Wednesday 14 December 2011


After breakfast and once I had returned from taking the car home, Simon (one of my Groomsmen) and I went for a walk along the riverbank and we chatted about this and that; mainly how we had been friends for such a long time and how pleased he was to see me so happy after all these years. I also started to feel a little odd.

The ceremony wasn't until about 4pm so we had plenty of time to kill. However, Best Men were needed to do Best Men-related things. This meant lanterns and candles and battery powered candles and their placing, so I was left to fend for myself

I had checked out of my garret from the previous night so took up residence in Simon's room where I tried to avoid seeing the Dark Lady who was only next door as I gather it is bad luck.

The time dragged. I began to feel weirder. Up to this point (apart from the stress of the day before, trying to get everything and everybody in the right place) I had been very relaxed about the whole wedding thing.

I was beginning to get all emotional. I have always been a big weeper. Music can reduce me to tears very easily, as can film and TV. Being a contrary wise character I am generally unmoved by the mawkish and sentimental. However, if I have had a couple of drinks and start to read the obituaries in the local paper where well-meaning folk have ordered up one of those off-the-peg verses to illustrate the loss of a loved one, you know the sort of thing:

"I sit and wonder every day
Why the Lord chose to call you away
I think he saw you needed rest
He only takes the very best"

…I do start to wobble. Yet along with many I also find myself wanting to snigger. This apparently is a common thing at funerals where emotions are heightened.
This, however, was to be a day of celebration and I - at the grand old age of 55 - had found my soul mate; the woman of my dreams, the person I wanted to spend the rest of my days with.

I still felt very odd. Sitting in the hotel room listening to people scurrying back and forth wondering at what time I should change. The time hung heavy.

Luckily guests started to arrive from further afield. Nerd Night DJ's began to arrive from the north of England. Janice Long arrived with partner Paul and Dr Strangelove looking sharp in a new suit (the elegantly-tailored whistle hiding the full horror of his terrible legs!) We stood in the bar and I drank water. If I was going to weep I didn't want it to be made worse by having had a drink or two. Also I may get dehydrated so it seemed sensible to top up.

I was looking forward to being a husband and a Stepfather. I had no doubts about that but I still felt a bit like a condemned man. Maybe it was the waiting?

Neale James, the photographer, provided a welcome respite as he had been rushing around photographing all and sundry and arrived to take a few pictures of me as I squeezed myself into my finery. He also expertly pinned my buttonhole to my jacket as my sausage fingers had ceased to work.

At last it was time and in the gathering gloom we made the short walk to Rye Town Hall. I now began to panic as one very important guest had still to arrive. Without her this would blow a massive hole in the proceedings. I hoped the Dark Lady hadn't got wind of this. Simon hadn't seen them nor had Clive. As is the law I had to go and meet the Registrar and Glenda, who was going to conduct the ceremony in an anteroom.

I was now feeling very, very weird.

At first there seemed to be a problem with my names. I have rather a lot and not all of them are "Christian" or "given" names. I have an extra one: "Phillips". It isn't a double-barrelled name. it is a name my paternal Grandfather took as a thanks to the parents of a friend of his whom he lived with after falling out with his Dad. We pretty nearly have all have it including my Father and my Sister. Registrar, who was American, was finding it hard to grasp due to the paperwork that had come from the Hastings office. When I had applied for the licence months ago they weren't sure what to do with the name or where to place it on the forms. This was foxing them. So not only was I feeling very strange, a vital component of the ceremony was still in transit and I feared the thing wouldn't go ahead because of an intractable problem with one of my names.

All was eventually agreed and as I was doing a bit of signing off official documents I saw a smiling Simon give me the thumbs up from the doorway: the missing member had arrived.

With a few minutes to kill before the start and whilst the DL was being grilled in the antechamber I sauntered into the hall. It was packed with our friends and relatives. I began to fill up. We had spent weeks deciding on some background music for the event to be played before and after the ceremony and every song meant something to us. Every so often, when there was a lull in the conversation, I would just make out a few bars of a tune or song. This made me fill up even more! My Sister came over to buck me up a bit and our Witness, Susan the Finance (don't hate her she's not a banker), who introduced us in the first place also came over and told me in no uncertain terms to "hold it together".

