In my Versatile Blogger post yesterday I mentioned my bargain husband and my red wedding dress. There was a request to see the dress and, as I need little excuse to show it off, I have included pictures in today’s post.
The dress deserves showcasing at any opportunity as it cost me some time and many pennies! I should never have tried it on in the dress agency in the first place because I knew I couldn’t afford it.
I spent months and months attempting to find a cheaper alternative (mostly on ebay) until, only weeks before the wedding, I decided it had to be this one (I wasn’t a precious bride, I promise you, it was just the thing that mattered to me. Only I didn’t have £1100). I contacted all the dress sellers that stocked it until I found someone who would offer me a significant discount, even with the extra cost to have it made express.
When I finally tried it on, I sobbed (much to the irritation of the snotty dress woman), because it wasn’t how I remembered it the last time I wore it, nearly a year before.
The original sample I tried on was huge and I thought it had a ballroom skirt. Actually it’s A-line. My mother saved the day by putting rucks into it so I could fit a huge net underneath. We had to fight with the dress lady to stop her hemming it, so there would be enough material to cover the white underskirt. I also sewed straps onto the boddice because I’m not a strapless sort of girl. My ‘wedding shoes’ were tatty, clumpy black mules because a) there was no money left and b) you couldn’t see them under the dress, so why not be comfortable?
Anyway, apologies, that’s probably really boring unless you’re about to get married (Anushka, I hope your dress is proving less stressful!). I still have the dress in the cupboard although I never paid to have it cleaned so it’s probably rotting from the goose poo that covered the meadow where we had our pictures taken. I’m too scared to look. I tried the top on a few years ago and it fits better round a leg than my tum these days. But who knows, one day my daughter may wear it to her own fairy princess ball…
Back to Claire. I’m sorry if the story has lost some of its drive. I’ve reached the dreaded 20k-word dip. I need to sit and have a think about where my plot is going, but right now I’m immersed in Jungle party props, jungle cakes and party games. I’m also still waiting for my YHA membership to turn up in the post so I can get a guide-book. Maybe they know I’m writing about them and don’t want to send it to me…
“Really? A single room is cheaper than the dorm? … Yes! I mean, yes please can I book the single room. … Is there snow where you are? Sat Nav has me driving over some hills by the look of it. … Oh, okay. Thanks. I’ll see you soon.”
Claire hung up the phone and smiled. Her eyes felt heavy after a broken night and her ears still buzzed with the sound of drunken snoring that had droned on from the time the girls got in until she finally fled the room at 6am. But a quick search on the YHA website had revealed Byrness. The hostel wasn’t the nearest, but as the nearest was either Wooler – closed – or Mounthooley Bunkhouse – a remote shepherd’s cottage – the choice was simple. It helped that Byrness was more a B&B than a hostel, offering breakfast and dinner. And now, like an end-of-year bonus, they had a single room available that was cheaper than the dorm.
Maybe I won’t ring Carl and quit just yet.
Claire had stuffed all her things in her rucksack when she’d stalked from the room while the girls were still comatose. She’d had to wait in the chilly lounge for nearly two hours until she could hand back her key. By the time reception opened Claire had composed seven different resignation letters and was trying to decide on her favourite.
She had narrowed the choice down to three, one of which was a career-ending two-word sentence, when she heard movement behind reception and went to check out. She hoped there was someone new on the desk instead of the cheery man who had checked her in the day before. The gods, it seemed, were on their coffee break.
“Ah, good morning Ms Carleton. I hope you slept well.”
Claire wondered if his head tipped back like a puppet when he smiled that widely. The thought made her shudder.
“You can hope, if you like. It won’t make it true.”
“Oh? Nothing wrong I trust?” The man behind reception frowned much as someone might to a small child who had dropped their lollypop in a puddle.
“Nothing that a curfew wouldn’t fix.”
The man tilted his head and looked at Claire with innocent puzzlement. She found she didn’t have the energy to explain.
“I’m driving to Byrness today, will the snow affect me?”
“Depends what you’re driving. The roads don’t climb too high but they won’t be cleared except by traffic. Might be a bit hairy in places.”
Claire thought about the Skoda parked in the local car park. How it lost its rear end on a tiny patch of ice if she so much as touched the accelerator.
I want my all-wheel-drive Audi back. Maybe my luck will return and someone will have stolen the heap of junk in the night, though goodness knows why they would.
Weighing up the options of another night with the party girls and a tricky drive of forty miles through the snow Claire knew there was no decision to be made. How bad can it be?
“Thank you for the information. I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’m not in any hurry; their reception is open until 10am.”
“There isn’t much to do in Byrness, I wouldn’t rush.”
Claire sniggered internally, not wanting to offend the jolly man in front of her. Inside her mind the words Like there’s so much going on in this provincial hole fought to be heard.
“I have a good book, I’ll be fine.”
An hour later Claire cursed her blasé attitude to snow. The route might not climb but it had no shelter either. It marched across open land, without so much as a low hedge to prevent the snow icing the road like a wedding cake. Claire peered through the windscreen at the road ahead. All was white. The bonnet of the car, the road in front, the fields to either side. The only things telling her she was still on the road at all were the twin-tracks in front of her and the red line of the sat nav.
Please let them not be leading me to some random farm.
Ten o’clock had come and gone by the time Claire steered her skating car to the chequered flag of her Final Destination. She guided her four-wheeled sled into a side road and came gratefully to a stop. Her hands were shaking and her eyes itched with the strain of concentration. She barely noticed the cold or the numbness of her fingers but she could practically taste Earl Grey tea in the back of her throat.
Still everything was white. Claire forced her aching body to unbend and climb out of the car, cursing as her Helly Hansens sank into deep snow. It was only then that she took in her surroundings.
“What the…? That bastard!” Claire wasn’t sure if she meant Carl or the jolly receptionist. “There isn’t much to do in Byrness.” He could have told me it’s a ff-frigging string of ff-frigging cottages in the arse-end of n-nowhere.” She shivered and pulled her coat tighter around her. Wind whistled through the trees and swirled eddies in the snow.
Claire walked round to the front of the car and looked again, hoping to see a town or even a village hidden behind the row of houses in front of her. As she span a slow 360 all she could see were white houses, white snow-laden trees and the slow-moving traffic on the A68.
“Well, all I can say is they had better let me in. Ten o’clock reception or not, I am not sitting out in the car until 4pm.”
She glared at the row of houses and tried to distinguish which was the B&B. “Thank god I’ve got my own room. Surely only hikers, hippies and weirdoes choose to stay here in the middle of frigging winter.”
Claire clomped up the path to the front door and hammered on it with her glove-encased fist.