Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A very special day

You'll have read references to the Angels in these pages. Well, one of the Angels made the headlines at the weekend as we all held our breath to see whether Gemma would make it to the church on time. Happily she did - well, nearly on time - and even more happily (from my point of view, anyway) I was there to see this joyous event. Gemma's new husband Simon has also featured on this blog occasionally, not least because he's one of the Newmarket Equine Hospital vets and sometimes makes an appearance in the stable if our regular vet, his colleague David Dugdale, is otherwise detained. So, knowing and liking very much both participants in this wedding, I was delighted to be on the guest list as it was lovely to be present for their happy day. And happy day it really was: they'd both put a lot of thought into the occasion to make it as special an occasion as possible for all involved, and that includes the guests, so it turned out to be a weekend filled with warmth and joy.

Real warmth, in fact, because Gemma had planned everything to a tee, and that turned out to include ensuring that the middle weekend in October saw conditions in the west country that would have done July proud. The wedding took place in St Mawes, which is on the south coast of Cornwall, on the east bank of the mouth of the Fal estuary. This was more or less my first visit to Cornwall (I do recall going to Cornwall on a day trip from Devon when I was a child, but this was certainly the first time I'd ever spent a night in that county) and I saw it at its very best: not only did the wedding take place in what must be one of the most special places in even that special county, but it also took place in idyllic weather. The wedding took place at noon on Sunday, and as St Mawes is a 7-hour drive from Newmarket, the obvious plan of campaign was for Emma and I to drive to my father's house in east Devon on the Saturday afternoon (we should, of course, have been going via Cheltenham, but Ex Con's scratching knocked that one on the head) and then drive on the last 110 miles to St Mawes on Sunday morning. That night saw the first proper frost of the autumn and, with the skies thus clear, Sunday dawned without a cloud in the sky and, incredibly, that set the tone for the whole day: brilliant sunshine and a clear blue sky, with temperatures consequently shooting up to what I'd guess were the low 20s. Absolute perfection. The view of and out of St Mawes castle in which the wedding took place was breath-taking, with the castle's garden being the perfect setting for the post-race photographs. The ceremony itself had been lovely, spoilt only by the idiot (whom modesty forbids me to name) whose phone went off as Simon was making his vows (but I have apologised to them both for ruining their wedding). Such was the feeling of good will, though, that I was made to feel as if I'd been forgiven, and could enjoy the rest of the day with a semi-clear conscience. I'd always been told about Cornwall being a paradise of natural history, and these photographs of the garden show that this is indeed true: amazing to have so many flowers out still in the middle of October, including a few rhododendron flowers, which we seem to lose by the middle of June on this side of the country. For Emma and I, this was the icing on the cake as we had already had a good dose of beauty on the way down, having taken the scenic route, driving over Dartmoor from Moretonhampstead to Tavistock, sharing the moor in its full sunny splendour with the cows, sheep and ponies with whom we managed to avoid colliding on the journey. With the wedding's reception then being held in what is unquestionably the nicest hotel I've ever been in - the Hotel Tresanton, just down from the castle and overlooking the sea - and with the weather remaining perfect right until the sun had sunk below the sea, with nightfall being followed by a firework display over the bay, the day was just spot-on. Previously my best encounter with Cornwall had been through the pages of a novel, 'Summer in February', which is set in Cornwall and is a very moving tale of an episode supposedly in the life of Sir Alfred Munnings. There is a scene in the book (the scene from which the title is derived) when winter breaks to produce a glorious summer's day for a very special occasion in an idyllic spot, and that is what I kept thinking of throughout Sunday because that is what happened for the wedding. With winter looming, Sunday's conditions would have been a gift from God to treasure anyway, but to spend such a day in a place which is close to heaven on earth, and to do so sharing Gemma's and Simon's joy, was very, very special indeed.

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