Part II of the story raised a lot of questions from eager readers. “How much did the haircut cost?” “Did you get laid?” and “There’s only one more of these wedding posts right?” Some of these will be revealed; one in particular is a question I had not considered – the cut and thrust of the mission to the Bridal Suite was so tense and rapid I had never really considered if there were monies involved. Before writing Part II I dropped a message to my sister to enquire. I was not expecting this invective:
The reaction was unfair of course, I would never screenshot a private conversation*.
*except in extreme cases where accuracy is of the utmost importance, such as to the left of this text
Yes, I had not only gotten my hair cut at the last minute, and in the plush surroundings of the Bridal Suite, in a hotel normally only within the price range of people who work in oil or whisky, but I’d got it for a full £3.99 less than the standard going rate at Anton’s. I’m actually not the skinflint I appear to be. I always gave Anton a round tenner, that’s a 150% tip – but I saw this as fair since my tendency was to go only when my hair had become abominably unmanageable (think the pre-wedding photo but twice as long) and also ask him to shave 99% of it off, to maximise the time between trips, and thus robbing him of more regular business, about 2.5 times more regular.
Sadly, my miserly sister clearly doesn’t tip in the same way as that would have involved not £400 but £1000, and under those circumstances I’d have happily taken the abuse.
I know what you’re thinking, “Alan, much as we appreciate the devious way that you manage to wring comedy out of ultimately incredibly mundane events in your mostly banal life (e.g. microwave broke, buying a suit, making tea, getting a haircut), what we won’t stand for is you starting a so-called new story with the same old shit about your fucking haircut again. Answer the question. Did. You. Get. Laid.”
I appreciate your patience, but actually this next part of the story involves just winding back a little, back to before I delivered my speech, and the pre-reception drinks and photos. This was really where the seeds were being sewn.
As you amble sober around the courtyard in the sort-of-sunshine at such events, you expect to hear the same kind of things “Aw she was just stunning,” “Beautiful ceremony,” “Such a wonderful venue,” perhaps even “Fuck-a-duck did you see that bridesmaid”. Here it was different. I was doing a lot of walking around here, desperately trying to find a waitress carrying anything non-alcoholic, or with the means to acquire such a thing. As I moved through the crowds I kept hearing the same words:
“Aye, our Alan’s got a spare bed.”
“You should talk to Alan, he’s got one of those family rooms.”
“Have you met Alan, he’s got a room with two double beds and he’s here on his own. No I don’t know why. Well, I’m fairly sure I know why he’s on his own, but I don’t know why he’s got such a big room.”
My extra double-bed was being bought and sold over and over again, to punters who were otherwise planning an hour’s taxi back home. By the end of the night my room would probably need an extra fire exit put in due to the number of people staying in it. I could probably even get away with rebranding my room as its own hotel and golf course.
I had been pre-warned the night before that two of my sister’s friends were definitely in the market for a place to stay, and that I should keep quiet about the room unless I definitely wanted company. From three different sources, I heard the same thing: “they’d (totally/absolutely) eat you alive.” I was waiting to meet these much-hyped lovelies before making a call. The caramel wafers would not be in the deal but I did have accommodations going to waste.
“There he is over there,” I heard my brother David snitch, “Just ask him, he’s definitely got a spare bed. Not sure if I was supposed to mention it but…”
And there they were, Rosie and Biffy – cousins I think (to each other, not me – also these are pseudonyms, a decision that was taken before I decided to put photos in which made it all a bit redundant, anyway). Yes, Rosie and Biffy. Both adorned with so many visible tattoos it was all-but-guaranteed that there were as many if not more invisible ones. I introduced myself, but they’d heard all about me, the mysterious brother up from London with beds to spare. They were fucking hilarious, I should definitely hang out with these girls, bawdy banter and double entendres were rife and it was barely 3pm. But the prophets were right, I got the impression from the first moment, these two would be chewing on the leftovers of my carcass at breakfast the next day.
I bounced between laughs with these two, to observing the photographer in action. She was some kind of Scandi, Norwegian I think. And brutally efficient. Her English was perfect but everything she uttered nonetheless needed translation. Because polite as she was she was saying very different things with her tone and expressions. I swear I saw her say to someone “I said move further to the left you time-wasting bell-end.” But she didn’t it just SEEMED like she did. She was ruthless. Everyone was terrified of her. I sort of fancied her of course.
