The day the football fief

The Day That Football Died ( to the tune of American Pie)
Just one year ago

I can still remember how

football used to make me smile

We all saw how he took the chance

To really make his players dance

And maybe he’d be with us for a while
But February made me shiver

With every paper I’d deliver

Bad news on the doorstep

I couldn’t take one more step
I can tell you now I cried

When I read how his dream had died

Something touched me deep inside

The day the football died
Bye, bye To the dilly dong guy

Drove his team to a level that they tried to deny 

And all English fans join in with the cry

Singin’ this’ll be the day that we die

This’ll be the day that we die
Did you read the words of love

The Board has faith it said from above

If the Papers tells you so?

Do you believe in heart and soul

Can football make your heartbeat roll

And he has taught us how a man should go
Well, I know that you’re in love with him

‘Cause I saw you chanting loud his name

We all forgot our hues, we gave our hearts to the blues
He was a lovely, humble and intelligent man

With a blue carnation . A Leicester fan

But I knew he was out of luck

The day the football died

I started singin’
Bye, bye To the dilly dong guy

Drove his team to a level that they!tried to deny 

And all English fans join in with the cry

Singin’ this’ll be the day that we die

Now, for nine long months they were the champion team 

He delivered to the foxes the ultimate dream

But, that’s not how it used to be
When the jester sang for the TV and press

We all said it would end in a horrible mess

But his team gave a dream to you and me
Oh and while the press was looking down

The jester stole the premiership crown

The title was affirmed

And Gary, pants confirmed
And while Leicester read the statement out

The team was silent. Shamed no doubt

And we all felt the lights went out

The day that football died

We were singin’
Bye, bye To the dilly dong guy

Drove his team to a level that they!tried to deny 

And all English fans join in with the cry

Singin’ this’ll be the day that we die

This’ll be the day that we die
Helter skelter in a summer swelter

The foxes flew , vardy scored a belter

Eight miles high and rising fast
It landed foul on the grass

The players can’t make a forward pass

With the jester on the sidelines in a cast
Now the full-time air was sweet perfume

While opera played to the foxes tune

We all got up to dance

Oh, but we never got the chance
‘Cause the players tried again on the field

But the teams this year refused to yield

And now we saw what was revealed

The day the football died?

We started singin’
Bye, bye To the dilly dong guy

Drove his team to a level that they!tried to deny 

And all English fans join in with the cry

Singin’ this’ll be the day that we die

This’ll be the day that we die
Oh, and there we were all in one place

A man that you just can’t replace

With no time left to start again
So come on fans rise up and sing

For the man who gave us dilly ding

Coz money is the devil’s only friend
Oh and as I watched him on the stage

My hands were clenched in fists of rage

No angel born in Hell

Could break that Satan’s spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night

To light the sacrificial rite

I saw Satan laughing with delight

The day the football died

He was singin’
Bye, bye To the dilly dong guy

Drove his team to a level that they!tried to deny 

And all English fans join in with the cry

Singin’ this’ll be the day that we die

This’ll be the day that we die
I met a man a fan of the blues

And I asked him for some happy news

But he just smiled and turned away
I went down to the foxes ground

Where I’d heard the fans sing all around

But the man there said the music wouldn’t play
And in the streets the children screamed

The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed

But not a word was spoken

The dreams they all were broken
And the board men that had made him king
They now had done this deadly thing
The day the music died

And they were singing
And the men in suits have had their fling

The glory and fame did bring

But now they hear the whole word sing

 this’ll be the day that I die

This’ll be the day that I die
Bye, bye To the dilly dong guy

Drove his team to a level that they!tried to deny 

And all English fans join in with the cry

Singin’ this’ll be the day that we die

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Remembering Hilda

Yesterday on a Sunny winters day we scattered the ashes of Hilda, who sadly passed away shortly after Helen’s wedding, she was a much loved Mother, Grandmother and Mother in Law.  Here are my own memories