This was awful. I was going to breakdown and howl all the way through my own wedding. If things got much worse I would start moaning and gnashing and wailing. It wouldn't be a day of joy, it would look like a Middle Eastern funeral!

We took our positions. Glenda, me, standing at the front, everyone else stood up and then Jimmy Durante struck up "Make Someone happy".

My eyes began to mist up...oh no, I was going...where was my hankie?....."MAN UP!" I can hear you screaming at your screen. This was terrible! How was I going to get through the next thirty minutes???? Perhaps now was the time for strategic fainting as we have discussed on the show so many times over the years.

Then the doors opened and I saw her...The Dark Lady


She stood taking in the scene. She looked fantastic and the dress was amazing and perfect; I was the world’s luckiest man without a doubt. An audible gasp was heard around the room as she walked slowly down the aisle behind her beautiful daughter, Ella, who was the prefect bridesmaid. On the arm of her, son Jamie, who was doing "giving away" duty as her Father was sadly long gone. I suddenly felt very calm and immensely proud. Everything was going to be just fine.

Glenda was brilliant and put everyone at their ease and we didn't have to worry about remembering what to say at what time. I was obviously so keen to make DL mine that I leapt in with "I do" slightly earlier than I should have and the DL got her own name wrong! We were relaxing into now and enjoying it as we stood at the front. There were a few damp eyes but everyone seemed to be having a good time. During the vows the emotion hit me again so the ones we had written for each other came out in a strangled gasp from me. And the official ones had me doing the laughing at funeral bit. One particularly long one and I had to ask Glenda to repeat as I said, "I'm sorry I have short term memory problems"!

We had had laughter and love and the serious side and then it was time for our special guest. The one who I worried wouldn't arrive in time.

When the Dark Lady and I first met, one of the many things we found in common was our love of music. Riffling through her iPod I found a song that I loved and had featured on the show before as part of "Lester’s Library" some time ago, as well as other tunes performed or written by this artist.

She had come to the song and the singer via the soundtrack to the film, My Sister’s Keeper, starring Cameron Diaz.

I refer, of course, to Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home" performed by Edwina Hayes.

A few months back I had contacted Edwina and asked if she would do us the honour of singing at our wedding. To our delight, she agreed.

The effect was astonishing, the whole atmosphere changed as she began to sing. We were suddenly aware that as the lyrics and the melody hit home every single person in that room burst into tears! (You can see a video, not from the wedding, here).

We mopped up and when the sniffling had halted we carried on with Annie, DL's "Best Woman", doing a terrific job of reading the lyrics of "I Want To Grow Old With You" by Adam Sandler from the film, The Wedding Singer. Google it, it’s lovely.

With that we were married. I suddenly had a wonderful wife and two lovely step children. I was a very lucky man. We left to the applause and cheers of the audience to the strains of "Bring me Sunshine" by Morecombe and Wise. It suddenly occurred to me: I didn't feel weird any longer!

Tuesday 13 December 2011


Dark Lady and the friends who had arrived the day before and had been enjoying things on sticks and drinks gradually one by one drifted off to bed, leaving me with my Groomsmen, Clive and Simon. Eventually they too flagged and I was left on my own. What to do. To have another drink? Followed by another and eventually be found face down on the bar at 6am?

No. I headed for my hotel which was a few streets away. I had booked months ago and when I arrived had been greeted with the words, "Do you want the good or the bad news"? Considering the stresses of the previous few hours I opted for the bad news first with the warning that I had had a day of bad news so bad had actually better mean good rather than bad and the good should be a lot gooder than good!

The hotelier looked at me baffled.

"We've double booked your room"


"The good news is we have upgraded you"

He proceeded to grab a candle (artistic licence here) and we began to climb the stairs.

