The Year of The Wedding

It’s official. The invites are in. The RSVPs have been returned. The outfits have been planned. I have reached the age in which everyone I know (only partially exaggerated) is getting married. And this age in question is twenty-seven. I have come to the conclusion that the number twenty-seven is in some way symbolic in the matrimonial occasion, and that, having achieved this number of candles on the cake, my year was always destined to be ruled by hen parties, marriage ceremonies and hideous amounts of Prosecco.

My sister got married four days after her twenty-seventh birthday. There’s that rom-com starring Katherine Heigl as a perennial bridesmaid, 27 Dresses. The number twenty-seven is a perfect cube: 3(3 x 3 x 3) – isn’t that harmonious? And the very first result search when Googling ‘number twenty seven’ is Number 27 Floral Design: A natural, unstructured approach to styling flowers for weddings. Spooky.

We may be two-thirds of our way through 2019 (yikes), but I count my progression differently: I am two-thirds of my way through 2019’s hen dos (of which I am attending three), but only one-third of my way through 2019’s weddings (of which there, for me, are six). (And guess what happens if you deduct one from the number of hen dos and add it instead to the number of weddings…?) So all in all I am thoroughly immersed in my wedding-heavy twenty-seventh year. And so far it’s been rather entertaining.

As you can imagine the hen dos often bring out the biggest laughs, and the hilarity has been heightened thus far due to the addition of mothers, aunties and honorary both on the guest lists. This adds a whole ’nother dimension to the traditional bride-to-be send offs, especially combined with the exploitation of penis straws, Prosecco Pong, and a penniless student moonlighting as a rather excitable nude life model. The inebriated shrieks by the over fifties of “drink the willy” will forever be etched on my memory, as will the image of a blindfolded soon-to-be aunt-in-law cupping her way to a concealed ball of Sellotape (which, much to her dismay, was hidden behind the ear – not a more southerly part – of the very naked life model).

Of the four events I have attended this year so far I have only experienced two embarrassing situations, which is somewhat of a relief and in many ways a bloody miracle. If one hadn’t already grasped, embarrassing myself in public has become something of a recurring problem, so I am mightily thankful that half of the occasions to date have gone by without so much of a hitch (in both senses of the word, come to think of it).

First up was the travel sickness. If you have not yet read, or have somehow forgotten, about my less-than-savoury experience on a coach ride from Nice to Lyon back in summer 2017, I suggest you refresh your memory with a quick glance over previous post Did She Get On The Plane? (and pay particular attention to paragraph two). This provides both a foundation of understanding for my sensitivity to travel, as well as a much worse example that may invoke – of the coming story – a better view of me. 

The main problem at this hen do (the first of three) was that we had to take a coach from our lovely rental house in Eggleton (between Hereford and the Malvern Hills) to go on a boozy night out in Cheltenham. This coach ride took one hour each way, which is approximately fifty-five minutes more than I’d like to be spending on a coach, on winding roads, on even a tee-total weekend. An added annoyance was the fact that I, for some unsubstantiated reason, thought that this journey was going to take half an hour; a still unenjoyable but certainly less nauseating travel time. When, on our way to the city, the half-hour mark passed, I was left with an uncertain road ahead, and at the same time was being passed more than enough unidentified alcoholic concoctions in dinky plastic cups. I chose to hold onto mine, at a distance of about twenty centimetres from my nose, to reduce any potent wafts coming my way, and as an attempt at damage limitation for my outfit were the coach to mount another speed bump at breakneck pace. We eventually made it to Cheltenham city centre and I disembarked the vehicle with an even paler than normal complexion. As all good hens would, I gave my untouched drink to the pregnant bridesmaid and hoped she would get rid of it for me. (I think the great aunt finished it off pretty swiftly.) Part One of the coach ride had been completed, sans any sicky situations. We now had seven hours of drinking to endure, before being collected by our driver who was to deposit us back at home, safe and sound.