When I think of Hilda I think of Family

When I think of Hilda I think of Fun

When I think of Hilda I think of Loyalty

When I think of Hilda I think of Ron


When I think of Hilda I think of Canterbury

When I think of Hilda I think of Joan

When I think of Hilda I think generosity

When I think of Hilda I’m not alone


Then I think of Hilda there in Hitchin

Family close around or from afar

Then I think of Hilda in her Kitchen

A cup of tea and piece of cake never far


When I look at Christine I see Hilda

When I look at Hazel I see the same

When I look at her Grandchildren I see smiles

Purely from the mention of her name


When I saw you gathered  for her memory

Then I saw the bonds of friendship that she made

You can wipe away your tears and wash away your fears

For the love she showed us all will never fade


So goodbye dearest Hilda from your Family

Goodbye dearest Hilda from everyone

We know dearest Hilda now your happy

Reunited and at peace with Dearest Ron


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Christmas Letter 2014

Dear all,

The year, 2014, has been memorable for us for the Wedding of Tom and Helen. This momentous occasion means that they will now be joined in the first paragraph of the Christmas Letter until laptop do us part. That glorious sunny day in July will long be remembered, even if the haze of the heady evening is a little more fuzzy  as the Wedding Wine kicked in and the Father of the Bride was last seen making sure the music gantry stayed firmly upright. Tom masterminded the musical extravaganza allowing all those musically inclined to participate…I was banned!. We also got special permission from Nigel Farage to allow the Cornish Immigration for the weekend. Tom and Helen are now truly settled in their flat in London, which Helen has made a lovely little home. So to mirror their marriage , I have given Helen the last word!

Jessie’s year was also memorable, not simply for playing Pippa Middleton to Helens Kate. Her boyfriend Ben showed all his military Captain skills as an Usher. ushering those who had been rather over fortified by the wedding wine, calmly into their late night taxis.  This was a piece of cake when compared to dealing with a few Afgan hardened squaddies. Post the Wedding Jessie fled the nest, moving into a lovely little cottage style house a couple of miles away with Ben. This also meant the departure of Charlie, her chocolate lab…and Jessie now has become a bit more aware of just how big he is!. Of course Jessie, being Jessie, soon acquired a little ginger kitten which she christened Biscuit They are great friends. If cats and dogs could mate she could have a Choccy Biscuit! The animals keep her company during the week as Ben continues his army career in Berkshire, returning to Jessie’s menagerie at weekends, to watch every sport he can on Sky!

Bernard comes fresh from his starring role of MC at the Wedding (I don’t know who he takes after!) Free of injury, he was also able to perform the roles of usher, using his project management skills, singer, using his school performing arts training, and dancer, using the Wedding wine! Bernard also took up white collar boxing this year, but of course Bernard would not be Bernard without succumbing to a post wedding injury and sure enough a sprained ankle playing football (what else!) meant that he had to miss his planned Charity bout. As you can imagine, his Mum was devastated. He is currently courting , but you will have to tune in next year for any developments there…

Doug joined the band of ushers at the wedding, also singing with Bernard, accompanying on keyboard and enjoying a slot in the evening as part of the musical extravaganza, before displaying his dancing talents on dance floor. We later found out he choreographed the First Dance in secret sessions with Tom. I would have loved to have seen Tom’s face as he twirled, lifted and held close his future brother in Law in that memorable clinch! Doug also secured a role in the musical Damn Yankees for a short run in Clapham and is now appearing in Aladdin in Cambridge. So for the record yes, Douglas continues his singing and dancing…

Christine of course was the gorgeous Mother of the Bride. Looking resplendent in cream (she will be impressed that I remembered the colour!.. although it probably had some other form of girly name for cream). Although she saw her eldest daughter married, and her youngest daughter depart with Charlie. She has filled the gap with Tiny, a little  18 month Springer Spaniel, who has not only supplanted Charlie, but has also taken my place on the sofa ..and occasionally the bed!

