Chapter 11

(i) Tim’s stag night

I was uncertain what to do and who to invite to my stag night. At one stage I decided I wouldn’t have one because whatever I thought of seemed totally unsuitable for one or other of the people I intended to invite.  I thought I ought to invite both my father and David Cannon but my father didn’t drink alcohol and David drank like a fish. Craig suggested a topless bar, Jock a local music pub, Gordon a pub crawl round Nantwich, Sophie an Indian restaurant.  None of these felt right.   In the end I decided to do what I wanted, as it was my wedding after all, and so I  invited everyone to one of my favourite pubs where they had a pool table and served great beer. Sophie said she couldn’t imagine David and John together and I was concerned that Gordon and Craig would clash. Twelve of those I invited turned up.  Craig got up my nose straight away by ordering a bottle of vintage champagne to show off; David went straight onto large whiskies; John had ginger beer; but the rest of us did our best to work our way through their selection of beers.  We were able to monopolise the pool table and I organised the motley collection into six teams of two in a knockout competition.   John I teamed up with Gordon and somehow they managed to win the competition before Gordon became too drunk.  I was amazed that John was such a skilful pool player.  Somehow that wasn’t what I expected of my vegan, t-total father.  I suppose he must have been very different in his youth.  I teamed up with David who was ultra competitive and didn’t take well to being overshadowed by John.  We came third after Craig and Delwyn.  Everyone seemed to get on fine as a group in spite of our differences. In my experience men can usually get on fine if there’s some sport involved, and no women present.

I was hung over the next day but I made sure I was manning the till at the nursery at opening time. Every sale was important as I needed to make enough to pay the interest on the loan Wendy had guaranteed.   

When it came to planning the wedding itself I went along with what Sophie wanted – a white church wedding and a sit down reception – and Betty, her mother, generously offered to pay for it all as a wedding present.  David found a place near Stone, Staffordshire where we could get married and have the reception, called Poolside.  It had been a grand country house but the wedding was to be in a large annex that specialised in such functions.  Sophie and I went there to check it out and approve it.

Sophie organised the top table seating plan, which wasn’t easy because she had to accommodate her birth mum, Betty, and her step mum, Tracey.  I was to be between Sophie and Betty and David was to be the other side of her.   She placed Wendy between David and Craig and John between herself and Tracey.  I thought Wendy would cope OK although she might be a bit bored.  Sophie was more concerned, especially as she thought both men would almost certainly get drunk.  I didn’t know what the two ladies would make of John.  I did contemplate telling him not to talk about energy self-sufficiently, electric cars, why they should convert to veganism but thought better about it.  After his performance at my stag night I thought I ought to give him more credit for his social skills.

I’d asked Gordon to be my best man and hoped Delwyn wouldn’t be upset.  I made Gordon promise not to start drinking until after the meal.  I didn’t want him drunk coming out with inappropriate jokes or stories.  I also told him not to pester Chakka, who anyway, would be with her fiancé.

Her Dad generously bought me a brand new Transit van as my wedding present and he bought Sophie a king size bed, a huge TV, a three-piece suite and loads of soft furnishings.  These were all to be delivered to Cwm Dinas so we’d have decent furniture in our new home.Tracey treated us to our honeymoon.  My parents said their main present was the guarantee of the bank loan and gave us a set of stainless saucepans.  We also had a cutlery set, a crockery set, glasses and some lovely (and some strange) ornaments. The bungalow that came with the nursery business where I’d been domiciled for the past few months was being renovated by a builder to make it suitable for our marital home and was to be ready for us when we returned from our honeymoon.  So the presents were to be stored in one of David’s garages until then.  

I did feel overwhelmed by all the gifts.  People were so generous.  I also felt a bit upset that a lot of what was happening was nothing to do with me.  I think Sophie had had more say than me but we both felt David had organised, over organised it for us.  It seems ungrateful to even mention this – I’d been given a van, for heaven’s sake, for my new business – but it’s not nice being steamrollered.    I told myself that I wasn’t going to let it affect me.

(ii) Sophie gets married and has regrets

Once we’d got engaged we had a few decisions to make, such as when and where we were going to get married and who we would invite. I knew Tim wasn’t religious but I also knew Dad would be distraught if I didn’t have a traditional church wedding. I think that’s what I wanted too, and Mum. Illogically I wanted a small wedding with just a few people. That wasn’t consistent with the white church wedding as Tim cheerfully pointed out. I think he was hoping that the numbers would be a deciding factor and I’d omit the church bit. In the end, I suppose inevitably, being my father’s daughter, we settled on a traditional wedding in the local church with a reception at a manor house called Poolside and two hundred guests, mainly family but some friends of ours and some of Dad’s. Tim asked his school friend, Gordon, to be best man and I had my friend, Sarah, and my cousins, Nicola and Alisa, as bridesmaids. The top table was a bit of a nightmare to sort out as I had both my Mum and Tracey and of course Mum’s new partner, Harry, too. Also I didn’t know how well John and Wendy, Tim’s parents would get on with my family. In the end I sat between Tim and Dad with Wendy, Craig and Sarah on my left and on my right were Mum, John, Tracey, Gordon and Jacqui.  Harry, I decided would have to be on one of the other tables.  Mum wasn’t very happy about this, especially as she was paying for it all, but I insisted.  Tracey agreed to sort out the table plans for the rest of the guests, which can’t have been easy.