Up and up we went treads creaking followed after several flights by joints creaking until eventually we arrived in the attic. Helpful pieces of rope hung from the rafters so you didn’t hit your head on the beams, although if a gust of wind had blown out your candle you would think you were being attacked by very heavy cobwebs. Just think of the size of the spider that could knit that, arachnophobes!!

I was shown into my "upgraded" room. It was clean and comfortable and had a double bed. It was also very small. Not all the bulbs worked and they had had to create a shower room by boxing off the corner of the room. There was a bewildering array of switches, some of which worked the shower. others did the hot water and some even did the lights.

Still wide awake I tried the TV. The satellite reception was poor and so channels kept freezing of pixellating. In the end I managed to find a documentary on Lionel Richie and watched that until about 2am. Then thinking of my friends and family struggling to sleep in a haunted hotel I switched off the light at the fifteenth attempt after starting the shower and boiling the kettle accidentally and readied myself for a calm and dreamless sleep to awake refreshed ready for the big day.


A storm had sprung up sometime between "Hello" and "Dancing on the Ceiling". I was in the attic. The rain drummed on the roof. It lashed the tiny draughty window, the building groaned and shuddered and in between heroic gusts it had woken people all over the hotel. So what do people who wake up in the middle of the night do? They go to the loo. They may opt for a relaxing bath and they certainly want to avail themselves of the complimentary tea and coffee making facilities.

This all requires water. Where does that come from? Yes, well done amateur plumbers; it comes from the cold water tank which generally is placed in the, er, attic - in this case directly outside my room with the pipes embedded in the wall behind the bed.

“This is rather noisy”, he said. Ever the champion of understatement.

A few short hours later and a lengthy cramped shower I met my friends for breakfast at the Mermaid who were also hosting the reception. They had done a fine job laying a large table for a dozen or so. This also enabled the guests from various sides of the aisle to get to know each other. There were a lot of mutual friends there but apart from the Dark Lady who of course for wedding etiquette reasons was nowhere to be seen before the ceremony, no one had met my Best Men: Simon from school and Clive from college. General pleasantries were exchanged until someone asked Clive what he did for a living....

There then followed the most surreal breakfast conversation with the two ushers, Theo and Hannah’s eyes getting rounder and rounder as the tales began to tumble out.

Clive is the mastermind behind Bill Shipton creater of SPLOSH. This is probably best described as “erotic slapstick”, a sexual genre which has become so well known over the years that it has many websites which are worldwide in their reach. It was even featured in an episode of Belle de Jour: Diary of a Call Girl starring Billie Piper and film maker John Waters is a fan.

The waitresses hurried in and out bringing fabulous fry-ups and more coffee as tales flew back and forth across the table in front of a rapt audience.

"The Americans call it WAM which stands for Wet and Messy. We, however, invented it all 20 or so years ago.”

"More coffee, Sir?"

"Thank you"

"Custard in the knickers is fine but jelly chafes"

"Who's for the full English with two poached eggs?"

"Over here"

"So the TV company said to me at this point is this where we'll get the punter to have sex with the cake? I told them in no uncertain terms; it’s not like that. We don't have intercourse with foodstuffs. It is erotic. It is funny. It is slapstick. It isn't hard core pornography!"

"Orange juice?"

"Our audience regularly vote the cake fight in the film The Great Race the best example of Sploshing.”

Nicola - who is a very big cheese in the advertising world - was rapt. She is also a businesswoman and was quizzing him about download statistics and prices. It was heartwarming to see both sides get on so well and a testament to our friends that they were so easy with one another.

After breakfast I had time to kill which actually meant taking my car back to Hastings to stick it in the garage and check on my family who had been there overnight.

Clive, Simon and Nisha then started on the arduous task of getting ready to dress the Town Hall and add various important bits (mainly lanterns candles and electric candles) to the Tudor Room where the reception was going to be held.

I was then left wait.......