Sadly as many of you will already know, Christine’s Mother Hilda passed away not long after the wedding. How lucky we were that she was able to come and enjoy the wedding with all her family around her.  We will all miss such a caring Mother, wonderful Mother in law and loving Grandma.

As for me, I think I am the picture in the attic to Christine’s Dorian Grey. After the Wedding I am a little poorer in pocket but richer in spirit and family (and wine!) My travel schedule continues to provide Christine with bonding time for Tiny, and I still manage to get on a golf course and submit myself to the pains of transition in my football allegiance.

I wish you and yours a Happy Christmas and hope that 2014 brings all you deserve

Greg, Christine, Helen & Tom, Jessie, Ben, Charlie & Biscuit, Bernard, Douglas, +Tiny, / Pixie and the three fish with no names!)

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Away in the Camper again. A Tiny Trip

With the  year of the wedding we hadn’t booked a holiday. Thus we planned a trip in the Camper for the Autumn half term. A tour for 10 days of Somerset and North Devon. But this time we had an addition…a Tiny addition. Our little Springer Spaniel, (Tiny) who had joined our family after the Wedding to soothe Christine’s pining for Charlie. Charlie had departed with Jessie to her new house. However, having invested money and emotional pride in our electric bikes (plus heavy-duty bike rack and towbar to carry the  bike rack) I was determined that we were still going to be able to bring them.  Hence a further purchase of a bright yellow dog trailer for the bikes! There was a problem though that Tiny was petrified as soon as she saw it. Thus we spent weeks before hand coaxing her into it with food and treats, so in the end she was able to bear its presence, if still with caution. But Tiny is scared of most things, except Charlie, who although three times her size, she chases  all over the house, teasing him by nipping at his legs and getting him to chase her back! Anyway, I have set the scene for our holiday with Tiny!

We left on a Thursday night for our first stop at Blaedon Hill, just outside Western Super Mare at the start of the Mendips. Tiny was quite reluctant to get into the van, particularly with the big yellow trailer for company, but she settled, trembling slightly and we set off. We arrived late and in the drizzle and I fastened Tiny’s 10 metre lead so she could be relatively free. and she leapt out of the van and scampered to the maximum distance of her lead and lay down with a look on her face saying I am NOT coming back anywhere near that van and its yellow spawn!

We did however manage to coax her back in (it helped that the evil yellow cage was put outside).  We ventured off to the local pub. When we got to the pub, we enjoyed a hearty meal, a nice  drink (although I was driving, so had to refrain, a real fire and a game of scrabble. I suppose I also ought to let you know that Christine won…. Ouch!

The next day we wanted to get out and enjoy the countryside and embarked on a long walk in the foothills of the Mendips, with lovely views of the Somerset Coast. However the heavens decided to open half way round and we did get quite wet and Tiny quite muddy, but she did enjoy it, and by the time we got to the end where the Pub was, the sun was out and we were able to finish off with a nice drink in the bar, although Tiny was a little unsettled by another dog in the pub, something we were going to have to get used to!

On the second night  we decided to venture off to the local pub on our bikes. The Journey was quite perilous as my front lamp had broken, so I had fastened a headtorch to the front, which gave no light whatsoever, which meant I had to follow Christine, who has a tendency to cycle rather slowly ..and brake for the slightest of reasons. As it was a dark night on a steep downward, dark country road, I nearly joined her on her bike at least three times..My manbits did not appreciate the quality of my breaking!

We enjoyed another fine meal, and were both able to enjoy a drink, but I avoided scrabble she beat me at cards! I am not sure what was more painful..that or the jolts from the numerous breaking manoeuvres  I had been forced to make on the way down. As we departed back it was time for the batteries to do their bit. It would have been hard work without them, and I certainly know why it might have been called Bleaden Hill!