I grabbed myself another drink as I thought I saw her punching a small child to get it to sit straight, and tracked down a few old faces to chat to.
Soon enough it was time for the big group photo, you know the one with all the confetti and stuff. I overheard someone talking about how expensive these little pouches of artisan confetti were. And to think I get abuse to this day about a haircut…
I can only imagine how the photographer gathered this rowdy crowd together. I think perhaps she had her assistant circulate threatening photos of everyone’s captive loved ones. I ended up near the front with Rosie and Biffy just behind me. I had confetti, they had cleavage. An idea brewed. In hilarious scenes bound to be talked about for years, as everyone threw up the confetti, I had a bunch also in my other hand and immediately turned behind me and tossed it down their mammary canyons.
It wasn’t deemed as funny as I’d expected. I mean, come on it’s not like they were filming it. It’s not like they had timed everything to get a perfect shot. It’s not like there were so many people all doing this that one person acting childish could ruin it. It’s not like due to the tonnage of confetti being released it was literally impossible to do a retake if someone spoiled it.
Anyway, my legend grew. I was the sort of up-from-London jack-the-lad single brother who would even ruin his sister’s wedding for a cheap laugh.
Enough japes outside it was time to go in for those speeches.
“…I’m also Laura’s single brother,” I said, simultaneously making eye contact with every non-related woman under 35 in the room; all eyes turned to the table right in front of me with Rosie and Biffy, who if anything seemed aggrieved that they’d have to wait until the speech finished before ripping into me.
I continued with the speech, speaking of how Dad would have loved to be here, given that there was free food and free booze. And that as a big fan of golf he had a great view – this was very typical of him to “go early and get the best seats”. I was nailing the mixture of sombre reality and heartfelt hilarity. Every gag was landing and the balance was right. No-one was crying, the jokes were too quickfire, and even the photographer had stopped stapling the kneecaps of restless guests and seemed to be showing a human side.
But I was struggling with my tiny notes. One of the best things about this delivery was that I was so frequently making eye contact, and often turning around to talk directly to Laura and the top table. This wasn’t so much expert public speaking as the fact I couldn’t really see my notes so was doing it from memory. At one point I had to return to the script. “Dad was always very proud of….” what does that say, it’s just a scribble. “Dad was very proud of…” – does that say lozenge? Libya? “Oh, Laura, Dad was always very proud of Laura….”
A few minutes later, I was done and returning to my seat. I put my notes down in the space in front of me where everyone else had a starter, and took off the Sony tie mic that may or may not have been on the whole time. As I looked around at the crowd, I could swear there was a Rosie and Biffy at every table looking back.
The remaining speeches were first rate, including a story from the best man about the groom appearing in a Scottish public information film about STDs in his youth. I’m not going to tell that one, because honestly it was funnier than anything I had.
The speech really helped me for a less obvious reason. As a non-drinker this night was going to be tough and I am often very socially awkward at large events. I have an incredible ability to be in a crowded room and always end up on my own in the corner. The speech meant everyone knew me, it was a conversation starter, and people also knew I was related to the happy couple – I was an instant VIP, and this really helped with awkward social moments.
But like any VIP I had my particularly adoring fans. Acolytes you might say. And they wanted more from me than some public speaking pointers.
“Can I charge my phone in your room?” Rosie asked, approaching me from a giggling huddle with Biffy. What were they scheming.
“What, now?” Alarm bells rang. I was on high alert. Were the girls trying counter-espionage on me after I invaded the sanctum of the Bridal Suite yesterday. But I fancied a break from the hubbub, and off we went. Rosie’s phone in one of her hands, and inexplicably, my hand in her other. I was paranoid people would see this and make assumptions. I mean, there’s nothing unusual about two people who just met at a wedding heading back to one of their hotel rooms hand in hand. Now is there.
I didn’t think anyone saw us sneak off, and over the music I don’t think anyone heard Rosie shouting to Biffy “Just going with Alan to his room to get juiced up”.
It was too early in the night to be eaten alive, and this was one of my sister’s friends, so this was going to be a transactional exchange between responsible adults. My provision of electricity in return for Rosie getting out of my room as quickly as possible.
Walking through the corridors, Rosie seemed to know exactly where she was going, like she’d recce’d the route already. We passed through a set of double doors, and bumped into a young couple I didn’t know. We exchanged hellos and I thought that was that, then as they disappeared through the doors behind us I heard “Have fun you guys!!”
