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Wedding Diary – Setting the scene

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ClockI am not one to rush (except when I’m eating, which I’ve been told is virtually record-breaking). Our engagement, when the final wedding bell tolls, will be over 2 years in the making – and that seems to me just right to balance the stress with the planning. Of course, you may be eager to get it done for personal or time-based reasons – in which case, prepare for stress and pangs of worry for the few months of singledom you have left.
What people always told me was that things will creep up on you, which I dismissed as poor planning. But I’d missed a crucial factor – despite careful planning, there’s a big load of things that can’t be done until the few weeks before – and sometimes even the day before – the wedding. Normally, you can only meet with the vicar/registrar a couple of months before, at the earliest. You can’t finalise any food costs until guests have confirmed (and chosen their food, if you’re into the whole menu selection thing).  So prepare for a whole month or two of panic. Do everything you *can* do earlier than you planned.
To help with the planning, I drew inspiration from my best man Jack. He is a Man of Spreadsheets. He has mastered pivot tables, column widths, equations and linked sheets. Behind every project of Jack’s, there is an organised and well-formatted tabular wonder.
So, behold: Wibbler’s Wedding Spreadsheet. (imagine BIG trumpets fanfaring about now). It’s made for UK bods, but I’m sure can be adapted easily. It’s also made for a fairly big screen. It’s generic enough for most couples having a more traditional wedding to use – but for those getting married on a whim in the rainforests of South America, not so much.
IN SUMMARY: Don’t stress, do everything before you think you need to do it. Use a spreadsheet.

(This is part of the wibbler.com Wedding Diary series. You can contribute to our Honeymoon Fund if you’re feeling generous… 😉 )

Wedding Diary – In the Beginning…

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Anéis | RingsWeddings are big things to organise, especially when you’re not one of the lucky blighters that can afford wedding planners. And when you’re a man with the organisational skills of a worm (that’s me I’m talking about, folks), it’s a tough nut to crack.
There’s no best way to do it. There’s no definitive guide, despite the shelves of books in WHSmith devoted to the event. There’s hardly ever someone you can ask every little question to. So, I’m going to write a few posts, each with a different wedding planning subject and telling you what went right, what went wrong, and what to look out for. It’ll take in most things that we’ve come across in our journey to the altar, in the hope that someone like me finds it in the future and thanks his or her lucky stars.
It will probably have a male-based perspective – I am a male-based person – but if there are any gems of advice I dole out, they will probably be for everyone to think on. Of course, it may be that we get things spectacularly wrong, and we’ll look back on these posts and laugh. Or cry.
Feel free to keep coming back to this post, as I’ll be using it as some sort of useful index thing.

(Oh, and feel free to donate to Simon and Michelle’s Honeymoon Donation fund. It’s not quite as worthy as Comic Relief, but far more useful…)

Wedding Diary – Index

0. In the Beginning (this post)
1. Setting the Scene

Getting Hitched

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Unique Tipsy Topsy Fantasy CakeI’m getting married. Have I told you?

Come the end of April, Michelle and I will have got hitched, and will be sunning ourselves many thousands of miles away.

8 years ago, over Sunday lunch in a mutual friend’s house, Michelle and I clapped eyes on each other.  We met over a crowded roast, you could say. If we’re both honest, the memories are a little hazy – mine mainly due to the previous night’s excesses in Cinderella’s nightclub, Guildford (It’s now Time nightclub, but still no better…). Our good, now long-lost, friend Alex de la Salle hosted the event, and I was coming to the end of a year of cutting loose after a 3 1/2 year relationship. I saw more of her twin sister Becki at first, going for drinks as friends in the bars of Guildford – but after I made sneaky trip to Bristol, where Michelle was working for a bit, we started going out. It was tricky for me at first – I had no intention of having to go through the heartbreak of breaking up again, so my solution was to avoid relationships in the first place. But Michelle… well, I’ll leave the slushy stuff for the wedding speech, but suffice to say she changed my mind.

We’re getting married locally in Worplesdon, having a bash with around 160 people in a local venue before jetting off for a well earned rest. And it is well-earned too – I had no idea of the amount of small things you need to plan to get everything to go smoothly. Now I see why there are wedding planners available to hire. And in order to stump up the wedding cash, I’m building 3 websites and ramping up publicity on my website Wiredfusion. It’s all a bit of a whirlwind – Michelle and I worked out we have no free weekends at all until after the wedding.

(Shameless plug – you can donate to our honeymoon  at our special Simon and Michelle’s Wedding Donation website if you feel that way inclined…!)