On day 3 we set off following the scenic route of my 25 best back roads book through the lovely Somerset countryside. Our first stop was Taunton, which had a nice town centre and a Victorian Park where we could walk Tiny and the Museum of the West Country, which proved to be an interesting experience.  We were able to do some shopping and found a shop selling very reasonable second-hand DVDs which considerably enhanced our entertainment collection. towards the end of the route we stopped in Dunster a lovely little village, and determined that we would return to visit the castle. eventually arriving at Blue Anchor on the coast. Here Tiny got her first taste of the beach, which she seemed to instantly love, running freely and chasing the waves, the seagulls and anything else that she could see. That evening we enjoyed another meal in a pub on the campsite..but this time I determined not to play a game!

On day 4 it was time for Tiny to go on a steam train! We went for a day on the West Somerset Railway. Although Tiny was nervous at first, she soon settled on the train as we enjoyed the Journey to Minehead and back, stopping at some of the stations on the way to stroll around the little villages and to visit the railway museum. Tiny again enjoyed a run on the beach. We arrived back in Blue Anchor in time for me to catch the Man United Chelsea match at the local pub. But I was wishing  I hadn’t as Drogba scored (which me thinking of a different spelling of  “Blue Anchor”. However it was like the good old days when RVP stepped up to snatch a draw in stoppage time! I returned to the van quite pleased and we enjoyed and evening watching a DVD in the van.

The next day (Day 5) we went to Dunster Castle, which was a National Trust site and ;earned the history of one of the most wealthy patrons of North Devon and Somerset, and the all too familiar tale of the decline of these great houses, we enjoyed a cream tea in a tea house that could trace its routes back nearly 100 years,  before setting off on our route to Lynton. We arrived late and again settled for a cosy night in the van. Day 6 was set aside to explore Lynmouth. I persuaded Christine that it would be a nice walk, which it was, if quite a steep downhill trek. Of course this would mean an uphill trek on the return…. We enjoyed the quaintness of Lynton and Lynmouth and the unseasonal warm weather. Tiny added funicular railways to her list of transport dislikes! Also as Lynton was more populated Tiny’s growing habit of barking at other dogs began to become quite a nuisance. As anticipated the walk back was rather testing, and Christine’s  tolerance levels at times were rather tested!

After another cosy night in working our way through our various DVDs, we set off again to enjoy the sights, I backtracked to see the road into Lynton that we had missed on the way in as it had been dark . We also went to the Tiny Church at Oare were Lorna Doone was based. we also visited Exmoor and Selworthy Beacon, the highest point of Exmoor, again via a long walk, but again blessed by the weather, before returning to Lynton. We set off from Lynton the next day towards Woolacombe and  visited the remains of Cleeve Abbey and another National Trust House at Arlington Court  before eventually making our way to our final campsite at Mortenhoe, just outside Woolacombe where we were to base ourselves for the rest of the holiday.

After another DVD and a good nights sleep it was time to try out the bikes…and the yellow trailer! The old steam railway route from Woolacombe to Ilfracombe had been turned into a Cycle route. This was an 11km route with a gentle incline all the way. The first task was to get Tiny in the trailer..she wasn’t walking to it, no matter how many treats I offered her! Eventually I had to pick her up and push her through the flap in the top. She wasn’t impressed, but once in slunk down curled into a ball, and we were off!  The journey was very pleasant along the old railway line, and quite scenic in places. I soon got the hang of moving between the posts at the junctions of cycle route and road, and barely noticed the trailer. As it was autumn the only real hazard was wet leaves, which as long as you avoided breaking too sharply, were ok..  so Christine was not all right and promptly ended up in a pile of bike, woman and wet leaves. Fortunately it was her pride that was most badly injured as she performed this veritable stunt in the midst of a family outing!

We arrived in Ilfracombe and enjoyed the seaside town feel, with Fish and Chips on the beach and a pint in a harbour pub. Tiny barked at every dog in sight! When it was time to go home we were aware that as it had been all downhill on the way, it was all uphill on the way back, and even with the battery-powered bikes, it was still quite an arduous ride at times. But nevertheless enjoyable. We were certainly ready for our beds that night, Tiny was not sure if were totally forgiven!