The doors had closed by the time I could shout “IT’S NOT LIKE THAT! I’M JUST CHARGING HER TELEPHONE!” Rosie scowled at me for protesting so much, and we got to my room. It’s no exaggeration to say Rosie made herself right at fucking home. It was like she’d arrived back after a long day at the office and was ready to relax. I paced around, saying things like “I think they’ll be expecting us back by now,” before the door had even shut.
“Alright, get it out then. Get it in there.”
“What?” Rosie said.
“Your phone. Don’t you need to charge your phone?”
“Oh, right. Of course.” She plugged it in and popped to the bathroom to freshen up, commenting on my very sparse approach to hotel living. As per usual my suitcase was open and I was taking things out on basis of need. The shelves, wardrobe and surfaces were bare, apart from the occasional Tunnock’s caramel wafer. She came back out and for the time time noticed a huge wet patch on the floor.
I had had some trouble when ironing my shirt earlier in the day. Trouble in that as soon as I touched the iron down on my shirt, about three pints of water had gushed through the little holes at the bottom and completely drenched the shirt, ironing board and floor. If it had been about an hour earlier I’d have been able to open my suit jacket and show her my translucent shirt but it had dried. She continued pampering herself and relaxing and I was increasingly agitated. See, the longer we were away, the more fuel there was for the gossips. That young couple would have told half the ballroom what they saw by now, chinese whispers would be happening apace, and the duration of our hand-in-hand getaway was going well past “plugging in a charger” and well and truly towards intercourse levels. I harried her out of the room, largely against her will.
Moments after returning, I was dragged into the coffee machine room and confronted by about 6 family members, wanting all the details. Gillian blared “Did you get laid!! Sit down, tell us!”
“No!” I protested. “I wasn’t gone long enough, for starters, and besides, no!” The disappointment was palpable. I was not only expected to deliver a world-class speech, but also provide tales of brides-friend-shagging barely at the start of the evening.
If I’d not been eaten alive during that precarious visit to my room, then the chances were getting slimmer as the night went on. Rosie and Biffy were getting drunker and drunker and I was getting no less sober. And much as many female friends have told me they shouldn’t be, for me the moral dynamics are different.
It was while outside having a cigarette (I was no longer smoking but this was a special occasion), that the infamous Dougie conversation happened. Twenty-seven he thought I was. Still incredible. I won’t repeat that again, so enjoy a piece of smalltalk my brother told me about.
“How’s it going Davie, haven’t seen you in years.”
“Aye, all good,” my brother said.
“How’ve you been? Got any kids now?”
“Nope, no kids.”
“Right … and what about grandkids?”
Think about it. Mind boggles.
It was also while out smoking that I made the acquaintance of my new favourite person in the world. I never caught her name. She was just Inadvertent Pun Girl. You know that phrase “no pun intended”; she could have said that after every line she spoke. Except she didn’t. Because she never picked up her own puns. Many of them she didn’t even get when I explained them. I’ve never met anyone like her.
Me and David joked about stealing the little golf cart beside us and going to the golf course.
“I don’t know, it’s a fair way.” she said.
“Ha ha ha, fairway. Good one.”
“Fairway,” I explained, “It’s a golf term.”
“Is it? Anyway I’m no good at driving.”
“Ha ha ha, driving. Good one.”
“It’s a thing in golf, Even I’ve heard of these, and I know nothing about golf.”
“Join the club!”
They kept coming. “You must know you’re doing these.”
“I better get back in, a little birdie told me they’re doing shots.”
“No way! This can’t be accidental. Birdie!”
“What are you talking about. What’s he talking about?” she turned to my brother. “I don’t know anything about golf. Right, game’s a bogey, back to the par-tee, ‘fore someone misses me.”
After a couple of hours it was time to go back and get the phone. Worried for my safety, and of further fuelling gossips. I insisted on making the return trip alone. Back in my room, I checked the phone.
WTF. It was plugged in, it was charging I could see it. Also at this point for the first time I realised that the phone had indeed needed charging, something I never thought to check when suspecting that Rosie coming to my room was a cover. How was I to explain this utter failure to do the one thing I went through all that stress for? It was while on the way back to the party, drained phone in hand, that it occurred to me the power in the room was only on when my keycard was in. So as soon as we had left my room some hours ago I’d turned the power straight back off when I removed the card. Fuck.
