My friend, Miss Adebisi Data Adekunle (Bisi), has changed her name to Mrs Michael New as a result of committing matrimony with Mr Michael Edward New. I can just imagine her, when he inadvertantly displeases her, exclaiming ‘Oh M.E.N!’
I first met Bisi at a green-tinged gathering at Sturminster Newton about 5 years ago, being introduced by our mutual friend Jane o’Meara. Besides being part of the green community, Bisi, like me, is a member of the LETSystem, the North Dorset Chapter, and a beekeeper, not just here but abroad.
She lives on an acre of smallholding in the middle of Gillingham (that’s Gillingham with a hard ‘G’ in Dorset, not the softly led Kentish one) in a house that was converted to a pair of cottages when the Chantry, that it had been, was dissolved in Tudor times and there she has a few hives. She is also responsible, through Bees Abroad, for about 100 top bar hives in Cameroon and her native Nigeria.
Bisi is into the ‘Slow Food’ movement and we started to collaborate on a book of ‘Slow Beekeeping’ but it has run into the sand rather. On one occasion she treated me to a day’s cooking lesson in woodland where we foraged for firewood and greenstuff, and, under guidance, roast a leg of venison on a spit over an open fire, at the same time preparing and cooking a simple form of bread in which to wrap it with wild garlic etc. Later we cooked nettle and blue cheese quiche; made a smoker from biscuit tins and smoked and ate mackerel caught that morning by some of our group, and ate bread cooked in a clay oven. That was good day!
The wedding was at St Michael’s Church, Highworth, about 100 miles from me. Those who read my Facebook page will already be aware that I was concerned about ironing my shirt before going, especially as the iron is a bit waxy from having last been used to apply beeswax to planks of wood. I’m anti-ironing anyway as it is a pointless waste of electricity. I decided to compromise, carefully ironing collar, cuffs and front of the rumpled linen shirt from the reverse side in case any wax escaped. It worked.
I set off early and, with the aid of my GPS, arrived at the Wrag Golf Club, where the Reception was to be held at 2pm: an hour to spare. I was guided to the upper room where it was to be and there deposited my wedding present: a straw skep to which I had attached, with a white ribbon, a wedding card. I was the first there.
Thence into the town where I found a free car park! I popped into the public toilet and stripped myself of my woolly jumper, donning instead the jacket of my suit and a lurid tie, a present from my granddaughters. I walked up the main street and was impressed by the masses of small independent shops and that there were about 8 pubs within about a furlong. This helps confirm what they have found elsewhere in small towns: free parking attracts trade and keeps shops open!
I found the Church, but before entering, as I had plenty of time in hand, I sought a geocache on the other side of the road. Unfortunately, besuited and conspicuous and, it being Saturday afternoon, there were too many muggles around to do a thorough search, and, as it didn’t leap into my hand, I abandoned the search without success.
People were starting to move into the Church so I followed. There were a couple of Moss Brossed chaps in the porch handing out service sheets and the taller said ‘Hello. Michael’. I responded, uttering my own name and it was several seconds later that I realised that he was the groom! I walked over to what I presumed to be the Bride’s side and confirmed, by asking somebody there, that it was. I chose an empty pew about 2/3 of the way back. Gradually the Church started filling up, with most people coming in family groups, making me feel a little lonely. I shuffled aside and, before long, was joined by a couple of ladies; the nearer was from Gillingham and named Jo.
Three o’ clock arrived and the Groom and Best Man assumed their position and waited. After the statutory 3 minutes, Bisi arrived, not through the south door where we had entered but from the west, where she must have been lurking all along, under the bell tower. She was clad in white, as was to be expected, and was followed by bridesmaids who had to walk several yards behind to wield and field her extended veil/train, parading up the aisle to Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.
The Vicar, the Rev Geoff Sowden, welcomed us and we sang Jerusalem. Maybe the Church was too big, the acoustics too poor, or the strange folk from Wiltshire ( I think that’s where Huntsworth is) don’t sing aloud like we Do’set fo’k do but there wasn’t the volume one would expect from that hymn in a full Church.