A few weeks before the day we had three meetings with Reverend Anderson, the vicar who was going to marry us. He was a charming man and fortunately didn’t push Tim into confessing that he didn’t believe in God. In his usual cynical way Tim said the vicar needed the money and the publicity so wouldn’t do anything to jeopardise the event not happening in his church. As it turned out Tim and the reverend really hit it off and talked mostly about cricket, which they both loved. Apparently he, the vicar, shared his name with a famous bowler who was also called Jimmy.

I wasn’t sure what to do about a hen night. I’d been to one of one of my friends, Chloe’s, in the Seychelles. Chloe’s friends were all stuck up bitches with rich parents – otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to afford the trip – who seemed to enjoy scoring points off each other. I was totally out of it with my Pottery accent so I enjoyed the place but not the company. I knew most of the people I wanted to invite wouldn’t want to afford an exotic trip so, I decided instead to invite a few people out for a meal at The Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant. Chloe and Sarah came and I invited Tim’s older sister, Teresa. I was unsure about Mum and Tracey but in the end invited them both, warning them that the other one was also invited and they both came. Then there was my Aunt Susan and Jacqui, Craig’s girlfriend. I also invited Amy, who was living with a waiter she’d met on holiday in Malaga, and another friend Julia. I was amazed Amy accepted but it turned out she’d needed an excuse to come home to see her Mum and Dad.  There were ten of us seated round a circular table and we had a great time. No-one got drunk and Mum and Tracey seemed fine together, swapping stories about Dad’s peculiarities.  Tracey offered to help with the wedding reception which Mum was paying for and Mum seemed pleased.  I think she was finding the responsibility a bit daunting.  Amy was not happy – her Spanish husband’s family were not on her side and her husband wouldn’t stand up against them.  She was even wondering whether not to return.  Julia was there month’s pregnant and talked baby talk all night boring everyone.

I’d bought my wedding dress in Manchester at a specialist wedding shop.  It was a floor-length chiffon wedding dress with lace trimmings. I took the bridesmaids to the same shop and they were fitted out with full-length turquoise satin outfits. Tim’s mum offered to provide my bouquet, the flowers at the church, the button holes for the men and the table decorations at the reception.  She had recently done a flower-arranging course and wanted to put what she’d learnt into practice. 

It was all very exciting but on the day I was nervous as well.  Fred chauffeured me and Dad to the church and we arrived spot on 11. The bridesmaids were waiting for us in the porch, looking gorgeous, and came to help me with my train. Two photographers were also there to greet us. One of them started asking Dad questions and I suspected immediately he was from the local paper. The sun was shining and it was my day so I wasn’t going to let him spoil it for me. The church was packed and Tim glanced round as the wedding march announced my arrival. He looked very handsome in a dark suit. The ceremony went according to plan, after all we had rehearsed it, and we both spoke our lines clearly and loudly. Afterwards as I walked back down the aisle I felt wonderful, certain I was radiating my inner beauty. I was a queen.

After some posing for photos at the church Tim and I were chauffeured back to Poolside where we had to do more posing. The final pictures were taken with just me, just Tim and then the two of us. The guests had been sent to the dining hall and were all seated when we arrived there. To a man (to a woman) they all rose and clapped and cheered as we made our way to the centre of the top table. Tim took my hand and bowed when we arrived there and I took his cue and curtseyed at the same time. When we sat down the audience – for it seemed like that, like we were actors on a stage – sat down too. Gordon stood up banged for silence and called out:

“I’d like to propose a toast – to the bride and groom, Tim and Sophie, Mr and Mrs Smith.”

And they all stood back up and toasted us. 

Tracey had organised the food and I have to say she surpassed herself with the menu. She had had to contend with several people on special diets. How she found out who they were and what they required I’m not sure. Maybe they said something on their acceptance letters. Anyway she had to organise a completely different menu for Tom’s vegan parents. So instead of pate, smoked salmon or avocado and prawns they had garlic mushrooms cooked in olive oil, instead of sea bass, chicken Kiev or duck they had some kind of nut roast concoction and instead of cheesecake, pavlova, or chocolate mousse they had fruit salad.

After the meal Gordon read out the telegrams – the usual jokes: “Don’t buy your bed from Harrods, they stand by everything they sell.” that sort of thing. By the time he got to make his speech he was obviously well gone. He had prepared notes but he mainly ignored them, telling a few things from Tim’s younger days that I already knew, moving on to his previous girlfriends, who he made seem very wet apart from one who he claimed was a bit of a nympho. Then he upset me because he intimated that Tim had really dropped on when he finally met what he’d been looking for all along, a girl who was really wealthy. He was trying to be witty I suppose. But if that was his intention it fell flat. And it was silly of me to let it upset me because I knew really Tim wasn’t interested in money.

