Firstly, I have always associated the extremities of the British Isles with wind, rain or drizzle and sure enough when I awoke last Saturday, the wedding day, drizzle! Thankfully this cleared and we didn't rely on the ever hopeful mantra that is normally b*llocks, 'it's brightening up'.
Secondly, age 33 – going on holiday with my mum and Dad, my brother, brother in law and sister plus her brood was not exactly my first choice of holiday companions! But needs must these days. I was terrified, both of the unknown terrain and of how exhausting I'd find it.
I had perhaps unkindly muttered the week before that it was a little self indulgent of a couple who live in Brixton to decamp for a ten hour round trip for what amounted to a party given that they had had a quickie registry office job in London the week before. I told myself to shut up when I saw the setting, a beautiful place called Upton House nr Carew Castle nr Cresselly. A place so in the middle of nowhere I daresay some of the locals get lost or don't even know they live there! I now understand why brides (it seems to be their prerogative to not give a toss about anyone else and quite rightly so!) sometimes choose these seemingly ridiculous places. It is the most important moment in their lives, they want their friends and family to show how much they care about them by making the effort to be there at what to them is the most beautiful and secluded place in the world where nothing else matters. The atmosphere was magical. A cliché it may be, but what a good one! I've said it before but I've been to the wedding of some good-looking couples but Julie and Luke surely take the prize for being the best-looking ever.
Julie has always been the type of girl all the boys want to know, indeed when I introduced her to some of my friends at school they suddenly became better friends, until of course her brother Danny, arrived at school two years later, here was a more direct connection to this babe!
Anyway, the Welsh connection is that my mothers brother Ian (still the funniest speech giver I have ever seen despite confessing to me before his speech that he was f*cking nervous')has got a rundown farmhouse that we've been going too since we were kids, I'd last been down this neck of the woods when Julies older sister Nicky(who sang so beautifully at Julies wedding it reminded me she had been a singer once)She had got married in a quaint old hotel called Druidstone which overlooked one of the many Welsh beaches (post 44). Mum had plumped for us all to stay in a centerparcs style place called Bluestone near nowhere or other that the Sat Nav had never even heard of. When we got there we could scarcely believe this place – my first comment was it felt like the kind of place they'd set Friday 13th crossed with Scary Movie, lots of chalets interconnected by more tarmac than I'd seen since the Farnborough airshow, we soon ascertained that this place was run by the Banks on the basis that the running costs of a place like this are manageable but paying off the initial loans aren't. I was sharing a chalet with Mum and Dad (joy) on the basis that it had a wetroom and a wheelchair accessible bedroom (in practice this means there is just enough space to park my wheelchair by the side of the bed) now at home I have strategically placed bars so I can get it and out of bed and move about virtually unaided. In Bluestone there were none of these so my dad had to help me in and out of bed. Luckily this is not a task that requires strength so in future a girlfriend/friend could do this ( this is my key positive takeaway from this). Bluestone also had a massive waterpark where I was able to be wheeled into the pool everyday, It gave me something to do during the mornings but it is difficult to describe how exhausted I felt afterwards and it was always a little unsettling always feeling like I was going to drown, in fact it is humilating struggling in such a public place! There was also an indoor adventure centre, how they had managed to borrow the money to build this place beggars belief? The lending officer must have been on drugs! 'it's where you say'? 'five hours from London, in the middle of nowhere.''and what's the average rainfall and temperature you say. I then have images of the ideas man slipping something in the Lending guys drink.
Anyway back to Bluestone, my sisters three kids (average age nine) were in heaven, They are sweet kids and in photographs look like butter wouldn't melt but (and there's always a but) chronic fatigue plus these three angels is not a soluble equation. It doesn't help they are three very American children and no doubt because their schoolmates get given everything they want I feel they are ludicrously overindulged apparently though this is fine because I was overindulged when I was their age. This, to me sounds like a ridiculous case of two wrongs making a right. I don't know what to say other than, that was then, this is now and I have to live with the fact that yes, my stroke might have made me less tolerant, what more can I say?
All in all though, it's a week I'm glad I did. I wish I could say I've come back feeling brand new. That is not going to happen. It is a week that has allowed me to clarify my thoughts (a bit) and try and iron out some projects and goals. I will also remember it for the conversations I had with lovely Karuna and the ever mad Alice and the fact that the string quartet violinist who I remembered because of his ultra-distinguished 'dads army' grey moustache totally unprompted came up to me and said 'I remember you from Nickys wedding two years ago, you look a hell of a lot better'
It was a hell of an effort but an effort worth making. Big thanks go to my whole extended family, especially my parents who have at times admitted to giving up trying to understand what it's like being like this. I can't say I blame them. I don't expect anyone to understand this because none of you have been in my position and hopefully you never will. I just hope people try and understand what this is like
I haven't quite finished, there was one picture which to me simply said 'you've failed with your f*cking life', Here it is: