Month: June 2015

Getting Our Pooch!

So the time is almost upon us! In less than a week my wife and I will travel to Bournemouth to collect our beautiful Miniature Schnauzer pup, Digby. For years we’ve talked about getting a dog. Certainly since we moved in to our home together and, finally, Aimee agreed that the time was just about right to take the plunge.

We wanted a dog that didn’t shed too much, as we’re both used to having to go to formal outings covered in white dog hairs. We narrowed our favourite breeds down to a Poodle or a Schnauzer. In my opinion, Poodles look like posh old women whereas Schnauzers look like little old men. We opted for the latter. We found a fantastic family breeder and got in touch.

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Now, pedigree pooches aren’t cheap so there was a lot to think and talk about before diving in and splashing the cash on a companion who will live as part of our family for the better part of the next two decades. We travelled for three hours to meet our puppy, who currently lives with his mum and his brothers and sisters in Bournemouth. Instantly both Aimee and I fell in love with this one pup. They were all beautiful, but we seemed to connect at once with Digby.

That’s our name for him, by the way. He’s got a fancy-sounding Kennel Club name at the moment that makes him sound less like a family pet and more like the Queen’s cousin or something. But we’re calling him Digby because a) I loved “Digby: The Biggest Dog In The World” when I was a kid and b) Aimee’s dad used to live on Digby Road in Leighton Buzzard. It seemed to just fit, as a name, when I suggested it.

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The last few weeks, around planning our wedding, have been spent preparing for Dig’s arrival. We’ve got his bed (posher than ours), countless toys and games, various snacks and treats, dry food, health bits and bobs and a snazzy, bandanna-style collar and lead. He’s already spoilt rotten and he hasn’t even got home yet! He’s going to be loved and fussed by everyone we know.

So now all we have to do is see out the week ahead, drive (again) to Bournemouth and collect the little rascal! Have no doubt that this isn’t the last you’ll hear of him, either. He’s already got his own photo album on Facebook and I’ll be keeping a record of our experience bringing him up to be a polite and obedient little chap on here, too. Sorry if this is likely to bore you – I’ll do my best not to gush too much.

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David Cameron’s Irresponsible Comments

20140619_cameron_pmukToday David Cameron made a speech in which he claims that “many British Muslims quietly condone the actions of ISIS” and that this is an issue that should be addressed before more young Muslims are “radicalised”.

I put it to David Cameron that it is irresponsible comments like this – comments that are bordering on incitement to racial hatred, certainly a terrible case of stereotyping – have far stronger a hand in radicalising young British Muslims than any “community feeling” ever could. I put it to David Cameron that his comments will only rile both “communities” – young, already-alienated Muslims and disgraceful right-wing thugs, to the point that social unrest is likely in the not-too-distant future.

It’s embarrassing that we have a Prime Minister who seems comfortable and willing to say – unapologetically – that a portion of his electorate are supporters of a terrorist organisation that targets people of their own religion over all others. What kind of country is this? I am ashamed to be British thanks to these awful Tories. Fuck the lot of them.

It’s Not Every Day You Get To Marry The Girl Of Your Dreams…

It’s not everyday you get to marry the girl of your dreams in the Undercroft of a castle, with your family and friends gathered around you, plus a Dalek. I am lucky enough to have experienced exactly this a short while ago.

I thought I’d have been a bag of nerves on the morning of the wedding, Saturday 6th June 2015, but I wasn’t. In fact, the nerves didn’t kick in until our amazing photographer Rob whispered “she’s on her way, mate. I’m going up to meet her now…” – that’s when I lost my cool. Until then, I think, I was fine.

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I spend the night before the wedding at Simon’s house. He was my best man and had been tasked with making sure I went to bed sober and without curry inside me. So, naturally, we had a few drinks and he made us – not curry, no – some pasta. We watched (something, I forget) and, for us, had an early night. By about 1am I was trying my best to sleep (while watching The Office on Netflix) on Simon’s new inflatable bed in his living room. I knew I wouldn’t sleep much. I just knew! And by the time that thought hit me, I’d dropped off and was dreaming about getting married in Sainbury’s car park.

