Our eyes met across a crowded tube station. None of us had arranged to wear a red flower. Grey November commuters pushed passed on their way to somewhere else. Then I caught sight of a couple, she wearing a rather fetching woolly hat, both beaming and bright eyed. From twenty paces I hoped it was them I was meeting. And it was!
What began over dinner that night followed with many emails back and forth, as we told tales, hatched plans and got excited about the little things. I looked forward to these emails and the relationship they enabled. We realised that the Portsmouth church they were marrying in had been my Father-in-Laws first parish as a man of the cloth in which my husband had been christened as a bairn (pre-beard). She told stories of the arts and crafts sweat shop that had been created in her parents house. I delighted.
Then came the day itself, promising rain but delivering none. And oh was it done well.
The small church ceremony in the prettiest little church full of my family's history was followed by small family dinner filled with photos of Fi and Nick's family's histories (with a fair few family heirlooms making their way into the outfits). The Fat Olives, a 17th century fishing cottage come award winning restaurant, was small enough to be filled by this merry band (along with the first showing of sweat shop labour), and my inner "famous five" secretly delighted that this place had once been used by smugglers. I'd worried that I might be an intrusion at this point, one amongst nineteen, but instead the family seemed to accept me in as one of them (aided by the diplomatic convoy of some very engaging niblings*). I was even treated to some rather excellent sea bass. The folk at The Fat Olives are to be commended for their very attentive food and delicious service.
*non gender specific noun for nieces and nephews.
Then, after gallivanting about the harbour with the (still beaming) bride and groom, the unconventional timetable allowed for a afternoon break for all. Family made their way to their B&B's, I nestled down in the car for some radio 4 and a wee nap, before making the drive to Chichester for the evenings festivities.
After a quick photo op at the hotel we walked to the next hosts of the day, the rather wonderful Amelie and Friends. Here a wider band of merry souls had gathered for a celebratory jamboree, and since they were fresh to the party there was new energy for all. The arts and crafts had their time to shine, with bunting and lanterns sprucing up the heated outdoor courtyard and photos, dress-up boxes and a rather spectacular cake dressing the inside. The Michelin starred chef did not disappoint and the staff were wonderful in their playful attentiveness. Shapes were thrown (prizes go to the niblings for their abounding energy and faultless moves), sharpie pens were put to their favourite use (ask one - they'll whisper softly that drawing finger-tashes is what they were born for). I hardly noticed the time go by as I watched these new faces delight in having a good time.
And now it is over, the arts and crafts have been packed away, the niblings have gone home to play with me no more. But I have at least had the delight of putting together the photos which have made me genuinely happy in a week of cold, conjunctivitis and rain.
Hugest congratulations Fi and Nick, I hope you're having fun, and praise be that it was indeed you that I was meeting.
All images ©KateCooperPhotography2012