A sense of responsibility set in so I started asking around for a cable I could use to charge it off my laptop. Meanwhile merriment continued. Classic wedding stuff, some cousins were close to fighting over decades-old family feuds, and the cigars had started coming out. I was introduced to a chap about my age called Liam. A dapper gent who had been waiting all night it seemed for “cigar time”.
“How old do you think Liam is?” my sister asked later.
“My age? 40? 35 maybe? 43?”
“Fuck off. No way.” This guy was 18. He looked and spoke like someone twice or three times that. I spent the next ten minutes looking for him, so I could stand next to him and point and say “This guy? This Liam? This is the one you mean?” just to be 100% sure that this outlandish claim was not a mix-up. But he was the guy. At no other point in the proceedings did I feel so much like I needed a drink.
I’d managed to find a charging cable to make good on my promises to give pro bono electricity to Rosie’s handheld. I rendezvoused with her in the busy bar, where Biffy was seen chatting up the barman, who was also called Alan. Everyone’s got their type. I was trying to explain that I’d sorted the charging cable over the bustle, when other Alan piped in. “Oh I’ve got a free charger plugged in here behind the bar.”
I was saved. No more gossip, no more danger. “Ah perfect,” I said to Rosie, “So we don’t need to go back to my room.”
The bar quietened eerily, in that phophetic way that it does just before someone says something that you don’t want the whole bar to hear.
“BUT WE HAVE TO GO BACK TO YOUR BEDROOM ALAN, I’VE LEFT MY HANDBAG THERE.”
Shit. She was right, she left all her stuff in my room when we first went. Everyone in the room turned to us. I heard mutterings of “told you”, money changed hands, “knew there was something going on”, “one of his sister’s friends, that wee shagger, cannae believe it”.
After fetching the items, I retreated outside, via various corridors and passages to avoid a now very drunk Rosie following my every step. It was outside with the lads, cigars were ongoing and I joined in. I hate cigars. I was almost sick. I’d been drinking coffee and Red Bull all day and I was exhausted from being chased. There was also the problem haunting me of what to do when the inevitable actual bedtime arrived and Rosie and Biffy were still expecting hospitality.
The bride joined us, somewhat inebriated, and Biffy started doing that thing off that thing where you just keep shouting “Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan”. She did this for forty minutes. I was sober. I timed it. No interruptions. The staff had been out to complain about the noise. One specific noise, that of a crazy person shouting “Alan!” Biffy was also giving my location away to Rosie. It was like a mating call.
Nothing stops someone annoyingly shouting your name like the Bride passing out on the concrete, bashing a table on her way down. After the laughter subsided and we’d checked our drinks were OK, we picked her back up and handed her off to the groom. “Trying to have a good time here and your wife is out of control, sort it out.”
“…Alan! Alan! Alan!”
As the evening drew to a close, I most certainly didn’t have the energy to deal with a hyper-drunk Rosie/Biffy tag team, I seized on an opportunity when taxis were being ordered to politely decline the offer of two ladies in my other bed. There’s was some running away and bolting my hotel room door involved too.
Laura was fine, she hadn’t smashed he brains in on impact, not discernibly anyway. The girls got back home … eventually after some mix up with taxis. I awoke the next day massively hungunder. The worst part of not drinking, where you feel like shit and have a headache the next day, but no boozing to justify it. Some non-scientists have suggested it might be the 84 coffees.
The wedding felt like it last much longer. My little friend, the photographer, drip fed photos over the course of about 6 months, and eventually there was a lovely video – there had been a drone flying around getting footage. All came in handy to illustrate these posts, and I’ve started using the video to generate GIFs to represent pretty much any emotion or reaction anyone in the family has.
Few events in 2019 could overshadow Laura’s wedding in terms of spectacle and national import. But it was while sitting up all night watching the results of the General Election in December that I saw one of the most unexpected and unusual things I’ve ever witnessed.
Around 3am, the key seat of Dunbartonshire East, and Jo Swinson and the other candidates took the stage for the results.
I messaged this picture to Laura. “Am I imagining things or did I meet this guy at your wedding?”
It was LIAM! 18-going-on-43 Liam. Standing front and centre like he was about to win. He didn’t, he got 200 votes. But Jo Swinson was ousted from her seat by 149 votes.
Yes, Liam from the wedding took enough votes to unseat the leader of the UK’s third largest political party. Now THAT deserves a cigar.