The wedding day will, I’m sure, be awesome. The lead up to it? Not so much…

The Wrong Room

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(cropped for new group)“Well, it looks like you’ve got a disabled room, sir.” The man behind the hotel reception desk in Nottingham gave a weak smile, and I could only imagine the internal jokes that were racing through his mind. “You don’t look disabled…”

Strangely, I was busy taking this as a compliment when, suddenly, his face brightened. ” Ah ha! Looks like we’ve had a cancellation on the top floor. That’s good news for you, sir, the disabled rooms aren’t good for normal users, and you would have had the worst one of the lot too, just by the main road and the reception area. Rubbish rooms, really. So, I’ll put you on the top floor. Hold on a sec.”
I held on. I was pleased at my room upgrade – they way he was talking about it, I had avoided an awful stay in a rubbish room.
And then… and then. The receptionist’s face slowly changed from pleasure to marked pain.
“Ummm…,” he uttered.
“Hmmm…,” he continued, looking increasingly red. “I may have made a mistake. The hotel’s fully booked. Other than, of course, that disabled room…”

And so it was that I started my stay in the very same room the receptionist had slagged off only seconds before. It turns out its not so bad at all – sure, the switches are low enough for leprechuans to have to stoop down for, and doors that you could fit a large fridge-freezer through. However, the bright side is that I have special pulleys at the side of the bed AND bath that can yank whenever I need anything.

Hmmm, I *am* feeling a bit peckish…

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Snow Joke

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THAT's a snowball

THAT's a snowball

Jac sent me a picture last night of his London snow;  i told him we had none. Within 30 minutes, we had a white glistening reminder of what winter used to be like in sunny England (here are my photos of it all).

So here we are, enveloped in a snow blanket that I can only remember once before, back when I was 12.  Michelle had the unfortunate dilemma of getting to the centre of town by 7am, as without her the Next store couldn’t open. After vainly hoping that a bus might turn up, and ever dedicated, she walked the 2 miles to work. I worked from home (only 3 people made it to my office in the end), occasionally staring out the window at the contrasting responses – children and teenagers having the mother of all snowfights; and frowning, wrapped up huddles of people trying to get out of the biting cold.

Sky News and BBC News have done sterling work keeping me informed – the giant snowball being rolled down a large hill live on BBC News was a particular highlight.and the local radio Station The Eagle was

Michelle braving it!

Michelle braving it!

brilliant at giving us the local lowdown, despite their website going down with all the travellers eager for information. My garden is covered in 18 inches of the stuff. The usual miseries are popping up everywhere, wondering why the trains, buses, taxis, planes and cars in general aren’t moving today and how we haven’t prepared for it  (how can we prepare for something that only happens every 18 years?!)

So most of the country is in hibernation; tomorrow is meant to be worse. The rest of the developed world is used to this kind of thing – but we’re making the most of it while we can!

The Fine Art of Complaining

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complaint deptThere’s something very entertaining about a person driven to the edge of insanity by events. Basil from Fawlty Towers, for example, was watchable mainly because viewers couldn’t wait to see what rage he’d fly into next.

In the news in the last few days is a letter written to Richard Branson, tearing strips into Virgin Atlantic’s food service. Branson so enjoyed the letter he phoned the guy up to thank him.

I’ve stumbled on a few more excellent complaint letters that have raised hoots of laughter:

New Zealand Traffic Infringement Department: “I wouldn’t be too disappointed if we agreed to let this one go.”

NTL Letter: “You irritatingly incompetent and infuriatingly unhelpful bunch of twats.”

Continental Airlines: “Does your company give refunds? I’d like to give me money back and start over.”

O2 Phone Insurance: “Perhaps you were in a slightly different timezone.” (alright, I wrote this one myself…)

Got any more?

Boriswatch, the BBC, a large camera and some thongs

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I’m pleased to report that one of my sites, Boriswatch, is doing spankingly well at the moment, and just last week I hauled myself up to London to appear on the BBC News for a piece on “Boris watchers”. It was the 3rd time I’ve been interviewed, and happily I’m getting better at it. The first time, for an End Of The Year show in 2004, saw me taken down into the basement of a plush hotel in London, and without any training whatsoever I managed to spill a few uninteresting comments out. The key, I found, was to forget you’re on camera, which is a little tricky when there’s a large light umbrella, a huge camera and several television executives staring at you. My cardboardy performance was something I didn’t publicise, and is hopefully long gone. The second one, for ITV, was a far more successful affair, with Boris Johnson commenting on the site and ITV receptionists pictured wearing Boriswatch t-shirts. I managed – in my shy, retiring way – to play a DVD of the performance on the Training Room projector at work.

Which brings us to the latest interview, with BBC London the weekend before last. It pitched me (a pro-Boris, in case you hadn’t realised) against a couple of anti-Boris fellow geeks, who seemed to be full of conspiracy theories and smarting at Ken Livingstone’s loss. At least, that was what I was told by the BBC interviewer, although I’m sure they came across far better that that on camera.