The bikes were put away the next day as we set off on a walk to Mortenhoe and the surrounding cliffs. As is my wont I was rather vague about the distance involved, and the scenery was stunning along the coastal paths. We again of course wound up in a little pub for lunch, before walking into Woolacombe Bay. It was 31st October and 71 degrees! I was keen to let Tiny run on Woolacombe beach, however by this point in the holiday she had become so nervous of the presence of other dogs that when we got to the beach she did not want come with us, not even to chase her ball. Eventually we made our way back up to our campsite, which once more was a tadge further than we would have liked, and again almost entirely uphill! But again we were ready for a cosy night in

The next day we had planned another Bike ride, this time on the Tarka Trail, another converted steam railway line from Braunton to Barnstaple. The route was through a coastal area designated as one of Outstanding Natural Beauty. So after a light lunch at Braunton it was time to get Tiny back into the trailer. Although by this time she had wizened up to being fed into the tp and had learned to spread her legs sufficiently to make this impossible, so she was forcibly reversed into the front flap! I never knew a dog could look so indignant! The route was lovely, about 10km and quite level. Barnstaple was also very pleasant, we decided to have a light meal, until we discovered that we had left our money back in the van! Notwithstanding we enjoyed a stroll around the pretty town before setting off back, Tiny rising even higher in indignance.

Our final day was to be spent at Bideford, which when we got there we found was not the prettiest town in Devon! however after a little research I found the little harbour village of Clovelly, with cobbled streets so steep no cars have access and provisions have been delivered for centuries on sledges or by donkeys. Once more we enjoyed a steep downward walk, and a meal in the Harbour pub, followed by a steep and tiring return walk.

Thus was our final day on our Devon Tour, a lovely break and quite an experience with Tiny in tow…literally!



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The Wedding Blog- The Big Day

..and so the big Day arrived! This started with the girls disappearing to get their hair done, The and the boys left to get dressed. ..Ben was so glad that the weather was scorching hot..I think he  shrunk!

H&T_HighRes_022 .Now the dresses awaited their fate! The label said it all!


While we were waiting the batmobile arrived


Eventually the girls arrived back  …As they did so did our Bridal Car. Barry’s Rover!


However no sooner had Barry arrived that Christine realised that she had forgot to pick up the Bridal Party flowers, so he was dispatched to the florists on an emergency errand!





In the meantime Julia decided to clean out Helen’s ears



and Jessie helped address Bernard’s own dress malfunctions..


H&T_HighRes_020But I am not sure what Helen was looking for in there!



H&T_HighRes_018…and  who said I would not be outdone in the Wedding Hat stakes!





But eventually my Beautiful Daughter was ready..


…and you can see just how beautiful she was by the look on our  faces!



..and Jessie got quite emotional..





Me and my boys were ready!



As were Jessie and Ben


H&T_LowRes_016                                                                                                                                                                             .and so we set off for the Church..

Where Tom was waiting….rather anxiously”


..and so the Bridal Party arrived, Brandon & Haden leading in perfect time..totally different to rehearsals!..even if smiles were hard to come by                                                                                                                                              ….and Jessie got quite emotional



as did a VERY proud fatherH&T_LowRes_079

I even managed managed a smile as I handed Helen over as the process to remove her surname for good got under way..



The vows                              The Kiss                           The blessing



Not forgetting Tom’s Cornish Socks! What people didn’t know was that Helens garter was also round her ankle at this point!

And so for the big exit…and no this isn’t the scene from the Graduate!



The formal photos at the Church while the guests departed for the reception..                                        .Sincerest thanks to Fr Sean .. e even managed to keep Tom relaxed (sort of!) H&T_LowRes_151H&T_LowRes_153

A very proud Grandma



then to the venue to see all of Helen’s hard work
H&T_LowRes_178H&T_LowRes_180 H&T_LowRes_181

and spot Grandma’s chocolate cake for Tom!H&T_LowRes_185

The guests mingled in the sunshine




as the Music played.

even the motorcade had their own little party


The bride and groom arrived. after stopping in a ford.. in a Rover..Nice little touches from Barry


He was at it again!                                                   …looks  pleased with himself!


entering the fray!


and then more family photos..including the whole Fanning clan. Jimmy and Jose would be so proud…

H&T_LowRes_237H&T_LowRes_223                                                                              Ben was at last out of uniform and grew a little bigger

The Wedding Feast begins. Bernard kicks off the fun..   and the Couple arrived..Helen seemed very happy!!


