Friday, May 27, 2005

Del & Estelle's Wedding

DAY 1 - 19/05/05

After just three hours sleep, my alarm clock came to life at 3.30 AM. Normally I would be extremely upset to be woken at this ungodly hour, but not today as Fiona, Ryan and I had an early morning flight to catch to London Stanstead and then on to Basel to celebrate Del and Estelle's nuptials in France.

Fiona had organised our departure with her usual military precision with everything we would need for a long weekend ironed and organised into piles on the kitchen table ready to be placed into the suitcase. She was in no mood for my shenanigins this morning and Ryan and I were told what to do and when to do it, therefore after I had cracked the old "I rest my case" joke to Ryan by using a cushion and the suitcase without Fiona catching me, I thought I should get ready before she went mental.

After a quick shower and breakfast we scraped a rather hyper Ryan off of the ceiling and waited for the taxi to arrive to take us to Glasgow Airport. We were at the airport and checked in for 5.00, all we could do now is wait for our plane to depart and keep an eye out for Ann, Colin, Robert, Dan, Jean & Iona who were on the same flight as us. Ryan kept himself amused by playing video games in the arcade and £5 was spent in the blink of an eye blowing the crap out of pixilated people and driving round a virtual race track. What a pleasant way to start your day.

Ann, Colin & Robert appeared on the escalator below us a short while later and after a brief "hello" went off to find Dan, Jean & Iona whom until today I had never met before. We made our way to the departure lounge and boarded the plane to find that Ann, Colin & Robert had nabbed the prime seats at the front of the aircraft with the maximum leg room but I suppose when you are their height you need all the space you can get. By 6.30 we were climbing into the sky above Paisley, through the clouds and rain and on our way to London. The flight was uneventful and dull as the plane was half filled with rather sombere business men who's bosses were obviously too tight to send them on British Airways and they had to slum it with us.

In baggage reclaim I finally met Dan, Jean & Iona and I spotted Jim Muir and his wife Debbie which was a bit of a surprise as I did not even know that they were on the same flight as us. After retrieving our luggage we went to find somewhere to eat and treated ourselves to a full English breakfast. Fiona chatted away to everyone as if she had known them for years. I have always admired the ease with which she can start talking to people even though she has never met them before giving people the impression that she is a really nice person when actually she is evil personified and she must be destroyed! (only kidding babes).

Anyway back to the plot. The time arrived for us to board our flight to Basel and we trooped off to customs and made our way through the tensa-barrier maze to the X-ray machine. Fiona and Ryan went through the machine first without any problems and I emptied my pockets of keys, mobile phone and pen and placed them in a little tray on the conveyer belt and placed the two kilt bags on too. The gentlemen observing the screen raised an eyebrow as the kilt bags trundled along, which did not concern me as the same thing had happened at Glasgow. Another customs officer approached me carrying the bag and asked if I wouldn't mind opening it. No problem, thought I and went through the rigmarole of explaining that the kilt pin was decorative and the Sgian Dubh was ornamental. I actually felt my jaw drop as he pulled back the plastic cover to reveal a four inch long, very sharp, potentially lethal blade. I had assumed that Burtons had supplied a plastic imitation Sgian Dubh, not the real McCoy. Of course I should have checked, but considering that it is illegal to carry a blade in Scotland, I assumed that the nice lady in the store, who knew I was flying would have prevented me looking like a potential terrorist! A million boring manager's meetings flashed into my head from my time at Safeway. "Never 'assume' as it makes an 'ass' of 'u' and 'me' " Damn them, they were right!

After initiatingg "Plan B" which was to check the Sgian Dubh" in with the other luggage in Fiona's handbag, I was able to board the plane without further incident. We found everyone else waiting for us in the departure lounge and Robert was in good form, lying over three chairs with a black eye mask on. He had the whole pop star look nailed. Thanks to Ryan being a kid we had priority boarding and were the first people on the plane. I knew he would come in handy for something!

"Zorro" Stevenson takes a nap.

An hour and a half later and we arrived in Basel to blue skies and sunshine and after some confusion found the correct taxi rank that would take us into France and not Switzerland. Three taxis pulled up and we loaded up and Ryan and I climbed inside. Meanwhile Fiona freaked out the nice lady taxi driver by trying to climb into the driver's seat. She had forgotten that they drove on the other side of the road over here and the driver must have thought that the scary Scottish lady was just about to steal her livelihood. After a short drive away and we arrived at the hotel and checked in.