Following a cocktail masterclass, three-course dinner and numerous dance-floor position changes, we filed back onto the coach – now a different, slightly less robust, model – and began our north-westerly descent. With foresight I chose to sit at the front, and was grateful to be joined by fellow hen Claire. She soon fell fast asleep and I fixated my focus on the digital clock directly ahead. On departure it read 01:25. I knew I just had to survive until 02:25. Spoiler alert: I did not make it.

I decided to count down in chunks of five minutes. One-minute chunks seemed far too overwhelming and slow; twelve lots of five seemed much more manageable an exercise. 01:30 eventually arrived, mocking my desperation in its green fluorescent light. 01:35 took even longer to appear, but its presence marked the accomplishment of one-sixth of the torturous trek. 01:40, 01:45 and 01:50, too, came and went, as did 01:55, but that was somewhat of a blur. 01:57 was an important moment as that was the point in which I knew it was going to happen. You see, I’ve become very sensitive to the individual pre-vomit signals, now, so I know which sensations are false alarms and which ones mean business. And at 01:57, ladies and gentlemen, the fizzing in my salivary glands meant business. 

Turning to my right to face Claire I realised that she was still very much asleep. I nudged her with my elbow and made strange noises from my tightly shut mouth. My memory is of something resounding, “muregh eerugh.” She slowly awakened and smiled sweetly towards me. “Hey, how’s it going?” she asked, wiping the sleep away from her mascara-encrusted eye. I didn’t want to risk opening my mouth so widened my eyes and stared demonically at her, which I felt unequivocally expressed, “I’m going to be sick. Like, right now this second. Please help me.” Perhaps my days of amateur dramatics were behind me; she didn’t have the foggiest what on earth was going on. With no other option I risked opening my mouth, for the shortest period possible. “Sick bag! Sick bag!” She quickly understood. Leaning to the driver she asked if he had a sick bag. “No,” came the accommodating reply. I widened my eyes once more, this time not as any sort of communication but in pure, unfiltered terror. If I did not get off this bus now it was going to get very messy indeed. I managed “I need to get off,” and Claire dutifully instructed the driver. Performing a near-emergency stop (I’m glad he understood the gravity of the situation), I was practically flung to a standing position ahead of the door, and squeezed through the gap as soon as it was open enough to allow me to. In all the panic I didn’t think to move away from the open door of the coach, and proceeded to throw up, three times, five feet away from the disconcerted driver, and unflatteringly illuminated by the coach’s interior strip lighting.

As the ailment began to subside the lovely pregnant bridesmaid came to see if I was ok. “Can I get you anything?” she asked tentatively. “Water?” She went back on board to investigate, and reappeared with her hands full. Alas water had not been brought onto the Hen Do Express, but a pocket tissue did help to clean me up and bide me a little time before facing the other hens. I politely declined the pre-mixed vodka and lemonade. Getting back onto the coach was really rather embarrassing. I made it very clear, for the remainder of the journey and the party itself, that it was travel sickness – not drink related – and that I was really a very mature and sensible young lady. They all nodded in agreement the following morning as I handed out penis straws for our morning cup of tea. Gratefully last night’s shenanigans were never spoken of again.

And as for the second misfortune… I think I’ll save that one for next time.

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Spice Up Your Life

*WARNING* This post contains the word ‘bitch’. Multiple times. If you are of a delicate constitution I advise you skip this one and read an older entry. (But under all accounts avoid my depiction of visiting Amsterdam’s Red Light District in Finding Netherland.)

***

It has been fifty days since I fulfilled the childhood dream of all high-kicking Millennial girls (and many boys): attending the legendary Spice World tour, the nineteen-years-later reunion of four-fifths of, like, the best pop group ever on earth. It was a blast. Having booked the tickets as a thirtieth birthday present for my sister, this outing was well and truly a celebration of girl power; sisterhood; and swinging it, shaking it, moving it and making it.

