Our plan once we’d signed the register and the wedding photo’s were out of the way, was to hot foot it over to Glasgow and get on with our honeymoon. We’d booked into the same hotel (The Radisson) that we stayed at on our first ever visit to Glasgow back in October 2005. Romance huh, this stuff doesn’t just happen you know, it’s all thought through.
Well sort of, since despite my best efforts I kept drawing a blank when trying to find a suitable restaurant for our wedding meal. We’d imagined somewhere old-fashioned, grand, chandeliers, lots of flowers, white tablecloths you know the sort of thing. Despite having been to Glasgow a few times we’d never really found a decent place to eat anything other than fast food, and I was hitting a wall with every restaurant I checked out on-line. I think us both being vegetarian didn’t really help matters much. Three course meals for people that don’t eat meat are usually a bit thin on the ground. So in the end, more out of desperation than anything else, I phoned The Radisson and asked their advice. No one knows more about Glasgow than a local was my thinking.
The woman on reception thought through my quandary for a moment before declaring that she knew the perfect place. What’s more it was right slap-bang next door. Which meant that we wouldn’t have to stagger through the streets of Glasgow dressed up like a couple of abuse magnets.
“Vegetarian food?” I double checked, “good atmosphere, romantic?”
“Oh yes, yes, very. Perfect for what you’re wanting.”
Joy of joys. Local knowledge, you can’t beat it. She even went that extra mile and offered to book a table for us. Wow. After being up to my eyeballs in train/plane/ferry timetables, trying to figure out something clever to inscribe inside my wedding ring and all the other problems exclusively available to those about to tie the knot, I jumped at her offer. Well you would wouldn’t you?
August 9th 2007 felt like one of those days that lasted longer than its allotted twenty-four hours. We spent most of it travelling or hanging out in departure lounges eating plastic food and looking at things we had no interest in buying. There were no direct flights from Copenhagen to Prestwick, so we ended up with a two hour layover at Stansted. If you look at a map that doesn’t make any sense, but what are you going to do? Sometimes there’s no point in stamping your feet and screaming off an angry email. I’m not a good traveller at the best of times, it’s not that I get ill or anything, I just hate all the sitting around. So having to do that twice in one day…
Still it gave us a chance to test each other on the wedding-vow memory game that we’d been playing all summer. Once we eventually staggered out of the airport at Prestwick, it was just a hop, skip and a jump, well taxi, ferry crossing and a short walk to get to our B&B (The Glenartney). We were finally in the little village of Brodick, which with a whopping 621 residents was the most populated place on Arran. It all looked a bit Wicker Man. We’d only just managed to catch the last ferry across, but at least now we could just chill for a while in our room before doing that most basic of human needs, finding food.
Ah yes our room, possibly the smallest double room I’ve ever stayed in. It was like a shoebox, a child’s shoebox. There was a double bed and very little else, no space for trivial things like cases, or chairs, or desks or any of the other things you’d expect from a room advertised as a ‘double’. As with the airport thing though, what are you going to do? There was a bed and a roof. So we were happy. Life became very ‘c’est la vie’ the night before the big day. Even with the nagging feeling that something enormous and problematic was charging towards us, we accepted that it was too late to do anything about it and that we’d just have to take things as they came.
So after a swift shower and with our wedding garb hanging around the room we headed out into the night to explore the village. Brodick as it turned out had amazing views, a stunning coastline and as many old rustic fisherman’s cottages as any right thinking person could wish for. What it didn’t have was much in the way of vegetarian food. “D’ya no eat fash?” was something we quickly got used to hearing. But we found a pub, sank a few glasses of white, ate something forgettable then decided to call it a night. Big day tomorrow and all that.
When we got back to the B&B I bumped into the owner and asked him the whereabouts of the registry office. Turns out it was in the next town over, Lamlash. Righto. I. Did. Not. Know. That. I remember wincing inside to myself. How could I not have known that? Then again I’m famous for booking hotels only to realise once we’ve arrived at our destination that I’ve forgotten to write down the name or the address of them.
“Is there a taxi service on the island?” I asked in my best little boy lost voice.
“Aye, there is.” He replied and I could already tell that he really didn’t want to be dealing with me, or guests, or problems, or people or anything really.
“Great. See the thing is we’re getting married tomorrow morning, is there any chance you could call…”
“No. It’s better that you phone yourself.”
“It’s just that I don’t have any change for the phone.”
“It’s better you phone yourself.” He repeated handing the taxi company’s business card over. Bugger. Quick side note I had a bit of a run in with the same guy the next morning, when I explained to him that we didn’t have any hot water in our room when I got back from booking our taxi. Turns out that keeping the boiler running all night is a waste, so at ten p.m. sharp it’s turned off until the following morning. I bit my tongue, I was off to get married. The Glenartney in Brodick, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So anyway, it turned out that Arran’s taxi company was actually just one sweet old guy, called George. When he picked us up in the morning he chatted away for the whole journey, I can’t for the life of me remember any of what he said other than him referring to Pernilla the whole time as ‘The Boss’. Great bloke.
