At the parental home, in Yorkshire, I am discussing the arrangements for my upcoming wedding with my mother over a cup of tea. The date we have opted for is June 9th. I realise with a jolt that I have forgotten to send out any invitations whatsoever. We haven’t even decided whether to tie the knot in a church or a registry office. Or indeed booked anything. There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that it will be taking place in England though. An odd choice to have made, as I actually prefer the idea of a civil wedding in a mairie in France, me wearing a fabulous, but non-wedding like, frock, Mr Frog in a Hedi Slimane suit and Tadpole by our side, wearing flowers in amongst her curls.
Panic surges from my stomach to my chest and then flutters against my ribcage like a moth trapped in a lamp. OH MY GOD! It seemed such a long way off, and now, suddenly, the wedding is imminent. And NOTHING is ready!
We are discussing wedding catering with a sour-faced lady dressed in a pink viscose suit. The poor woman is trapped in the eighties: her suit even has shoulder pads. You can see a dent between where her shoulders end and the padding begins.
The catalogue she is clutching between chipped fuchsia fingernails reads “Pamela Keates’ Wedding Treats”. She opens her ‘portfolio’ (as she calls it) to a page showing a photograph of cheese and pineapple cubes on cocktail sticks, ingeniously stuck into a grapefruit covered in tin-foil.
I am inwardly weighing up the pros and cons of having a break in the wedding proceedings so that people can go out and buy their own dinner and then return later for a party. I can’t afford to feed everyone, and if I can’t do it properly, I say firmly to my mother, who has reappeared looking at least twenty years younger, then I’d rather not do it at all. There will be no cheese and pineapple on sticks at any wedding of mine. Although I quite fancy one now, if the lady has any samples on her.
I am sitting in a church wearing a horrible fluffy, meringue-like wedding dress in a cheap, white crinkly fabric. My legs itch. It looks like one I saw in a dodgy bargain shop I spied from a bus once at La Chapelle, where nylon wedding dresses and satellite dishes were sold side by side. A winning combination.
I can smell the familiar scent of my father’s pipe, so he must be around somewhere, waiting impatiently to give me away. The tobacco smell reminds me of car journeys when I was younger. I suffered from motion sickness, and the pipe smoke nauseated me even further. But it’s ten years since he’s touched that pipe, so he must be very stressed indeed today. Not a good sign.
From my vantage point seated in the choir stalls, I can see the vicar, who is motioning to me from inside the open vestry. I don’t understand what he is trying to tell me, so I smile and wave. I am feeling pleased because there are fellow bloggers in the congregation who have come to my weddding from afar and even agreed to do readings during the service. I do hope Anna won’t say “cunty” in front of my mum.
I resolve to get changed out of my dress as soon as the church part is over, mentally scouring my wardrobe for something suitable, but worried that the only nice things are probably in the washing basket or the ironing pile. As usual.
Suddenly I hear a jingle for the BNP bank playing over the speakers, with accompaniment from the church organist for added dramatic effect. I realise that the priest must have been trying to ask me whether I minded him playing ads over the PA system at the start and finish of his service. I cower behind my veil in shame and horror. I was under the impression that we had paid an extra fee so that there would be no commercial breaks.
I turn to Mr Frog to see if he is angry with me for allowing his profession to encroach on “our special day” ™, but actually the person sitting next to me is no longer Mr Frog, it is my first ever boyfriend. His skin hasn’t cleared up yet, so it must still be 1990. Which means that he must be seventeen, as must I. The church suddenly feels gloomier, the damp walls closing in. I am having trouble breathing.
* * * *
I wake up, to the sound of ambulance sirens in the street below and Tadpole chanting “Nee Naw Nee Naw Nee Naw” from her bedroom.
I turn to Mr Frog, still grappling to shake off the residual feeling of panic : “I had an awful nightmare.”
“What was it this time?” he murmurs, sleepily.
“I was getting married,” I say.
“Oh. Who to?”