First on the agenda was gaining access to the stadium – Coventry’s answer to the O2 – the Ricoh Arena. If you haven’t been to Coventry before: don’t go. And if you’ve never heard of it: I envy you. No one wants to be sent to Coventry. Apparently it was a rather lovely city pre-World War Two. But, you know, the Nazis put a stop to that. Once within the stadium’s bounds, however, one could detach oneself from one’s geographical placement, though the steadily-growing abyss of unfortunate Coventry accents made this exercise somewhat challenging. But we survived.

Finding the correct door, as indicated on our tickets, was a trek and a half. Imagine the circumference of the venue as an elongated clock. Our door was at twelve o’clock. We started at one o’clock. We set off in a clockwise direction… When we eventually round up in the right place we were scanned through and security checked in a jiffy. Fabulous! You might say. No long queues or unnecessary waiting. Hoorah! This was my reaction, but my safety-conscious sister had other ideas. The breezy bag check left her feeling uneasy and unsafe. She was certain that we were going to get bombed, and proceeded to point out every pen cap and sweet wrapper on the floor as potential terrorist paraphernalia. Thankfully we made it to the end alive, with the only explosive episodes arising when we were rudely pushed in front of by a group of three venomous bitches. But more on that later.

A grave mistake I had made when booking the tickets was leaving it until late on the day of release to actually get round to buying them. As 5 pm struck I logged on to the ticketing site, which had now been open for over seven hours. The standard tickets had all sold out; the VIP tickets were all that were still available. Working against the clock on my iPhone SE (I know, frightfully behind the times), I scoured through the abundance of VIP packages offering slightly different privileges for mouth-watering amounts of money. It was seriously ridiculous. Who would pay that much for this? Well… me, it turns out. I found the cheapest possible option (Zig-a-Zig-ah VIP) and punched in my credit card details. They were booked. I had done it. This was going to be the best thirtieth birthday present ever!

On obtaining the VIP aspect of the Zig-a-Zig-ah tickets I felt more like a Victim In Pain than a Very Important Person. With our exorbitantly-priced tickets we were entitled to a goody bag, consisting of a ‘Spice World’ emblazoned water bottle; a ‘Spice Word’ emblazoned pin badge; a set of ‘commemorative’ postcards; and a ‘Spice World’ lanyard. It specifically stated on our tickets that we were NOT permitted to enter the VIP area (which we duly checked and were downright turned away from), which meant that the VIP nature of the ticket was this goody bag alone. And an ugly bloody canvas bag it came in. Without divulging exactly how costly this Very Idiotic Purchase was, let’s just say it sat in the low three figures. Per ticket. On top of general admission.

With a beer in hand (I needed something to numb the pain) we ventured into the arena to set up camp for the night. It was remarkably empty. Clearly most people adhere to the frightfully depressing reality of full-time work and are unable to step foot in the Ricoh at five o’clock on a Monday afternoon. For me this was no such problem. The hardcore fans had begun to populate the area immediate behind the security barrier, but other than that we had pretty much free choice. After an exploratory wander we opted for a spot slightly right of centre, about three metres back from the protruding walkway on which we would soon see Sporty, Scary, Posh and Ginger. OMGP (Oh My Girl Power.)

Supporting the Spice Girls on their long-awaited tour was singer / songwriter Jess Glynne, who, despite the meagre crowd and haemorrhaged vocal chord, was really rather good. And who knew that I knew all the words to every Jess Glynne song ever released? I impressed myself! My sister was more bemused than impressed – it must be the first time that I’ve sung more, and more loudly, than her in our lives, and – if she wants her eardrums to remain intact – I’m sure she won’t let that happen again any time soon.

But as the Jess Glynne set came to an end our evening took a turn for the worst. By this point we had amassed a posse of SGFs (Spice Girl Fanatics), and some lifelong friendships were beginning to blossom. There was the calm looking blonde girl, who would become our closest ally. The friendly male couple, whose whooping and cheering would bring a smile to even the poshest of spices. And the gregarious, gargantuan Spice Girl devotee, whose bosom alerted you (in the back) to her presence in the row behind, and with whom we placed bets on which song the girls would open up with. (Louise and I were correct: Spice Up Your Life; she, regrettably, was wrong: Wannabe.)

