On the Monday night I rushed home from work via Asda for some travel size toiletries, jumped in the shower, packed a bag, gulped down some food, kissed Steve and the cat goodbye and jumped in the car to drive to St Albans to stay at Kate's house overnight.
I've mentioned this before, but Kate, Jo and I were quite the little trio at school. I've known Jo since I was 4 and Kate since I was 8. Due to the fact that our normal catch up's only really happen when I am in London for training or a conference and normally involve a quick lunch or dinner, Kate and I decided to leave our respective partners at home pining (we hoped) over us and use the occasion of Jo's wedding as a chance for a proper catch up.
We were flying from Luton on the Tuesday morning, so I crashed the night before in Kate's living room, after being fed copious amounts of wine by her wife. Seriously, every time I looked away for a second the woman was there with the wine bottle and a huge grin just waving it suggestively in my face going 'more?'. I'm amazed I wasn't hung over the next day in all honesty! I am definitely staying there again though (ahem Kate!)
The next morning we got in a cab, then jumped on a train, then got on a plane (tried not to yell at the kids behind us who kicked our seats the entire flight), picked up the hire car, got help from a stranger in working out how to start the hire car, plugged in the Sat Nav and arrived at this small pile of bricks.
Drumtochty Castle - and Jo and Callum had the whole place exclusively for the wedding! As we pulled up the sweeping driveway, Kate said to me quite drily 'you may want to get your camera out for this'. The castle was very imposing, with a huge entrance hall, axes hanging from the pillars and a sweeping lawn terrace to the side. This was exciting!
Carolyn and her best friend (and Jo's cousin), Fiona were in the middle of an incredibly competitive and intensive game of Connect 4. I think it went to best of 7 in the end.
Outside the gardens were aglow in the early evening sunshine, a surprisingly balmy evening for somewhere this far north. The evening started off with that kind of awkward chatter you get with people you haven't seen for a very long time (12 years in some cases) and also with people you haven't met before. Callum's family had come up trumps here though. The castle was stocked to the rafters with alcohol. I have no idea how many booze cruises they must have done to France, but there were hundreds of bottles of wine, beer, spirits and mixers.
A hog roast appeared accompanied by vats of macaroni cheese and salad. Paul, Jo's brother (a DJ), fired up the decks in the dining hall, flung open the windows (which doubled as convenient doors for people to hop in and out of if they couldn't be bothered to walk all around the castle; the grace levels deteriorated as the evening wore on) and soon there was a real party atmosphere in the air.
I haven't seen Jo's family for years - since before I went to University, so it was really lovely to catch up with them. Gillian, Jo's mother, had the biggest grin on her face for the entire time we were there, she just looked so happy, and paraded a succession of pretty stunning outfits!
I sneaked off for a bit to be nosey around the castle with Kate. It was a stunning location for a wedding, set high over a lake and with a chapel in the grounds. It isn't exactly old, being built in 1812 and apparently is more of a castellated mansion rather than a true castle and apparently was used to house the Norwegian embassy during the 2nd World War, as well as a school for Norwegian children!
The rooms were cavernous and richly decorated, and just kept going! I discovered the huge kitchen, the bar, the dining hall, a library, a pool table and football table, there was even a hot tub which some people took full advantage of later in the evening (in their pants as no one had thought to bring any swimming gear!). Jo sneaked upstairs with Kate and I to show us around her apartment sized master suite (and jump on the bed a bit).
Everywhere you looked there was something to do to keep you entertained, although most people were happy to chat and drink, catching up with old friends and making new ones. I've never met Callum before, so it was also lovely to be able to spend a bit of time getting to know him and his pilot friends (a rowdy bunch) before the more structured formality of the next day.
There were an awful lot of dead animals around the castle. Jo and Callum had introduced a lot of personal touches, but I hasten to add that the love heart hanging off the horn was not one of them - that had been left over from a previous wedding!
As the night wore on and the bottles of booze started to (almost imperceptibly) reduce, it got rowdier. A lot of the older folks excused themselves for bed, leaving the rest to prop up the bar! Almost inevitably it seemed the girls gravitated around the wine and chattered away. The rules were simple - when a bottle ran out, you grabbed a new one and poured the round. You just didn't touch the wine reserved for the wedding breakfast!
Elsewhere in the castle games of table football were being taken extremely seriously by the groom to be! Just look at that expression of concentration on his face!
Eventually the bride-to-be made her excuses and went to bed (where she got a grand figure of 0 hours sleep) and the party continued on until about 4am. Kate and I went off for a game of pool (which she thrashed me at) and some more catch up talk, watched over by the wooden Native American Indian figure in the corner. No idea.
I'm really blessed to have someone like Kate in my life. We can go years (no exaggeration) without seeing each other as life just gets in the way, but when we do, it is as though no time has passed. She knows everything about me, and vice-versa and she will always give me good advice, and also tell me when I'm being an idiot. The stuff we talk about may have changed over the last quarter century (nearly 25 years being friends, that's crazy!) but the laughter, and affection are still the same.
We eventually decided it was probably a good idea to go and get some sleep, staggered back down the steep slope to the stables (where I promptly stacked it and cut my knee open as it was so dark!) and we settled in for the night before the big wedding day the next day.
Brilliant start to the wedding!
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