I woke up at about 7am on the morning of my wedding, full of excitement and not feeling nervous at all (then); I just couldn’t wait to suit up and see my girl! I’d missed her so much the night before and, although we’d texted each other a bit, we’d not spoken properly since Friday afternoon. I checked the usual social media feeds to see if she was up (she was, she had been since 3am!) and couldn’t bring myself to reply directly to anything she’d said – I was trying to keep the old tradition of “no contact until she walks down the aisle”.

By 9am, Simon and I were up and eating breakfast. I was bouncing with joy and couldn’t wait to get the day moving! I wanted to see Aimee, to dance with her, to see our families and our friends and to celebrate our love for each other with everyone. Simon, on the other hand, seemed stressed. He was panicking about losing the rings (he didn’t), about messing up his speech (he didn’t) and about a hundred and one other little things that he needn’t have worried about. He was the best best man I could’ve asked for. His nerves kept me calm, if anything. It was an honour to spend the last hours of my unmarried life with him by my side.

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We had two photographers shoot our wedding; Rob spent the morning with us at Simon’s house (then at the castle) and Chelsea spend the morning in the apartment with the bridal party – then they came together to get photos of the wedding ceremony, breakfast and reception in the afternoon. Our photos are amazing and I can’t wait to see the whole set. I don’t have words enough to describe how highly I would recommend our photographers (I’ll be writing a blog about all our vendors, who were all great, soon).

At about 12:30pm we left for Cardiff Castle, where our wedding was being held, from Simon’s. We got there at around 1pm and were greeted by our contact at the castle, Mike Pitt. He was amazing, as were his staff. From the moment we arrived (before that, even) every little thing was thought of, everything we needed we got. And still, just two hours before our wedding, I didn’t feel at all nervous!

My family arrived at the castle at about 1:30pm by mini-bus. Immediately I took my nephews, Ashton (4) and Rohan (3) to meet the special guest we’d arranged for the day – a full-size, fully-mobile, fully-vocal Dalek. Aimee and I had sent feelers out on Twitter months before the wedding: Does anyone know where we can get a Dalek?! As soon as we were put in touch with our Dalek operator, via a mutual Twitter-friend, we decided not to mention the Dalek again. It would be a secret and remained so until about two days before the wedding, when we felt the need to warn certain friends and family members, for mostly logistical reasons.

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Before long it was time for Aimee to arrive. Actually, she was about ten minutes early! Surely a first for any wedding?! It was then – and only then – that the nerves really kicked in. I began to sweat. Simon and I slugged rum from our hip-flasks to try to steady ourselves. The music started – Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah’ and our nephews and our niece entered the Undercroft. Rohan had a little sign that read “Uncle Gareth, Here Comes Your Bride!”, Ashton carried the rings – to give to Simon, to give to us – and Grace carried a basket of bubbles (we weren’t allowed confetti…) for the guests to blow once we were married.

Then came the Bridesmaids, looking absolutely lovely, followed by Aimee’s brother, Ian. On his arm, my beautiful bride – though I’d pledged not to turn around when she entered. I think (think) I managed to stick to that! When I did look at her, when she stood beside me, I fought to hold back the tears, she looked breathtakingly beautiful.

The ceremony was lovely. Aimee’s mum gave a reading, followed by our marriage, then my mum gave a reading, too. It was then time to sign the wedding register. And, when that was done – interestingly, they gave us an empty pen and a blank page to “pretend to sign” after we’d actually signed the register, to allow photographs to be taken without breaking any data protection laws; we pretended to sign everyone’s names but our own! Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, Batman, etc etc. – it was time for the wedding procession to file out!

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Considering Aimee and I had chosen a fairly traditional non-religious ceremony – nice vows, nice music, beautiful flowers, traditional wedding getups etc – it must have been a real shock to those who didn’t know about it to see the Dalek follow us up the aisle as we left the room as man and wife. With screams of “BE UPSTANDING FOR THE BRIDE AND GROOM OR YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!” the Dalek – built and driven by David Smith of Charity Sci-Fi – kept everyone entertained; selfies were taken in their hundreds!

