trouble in the world,/But that our soft conditions and our hearts/Should well agree with our external parts?/Come, come, you froward and unable worms!/My mind hath been as big as one of yours,/My heart as great, my reason haply more,/To bandy word for word and frown for frown;/But now I see our lances are but straws,/Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,/That seeming to be most which we indeed least are./Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,/And place your hands below your husband's foot:/In token of which duty, if he please,/My hand is ready; may it do him ease."

This famous speech, from the last act of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, has always confounded me. I have resisted and refused to understand it. Until now.

For the first time in my life, I understand and feel these lines, intimately. I can just imagine all my comrades from my college days “Women’s Studies 101” class cringing and gasping in complete, utter and furious disbelief, but yes, indeed, yes, this notorious shrew has been soundly tamed!

Love is a funny thing. And, I feel and know that I have been thoroughly changed by it.

Like no one I have ever known, The D.E.B. loves unconditionally. In every area of his life he lives earnestly, from his heart. He is a "friend indeed" to all those in his life. To me, his has been so much more than merely a "Prince Charming". He has been true lover, soul mate and best friend. From the moment we found each other, he loved and accepted me as I was, and all that I was: warts, baggage and all.

His kindness, his thoughtfulness, his generosity, his gentleness, his passion for me, these are all things that leave me speechless, reduce me to thankful tears, and make me wonder if I am only dreaming this life, and not living it all.

And in this waking dream, I know that he, precious he, deserves better, much better than the old, peevish, bull-headed me.

He is the man I have waited my entire life for, and yes, if he so pleased, I would place my hand beneath his foot to do him ease. 

The readiness is all


As a New Yorker, the very concepts of property and real estate have always been incomprehensible. No one I know owes property in Manhattan. NYC is, and will always be, a city of renters. 

I lived in New York for nearly five years, and at the end of each year, what did I have to show for it? As my father, god bless him, was always so swift to remind me, nothing. Nothing but a "receipt book." According to him, the goal of the game is acquisition. Acquiring property, equity and so forth. In the end of course, we can't take any of it with us, but, while we are here at least, capital and real estate are king.

The D.E.B. and I looked at a property here in Barford last week, and there is not much to report beyond that. We looked, we liked, we left.

We chatted about it incessantly after, dreamed about it, and even had a chat with a mortgage office at a local Building Society on Monday. Then...nothing. The house has not been mentioned since. I have tried to bring it up casually, to no avail.

As a rootless New Yorker, I am desperate to have a place to call my own. A kitchen that is mine, a garden that is ours, and etc. The D.E.B. seems, well, indifferent. Which quite unlike him, to be sure. Perhaps the current financial climate is the source of his cautiousness, or perhaps he is just feels the need for us to focus on one thing at a time. (Boys are like that, aren't they?) We are neck-deep in the midst of wedding planning at the moment, maybe another big move would be a bit much to take on just now. (As a side-note: I once had a friend who managed, rather fearlessly, to graduate from University and get married in the same day! How's that for multi-tasking!)

At any rate, I just don't want this cottage to get away!!! It could be years before another such property comes on the market in Barford. There is very little turn over in locales like this.

Okay. In true English cottage fashion, the house we looked at--built in 1820--is tiny and narrow. But it has the benefit of being bright and cheery, with lots of 19th century charm and character. A working fireplace, a cellar, small conservatory--perfect, perfect writer's space--and a sweet, little garden. 

The master bedroom is a good size, the second bedroom is only so-so. Again, in true English fashion, there is precious little storage space. I actually asked the woman of the couple selling the place: "Where do you keep your clothes?" Her reply: "I downsized." (Yikes!)

So, okay, less than perfect, but far from a write-off. I think it would be a great start for us. 
Especially as we are keen to start working on a family soon.

I have to gauge how much and how far to push on this. A part of what I am feeling is fueled by the overwhelming nesting urges I have that are completely in over-drive at the moment, but also by my deep-set sense of the pointlessness of renting.

The D.E.B. comes from a different mind-set. This is the first time in his adult life that he has lived a renter, and I think he relishes the new-found freedom that non-property-ownership brings. I just fear we are going to look up one day and see a SOLD sign in front of that cute cottage over the road...

Dido and Aeneas

The D.E.B. just finalised our honeymoon plans! Ten days in Tunisia!!!! 
Finally, I can live out my "Dido, Queen of Carthage" fantasies.
As we discussed honeymoon options, my preferences were very simple: history, culture, beach.
(And, yes, in that order.)
Now, I just need to find the perfect sun hat...

07 March 2009

Solutions and possible new challenges

Having a lazy Saturday morning with the D.E.B. Sitting side-by-side with laptops and cups of tea. This sunny morning has come with solutions and a possible new challenge. Friends have been really supportive on the "Bridal Entrance music" issue" and I am feeling much, much better about it all now. (Thank you, global village!) 