The Vicar went through the formalities; ‘Do you, Bisi….’ etc, followed by ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ and readings from Old and New Testaments. The Vicar sermonised, mentioning that there were 100 odd people there. I commented aloud they we weren’t ALL odd, but I don’t think he heard. There were a couple of prayers, including The Beekeeper’s Blessing’ read by members of the congregation.
The concluding hymn was ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’, an opportunity for all to let rip and bellow, but the congregation was so wimpy that the Vicar interrupted after the first verse asking for a hands up of those who were familiar with it. Few were. Nevertheless the encouragement did increase the volume a bit, with my neighbour, Jo, and I bellowing our best.
Then came the signing of the Registers. The organist abandoned his instrument and, instead, played a piano. The tune was unfamiliar to me but very enticing. I guess, from the style, that it is by the composer Ludovici Einaudi (if spelt that way). If you read this, Bisi, can you let me know what it was please? I’d like to get the record.
After the service we grouped outside for photographs: fortunately the rain held off at that time although it was breezy. Some people threw confetti. I had brought some, more traditional, rice to throw but unfortunately had forgotten my can opener. Then I had to remember where I had left my car and drive myself back to the Golf Club for the Reception. The table for presents now was well filled but all the others were wrapped. There was a board on which the seating plan was displayed, each table identified by a bunch of flowers. I had been allocated ‘Forget-me-nots’ and when I saw the age of my companions thereat I realised why! I was probably the youngest there! I don’t think that Bisi has that cruel a sense of humour so I shall blame Michael unless and until corrected! We all had our names at our allocated seats inscribed on paper that had been impregnated with bee-friendly wild flower seeds, just as our invitations had been. We are to tear them up, put the pieces in flower pots with compost and plant out when growth is under way. That’s a brilliant idea!
Close to me at table were: Cindy, a lady originally from the USA but hasn’t been back for a quarter century, and who would like to keep bees but doesn’t, although others do in her garden; the well-known Pam Gregory, who was a Bee Inspector in Wales under the late John Atkinson’s leadership and who now works with Bees Abroad; her husband John who is more into sheep but does keep bees and enjoys the travel opportunities of carrying Pam’s bags; Mary and John Home who are also busy with Bees Abroad. Mary, sat next to me, told me that her husband concentrates on the beekeeping while she, as a former nurse, concentrates on the medical aspects of bee products, especially propolis, and in adding value to other hive products, especially wax which is usually discarded as a waste product.
Bisi arrived, having changed raiment to something white and lacy. I don’t think she has ever looked so attractive! The effect was somewhat spoilt as, together with her female relatives, she had entered a ‘funny hat’ competition! She won in terms of size with a gold convoluted creation that was as wide as herself, but there was stiff competition from people with better colours and steeper shapes.
It was speech time, led by Bisi’s uncle, on his first visit to the UK, clad in a very smart green jacket and a brown Trilby. There was lots of humour and Mickey taking in the speeches, which got us all chortling and broke all ice. Food started arriving, brought by a chain of waiters, one of whom told me that the Vicar had under-estimated: there were 140 of us present. Pea soup; part of a roast chicken with magic mushrooms (or similar!) aspargus, new potatoes etc; Cape Gooseberry atop a yoghourty paste of the same flavour; coffee and chocolate. This was accompanied by a selection of wines (as a driver I sipped at a small glass of red and then switched to apple/pear juice) .
Then the music started: a celeidh band who got many people up and dancing. Time had marched by and I had a two and a half hour journey ahead of me, so I sought out Bisi to say ‘Goodbye’. She excitedly told me that Chris had given a skep as a present. I pointed out that I was that Chris. Oops! She had thought it was another Chris! I’m glad she likes it and hopes she uses it. I said my ‘goodbyes’ and left, arriving home at almost midnight, my mileometer passing the 144,444 mark on the way. I’ve been writing this blog ever since and it’s almost three! Can I go to bed now?