As we were unpacking Del and Thomas arrived to greet us and Jim, Liam and Hammey arrived a few minutes later. We freshened up and then made our way to Del's house to see Estelle and Kath, and after a quick tour it was time to relax and we sat on the veranda, basking in the sun and enjoying a beer. After a while we left and Del gave us a little tour of Hunningue and showed us the place just across the Rhine where France, Germany and Switzerland meet. It's a lovely, little town and well worth a visit.

We made our way back towards the hotel and sitting at the waters edge right beside the hotel were James, Susan, Kay, Hammey, Jim & Wendy lapping up the Summer sun and drinking beer and vodka, so of course we joined them and we made our own little corner of Scotland, right there in France. Henceforth, this spot would be known as "Jakeys corner".

Drink was flowing and so were the funny stories including one from Susan who told a tale from the previous week when Mr Snelling had been walking down Paisley High Street and a couple of chancers began to walk either side of him singing "Is this the way to Amarillo?" and doing 'the dance'. Wish I'd seen that!

After I had finished drinking my Vodka and coke from a Volvic bottle (classy!), I thought that I had better keep Ryan entertained for a while and I suggested to him that he write a short message in French and we could launch it into the Rhine in the now empty bottle. So after that and various other "Dad" duties I left him to amuse himself and returned to the rabble just in time to catch Kay talking about her 4 year old daughter, Sophie who, just before Kay and Hammey had left for France had pushed a Tic-Tac up her nose to see what it would be like and after a trip to Accident & Emergency they had been told that if it had not dissolved by Tuesday then surgery would be required. Bloody Hell!

"Jakey's Corner"

Special Agents Arthur & Stewart

Hammey decides that walking 50 meters to the Hotel toilet is too far

Meanwhile, Jim & Hammey returned with a third bottle of Mr. Smirnoff's finest and the fun continued until 8.30 which by this time we were all a little worse for wear and probably had a mild dose of sun-stroke. A decision was made to visit the town centre where a fairground was visiting so we could have an all in "Dodgem Challenge" and the kids amongst us became very excited i.e. everyone, however the excitement was short lived as Ann informed us that the fair was closed and unfortunately the fun would need to wait for another night.

Click here for a video clip of "Jakey's Corner"

Everybody had a quick change of clothes and we met outside the hotel to go on the hunt for a nice place to sit together. After a brief search we found the Restaurant Vauban with rows of tables and chairs outside which was ideal for a group of our size. A kitty was collected and a round of beers and a couple of vodkas and lemonade were ordered and everyone relaxed, chatted and soaked up the ambiance. It really had been a cracking day and if the rest of the weekend was going to be this good then we would all return home, very happy.

We returned to the hotel at around midnight, but the party was not quite ready to stop and we went to Jim & Wendy's room for a wee nightcap, but by now Fiona and Ryan were feeling the pace and decided that they would retire for the night. They said goodnight and Fiona took a very tired wee boy down the stairs to our room on the ground floor.

I stayed on for another half hour but eventually, fatigue got the better of me and I decided to go to bed. I made my way down to our room and gently tapped on the reply, a little louder...still no reply. Ten minutes later I was pounding my fist and calling Fiona's name through the door, all to no avail, they just would not wake up. Now I should have known better as when Fiona has had copious amounts of alcohol she slips into a drunken coma and obviously Ryan was so shattered that he was in one too. Across the hall, Robert's door opened and he had a "what's all the noise" look on his face. I apologised but continued to pound my fist on the door and he retreated. A few minutes later, several doors away, Liam's disembodied head appeared out of his room to ask if everything was OK. I explained the situation and he offered half of his double bed to sleep in, an offer I couldn't really refuse as the alternative was to sleep on the floor.

It was a small room and not a particularly large double bed so this was going to be cosy. Unfortunately, it proved to be too cosy as at some time during the middle of the night I leaned over and put my arms round Liam for a kiss and a cuddle. Luckily I realised that this person was too hairy to be Fiona and I turned the other way and went back to sleep and a major lifestyle choice was avoided!