Dad was also well gone and his speech was overly sentimental but never-the-less it got a good reception. Tim basically thanked everybody for coming in his speech and said a few nice things about the family he was joining and how the past year had been the best year of his life so far. I was pleased because I think he was being sincere. Perhaps I’m too hard on my family, I thought, mustn’t be so judgemental. I then made a speech myself, saying how much I was looking forward to just being plain Mrs Smith, instead of daughter of Mr Cannon, tycoon and rich businessman.

Jock, Tim’s brother-in-law, had played beautifully before and during the meal, just gentle guitar music.  After the speeches Tim had arranged a local band to play and Tim and I started the dancing going. I danced with my Dad and then John, Tim’s Dad, Tim danced with his Mum and then with my Mum and Tracey – he asked them together – how diplomatic was that! Finally we could dance together – wow, that was lovely.

The afternoon raced past, chatting to all the guests until Gordon, who must have sobered up a bit, suggested it was time for me to change out of my gorgeous wedding dress, which had been a bit impractical for dancing and walking about anyway. I’d selected quite a formal suit in cream linen which I hope would show off the tan I’d managed to acquire. Everyone said how beautiful I looked and then it was time to go.

Fred drove us in Dad’s Rolls to Rookery Hall, a luxury hotel about half an hour away. No-one had dared doctor the car but everybody came out to see us off. I was on a real high, the whole day had been wonderful.  It was so late that we decided to get ready for bed as soon as we arrived.  I was a little hungover.  I don’t know why but I became depressed as soon as we entered our suite. I was desperate for our wedding night to be memorable but suddenly I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.  Instead of rejoicing in my new situation I felt I’d been ambushed, that I’d lost my freedom.  I wanted to feel thrilled that I was Tim’s wife but I felt trapped, like the relationship I’d just committed myself to was a straitjacket. 

Tim was just as handsome as ever, just as considerate but I couldn’t wrest myself out of my depression. Tim kept commenting on the luxury of the suite. There was a bottle of Moet in an ice bucket on the coffee table with a note from Dad wishing us well, a glorious bouquet of flowers on the dressing table with a note from Mum. How thoughtful everyone was. Somehow that just made it all worse. Their good wishes were like more shackles, tying me down, removing my freedom. I took great care in the bathroom to make sure I was pristine clean, put on a see through baby doll nightie, made sure every hair on my head was in place, putting off the moment when I would have to face Tim and his expectations. On your wedding night you had great sex, you’d just committed yourself to a life together and the intimacy and passion would be a celebration of that.

“Wow, Sophie, you look fantastic. I like you better naked though.”

Dutifully I took off my nightie in as sexy a way as I knew how. Tim was lying on top of the enormous bed and I was turning him on. He got up off the bed and put his arms round me, holding me tight and pressing his erect penis into my tummy.

“Well, Mrs Smith, what a lucky man I am.”

He picked me up and sat me on the edge of the bed. I knew what his intension were but I couldn’t let this go on any further.

“I’m so sorry Tim but I can’t do it tonight, even though it’s our wedding night. I’m a bit sore down there.”

This was an invention and it didn’t let me completely off the hook.

“Let’s just go to bed, have a cuddle and go to sleep.”

I could see how disappointed Tim looked. His erection collapsed and his eyes clouded over.

“Never mind my darling, it’s been a wonderful day, and we’ve a whole lifetime ahead of us.”

With that we climbed into bed and Tim kissed me very gently. Soon he was asleep but I wasn’t. Not for ages.

Next morning we had breakfast in bed, bucks fizz, croissants and poached egg on toast with some strong coffee. Almost as soon as we were up, showered and dressed we had a call from reception to let us know our taxi to take us to the airport had arrived. I asked the lady if she could send someone up to collect our cases. Tim was horrified.

“Why get someone up here to do what we could have done easily by ourselves?”

“Well if everyone thought like you the porter would be out of a job.”

“Well perhaps he’d be better off doing something else. I don’t see the point of giving someone a job just for the sake of it. We might as well employ people to paint coal white, like they used to in the army.”

Fortunately there was a knock on the door then and the porter arrived. I’d already raided my handbag so I could tip him. That was another thing Tim didn’t approve of.

Tracey had bought us a luxury holiday in Sri Lanka as a wedding present – I knew Dad would have paid but it was a nice gesture to say it was from Tracey. It included the wedding night stay, the taxi to the airport, first class flights, a week’s stay at Brown’s Beach Hotel and a taxi back home.

I was unable to shake off the feeling that I’d lost my freedom for another couple of days even though I forced myself to have sex with Tim.  He didn’t push or cajole me but I could sense his bewilderment.  I still don’t know why I felt like that.  Maybe it was because I’d still not escaped from Dad.  Anyway the whole honeymoon was a disappointment because the feeling of being trapped didn’t leave me.