Then we had photos taken with Aimee’s wedding car – an Ivory-coloured London Taxi – during which we jumped, laughed, pointed and punched the air. I can’t wait to see our photos (some early previews are scattered in this blog post). We got the “formal” photos done in no time, thanks to a superb photography team, and then it was time for the Wedding Breakfast!

We seated ourselves in a room full of clapping, cheering friends and relatives, on our top table. We were served traditional Welsh Rarebit, Welsh lamb shank with vegetables and a trio of citrus tarts. We also never had an empty wine glass in front of us; as we finished a glass it was refilled immediately. The food was outstanding and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Next, during coffee, came the speeches.

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Simon introduced himself and then welcomed Ian, Aimee’s brother, to speak. Ian gave Aimee away on behalf of her dad, who sadly passed away when she was just seven years old. And I’m so proud to say Ian did a spectacular job. His speech was touching and heartfelt, funny and joyful. It brought tears to my eyes. After Ian it was my Dad’s turn. He made a similarly heartfelt, funny and cheeky speech, but he’d forgotten his reading glasses so stumbled through it with a little help from my mother. So far, so good! Next up was Aimee’s mum, Anabel.

Her speech was lovely. She spoke, as Ian had, about her husband, Aimee’s dad. She said she was proud that Aimee was settling down in a Labour stronghold like ours, which everyone cheered at! She went on to say how proud she was of Aimee and how fond she was of me and my family. Again, I had tears in my eyes. Then it was Aimee’s turn. She had written a shorter speech than the rest of us, but it was beautiful. She quoted her favourite Doctor Who episode at length – a passage that always makes her cry, so always makes me cry too. And the tears that were in my eyes for the last quarter of an hour left my eyes and tumbled down my face. I was gone. I can’t tell you how lucky I felt when she looked at me and told me she loved me.

So, I was next. In my emotional state I completely forgot to hand out gifts as I rattled off the list of people without whom the day would not have happened – my parents, Aimee’s mum and brother, our friends and family… I got a few laughs and enjoyed myself; I’m a bit of a show-off and love an audience. I finished, thanked everyone, then passed the mic to my Best Man.

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And boy, was his a speech! Ripping the piss out of me at every opportunity, throwing out gags about Aimee and I having met online, about my bottomless promise to run the London Marathon (that I make every year) and ending with some lovely messages from people on Twitter – the place where we all met. It was a wonderful, funny, warm speech (co-written, I’m told, by Liza) and the room was a sea of laughter. Job well done. One joke, about us “expecting the pitter-patter of tiny feet” produced an audible gasp of delight in the room, only for Simon to say it was FOUR feet, not two: Our puppy Digby, who we collect on Saturday 27th June.

With food and speeches out of the way, we cut our wonderful wedding cake – a naked cake (no icing) by Little Cake Cupboard. And then Aimee and I were whisked off once more for intimate photographs with the bridesmaids in the Castle grounds. While we did that, everyone had a drink and took more photos with the Dalek. Everyone seemed in excellent spirits when we got back to join the party.

And what a party! Aimee didn’t stop dancing all night! I was dragged up to dance time and again and, it being our wedding day, felt I had to dance. So I did. And I bloody enjoyed it, too! Even my best man Simon got up to dance a few times (under duress). In fact, everyone had a bit of a dance and our DJ was amazing! All night long he played whatever we wanted, mixed among the usual pop wedding hits. It was wonderful!

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From beginning to end, nothing went wrong. Well, Simon’s trousers split but that was it, really. Everything went perfectly to plan, wedding-wise… We were so lucky and all of our guests were so supportive and generous. We were able to go on a fabulous honeymoon to Gloucestershire, where we stayed in a little Victorian folly called The Temple which had acres of private gardens and its own private boating lake. It really was like something out of a storybook.

What more can I say? We had such a perfect day and a perfect holiday afterwards. There is nothing I can think of that I’d change, even if I could. We were blessed with the weather, the company, the venue and everything else. Utterly, utterly perfect.