The BBC Marylebone lobby

The BBC Marylebone lobby

I arrived at the plush office in Marylebone a little early, and sat in the cafe next door, fevourishly researching the notes I’d made on the train journey. Over a muffin and pineapple Snapple, I noticed the place was full of media types, all with loud opinions on politics and celebrities. At 1pm, I sauntered into the BBC office, passing the security guard with remarkable ease. As I sat in reception, the internal BBC channel played in front of me, spooling out how wonderful the Beeb was. I continued watching as I got out a packet of extra strong mints, enthusiastically ripping open the packet and immediately dropping them all over my jacket and the floor. Mints rolled in all directions around me, and of course it was at immediately this moment that the videographer rocked up in front of me, asking my name and directing me down the corridor. I attempted to explain, but it was clear nothing would retrieve my dignity and I followed him up to the filming room.

The room, when we got there, was dark, save for an extremely bright light focused on the chair I would be sat in and a large projected image of Boriswatch on a screen. The interviewer arrived a couple of minutes later, and within a further couple of minutes the interview began. They don’t hang around, these reporters.

Feverish note revision

Feverish note revision

I tried to remember everything I had scribbled down earlier on the train, and prepared myself with the three pieces of advice I’d been given during my other two appearances. One, speak unnecessarily slowly (people watching won’t be used to any particular drawl); two, repeat the interviewer’s question (so that the whole Q and A can be shown without revealing the interviewer); and three – push your head forward further than normal (to reduce any additional chins).

And so it was that I talked about “the other site”, explained why I run Boriswatch, conducted a staunch defence of Mayor Boris, said what I had to say to Boris critics, and promoted some Boriswatch merchandise. The merchandise, if you watch the video below, is virtually the only part that made it to the final piece. The moment I mentioned the word “thongs”,  the interviewer and cameraman dissolved a little, and it was a wonder I got to the end of the sentence before following them into fits of giggles…

It was all over in 15 minutes. Everyone was very friendly, and as I was guided down the stairs by the interviewer I got a small tour and potted history of the relatively small place. It is one of the oldest BBC offices in London, hosuing abour 100 people. It was under siege during the Ross/Brand affair a few weeks before – “we got a taste of our own medicine”, the interviewer wryly noted – as it was the location for the important Sack Brand meeting by the governors. bbclondonDownstairs is the location of the entire BBC London operation, including all the researchers and the BBC London studio, which is barely bigger than Londoners see on screen every day. If you ever listen to the traffic news of London 97.3 radio, the reason there is always lots of background noise is because the traffic guy’s desk is right in the middle of the packed office floor. It really is very small indeed, which is the main reason they are moving to gleaming new premises very soon.

Three times on the following Tuesday it was broadcast, prompting 12 text messages and 7 emails within 10 minutes of the first broadcast, which coincided nicely with a particularly crucial presentation I was giving. The general consensus is good, but I seem to have an even posher accent on screen. I didn’t know that was possible.

So, here it is:

In search of the Sheriff

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Sheriff of NottinghamIt’s Sunday evening, and I’m in Nottingham. The rain is gently pattering on the window, the Pizza Hut sign is faintly visible across the road, and I’m catching up on *stuff*.

This is the second of my four half-week stints in Nottingham. Sometimes, my day job takes me to interesting places – Dublin, Shannon, Munich, Zurich and Edinburgh, for example. In fact, in one memorable 4 day trip I took in all of those cities except Zurich. Sometimes, however, it’s a small hotel in Nottingham. My trip last week consisted of freezing weather, rubbish restaurants and an interesting episode where I found a human hair in a battered onion ring. I’ll pause here for you to take that last horror in.

Still, it gives me time to catch up on my “other” job, namely being an online geek. I currently have a small plethora of websites on the go at the moment, and it seems to be growing every month. It’s a nice little sideline, and one which has recently put me on the BBC! Fun.

The rain is now gathering pace, and I have a meal to eat. I’m sure after that, I’ll find some more geekery to perform…

Stamped out by a Scrooge

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stampsThe last few weeks have been a mostly full of trips to the Royal Mail sorting office. Not for fun, you understand – I do almost all my Christmas shopping online, as all sane people should – but because I always miss the deliveries. Last night, I took my latest red “We Missed You” slip along to the post office, performed my usual pleasantries with the office guy behind the counter and waited for my parcel.

While I was waiting, an elderly mother and her daughter came in, handling over their red slip in anticipation. A christmas present, I expect they thought. The daughter was plainly excited: “It better be good, we’ve come 15 miles for this”, she said, rubbing her hands with glee. Evidently, it was an easier delivery to find than mine, as the man came back with both mine and their letters within 15 seconds. “Ah yes,” he said to the excited daughter, “it’s a christmas card. They haven’t put a stamp on it. That’ll be 69 pence please.”

Now, I’m not one for public announcements to strangers. But as the “bah humbug” nature of the situation dawned on the couple and all the onlookers, I couldn’t stop a smirk spreading across my lips. I looked around. Several others in the now-silent room were having the same problem. The couple, meanwhile, just stood and stared at the envelope (sans stamps). I couldn’t stand the silence any more. “Ha. Merry Christmas!”

To dissolved fits of giggles from the onlookers, and fixed stares from the couple, I waltzed out. Nothing so far this Christmas has cheered me up quite as much as their disappointed faces, and for that I will surely go straight to hell.