DAY 2 - 20/05/05

I woke up at 10.00 and the previous night's shenanigins hit me like a sledgehammer. Yes, I was in bed with Liam and not Fiona (mental note, don't drink so much). Fiona and Ryan would be awake by now and no doubt more than a little curious as to where I was. I dressed quickly and thanked Liam for his hospitality and headed back to room 14 only to find there was no reply when I knocked the door. Not again, this can't be happening, I thought. Fortunately, Jim Muir appeared and informed me that Fiona and Ryan were sitting down by the river where the previous night's vodka fest had been staged. I walked down and there they were and I was given a grilling as to where I had been since they had been awake for three hours and had became concerned for my welfare.

I filled her in on the whole door banging fiasco, but she wasn't buying it by claiming that I couldn't have been banging on the door that loudly or she would have heard me. There was no telling her and clearly some back up for my story was going to be needed. Anyway, I got my hands on the elusive key and finally got into the room. I was eating some fruit and drinking lots of water to fend off the approaching hangover when Jim, Wendy, Susan & James appeared with Fiona and Ryan. They were going into Switzerland and wanted me to come along but I declined as I hadn't showered or shaved and was not prepared to rush myself. I wanted a nice relaxing morning as we were going to have a long day ahead of us.

Jim and Wendy told Fiona that they could hear me banging on the door the previous night even though they were on the floor above and at the other side of the hotel. I felt exoneratedd although no doubt I had endeared myself to all the other residents of the hotel and added to the glorious reputation of the drunken Scotsman, and all I ever wanted was my own bed to sleep in!
The guys headed off to Basel and left me to my own devices.

Anyway, today was the reason why we had come over, Del and Estelle's wedding in the town hall and everyone seemed to be just taking it easy this morning in a kind of 'calm before the storm' way, which was fine by me. I would have liked to visit Basel but I was more than happy to relax and enjoy Huningue as it was another beautiful sunny day.

I spent the morning getting showered and shaved and generally enjoying some "me" time. I was quite hungry by now so I made my way round to Le Supermarche and purchased some snacks and beers and then returned to find Hammey and Liam at the picnic bench spot aka "Jakeys corner" and we cracked open a beer and drank a toast for the happy couple. Any excuse!

Fiona et al returned at 2.00 and the pressure was on now for everyone to get showered and do their hair (never a problem for me) by 3.00, the designated time to leave for the town hall. For once I was ahead of the game so I just sat with the boys and had another beer. Why not?

The group gathered outside the hotel and we set off to the town centre. It was very warm and the shirts and ties that the lads were wearing were a burden, however, James Snelling had the right idea by sporting a Panama hat. Everybody arrived at roughly the same time and it was good to see the French contingent that I had met at the stag weekend, once again.

The happy couple and their entourage arrived at 3.45. Del, dressed in a beige Hugo Boss suit and and Estelle in a crimson red dress and wide-brimmed hat, to match. We moved inside and took our seats round a huge table with the wedding party of Del, Estelle, Thomas and Mylene facing the Registrar. The service itself was quite short and I managed to pick up some of the French with the Registrar emphasising "tres important" on several occasions, just in case Del was under the impression that it wasn't.

Del, always read the smallprint!

At the conclusion of the ceremony the Paparazzi snapped away inside and outside the Town Hall with everyone taking more or less the same pictures. We walked round to Mr. & Mrs. Stevenson's flat for the Apero with the Scottish contingent eager to bathe in not-often-seen sunshine headed straight for the veranda and the more sensible French people stayed indoors. Champagne was opened and we toasted the happy couple while Del's new Mother-in-law served light refreshments and snacks and everyone relaxed and enjoyed the good company.

Hungry Del? Fancy a sandwich?

Estelle could be in for a disappointing Honeymoon night as Del uses the last of his strength to open a beer!

Mr Arthur can't decide whether to pick beer or vodka and so picks his nose instead!

Del and the Ladies

Fiona, me & Ryan

The Terminator watches over proceedings!

The lads share a joke

Jim & Debbie

By 8.30, despite a couple of top-up trips to the supermarket, we had drank them dry however, Del's wine cellar had mysteriously remained untouched. It was time to move on to a new venue, so after a quick clean up of the flat we moved on to the local "place to be" - The Rainbow Room and staked our claim on a significant section of seats. Food and more drink were ordered and it turned out to be a great night and everyone was mingling and minging!