We had our crew, the countdown was on, and then the most obnoxious threesome (two women, perhaps sisters or friends, and one very uninterested husband) stood immediately in front of us, completely blocking our five-foot-two views. Calm Blonde was the first to make a stand. “Are you actually planning on standing there?” she asked one of the less-than-empathetic women. “No,” came the sullen reply. This, it transpired, was a lie. A flurry of vexed glances were exchanged between myself and my sister, and between us and Calm Blonde. I don’t know what was said next but the reply from CB to BF1 (Bitch Face 1) was, “Don’t speak to me so patronisingly.” Eek. Things were really tensing up. Louise then got an understandable bee in her bonnet. The man of said trio was standing right in front of her. Did I mention that he was six foot three? She cleared her throat and gave me a quick, sideways, cautionary glance. “Excuse me,” annunciated with impeccable diction, “are you actually going to stand in front of me? I’ve waited for two hours [both excellently stressed] to secure this position and now you’ve come and are completely blocking my view.” Well said, sis, I thought, cowering from all the confrontation. He took a small step to the side and replied in THE MOST PATRONISING VOICE, “No, don’t worry, I’ll stand to your left.” In unison we gave him one of our signature looks: the head tilt / fake smile / eye scrunch combination. It seemed to work a treat, as he stayed there, stationary, for the entirety of the gig. (I don’t he think he even swayed to Viva Forever. Must be really cold inside.) Bitch Faces 1 and 2, however, needed more time and effort to overcome.

As the Spice Girls emerged onto the stage – obviously we couldn’t see them but could sense their arrival due to the uproar of the crowd – BFs got their phones out and didn’t seem to put them down. For two and a half hours. Not satisfied with stealing our carefully selected spot, they were intent on filming / photographing the entire concert, or taking selfies of themselves with the stage in the background. This proved to be extremely awkward, as they would turn their backs to the stage and directly face us, and I didn’t know quite how to react. I tended to just look them in the eye for an uncomfortable amount of time without blinking, in the hope that they would leave. Alas they did not. And once they’d taken the ruddy photos they would – right there and then – upload them to Instagram, taking a good few minutes staring down at their screens to think of a caption, while Mel C was strutting her stuff just a stone’s throw away. It was excruciating to observe. One: photos at gigs are always rubbish. Two: no one cares. Three: watch the bloody concert!

After half an hour of trying to peer over their shoulders or watch through their phone screens, Louise made a dash for it and managed to re-position herself. She was now in front of the lanky man, to the left of the BFs, and to the right of Calm Blonde. We were all mightily pleased. Still recovering from the initial confrontation, though, I was slower to reassert my position. I didn’t want any more animosity, but I did want to stop having to stand on tiptoes. My neck was also in spasm, but I’m unsure if this was due to the bitches in front or my rather bitching dance moves. Never Give Up on the Good Times gave me just the crowd movement I needed to squeeze between then and emerge in front, victorious, at last. 

And do you know my immediate reaction? Well, my reaction that immediately followed my elation and sense of righteousness? Guilt. I felt just a little bit guilty for pushing in front of them. I wonder, what is the correct etiquette in terms of the pushers and the pushees? How long must the first be in their looted positions before it becomes theirs? Would they now have a go at me for pushing in front of them? I think they wanted to. I think they were overcome with rage. But they knew – just as well as I did, and my sister did, and Calm Blonde did – that we weren’t going to take any more of their sh…enanigans. This was it. We were back. And, boy, were we going to milk it.

As a collective force we were unstoppable. Our dancing and singing became wilder, louder, even more energetic. An unexpected cover of Sister Sledge’s We Are Family blew the roof off. Louise and I were now on full throttle. The group was back together and we were jumping and bosom-bouncing like there was no tomorrow. I accidentally stood on the feet of BF1 a number of times, and flailed my arms in the air like I didn’t care. I do hope it didn’t ruin their Instagram stories…

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