Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ring Shopping

It took me nearly a week to recover from the ball. Lack of sleep and lack of vegetables left me feeling quite drained. Fortunately when Friday rolled around I was perked up by receiving my first official pay as a permanent staff member at my job! It was higher than I expected, even with them taxing me too much (I will get a refund for the overpaid tax), and it was nice to feel the financial pressure of the past year begin ebb away.

(Riding the train is still novel)

Pay came just in time, because on Saturday David and I went to London to buy our wedding rings! We had a lovely but exhausting day. The journey to London is beginning to become familiar—a 40 minute walk to the station, waiting in line anxiously worrying that I'll buy the wrong tickets, the rush onto the platform to purchase breakfast from the West Cornwall Pasty Co (this time hot Cumberland sausage in a bun), and then a 50 minute ride of beautiful English countryside and small villages.

Do you need another picture of me on the train?

When we arrived in London we went to Hatton Garden, London's jewellery district. The morning was, at least for me, fraught with disappointment. As I expected, most of the stores were way out of our price range (hello £10,000 rings! Seriously). We had wanted to go here because they were supposed to have a 300 store jewellery mall...which turned out to have about 5 stores open (so not 300), the majority of which were run by pushy, somewhat sleazy men hawking their wares.

Creepy statue children on the way to Hatton Gardens

After the jewellery mall failed we continued to browse on the streets. