“It’s 7.30 in the morning.”
“Is your smoke alarm beeping?”
And so ended our stay in Fawlty Towers. It had begun so well. Michelle, Jac and I had been invited to Will‘s wedding in Raunds, Northamptonshire. It was an unusual invitation, as out of the three of us, I was the only one to have met him, and even then only twice. Still, we did manage to get the bride and groom together through the Love@Lycos internet dating website. Jac and I had each developed a spoof profile of ourselves, and I invited Will along for the ride. He, though, decided to do a real one (here it is), and promptly met his wife-to-be. We sensed a good time was in the offing, and accepted the invitation.
Will’s Wedding – Part 1, “The Build Up”
We set off from Jac’s house in Watford at 1.30 on Saturday afternoon, arriving at 3.15 in Rushden, well in time for the 4.30pm wedding. In our haste, we had discarded the idea of working out where the Rilton Hotel was, deciding that the area was probably only a small village and it would be easy enough to find.
Half an hour later, and with Jac’s expletives getting ever more forceful, we decided to stop at a local newsagents and ask directions. It turned out we had passed it twice in our search through the surprisingly large town. It was an impressive building, and as we swung into the car park, we noted the large sign outside – “Warm Welcome”, “Licensed Bar” and “Restaurant”. Jac, pleased at the reference to a bar, sped up the ramp.
The car park must have had over 70 spaces. Sadly, not one of them contained a car. “Ah.” muttered Jac, as it sunk in that the hotel may not be as popular as it claimed. After parking the car pointlessly neatly in the second space Jac chose, we wandered in to get the formalities done.
“Hello?” My voice echoed down the corridor. There seemed to be no-one around, and wrought-iron shutters blocked the entrance to the spirits bar and restaurant. We ventured down to the end of the corridor, where there appeared to be a reception area. That also had the shutters down. I went upstairs – not a soul. Michelle studied the reception board, and noted that there was a Bridal Suite. Jac’s eyes brightened. “Oh, thats kind,” he said, “I wonder what flavour?” His face slowly slumped as he revealed, “Oh, I thought you meant some kind of complimentary confectionary…” In an effort to redeem himself, he found a phone number taped to the reception area. He rang it. It turned out that the receptionist was at home, and asked if we could hang around for a couple of hours. We pointed out that the wedding was less than an hour away. “I’m on call, you see,” the receptionist said. We bartered. Finally, the best she could manage was 20 minutes. She turned up half an hour later.
In 10 minutes, we had changed into our finest clothes and were in the car, speeding down the motorway to the church.
Will’s Wedding – Part 2, “The Main Event”
The people of Northamptonshire are possibly the slowest drivers in the world. And Will’s wedding day was not the the best time to find that out. Constant cursing and more than a little swerving ensued for the next 15 minutes, before we somehow managed to find the designated car park, with 4 minutes to spare. As we parked up, I reached the last sentence on the sheet of directions: “This car park is approximately 5-10 minutes walk from the church.” More swearing. We ran to the church, and found the service already underway. Another curse passed Jac’s lips. As I opened the huge church door, the entire congregation turned round and stared at the naughty latecomers. I grinned inanely.
The wedding went smoothly, including the obigatory fainting of one of the bridesmaids. The hymns were well chosen, and Jac and I felt confident enough to barely glance at the words, recalling the full verses from our childhood church visits. On one hymn, we confidently finished the last verse on the page, put the songsheet down and looked around to see what would happen next. Much to our shock, the entire church carried on singing, and it took half a verse for Jac and I to find our place again.
After an hour, we wondered down to the reception. We had originally planned to make a dash for it after the ceremony, get changed, and be back in time for Will’s speech, which he promised would include a comical reference to Jac and I, at which point we would stand and curtsey. However, true to form, we completely missed that too. Our dash back to the hotel was at times a slow chug as Jac negotiated the infernally slow local drivers. Back at the reception, my initial huge disappointment was more than countered by 3 large bottles of pink champagne and two double Jack Daniels and cokes, which I was to rue the following day. Contrary to the previous events so far, the evening bash went very well, with Tom, the church usher and friend of 7 long years, providing much needed sordid information on the rest of the congregation. Jac made passing conversation with a rather well-endowed lady next to him. Half way through a particularly enlightening speech from him, the lady suddenly noticed the wedding cake being cut, and pieces being passed round. She yelled, “There’s cake!”. Sadly, Jac completely misheard, and started yelling for a person named Kate at the top of his voice. After we had stopped laughing at him, Jac made his excuses and left.
He finally found a particularly friendly girl towards the end of the night, who looked rather like Sinead O’Connor’s love child, but he fended her off. I managed to glean a taxi number off a Welsh lady at our table, and Michelle, being the only one still capable of speech (Jac: “Ah, a breash of freth air. Try saying THAT after five pints”), rang up. It turned out that it was a little old lady, who moonlighted as a taxi driver to make ends meet. During the whole of the first phonecall, she completely forgot to ask where we were going. When she phoned back and heard we were planning on going around 5 miles away, she took a deep breath and explained that it was further than she was willing to travel. I was frankly relieved. We finally managed to book a taxi, which we made Jac pay for while he was half asleep.
What we have learnt
- Never assume that every town north of London is bound to be sparsely populated.
- Always add 30 minutes to your driving time if you are due to be behind any driver from Northamptonshire.
- When booking a hotel, always go with what you know. A Travelodge would in retrospect have been luxury, compared with the “warm welcome” we received at The Rilton.
- Watford is the cheapest in the country for unleaded petrol.
- Rilton Hotel sounds similar to the Hilton Hotel. That, however, is where the similarity ends.
- There is nothing more annoying than an out-of-reach smoke alarm emitting a low battery warning every 30 seconds at 7.30 in the morning.
- Drinking 3 bottles of pink champagne renders the drinker very ill for at least half of the following day.
- There is something to be said for planning ahead.
- Jac is incomprehensible before 8am.
- Our snobbish theory that nothing works north of London turns out, in fact, to be correct.
- There are more rivers named River Ouse in the United Kingdom that any other name.
- Have I mentioned how slow they drive?
Finally, I’d like to thank Will, and congratulate him on his marriage. Even if we did miss the key moments…