What about the weather?

Digging channels and building dams in the sand on the beach has always been a favourite pastime for our boys at the seaside. They also enjoyed tunnelling in a friend’s back garden, until the passage got so deep and long it was turning into a small mine. But the day before the wedding I wasn’t expecting to see them on their knees, plastered in mud, examining the route of a drainage channel diverting water around a marquee in the Shropshire hills…

If oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure, then our son and his new wife have made a fine start to married life. Just five days before their wedding on Saturday they heard torrential rain had turned the field where the marquee would be pitched into mud. Their Festival style wedding reception was sounding more like Glastonbury every hour.

After an emergency journey from London to a very wet Shropshire to assess the damage they decided to go ahead in the hope the location could be salvaged. Two days before the wedding we arrived at the farm to help hoist the marquee and bang in pegs. The view of the Long Mynd hills was spectacular as the sun appeared at last. Although the forecast was mixed, there was hope.

Like every wedding there were a mountain of tasks to be tackled from arranging tables to cleaning toilets and stringing up lights. Later that night as we sat enjoying a home cooked meal we listened to the rain on the conservatory roof. Everyone was picturing the field and the marquee.

On Friday the sun came out and it was all hands on deck cleaning chairs, laying out plates and pouring water into jugs of flowers. The attention to detail and eco-friendly planning was evident in everything from the bamboo plates, each with a guest’s named soldered into it, to waxed wood cutlery bound with handmade pottery medallions with an initial on. The only thing we needed was for the weather to be kind. As forecast, the clouds gathered after lunch and the boys decided digging a trench around the marquee was essential to save it from being flooded. It wasn’t long before the ‘highly engineered’ trench was a fast flowing stream as the rain descended. The bride-to-be could be seen gazing out through a flap in the tent as water bounced off the canvas sides and ran in rivulets across the field. Everyone was praying for sun. But could it possibly dry out by the next day?

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It was time to leave for the church rehearsal. The digging brothers, who were the groom-to-be and a best man, were caked in mud from head to toe. All around their posse of digging friends leaning on spades began to laugh.
“I better wash my hands,” said one. His brother looked uncertainly down at his now brown jeans.
“Are we Ok going like this?”
Even if your father is the vicar, the answer is ‘No’.
Fresh clothes were borrowed from a faithful friend and they arrived at the church in slightly unconventional and ill fitting outfits, which included climbing trousers and board shorts.

We do believe in miracles. The morning of the wedding the sun was shining and the field had dried out enough to be transformed. A band of willing friends, along with the groom, his best men and ushers, charged around tossing grass clippings and hay in the air and generally having fun (without mud).

The field that was brown turned green and within a couple of hours it looked like the most wonderful country wedding reception venue.  Hay bales and fire pits were scattered around and pots of flowers and pretty lanterns lining paths of straw completed the scene.

Some hours later when the flower power Morris Minor chugged up beside the marquee and the new Mr & Mrs Farmer stepped out there were cheers and tears of joy as the bride saw the transformed scene for the first time.

 ‘Real love’ may be about weathering storms together, but sometimes that’s easier to see after the clouds have parted and the sun has broken through.

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Footnote: This blog isn’t aimed to thank everyone who helped make the day a success and there were so many of you! Neither can I cover all the highlights from moving and hilarious speeches to the service, the sermon and the flowers, but I must mention the members of Popup Opera who gave an amazing performance in the church – it was funny, it was beautiful and it was epic. Please do support this very special team and go to a performance soon https://www.popupopera.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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turning pages

A pair of white gloves was draped beside an open picture book. I didn’t notice them at first because my eyes were drawn to the startling colours on the satin pages. I slid my hand across the expanse of paper, enjoying the silky texture beneath my skin. It was a giant picture book laid out on a stand in the hallway of the old house and there were no words. As my fingers twitched at the corner of the page, I paused – what if it ripped?

The other night we were invited for a meal at the home of a couple we had met briefly a few weeks earlier. We’d been welcomed in warmly and had sat by the open fire sipping Prosecco with brandy and nibbling canapés. It had been time to move to the dining room, and as I followed one of our hosts along the passageway I hadn’t been able to resist a closer look at the book. Each leaf was about the size of a television screen.

The gentle voice of the owner flowed over my head as she noted my interest and told me something about the origins of the book, which I instantly forgot. “There are gloves to turn the pages,” she said. That was all I heard. I stepped back and smiled. I thought she’d been joking. But no, there really was a pair of white gloves on the dark wood table beside the book. I realised my ‘crime’ and snatched my hand away. I’d dared to touch the book without the gloves.

During the meal and in the few days since I’ve wanted to go back to that hallway and slip on the gloves to turn those giant pages, soak in the colours and images and find out what the book was about. It was obviously very precious. So precious that it couldn’t really be touched.

I have some precious books of my own. But they come in two kinds. Some are precious in a valuable and historic sense, which means you have to be careful when you handle them and they must be wrapped away and stored in a safe place. Others are precious in another way. They are my favourite books from childhood and so well read they have become torn, dog-eared and stained. My all time special – More adventures of Caroline – has no cover at all, just the inside pages are left. I haven’t a clue what happened to the cover.

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When we love something very much it inevitably gets used, moved around, packed and unpacked and so it gets worn and sometimes damaged. (Readers of the Velveteen Rabbit will have heard this before!)

And that’s because when we’re attracted to something we want to touch it – we reach out our hands to see what it feels like. It’s an important part of the experience and so it seems alien to put on gloves to turn a page. Touch is one of the reasons I prefer reading a book to a Kindle. I like the feeling of turning pages and in the same way I enjoy flicking through magazines or rustling a newspaper. Touch connects me with objects, ideas and stories in a way that just looking doesn’t cut it.

So here is my Advent thought… God knew we needed someone who could physically be there, who could touch us and hold us, demonstrating love in a way we could feel it.

Isn’t that what we’re all waiting for?

#adventword #touch

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