england, chapter 2 (katie and pete’s wedding!)

2 05 2009

morning came on thrumming bus-wheels, accompanied pleasantly by the aforementioned amazing breakfast (smoked fish of multiple varieties, and all sorts of fruit, and of course eggs and sausages if we wanted (i didn’t), and miso & other japanese breakfast foods as options, and snug little cooked tomatoes, and figs in syrup, and pastries and muselix and pickled onions o my (i’ll spare you the accounting of what i actually consumed; suffice to say you’d find it weird, and i thought it came together nicely)), and then ssartain and i parted ways across the tracks from one another at the station, catching trains heading in opposite directions; he went back north to his suburbs, and i went south to Victoria to meet up with saint213 at exactly the appointed time and place. his gf was with him, playing porter with his things, and helpfully got us straightened out re: ticketing computers to acquire our already-purchased rail passes, and he and i had just enough time to buy a pair of egg sandwiches (his was breakfast; mine would be lunch at the other end of the trip) and hop onto a train for the southern countryside (a confusing prospect that i was very glad i had him there for, because i’m capable of following signs to platforms, but it turns out there’s more to it than that; trains in england tend to split apart at various junctions along the way, and you have to know which car to be in to split in the right direction later in your journey. the train loudspeakers make lots of announcements about which cars you should be in (“the rear four cars will be continuing on to portsmouth”), but there’s no clear labeling anywhere of which car you’re on; the only thing for it seems to be counting, or from the inside, counting sets of doors).

From england09

despite confusion trains are charming: we sat across from each other at a little table beside a humongous window, and he told me stories about when he’d lived in various places in london, as we made our way out of the city, and then we gazed and rolling hills in sun and cloud, made bets about the weather, speculated as to the purposes of tall, spired buildings rising on distant hills, and bought chocolates to share when the little cart came by. he had a camera full of pictures and a head full of stories about crossing and adventuring in spain, so we spent a good while on that, telling travel tales, daydreaming about the romances of the road, talking wistfully about the writing we’re not doing, and pondering what to someday do with our lives (it felt a little like being ten, or at least the ten i could have been, in all the right ways, and i only kind of know what i mean by that, but if you’re interested enough to ask, i’ll try to elaborate). something like two hours later we found ourselves following a print-out of an email of very descriptive walking directions from the fratton station to the portsmouth b&b i’d reserved a room in (hereby recommended to anyone who has the slightest inclination to spend a day or more in the south of england—place was marvy, host was grand, & i felt a bit like a genius for securing it, even though all i’d really done was follow a link katie had sent me in a list of nearby options), where the code in the box got us a key to a completely darling attic room with dramatic eaves and a kettle & basket of teas there for the brewing. we opted out of tea for the time being, instead perusing the what-to-do-in-portsmouth guide with an eye for the next day’s sightseeing for a while, cross-referencing paper maps with the google versions on saint213‘s pocket-internet, and then availing ourselves of the handily-provided iron to un-travel-wrinkle our fancy duds & getting pretty.

From england09

getting to the wedding meant, following the morning’s tubes and trains, a walk across a section of portsmouth, milling for an hour in the groom’s family’s kitchen with a bunch of reservedly-friendly young strangers also seemingly out of place in party clothes (after killing a bit of time taking pictures in a nearby kirkyard, because we’d planned so well that we were early), milling for another few minutes in the yard hoping that would magnetically call the running-late party bus, and then riding said party bus back up into the rolling hills, telling a few more stories but mostly listening to the bantering of the flock of friends all around us getting in and out of their bus-seats, mocking each other mercilessly, and otherwise being infectiously entertaining. eventually the bus left the highway for winding, climbing roads between farm houses and cottages and tiny barns thick with overhanging foliage of every shape, and pulled into the gravel circle in front of the manor house just in time for us to pile out, tumble into a pile of meet-and-greets at the door (although the only person i had to meet, and introduce saint213 to was dana, because the bride was off being pre-wedding secretive and chip was lurking in the dark corners of rooms being mysterious), file through and into seats, and start a wedding. the ceremony was sweet and thoughtful and just long enough, and involved (along with the rest of the evening, and brunch the next day as well) a lot of kissing—i’ve never seen so much kissing in one wedding, and it made me rather gleeful, really). the groom was overtaken by goofy grins, the bride had feathers in her hair and cried a little, and small children passed around handfuls of rose-petals for us to throw at them when they came outside just after (where we learned that throwing rose-petals while trying to take pictures of throwing rose-petals while holding a glass of champagne just provided by a circling member of the manor staff is somewhat difficult, and that the most technically valuable part of taking a date to a wedding is so that he can hold your other stuff (purse, jacket—and he volunteered, i swear) while you’re trying to achieve such feats).

