There’s literally no place like home

In February, I wrote about house-hunting and my addiction to rightmove.

Six months ago we were unsuspecting, innocent, trusting, property hunting virgins. Wide eyed and bushy tailed, we were excited about our grand home-buying quest.

Fast forward half a year and our arduous search has almost destroyed us; we are broken shadows of our former selves. Weak from smiling politely at ugly houses, tiny houses, next to a dual carriageway houses, no central heating because “we really love night storage heaters” houses. Exhausted from meeting hundreds of besuited, smarmy Estate Agents who are almost young enough to be our children and think that 1997 was the ‘olden days’. We are so over moving and we haven’t even moved yet.

We have encountered melamine kitchen cabinets circa 1982, yellowing tobacco stained paintwork and gardens covered in dog poo. We have seen houses with grass growing in the lounge (and not even the grass that would chill us out enough to ignore trippy swirly brown carpets). We have been deceived by sneaky photography and imaginative property descriptions. Yes, every property has ‘potential to improve’, but I’ll be honest, if it’s got no sodding roof, I’m not going to buy it.

Estate Agents are persistent little rascals*. I swear to God, I had a borderline stalker ex-boyfriend who called me less frequently. They are so bloody needy, constantly looking for feedback which is ‘invaluable to the vendor’. Poppycock! All the vendor wants to know is “Do you want to buy my house because I’m sick and tired of cleaning every bastard room and having to hide my freshly washed pants that were happily drying on the radiator”

*apparently I’m not allowed to call them c***s (Mum or Dad if you’re reading this, the hidden word is ‘clowns’).

What is the point of telling someone that I don’t want to buy their house because of their ‘intimate and cosy’ (Estate Agent Translation guide: Teeny tiny) garden? What are they going to do about it? Seller: “I know that the garden is a bit on the poky side, but if you buy my house, I’ll chuck in the garden next door for free”.

Or how about a scenario when the house is great but we’re not sure about location. Will the vendor pick the house up and move it two miles down the road? Of course not! I live in one of the most expensive locations to buy property in England, moving a house two miles down the road has the potential to add about £50k to the asking price. Do you not think if they could move the house, they’d have done it before putting it on the market?

We have discovered that by far the worst thing about house-hunting is the one that got away. There have been three properties that we could picture ourselves living in (despite the fact that we’ve viewed about 73 of the suckers) but only one that we actually put an offer in on.

Just like the time I innocently wrote my first love letter to a boy at school, it has all gone spectacularly wrong.  The boy broke my heart dramatically (I can’t speak for 11 year old boys nowadays but back in the eighties, they were bloody ruthless. The object of my affection mercilessly rebuffed my advances and then showed the entire class my handwritten declaration of affection). 27 years later, in similar style to the great love letter debacle of 1989, I naively trusted an Estate Agent and have ended up with a house shaped hole in my heart.

Rather like my schoolgirl crush, despite the devastating rejection, I am absolutely convinced that I can never give my heart to another. I’ve tried looking but nothing compares. It feels like I was promised a date with Matthew McConaughey but following a last minute change of plan I had to go out with Steve Buscemi instead. I mean I’m sure Steve’s a perfectly good egg but he just doesn’t have the “immaculately presented” “abundance of individual features” “warm and welcoming feel” that Matthew does…

The search continues.

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“Holy Shitballs we’re about to get married”

That, ladies and gentlemen, was what was written in big letters on our fridge at the beginning of October. That was the point we were at. We had reached the ‘holy shitballs’ level of panic.

The problem with wedding planning is that for 90% of the time, the only thing you need to do is to respond to the question: “So how’s the wedding planning going?”  with: “Yeah, really well thanks” and then you have about ten minutes to do ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD OF WEDDINGS.

The seating plan for example, caused a massive amount of stress. We had days worth of conversations like this:

“Why don’t we put Guest A and Guest B on the table with Guest Y and Guest Z?”

“But then what about Guest L? They can’t be without Guest A and Guest B because otherwise they won’t know anyone.”

“Oh yeah. Bollocks”

“Ooh, I’ve got this. If we move Guests N, O and P, we can put Guests Y and Z with Guests C, D and E and then Guests N, O and P can sit with Guests A and B?”

“By Jove, I think you’ve cracked it… hold on”

*stares intently at table plan which is by now a dog eared piece of paper covered in crossings out and expletives*

“We forgot Guests J and K. They are now sitting at a table on their own”

“Holy mother of God. Why is this so difficult?”

*splashes Tippex all over the table plan dramatically*

“That’s it. I’ve had enough. Can’t we get some long trestle tables and just plonk everyone in a line?”

“They could just all stand up?”

“To eat soup?”