In the Rainbow Room

People started to leave as the night went on and only the die-hards were still on the go after 1.00 am. The bar closed and myself, Fiona, Ryan Steven & Pamela decided that we would walk home as it wasn't too far to the hotel. Unfortunately the weather had broke and warm rain soaked us to the skin as we made our way home. There would be no party in anyone's room tonight, it had been a very long day and tomorrow promised to be even longer so everyone went to bed and I suspect were sleeping before their heads hit the pillow...

Fiona and Pamela, not exactly looking their best

DAY 3 - 21/05/05

Fiona & Ryan were awake at 8.30 and went for breakfast but I decided that an extra half hours sleep would be nicer and remained where I was. Upon their return, showers were had and we packed the cases as today we were moving to a different hotel for the BIG event of the weekend, the church wedding of the Stevenson's and reception afterwards.

Today all the Scottish lads would be in full Highland gear and I was looking forward to having some ventilation from the waist down whilst wearing my kilt. Ryan and I kilted up and Fiona put on her new dress. I must say, we scrub up not too bad!

By 12.15 everyone was waiting in the car park for the coach to pick us up. The girls looked beautiful in their dresses and the fellas looked like a bunch of extras from Braveheart. You could tell the locals loved us with car after car tooting their horns at us as they were obviously unaccustomed to seeing men in skirts. At one point a wee man on a scooter actually stopped, turned 180 degrees and came back for a second look.

Along the road we could see the coach approaching and it was at this moment that Fiona realised that she had not taken her outfit for tomorrow out of the big suitcase, which had been locked away in a room for us to collect on Sunday. Panic ensued as Fiona tried to find someone to let her into the room to retrieve her outfit and luckily, just at that moment a hotel employee came to her rescue and disaster was averted.

We boarded the coach and Robert checked we were all present, I actually thought that he might take a register at one point. We set off through the French countryside to our destination and arrived at the church 30 minutes later. As we arrived, Del & Thomas spotted us and waved, the big fella looked remarkably relaxed.

The church was clearly in the middle of having some renovation work carried out, despite this, the exterior was beautiful and I felt sure that it would be something special inside. Friends and family mingled outside for a while and then bells began to chime and Del announced that it was time to enter the church as the time neared for Estelle and her Father to arrive. Sure enough, I was correct, the interior of the church was stunning. There were two rows of seats facing the altar and in the cloister there was an organ and a choir. Subtle lighting highlighted the beauty of the arches and there were intricate ceiling paintings which despite having faded slightly over time were nonetheless, beautiful.

Click here for a video clip of inside the church.

Del's friends and family were sat on the right side of the church and Estelle's nearest and dearest sat on the pews on the left. Soon after, the blushing bride wearing a golden wedding dress, arrived with her proud father who escorted her up the aisle to Del, who was smiling ear to ear. The choir sang and us non-French speakers tried desperately to follow the words. Del's niece, Iona and a little French girl were the flowergirls and stood obediently at the side of the altar while the service proceeded.

Estelle & her proud Father

The happy couple emerge from the Church

Forty-five minutes later and they were married, again. We all left the church to the sound of the choir belting out another hymn and as the happy couple emerged from inside,everyone broke into spontaneous applause and a few people threw rice over them. More handshakes and kisses followed and I guessed that Del's hand must have been getting sore by now, but that's what happens when you get married twice in two days!

Me and my girl.

Del and Estelle directed us where to go and we began the short walk to the Fisherman's club where Estelle's parents were members. This was for a buffet and light refreshments before the main event of the evening which was the reception at the hotel. The club itself sat on the banks of a large pond and as we arrived we were handed glasses of Champagne and we all stood around chatting for a while. When we made our way inside to the hall we saw a stunning buffet layed out around the side of the room. It looked too good to eat and you could tell that no-one wanted to be the first to disturb the beautiful display but after the first person tucked in the flood gates opened and soon the room was crushed full of people tucking in to the delicacies.

A small selection of the buffet

The Portrush Pig's Carmen Miranda impression goes very wrong!

If Charlie's Angels had been set in Scotland, been all male and a wee bit effeminate this is how it would have looked!

Everyone mingled around outside and continued to enjoy the Beer and Champagne that were on tap. It was quite warm and by now wearing the heavy Highland jackets was becoming uncomfortable. With nowhere to put them, James Snelling improvised and borrowed my Sgian Dubh to carve a branch into a coathanger on a nearby tree. Ryan asked if he could carve into a log that we were sitting on and normally I wouldn't even dream of letting him near a knife, but he had been good as gold for several days so I allowed him to entertain himself while we kept a subtle eye on him.The newly-weds posed for the obligatory pictures with all of us snapping away and the official photographer managed to get his quota too.