Grub up!


and everyone seemed to enjoy it


and then the speeches began. ….unaccustomed as I am…


and some people seemed to enjoy them….and Jessie got rather emotional!


..and so let the Music begin


Ready for the stunning first dance. I think Tom preferred dancing with Helen than Douglas in rehearsals!


The Boys did their stuff..


and then its time to PAAARRRRTTYYYYYYY….



Grandmas Gang were at the centre


and then it was the Mr Robins’ turn (spot the difference!)


…and we partied to the wee small hours..


and as night dissolved, we were left with a hazy memory of a wonderful day in the sunshine

And a Beautiful Young Couple in love


Thank you Helen and Tom!

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The Wedding Blog- Part 1; The Build Up

It began one Sunday evening in February 2013, as Tom, My daughter Helen’s boyfriend, popped round on his own and in the great tradition of young men for generations, requested the hand of our daughter Helen. Actually he did break with tradition, by asking us jointly. I think he feared the worst if he asked only me!. Our response was of course one of delight, but it did make me mindful of my own request to Christine’s Father. He burst out laughing as he thought I was joking!

We now had the period of secrecy , as Tom planned to pop the question on their trip down to his homeland of Cornwall during the Spring half term holiday. I could not however resist a bit of mischief making a few days later, when Helen was visiting, by questioning whether Tom would ever make an honest woman of her. Helen had never been one to be shy of broaching the question to Tom, being known to dangle the third finger of her left hand at Tom over the dinner table and allude to its emptiness! Indeed she had that particular bee in her bonnet on their Journey down to Cornwall as Tom’s ear was severely bent over the question of future commitment…I think Helen felt rather guilty about that when a couple of days later on a windy but sunny cliff top in his spiritual home, Tom asked the question she had been waiting for. .”medium or large Pastie?!!”…I jest.. Tom knew she liked large!

Period of sworn secrecy over, now the wedding planning could begin. Helen soon made it clear that she didn’t want grand, traditional or too formal, but more of a festival feel. “Oh good” I thought, “that would keep the cost down”…little did I know! Helen had decided she wanted a marquee, and presented the type she favoured… a grand tepee / circus tent style. After falling off my chair at the first indications of the hire cost, we started to look at alternatives, not the first time this process would happen.

The first step was to try and fix a date, it would need to be in the school Holidays, to suit Helens teaching, and the summer of 2014 was agreed. World cup fixtures were duly checked and we settled on 26 July 2014. The summer OF 2013 was ticking by, and little firm wedding discussion was happening. Thus, taking the bull by the horns I initiated the first of our many “Wedding Meetings”. The excel spreadsheet that Tom was to become so familiar with was born as we listed all the things that would be needed, and allocated who was responsible. We then started to throw budget numbers at each. At the conclusion of this exercise I summed up the total. It was more than I expected…and considerably more than Helen, Christine and Tom expected. A few tears later, and a 10% slice off everything. We were back to my budget, (if not Christine’s) …but words of reassurance soon pursuaded her that it was a sum we could work with, we would just not eat for a year!