One suggestion was that I consider the actual mechanics of the Bridal entrance, i.e. the British way or the American way. Traditionally, in British weddings, the vicar instructs the congregation to raise, he then proceeds up the aisle to meet the Bride, and then the procession follows in this order, Vicar in front, followed by the Bride and whomever is walking with her, i.e. parent, friend, brother, what-have-you. Any attendants, bridesmaids and so forth follow the bride. In American weddings, it is the opposite: flower girls, Bridesmaids, page boys and whomever else is walking down the aisle as part of the line-up all enter before the bride.


Before all this music nonsense, I was going to try and do this the British way, but, if our vicar is willing, I think I may have a stab at doing it the American way round. The DEB is quite keen for me to enter the church in the American style, and that has been his opinion all along.


The D.E.B. has also offered another fabulous solution. Last Sunday, the D.E.B. and I attended the “Wedding Fayre” at The Glebe Hotel. What a splendid way to spend a Sunday afternoon. As we walked into the hotel, we were struck by the ethereal sound of a woman playing the harp. So lovely. As it turned, this harpist had been recommended to the D.E.B. weeks ago by an old school chum of his, when The DEB told him we were getting married. At that time, we both found the idea a little excessive, but now, standing in the midst of that sound. Wow.


So, when the entrance music kerfuffle surfaced this week, the D.E.B. suggested I consider the possibility of using the harpist we'd met at the “Wedding Fayre.” She was really lovely, and we chatted at length about various possibilities and ideas. So – “Pollyannas” of the world will agree with me -- things can work out better than when expect. (I wanted to avoid being noxious and saying: "When one door closes, another one opens." But guess that is what I'm saying.)


The harpist has offered a much more flexible approach to the bridal entrance and will in fact be even more dreamy and romantic than the organ! So, I have lost the battle to have Sissel and her beautiful lyrics, but in the end I think I may have won the war. 


On to new battles…


A new house has come on the market here in Barford. And, it is actually affordable. Barford is quite a pricey village (in a very pricey county) property-wise. We haven’t been looking, but we know we’d like to stay in Barford if we could. We are renting/letting our place here at the moment, but I think we would both fancy the idea of having something permanent. But, are we ready? Could we really take on moving house and all that right now? It’s kind of like that moment in the movie, Speed, when Sandra Bullock asks Keanu Reeves: “What, did you need another challenge right now?” 

05 March 2009

If music be the food of love...

Her version of  "Sleepers Awake" is on YouTube
And here are her lyrics:

Zion hears her watchmen crying 

Her heart goes forth in love replying 

The virgins rise their lamps to trim 

Now come, Thou King of Kings 

Lord, Jesu, God’s own son! 


We enter glad the bridal hall 

And share with Thee the wedding feast 


Another piece of music I "must" have is "Psalm 23"/"Vicar of Dibley" theme by Howard Goodall. Absolutely adore this version performed by those cherub cuties, The Choirboys. Their video on YouTube is too sweet for words...(Video for "Psalm 23")

To be, or not to be

bridezilla. noun. Definition: "A bride-to-be who focuses so much on the event that she becomes difficult and obnoxious." Etymology: 1995; blend of 'bride' + 'Godzilla'. Usage: slang.

I am not a difficult person. In fact, there have been instances in my life in which I wish I could put aside the ingrained sense of gentility with which I face and interact with the world. More and more these days it seems to me that it is the obnoxious, the brash, the cunning, the ruthless, and the spoilt who get want they want, or at least more of what they want, whether it be their own way, success, material goods, or just attention.


[I think this why/how the election of Barack Obama in the United States has been so inspirational and uplifting across the globe. We need to believe that the kind, the gentle, the graceful can come out on top.]


I will never forget the time I got in trouble in the 2nd grade. Pupils in St. Joseph's Catholic School grades 1-3 were not allowed to venture down the hall past the water fountains. Period. One day, I came in from recess to go to the restroom. Three “upper School” girls were at the end of the hallway outside the sixth grade classroom. “Isn’t she cute!” one of them shrieked in my direction. “Come here!” they beckoned.


Intrigued, and absent-mindedly forgetting the rule, I crossed “the line” and ventured down the hall. I can only imagine how I must have looked to them, in my tiny, hobbit-sized version of their bigger girls uniform. “You’re adorable!” they said, showering me with praise, and going so far as lifting me from the ground into their arms.


The sound of Sister Mary Regine’s voice thundered down the hallway. She bellowed my name, and I froze where I stood. The three upper School girls disappeared swiftly and without a trace, not unlike the three witches in Macbeth, who vanish from Macbeth’s sight like “bubbles of the earth.”  

The long, lonely walk back down the hallway to the 2nd grade classroom seemed an eternity. I knew what was at hand. Back in those days corporeal punishment of schoolchildren was the approved norm: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”


Before my punishment was enacted, Sister asked me if I had anything to say for myself. Which of course I did: I wasn’t my fault. Well, not entirely. Yes, I had broken a rule, but I had been urged, cajoled and encouraged. It was not fair that I was to be punished, while those who had incited the crime walked free.


With ruler in hand, Sister looked down at me with loving, but firm eyes, and said words I shall always remember: “My child, I fear that you have a rather unhealthy sense of fairness.”