Jim takes advantage of the hand carved coathangers

The coach arrived back at 6.00 to transport us to the hotel for the evening reception. After a 45 minute bumpy journey along the country roads of France we arrived at our destination, a four star hotel that made the previous day's accommodationn look like borstal by comparisonn. We checked in and made our way to the room which looked onto a central courtyard. However, there was not much time to admire the scenery as the clock was against us with only thirty minutes for us to get ready and be downstairs.

Robert should never have drank that shandy!

The Bar was, unsurprisingly full when made it downstairs and I had to fight my way through the crowd to the bar for drinks. But soon after we were asked to make our way through to the dining room where Del showed us the seating plan which had all the tables named after Scottish Islands, ours being, Iona. There was only one problem, Fiona and I were sitting together but, unfortunately, Ryan had been seated at the next table with all of the other kids. I know that I would have loved this when I was a kid but, for some reason Ryan did not fancy it at all and began to get upset. Fiona did her best to convince him that it would be great fun to be sat away from us, but he wasn't buying it. Fifteen minutes later, after much tears and snotters he was sat at the kids table next to a 9 year-old lad who spoke four different languages and was translating French swear words for him! We were sat at the same table as Del's boss and his girlfriend who is also an amateur photographer and spent the night snapping away with his camera.

Curiously, the food was layed out at the side of the hall and I guessed that the French way was self-service. Little did I know what was in store. The DJ's voice boomed out over the loudspeakers welcoming everyone. I was informed by Thomas later that he was not known as a DJ but his official title was "Animator" the reason for this was about to become obvious. He explained in French and English that in order to "earn" our food, we would be dancing for our supper, one table at a time. So one by one we made arses of ourselves and then made our way to the serving tables where we received our rewards.

The food was gorgeous and the Animator cleverly had a break between each course to allow for dancing and party games. The highlight of which was the Karaoke tagmatch where the Scottish sang a song in French and the French sang one in English. As the contest went on the French sang "My Way" and we had to follow with a tune that you could tell from the French contingent had obviously been a huge hit in their country since they were singing along with us. The funny thing was Liam said to me afterwards that we had sang the French song to the same tune as My Way.

As the French were singing their last song, Jim, James and Hammey hatched a plot to run on to the floor in front of the screen with the song lyrics and flash their bare bums so as to put the French off, but just at the last second James and Hammey bailed out and left Mr. Arthur flying solo to do his bit for international relations! In the middle of the contest the Scots broke into an impromptu rendition of "Flower of Scotland". Game, set and match to us. However, before we finished Mr. Snelling was allowed on stage for a solo effort to sing Elvis, which always goes down well in any language.

Estelle's family sing karaoke

James sings Elvis

Fiona had spied Ryan looking longingly at the DJ's booth and asked him if it would be alright for Ryan to go in and watch him and fair play to him as he agreed. You could see the excitement in Ryan's face as he and his new pal stood there wearing the DJ's headphones.

The MC

The cutting of the cake

The music went quiet and the Animator announced that it was time for the speeches. Del was up first and with a little bit of help from his wife, gave his speech in both French and then English. Next up was Thomas who told some funny stories and touched on the stag weekend. He announced to the crowd "I'm Spatacus!" and the stag trip lads moved quicker than they had all night to stand up and throw their hands into the air to pronounce "I'm Spartacus!" (see Blog entry for Del's stag weekend). The French just looked bemused. Del's new Father-in-law was up next and gave a short speech unfortunately only in French, but you could tell it was from the heart.

Del's speech

Thomas' speech

Fiona & I

The night went on and on and we only reached the serving of dessert, a delicious Raspberry Sorbet at 12.30. I tried my best to avoid dancing, which is something I don't particularly enjoy, however when I was asked I did not refuse and of course I had the obligatory dances with Fiona and a boogie with Ryan too. After a quick trip to the gents, I returned to find the boys in the middle of dancing to Pulp's "Year 2000" and I was pulled in to the crowd. This song means a lot to the lads from a time before I knew most of them and they take dancing to it very seriously. I was pushed about and had the song sang into my face by my inebriated friends, but it was all in good fun!

Click here for a brief video clip of Year 2000.