The registry office itself was a gorgeous old stone cottage next to a gone-to-seed disused gothic church. We were early so made our way in to smooth out any last minute wrinkles. The Michael Nyman CD was handed over along with an explanation about which track we wanted played (Molly from the Wonderland score in case you were wondering), as we walked down the aisle. Then it was back outside for a sneaky fag and run through our vows again until Amanda, our wedding photographer, arrived. Then it was time.
Everything happened so fast, almost double speed, like skipping through a DVD. Albeit a DVD of a stranger’s wedding, which would explain skipping through…it…so…fast… Uh, anyway, we were introduced to our witnesses whose names I immediately forgot, then the doors were flung open and those wonderful low-key Michael Nyman strings began to swell as we walked past row after row of empty seats on our way down the aisle. Both of us clinging to the other as if we were walking on ice with banana-skin shoes. I was a little nervous, Pernilla far more so.
When we finally made it to the big wooden desk, the woman marrying us (yet again her name escapes me), hit stop on the CD player and all of sudden the wonderful heavenly music that we had so carefully picked out all those months before, was no more. No fade, no subtle lowering of the volume, just a brutal edit from the sublime back to real life. The vacuum left behind was huge, like the after-effect of a freshly burst balloon. That’s disappointment number one I thought. I looked at Pernilla and knew she was thinking exactly the same thing. Ho-hum.
After that little shock we were handed our wedding vows all neatly typed up on pieces of paper. I wanted to throw mine down on the desk like some kind of Mexican bandit, along with the proclamation that ‘I didn’t need any sheets of A4’, that it was all up here (I’d tap the side of my head as I said that bit), that I’d ‘learnt the damn thing off by heart during the past three months thank you very much’. I didn’t though. Lucky really, since my memory had decided to hang around outside and I ended up referring to my crib sheet throughout. We got through the ceremony without laughing or crying. My main memory is of Pernilla turning pink around two minutes in.
That was it, we were now man and wife, Pernilla was no longer my girlfriend, she was now my other half, her indoors, the trouble and strife et cetera. She was my wife and I her husband. We kissed, signed the register, and then in a daze shook hands and thanked everyone (the registrar, the two witnesses and Amanda). Then we were outside having our photo’s taken against the backdrop of Holy Isle. It was all happening so fast, I felt like I’d been at the pub for too long and it was probably time to stagger home to bed. There was no time for any of that though as the local paper were there and wanted to know why anyone would travel to their little island to get married. We did our best. We kissed they took some photos and we gave them a brief interview, all the while Amanda kept snapping away in the background.
Then we were in a car heading off to the local country club for a glass of champers and some photos in their grounds. The sky hovered between happiness and surliness all day, but it never rained. Before we knew it we were on the ferry and waving goodbye to Amanda and Arran. During the hour long crossing old women cooed over us, their heads filled with memories of their own weddings no doubt, while behind them their granite faced husbands looked on forlornly, ‘you look happy now son, but just you wait’ their sad eyes said. We sat there in a daze while the womenfolk clucked their congratulations, just soaking everything up. Now finally on our own for the first time in hours, we took the chance to run through what had happened and how we’d perceived it. Then we were on the stern of the ferry and Pernilla was throwing her bouquet backwards over her shoulder into a gaggle of seagulls. None of them managed to catch it and we watched it drown in the Firth of Clyde.
We drew a few stares on the train journey into Glasgow. Us in our wedding outfits, everyone else in their casual Saturday clobber. By the time we arrived at the hotel things become a bit of a blur, no doubt due to the two bottles of champagne we knocked back. We ordered room service, learned that Factory supremo Tony Wilson had died that morning (disappointment number two), kept playing with our wedding rings and reminding each other that we were actually married, as if it was the most amazing thing that any human being had ever achieved. We were drunk.
At around seven p.m. we ambled downstairs to eat. I’d double and triple checked with the reception desk that everything was booked before our arrival. Now I just needed directions to the restaurant, since I’d of course forgotten to write down it's name. Alarm bells started ringing when I was told that we didn’t even need to leave the hotel since there was a connecting door at the far end of the lobby. That didn’t sound good.
So long story short, it turned out to be a tapas bar. We ate our big wedding meal in a tapas bar. Not just any old tapas bar mind you, but a tapas bar in Glasgow with a bunch of lads loudly watching the footie on the flat screen TVs dotted around the place. Oh and just to add insult to injury the only other people eating there had two kids who ran round and around our table, playing some game that seemed to involve a lot of screaming. Do I really need to write ‘disappointment number three’? I thought not. We ate our lacklustre paella (the single vegetarian option on the menu) quickly, the fact that our bloodstream was 50% proof made it easier. We didn’t hang around for desert.
I guess the moral of the story is never leave anything important for other people to sort out, especially strangers. I fucked up, pure and simple. Not only that but I dropped the ball on one of the more important aspects of the day. But there you go, these things happen, and what felt like a throw yourself from the highest tower block moment then is something we chuckle about now. The up side to all that is that we make a bit of an effort for our anniversary each year. Especially when it comes to where we eat.
Anyway, as bad as all that was it's nothing compared to what happened to us on our honeymoon, but that’s a whole other story for another time.