And so the series of meetings began. The next challenge was numbers. There were a number of factors that drove these up. Firstly I was stupid enough to make the throw away comment that it was more important to have the people you love around you than all the expensive trimmings. Tom and Helen loved lots of people! Of course cost is driven by numbers. It never helps as a starting point that I am one of 10 children, who have produced 22 nieces and nephews, with Helen firmly in the middle age wise. Also, although Christine’s family was somewhat smaller, (One sister and two nephews and a niece) she had a much closer relationship with her wider aunties, uncles, and cousins. Tom similarly has only one brother, but then we found that everyone in Cornwall is interrelated either by marriage or as a seconded “Uncle/ Auntie” ! My original budget was based on 120 people, and Tom and Helen’s first pass was nearly 200! I again took out the knife and set a limit at 150. Over the course of the next few months, with discussions over how we decide which children could be invited, and being consistent, and realising that that a friend of ones parents who hadn’t seen for 15 years may have to miss out. We settled on or around 170. Christine and I were allowed two friends!

With the budget under pressure due to higher numbers, we realised that Do it Yourself was the order of the day. Our good friend Barry was asked to chauffer Helen in his vintage Rover, with Saxophonist Andy chauffeuring the bridesmaids in his cool 1970s Citroen. Auntie Hazel would make the bunting and provide the table flowers, Helen’s girlfriends would make puddings, Helen’s godmother would make some cakes, Helen’s bridesmaid Julia would make gingerbread favours, and Tom was pulling in all the favours for the music and the photographer. Helen would arrange for the table plan and table cards. Paint wine bottles for Table numbers, and make blackboards from MDF and blackboard paint (with a little help from Daddy!). But the biggest surprise of all was when Helen and Christine went to view dresses. Helen saw a few but veered away from the My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding type dresses, eventually settling for a simple satin look, which of course was the most expensive in the shop! This was when Christine stepped forward, almost nonchalantly and declared “I think I can make that!” Although Christine’s mother had been a talented seamstress, and Christine in her teens had shown a desire to follow suit, making me a dressing gown ( albeit with a few strands hanging down) a pair of trousers, (wearable if not ultimately the height of fashion) and a cushion styled like a panelled football, she had not picked up a needle and thread for over 30 years and her mother Hilda’s old sewing machine that she had had, had long since bitten the dust (I always wanted a sentence with three or more hads!). I fully expected Helen to state “No Way!” but she didn’t, and in blind faith said “Ok Mum!” Not only that, she also determined to make the three bridesmaids dresses too!

Helen chose her sister Jessie as Maid of Honour, and her friends Cait (her bestest school friend) and Julia (her bestest Uni friend ) as the bridesmaids. This lead to numerous visits by the girls to the house for measurements, choosing materials, discussing hen nights, various fittings, not to mention a few tantrums and tears, mixed with stress and fears and alterations. Helen was very particular that she wanted it right…and for those who witnessed it on the day. .it was more than right! It was lovely also to get to know the girls, even if a few family secrets were divulged over a glass or two of wine. Less said!

Gradually over the months, things came together, marquee and WCs, food and catering, bar, crockery, cutlery, flowers and glasses. Christine also purchased 170 meters of blue gingham for Table Cloths. Helen chose to get married at Our Lady of Lourdes in Birmingham where she was christened, went to church, went to school, served on the altar, had her first communion and confirmation. Fr Sean was lovely from day one. We also found a venue for the reception at Spernal Farm in Warwickshire, a lovely setting with a fantastic vista over the Warwickshire countryside, and a Micro Brewery on site. It would be perfect…if the weather was nice!

We also managed a booze cruise to France, with Tom and Helen, where despite initially Helen and Tom setting off without passports , we travelled in the van to Calais. This was shortly after Helen and Christine had experimented with fake tans. Thus it was quite amusing when at customs I was asked to open the van side door to expose these two orange ladies , who smiled and waved embarrassingly! We managed to find a series of wine that suited Toms pallet, and set back home with 250 bottles in the back.

The last few weeks were ones of final details, the Order of service, the music for the church, the marquee layout , the purchasing of Cornish Tartan ties and handkerchiefs ( the latter also made by Christine) and lining everyone up for the sequence of events. I also found time on a flight to Brussels to write my speech and also prepare a surprise.