From england09

the rest of the afternoon and evening were consumed by photography—everyone of everyone else—drinking out on the gravel, catching up with katie and chip and dana, making new friends, drinking with said new friends, taking pictures of the house, taking pictures of the yard-chickens, taking pictures of other people taking pictures, and eventually going inside to have an amazing four-star restaurant dinner with our drinks-and-pictures; we were seated with the party bus kids, and had a grand time trading tales about our respective homes and travels, although i also did a bit of flitting, trading spots with dana for a while to meet-and-greet with chip and some of katie’s family. at the link are pics of the scene from every angle, the bride in all kinds of light and wearing all sorts of faces, the groom beaming like a lighthouse, the bar upstairs where karl drunkenly recommended all sorts of bands to me that i can’t now remember, and the nest of underground rooms—dug out by prisoners! who may or may not have had anything to do with nearby encampments of soldiers from new zealand (i’m shite even with my own history; expecting me to get the english right would be absurd)—that tell and were a good setting to re-tell stories of the manor’s history as well as its part-time status as an enclave for romantic dinners and its suitability to tipsy american girls photographing one another imprisoned and endungeoned. the underground rooms also made a grand setting, as the night grew late, for saint213 and a couple of musically-inclined drunk englishmen, one of whom had brought a guitar and another of whom turned out to be quite handy at playing the drums on a coffee table, to create a rousing pub-sing of old school reggae and r&b tunes with glasses of scotch in hand, and the gardens, crazy as this sounds, because it’s england, turned out to be a perfect fit for stargazing, waxing poetical about childhoods and the magnetic pull of the yawning black, and trading observations about wholly different geographies and their respective constellations (and the sharing of orion, who wanders back and forth between the two).

From england09

the party bus left at midnight, and was a much different bus on the way home than the way there, because everyone was drunk, and so everyone was bestest friends, and there weren’t quite enough seats so some folks were on the floor in the aisles, and once singing has started it’s hard to stop, so it was a twisty-road high school flashback of songs and laughter and rowdiness, and although the motley crüe was my fault, it was saint213 who got us started singing (and whistling) guns-n-roses. there were vague plans for an after-party at karl’s and kat’s place that disintegrated before we made it back to portsmouth, which was vaguely disappointing at the time but which we would agree come morning had probably been for the best, and we left dan trying to stuff karl into a bin for fun along the sidewalk when we tottered off in the direction we had come, room-key in hand, to traverse the town through scattered flocks of drunk-o-clock natives clustered in and around the fast-food chicken places, where we ended up spending most of an hour trying not to ogle too much at the girls’ slutty saturday night attire when saint213 decided a greasy burger of some sort was exactly what the hour required. i was theoretically horrified by this idea, and yet ate plenty of his chips as we finished off our shivering walk before tip-toeing with the remnants of his illegal take-away up the several flights of stairs, to crawl happily into our respective beds, only a little spinny, and lie awake for a half hour or so giggling about the evening’s people and events before setting his phone to wake us in time for the latest possible breakfast and bidding each other a friendly goodnight.




2 responses

6 05 2009


6 05 2009


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