*exasperated sigh*

By the time we reached Wedding Eve (like Christmas Eve but with fewer reindeer jumpers) we had this attitude:

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“Ahhh..We don’t seem to have enough napkins.” “Oops, I’ve spelt this dude’s name wrong on the seating plan.” “Oh man, the ink in the fancy pants pen has run out.” “Erm…I appear to have broken a glass.”

I DON’T CARE.

GIVE ME WINE.

***

And then the wedding happened.

6 October 2016 flew past in an awesome blur of joy, relief, delight, pride, happiness and…ahem… Prosecco.

You will all be pleased to hear that Brad eventually got himself a suit and did not have to say his vows starkers. The lovely staff at Next managed to remain incredibly professional when we went in, scarily near to the wedding date, to pick Brad’s outfit. One lady in particular put on a twinkly customer service smile and told me about the time that a best man came into the store on the day of the wedding to buy his suit. Unfortunately, Brad took this to mean that he was some sort of hero because he’d nailed his suit purchase a whole two weeks earlier than the lastminute.com best man.

Brad’s usual outfit of choice would be some sort of sportswear, and I mean comfortable tracksuit type sportswear, he’s not one for physical exertion if he can possibly help it. So I confess that seeing him all smartly dressed was really very special for me.

Men however, respond differently it would seem.  Upon seeing me in my wedding finery, my Dad, who is not known for grand displays of affection said “Alright? Have I got the right time? Do you want me now?”…. pause (where he seems to suddenly realise that I’m in a fancy frock about to be wed)…”You look nice, Jo”. Mind you, that is pretty dramatic sentiment for my old man.

I cried my way through my vows. To clarify, I was overcome with happy emotions not forcibly entered into an arranged marriage.

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Uh-oh, she’s going to cry…

The problem with crying of course is that it is highly contagious, particularly amongst the female of the species. If there is a wobbly lip or anything resembling a sob, however joyful the reason, you can guarantee an epidemic of tears, Mexican wave stylee; a Mexican weep if you will.

Once the formalities were over and everyone who needed to had double checked that their mascara was as waterproof as it claimed to be, it was time to eat, drink, be photographed 746 times before being merry and it’s fair to say that we had a ball.

My Nan, who is over ninety, took quite a shine to my new father-in-law. Flirting is a timeless skill it would seem, the minx. Not sure that her flirting technique of telling him how old she is “I’m ninety two you know” and getting it wrong; she’s ninety three, is going to catch on, but got to give her credit for trying.

My seven year old niece and flower girl extraordinaire caught the bouquet, much to the horror of both her Dad and my twenty eight* year old bridesmaid who was about fifteen seconds away from rugby tackling the poor girl and snatching the bouquet out of her tiny hands

*she wishes

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Bouquet throwing action shot

Wedding vows aside, we smiled all day long. Our faces hurt from grinning at each other, our amazing families and our fabulous friends and if we’re being really honest, also from knowing that we never have to write another sodding seating plan ever again.

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Wedstress

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Last night I dreamt that it was the day before our wedding and Brad’s Mum was decorating the venue. In my dream the room in which we were getting married looked like my old school hall and even had the long black felt curtains that hung either side of the stage. Brad’s Mum had tried to pull the ancient, moth-holey curtains together but they didn’t quite meet in the middle so she’d creatively placed a Christmas tree in the gap. When I walked into the room and spotted the unseasonal offering, Brad’s Mum, noticing the horrified expression on my face, exclaimed brightly “I’ve decorated it in your wedding colours” as if that was going to make up for the bloody great festive monstrosity taking pride of place at a wedding in October.

This is my current life; panicked dreams about the wedding venue, Facebook posts about finding a florist (yeah, the florist is in the same camp as the wedding invites; they’re sitting together chilling out around the fire, toasting marshmallows and wondering when Brad and I are going to show up), conversations about confetti and suits and rings and what the bloody hell kind of music we should play when we sign the register (the most recent song I had to veto was “I’m too sexy” by Right Said Fred. See what I have to work with?).

Yesterday, instead of watching an episode from our current boxset whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears as only a soon-to-be-married couple should be, we were talking about our top table.

This is no mean feat for us because we have a shit load of parents. Honestly, we take parent numbers to a whole new level, you won’t be able to move at the wedding for people whose answer to the question “How do you know the Bride and Groom?” will be “I am/I live with one of their parents.”

Both of our sets of parents are divorced and all of them are remarried or have new partners. We love them all but you just can’t fit 8 parents, 2 best men and a bride and groom on a top table without the table having to snake around the room like some sort of abstract human dado rail.

We gave up the conversation after about 20 minutes and went back to the box set sweet nothings. Well, we’ve got seven weeks to worry about the seating arrangements, it’ll be fine…

***

Table plan: “Is anyone sitting here?”
Wedding invites: “Nah, buddy you’re fine. Grab a beer, Florist has just gone to get some more marshmallows.”