This “unhealthy sense of fairness” has guided much of my life, and driven a hefty share of the angst I feel about a great numbers of things, from the ridiculous to the sublime. (Like the time I tried to “help the starving children” by posting a dozen oatmeal cookies in a large manila envelope marked: “Cambodia”. Without postage.)


Fairness. What does it mean, really? What is and isn’t “fair”. And when is it ones place to call breaches of fairness into question, and when to remain silent? I wonder.


Last night, The D.E.B., my W.I. chum, Diane, and I – calling ourselves “Shakespeare in Love” – attended the monthly quiz night at The Granville. Last month, we had a fabulous time, and we won! Last night? Not so much. Let me explain. (Or vent, rather.)


I’m a very competitive person, I like to win. In fact, I don’t think anyone enjoys losing. But, if I am defeated by a stronger, smarter opponent, so be it. No sour grapes, here. However, I cannot abide cheating! Last night there was a team at the quiz who were quite openly gleaning answers using their iPhones. I was furious with the Quizmaster who chose to turn a blind eye to their misdemeanors. The girls with the phones were a part of a large table of people who had come out together, sat together, but formed two teams. One of their teams won the Quiz Night.


All is not fair in love and war! Perhaps I would feel less indignant about this cheating incident if the perpetrators had at least been a little more cloaked or finessed in their foul play. But, to hear one of the girls drunkenly slur: “Oh, the answer’s just coming through now,” was just more than I could take!


I looked around the room, and saw several knowing and disappointed faces, but no one said anything. All of us, perhaps, fearing we’d “ruin the fun” by “making a fuss.” “It’s a just a game,” The D.E.B. said sweetly, trying to calm me, by smiling that smile of his. But it was too late. My patina of gentility had finally cracked.


I broke the silence of the room by saying, in a firm voice: “You can’t use your phone." And again, "You’re not allowed to use your phone.” I felt very loud and very American.


There was a great deal of tutting, teeth sucking, sighing and eye-rolling from the culprit group. But there were also meek smiles, and one or two nods from some of the other players around the room.


Was I taking it all too seriously, or was I right to call their actions into question? In these uncertain times, I think a clear sense of the “right thing” in an instance such as this has become skewed. We have become so concerned—and I think sometimes superficially—about being offensive to others, and/or infringing upon others, that we lose sight of the larger picture.


In this sort of situation no one wants to say anything for fear of being labeled a “nark,” a “tattle-tale” or a “killjoy.” But, what is to be made of the fact that by their actions these fraudulent players were infringing upon my fun, and killing my joy? There’s no fun in to for me going toe-to-toe with Wikipedia. Wikipedia will always win! As far as I’m concerned, I might as well just save my money and stay home.


Ugh. Where is the formidable Sister Mary Regine when you need her? She would have made short shrift of those turkeys! God bless ‘er.


The thing that burned me the most about the Quiz Cheaters was their brazenness. Clearly, being obnoxious goes a long way in this world. Especially in a place where people are generally too kind and/or too polite to make a fuss.


I confess that I wish I could channel just a wee, tiny fraction of that in regard to some of my wedding planning. Well, chiefly, the music. Don’t get me wrong! Everyone at St. Peter’s has been lovely and helpful. And the music for our wedding is going to gorgeous. The Chief Musician is a gifted and talented man and is very open to what the D.E.B. and I want.


We had our first meeting with him a few weeks ago, he’d asked us to create a Music Wish List. Which we did with much, much glee. But here is the rub. I have longed adored Bach’s beautiful chorale “Sleepers Awake,” and have an incredibly beautiful version of it by the singer Sissel on my iPod.


After weeks of scouring Google and emailing around the globe, I was finally able to acquire the lyrics of Sissel’s version of this song, and emailed them yesterday to the Chief Musician -- with a plea that this be my Bridal Entrance music. For well over a year now, I have been fantasizing about walking down the aisle to this magical version of “Sleepers Awake.” My hopes were dashed this morning after Morning Prayer.


The Chief Musician was very sorry to inform me that it would be hopelessly impossible for me to use this as my entrance music. Lovely though it is, it is far too long. The piece is more than 3 minutes long, and although most congregations are indulgent of bridal excesses, asking people to stand on their feet for a 3-minute bridal entrance might even try the patience of a saint.


True to form, I offered polite compromise: Could I have a section, nay, even just a snippet of it? Apparently, not. With so famous a piece, according to our CM, it really must be all or nothing, and all is not an option. And, so, the matter was settled. Bride must go back to the drawing board, and find another, shorter, tune.


I was gutted, but smiled sweetly, and remained good-natured. Why did I not, as some other women/brides-to-be would have done: stamped my foot, grounded my resolve, burst into tears and shouted: “But I want it!!!”


Because I could never do such a thing, (and I am proud to say that I would not) but, that’s not to say that a small part of me doesn't wish I could be a little like that, just once. For all of three seconds.


Ultimately, it’s just one song, one moment of my life.  A very important song and moment no doubt, but still just one moment of many. I need to remind myself of the larger picture, and remember that getting what you want should never out weigh playing fair.