Always the Bridesmaid, never the bride!

Sitting back at the table, Thomas came over to chat and asked if I wanted a beer. I declined as I was getting a little concerned that we might run out of money. What are you talking about, asked Thomas? The beer is free! Needless to say I made up for lost time from then on.

Kath listens to some "Sole" music!

People started to disappear as the we moved further into the wee small hours and by 5.00 it was down to the last dozen. Fiona and Ryan had long since retired and by now the staff had asked us to move to the back of the room so that they could prepare the dining area for breakfast which was due to start in a couple of hours. It was pretty subdued by now and I could not finish the three beers in front of me despite my best attempts and by 5.30 the time had come to crawl into a warm, cosy bed so we all trudged upstairs and grabbed what little sleep we could.

DAY 4 - 22/05/05

The morning after the night before. When I woke up Fiona and Ryan were nowhere to be found but as soon as I opened the window I could here her cackling down below me in the courtyard. They had ben up sharp to get breakfast but it was 10.00 by now and I was feeling pretty weary after last night's celebrations and wasn't going anywhere until I had taken a power shower.

An hour later and I gingerly descended the stairs to join the growing throng in the courtyard. My God, everyone looked rough today as the strain of partying for four days was taking it's toll and there was still today to go. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. The subdued chatter was shattered as Estelle's family arrived in a car blowing an hair horn. That blew the cobwebs away and I could see Ryan's face light up as he was desperate for a shot of it.

We all checked out of the hotel and waited downstairs for the coach to arrive to take us back to the Fisherman's club, this time for a meal courtesy of Estelle's parents. I swear the coach driver had an evil streak and picked the bumpiest road to take us there. As the coach bounced along the winding country roads myself and a few others started to turn a funny shade of green.

This was a lot less formal than the previous nights had been as by now the French and Scots had become acquainted and we were best buddies. The guys still had their kilts on but with casual tops and the girls had outfits on that looked a little more comfortable than the previous day's attire.

Ryan, once again amused himself with my Sgian Dubh but this time he had an audience of Iona and a couple of French kids. I don't think their Mum and Dads were too amused with our questionable parenting skills and after James and Thomas had shown Ryan how to play "Knifey" and Liam had showed him how to move the blade really fast between his fingers I decided the time had come to remove the blade from "Nine fingers Stewart".

Liam teaches Ryan a new game!

Del presented Ryan with the air horn and he was told to go to the other side of the pond so he would not impair anyone's hearing. He was killing himself laughing as he tooted away to his heart's content and laughed even more when he discovered that if he turned the gas canister upside down a stream of white gas shot out of the nozzle. As any 10 year-old kid would do he started to kid on he was farting using the horn until I suggested he put the horn under the water to see what would happen. Twenty feet away a fish leaped out of the water as he did it. We were in bits and he demonstrated the laugh that he has inherited from his Mother which is at times almost as loud as the airhorn.

That's my boy!

The meal was really nice. A beautiful baked ham and selection of salad which after a couple of helpings banished my hunger pangs and helped to soak up the previous night's alcohol. Unfortunately, Estelle's father had other ideas about us being too sober and appeared with three bottles of Schnapps of various flavours that his father had brewed in 1962. He was really pushing the boat out for his Daughter and Son-in-law's friends and that was quite an honour. He worked his way round the table pouring shots for us to drink in pairs. I could see from the reactions on the faces that this was going to be rough. Jim Arthur and I were up next and I chose Cranberry Schnapps. As I quickly swallowed the measure I could feel it begin to come back up again and had to gulp several mouthfulls of beer to keep it down. Del and his FIL were just laughing at us, and I don't seem to remember them being too keen to join in the drinking contest. Wendy made us look like wimps by not even flinching as she downed her shot or at least she hid it well.

"Yes, Mr. Vincentz, that tastes lovely!"

Del and his Father-in-law enjoying our pain

Jim & I try the 43 year-old Schnapps

Wendy shows us how it should be done

By 5.00 the party was over and it was time to return to Le Relais de Bale hotel for our final night in France. Estelle's family were good enough to give us all a lift back and we formed a convoy for the thirty minute journey. Unfortunately the driver took us to Del and his misses' home but they had not arrived yet and most of us were crossing our legs and jockeying for position to be first to the loo. When we finally got inside there was a mad dash to the toilet and I'm afraid it was survival of the fittest.