In the week of the wedding the marquee was erected and we went to lay the tables, put up bunting, and candles. I also brought the camper van which would double as a photo booth, with fancy dress props. Tom focussed on the stage. When everything was finalised he stood back admiring the stage and staging, his back to the marquee. That was his space! Hazel, Christine’s sister, husband Martin, daughter Erica and her partner Gareth, her Mum, Hilda, Bernard, Douglas and the bridesmaids, Tom’s Dad Chris and partner Karen, brother Greg and wife Jenna, and family friend Toyah all worked hard to get everything ready.

When the marquee was finished we headed for the rehearsal at the Church. The last event before the big day….But that’s another blog!

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Christmas Missal 2013

The year 2013 has been another one of change. Helen lead the charge by getting engaged to Tom, getting a job in a new school and then moving  house (via a 6 month spell living with us)  to London. Having Helen and Tom  was quite an experience, which we should have guessed when one of her colleagues at work wrote on her leaving card, “wait at least two weeks before taking over the headship at the new School Helen!”…after four weeks Helen was offered Acting Head of Year! ..after 2 weeks with us she was acting Head of House, and certainly we could see fully fledged Head of Tom..A big role! It was also lovely getting to know Tom a little better, a man of routine and guitars…seven at the last count!

Jessie’s year was all about building her business as an Equine Physiotherapist. She has steadily built her client base and her siblings had soon spotted the potential for getting their own aches and pains treated. Unfortunately Jessie struggles to distinguish the difference between the muscles of a horse and a human which results in her siblings sometimes aching rather more after their massage. Jessie also coped well with her boyfriend Ben being away in the Army on his Tour of Duty in Afghanistan. He returned in September and he and Jess went on a Holiday to Australia. Christine’s worst fears seemed to be being realised when a postcard arrived from Jessie stating “I really love it here” and there followed much talk about the modern-day advantages of Skype and travel via air miles. However it turned out she was only referring to the Rain Forest she was in..and so we have her at home for a little longer!

Bernard also settled into London, moving first to Kentish Town and then to Brixton. He has also secured a permanent position in Network Rail from his graduate placement and is now organising them, including managing the football team. Between injuries he still manages to play more than the odd game. This allows him to retain a level of fitness that prevents him growing into the Fat Controller. Bernard still returns home regularly and recently he arranged a “kick about” with some mates from Birmingham. I offered to drop him off and he invited me to join in, telling me that I would be OK as they were all old and slow as well. This was both an insult and a lie! 90 of minutes of lung busting, muscle straining  torture ,chasing 20 somethings  around, finally convinced me that my days of playing football were over for good! (even if I did do rather well!)

Doug graduated with distinction this year from his Musical Theatre College . This the culmination of umpteen Christmas letter references to him singing and dancing. But unfortunately he hasn’t been yet! What he has been doing is working the treadmill of auditions. He stopped in London with some friends but is becoming accustomed to the actors life of waiting tables and working as serving staff at various promotional events. He has secured a part in Panto in Cambridge, which hopefully will lead onto other things.  Who knows he might get to be head barman! His main motivation is not having to come back and live in the “boring” countryside with Mum and Dad. I did actually advise him that in the morning it is particularly pleasant…but mornings are something Douglas doesn’t do!

Christine’s life has also changed as she decided enough was enough with the NHS and left her District Nursing job in the summer. She has hung up her Gladys Emanuel Stockings ..and not just for Christmas.  Since leaving she has been working on a voluntary basis at the Children’s old school working with children with attendance difficulties, but is hoping to try to secure a new paid job after Christmas (or at least I am hoping..but she is becoming rather fond of the gardening!). The break has done her the world of good and she now looks even more younger than me…

My life has not changed much this year. I continue to travel weekly and play golf weakly and to mourn the passing of the great Mr Ferguson (There will be no mention of football in this years letter!).  It was also enlightening to have started the wedding panning. After I called the first “meeting”  I heard it said ,” ohhh Dad is actually quite good at planning”..Now the trick is trying to contain mothers and daughter within a budget…something I have singularly failed to do for the last 28 years! I wish you and yours a Happy Christmas and hope that 2014 brings all you deserve

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