Tea at Cheltenham station
As you may have seen on Facebook, Tea and I went to a wedding in Telford last weekend; we basically spent a day or so unpacking, and then it was off to catch a train. (We're much farther along as I type this, of course; the guest room is still a bit of a mess, but the other rooms are coming together.)
That's Welsh along the bottom
Taking the train worked really well. I'll just take a moment to highlight parts of ride there and back:
- I hadn't really thought about how close we are to Wales 'til I saw the signs on the train (see right).
- On the first leg to Birmingham, we both commented on how roomy the seats were; turned out we were in the elderly seating, for lack of a better term -- we couldn't recall any dirty looks from passing seniors, thankfully -- and found ourselves in more typical seating for the final leg to Telford.
- Just before the train left Birmingham, two kids hopped on and started acting a bit strangely; almost like they wished they could melt into those last seats on the last car. Any time anyone in a uniform walked by, they pretended to be sleeping. Anyway, when it came time to present our tickets, I caught something out of the corner of my eye that Tea couldn't confirm: it looked like they couldn't produce any tickets, and that, as a result, the official had snatched the closer kid's backpack off his lap and left the car (presumably to stow it in the back of the train). I found myself wondering if it was now collateral or something. Either way, the kids seemed to cut their losses in Telford, leaving the train as fast as they could.
- To jump ahead a bit, on the ride back we saw someone buy their ticket on the train -- from the ticket-punching gentleman -- so, presumably, those two kids didn't have any money either.
- Finally, on that same train -- Telford to Birmingham this time -- we had to stand in that space outside the seating area of the car because it was so busy. We'd heard about the spotty train service on Sundays -- there's a legendary story about a train being cancelled because the wrong kind of leaves were on the track -- but their using a three-car train versus the typical four-car one was the only problem we encountered. Well, that and the prize-winning rabbit we were sharing that small space with. That's right: big flowery first-prize ribbon on the carrying case like I've only seen in the movies; some farm show or other. Anyway, suffice to say that I've confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm extremely allergic to them now, as I was starting to have difficulty breathing as we pulled into Birmingham. Luckily we got seats on the final leg home -- next to a family with a dog, as good as could be under the little table between them; he was pretty big too. I love how animal friendly everything is over here.
Maggie, Ellie and Lola (up front)
Tea's two uncles -- one who was visiting from Newfoundland (Mick), and one who lives in Telford and was the father of the groom (Robbie) -- met us at the train station. It was a short walk to the hotel bar across the parking lot, where the men were awaiting the arrival of the ladies. A few rounds later, they arrived, and with barely a word, whisked Tea away for the rest of the evening. Then it was off to Robbie 'n' the boys' local (pub) for more rounds. I tried my darnedest to buy one, but it seemed like every new face that showed up: a) knew Robbie 'n' the gang, and b) knew what we were all drinking and had it expertly balanced in their hands. It was a fight to pay for the cab home, which was Robbie and Tea's aunt's home, incidentally; they put us and others up -- so many, in fact, that they actually moved next door for the two nights. Salt of the earth, these people; we had such a good time. (They also have two beautiful dogs, two cats and they were looking after the bride and groom's dog, Lola, as well as someone's snake -- it was a zoo!)
Ironbridge Power Station
We had a great time at the wedding as well. The ceremony and reception were both held at the beautiful Telford Golf and Spa Hotel. The grounds and the surrounding countryside were simply breathtaking; I found my eyes wandering out over it again and again as we first sat outside before the ceremony, and later went out for pictures.
I'll finish this up with a few somewhat random observations:
- There seemed to be a lot more drinking than dancing going on at the reception, but I've since been told that that depends on the personalities involved (much like back home) as opposed to anything particularly British.
- The music was nearly identical to what you'd hear at a similar occasion back home, with the exception of very few slow songs -- and, man, was it loud, which probably contributed to the crowd at the bar outside the hall (see my first point).
- 'Hats' are such a big deal here! I put that in quotes because they're often simply a small collection of feathers sticking up on one side of the head or some similar arrangement that provides absolutely no protection from the elements or any other hat-like function, as I see it. (Tea was also shocked by the number of women in stilettos; Robbie said even his sister's slippers have a heel. :-) )
- Finally, that golf ball to the right was the main prop in a game that apparently started on the stag: basically, if you find it in your pint, you have to down it in a go, but then you control the golf ball. Robbie got it so many times that he eventually had to retire it -- hence the 'prison' in the picture -- that, and many of his potential victims started buying bottled beer to avoid it -- but my favourite story about the golf ball involved Lee, a brother of the groom: he came into the hall with a couple of pints, and Steve, a good friend of Robbie's, plunked it in one of them before Lee knew what hit him. Being a good sport, Lee handed the clear pint to Steve and proceeded to slam back the other, and, in the blink of an eye, recovered and fired the ball into the pint Steve was holding... for him. :-D Steve said the look on Lee's face was priceless.