Monday 12 December 2011


Just back from the Honeymoon and a fabulous time has been had with my new wife. When I say "new" I also mean "first". Never been in this position before. Somehow despite having been in relationships with some terrific women over the years never really felt that they were "the one". When the Dark Lady came along I was toast very quickly so just over a year ago whilst watching the skating at Bryant Park in New York I popped the question. Thankfully she said yes burst into tears and spilled coffee down her front.

The plans had been made the day was nearly upon us just a few last minute things to do before the very very big day. Was I nervous? No. Was I tense? No...ACTUALLY THAT IS A LIE YES VERY TENSE!!!!!!

Would we manage to get it all done and would it go smoothly?

On the Friday there was to be a lot of too-ing and fro-ing from London and Hastings with guests arriving from as far afield as Chicago to take part in the happy event.

DL had been organising with some help from me seating plans. Menu. Decorations with all the colours matching and a lengthy document explaining who had to be doing what where with whom at a particular time. A bit like "Cluedo" but with hopefully fewer murders.

The idea behind the list was to smooth the path of the day so that Bride and Groom could enjoy it without enormous worry that things wouldn't happen when they were supposed to. As one of my Best Men remarked upon receiving the sealed orders.

"This is excellent I don't have to worry too much about my part in proceedings as most of the information seems to be about the placing of the candles. Traditional and battery powered. We'd hired a lot of artificial candles as the Town Hall in Rye is a spectacular old building and if it burned down we'd never be able to show our faces in town again.

One Bride was so concerned about her big day and things going wrong that she forgot one vital thing: To enjoy it and had a horrible wedding as a result.

Little problems began to surface. My family was going to be crammed in to my house so beds had to be made up including a sofa bed that I had bought. My poor Auntie Daphne drew that particular short straw. I rushed around the house on the Thursday afternoon and the Friday tidying and making up beds. When I say making up beds that is when the first brain failure occurred. I can't put Duvet's on without crawling inside the cover. Purple faced and sweating I looked around for pillows. Erm I had the pillow cases and the sheets and the duvet covers and the beds but not nearly enough pillows so had to rush up to ASDA to buy some more. Just as the first members of my family arrived.

Another and rather more important problem had occurred as well. Being greedy and having so many lovely friends that in many cases go back to school and College days I was unable to choose a single Best Man. So I was lucky in that two friends agreed to do the job. Clive who I have known since about 1975 and Simon AKA "Libido Boy" who has been a wonderful friends since we were 14. He drives Clive doesn't so he agreed to hurry down from his home in Leicester in order to help me move stuff to and from the venue the ancient Mermaid Inn in Rye. East Sussex.

Everything had to be in place as a few of the guests were turning up for things on sticks and a few drinks about 7pm on the Friday.

The plan was Simon would help me deliver everything to the Mermaid. Drop my suitcase off at the hotel where I was staying that night. Park his car in the car park next to that of the Dark Lady. My car would be left at home so on the Sunday bright and early DL would drive me in her car to the airport for the Honeymoon. Leaving Simon, Clive and the DL's friend and helper Nisha to clear up.

As the Friday wore on I began to receive increasingly agitated phone calls from Simon. He was still more than 100 miles away and it was approaching 5pm. He had bought a new Sat Nav which had decided to show him the scenic route with the most congestion on the pretext of removing him from the motorways and main roads and its allied congestion.

I then had to leave my family at home whilst I made several journey's to and from Rye in my car containing lanterns and candles and jackets and suitcases and gifts for the Groomsmen. The Bridesmaid and others.

I was a husk by the time I arrived for the drinks at the Mermaid just as Simon arrived with a worried look on his face after a journey that had taken him nearly 7 hours.

By the time we had had a couple of pints and some chips in the Lounge that had been reserved for us. Everything seemed a lot rosier. Although the Dark Ladys' daughter Ella wasn't quite so keen when she discovered that the Mermaid has the reputation of being one of the most haunted buildings in the UK. Still this wasn't going to bother me as I was staying some place else. It would be a quiet untroubled night for me.

Or would it????