We made our way back to the hotel and it was decided to get ready as quickly as possible and go to the fair in the town centre to finally have the Dodgem Challenge. Half an hour later and we were there and thankfully the dodgems were on. I made a point of asking the staff if they were closing and was reassured the answer was "non" so we went to the food stall and had burgers and Croque Monsieurs" , delicious. Jim Muir wandered over and announced that the dodgems had just closed. That can't be right, thought I and made my way over to plead for us to have a shot before they shut up shop but the lady was having none of it. I had to return to Ryan and break the bad news. Needless to say he was less than impressed and I felt really bad for him as it was the only thing that he had asked to do for the whole weekend and he had missed out. A lot of sooking up was going to be required for this cock-up!

We returned to Restaurant Vauban and sat outside again for a few drinks, unfortunately as it was Sunday we realised it was going to close fairly early and no-one was in the mood for an early night. We went along to a corner shop and everyone bought beer, wine, vodka and snacks. The owner was so delighted that he came out of the shop after us and presented us with a large tub of biscuits as a thankyou and then began to shut the store having obviously decided that this had justified early closing of his establishment.

Restaurant Vauban

Once the bar had closed we returned to the hotel and everyone piled into Jim and Wendy's room. It was funny to have 20+ people in a room where you could hardly swing a cat, but this gave everyone the chance to chat to everyone else. We were obviously getting too rowdy as the resident of the next room began to bang on the wall and we decided to shift our digs to another room. Jim Muir decided to show off his tree climbing skills which is hard for a man in his forties to do with dignity by scaling a tree outside the room. Debbie must have been so proud! We moved a couple of more times either as a result of pissing off the next door neighbours or of the occupant of the room asking us to leave so that they could get to bed.

The last night in our Hotel

Eventually we ended back in our room. Ryan, who was absolutely shattered fell into a deep sleep and by now it was down to Me, Fiona, Liam and Dan and Jean. We chatted away and it was good to get to know Dan and Jean a little better despite the fact that Dan kept trying to ply me with his awful tasting Whisky. By 3.30 I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and promptly fell asleep on the bed while our guests were still in the room.

DAY 5 - 23/05/05

My God, I felt rough when I woke up this morning. I still had all of my clothes on and my glasses and I felt bad. Fiona and Ryan went for breakfast but there was absolutely no chance of me moving anywhere just yet. When they returned Fiona informed me that they had stayed up chatting until 5.30 and I was glad that I had bailed out a couple of hours early.

We slowly got ready and packed the cases, this time making sure that all sharp items were in the big case and not the hand luggage. Everyone began to gather in the lobby to check out and pay their bills, no-one looking particularly refreshed this morning. As soon as Dan and Jean arrived they began to slag me off for snoring and being a light-weight, so I guessed that we had passed the awkward getting to know you stage!

A small fleet of taxis were ordered and we set off on the short journey to the airport. We checked in and made our way to the departure lounge to await departure. Liam was on a separate flight to us and was traveling directly to Edinburgh so we said our goodbyes and promised to get together soon before he headed off down under. An hour later and we were on our way back to Blighty. I was sitting beside Thomas and Kath and a game of poker was started as soon as we took off using sweets as currency which passed the time until we got to Stanstead.

We headed to Witherspoon's for the famous all day breakfast but just as I sat down I remembered that I had left my keys and mobile 'phone in a tray in customs after a frantic five minutes I recovered them or else we would have been locked out of the house and Fiona would have beaten me to death.

The games arcade was nearby and we had a mini air hockey tournament with Kath commenting that Thomas was playing the game like he was starring in The Matrix with his fancy moves until Jim Muir brought his winning streak to an end.

A few hours later and we were back in Glasgow and everyone quickly disappeared after exchanging email addresses to swap photographs and I promised to forward this blog onto everyone when here it is.

Finally, I am sure that you will all want to join me in congratulating Derek and Estelle on their marriage. We all wish you many years of happiness and prosperity and want to thank you for your kindness, hospitality and most of all, friendship.

All the best!

The Lads

The Ladies

Kev, Hammey, me and Fatty Phinn

The Gay Gordon

The guys take to the floor

The Ladies take to the floor

All the gang

James teaches "Nine Fingers Stewart" some new tricks


Enjoying the night life of Huningue

Fiona, flushed with success!

Monkey Boy!

Me & the family

All the gang.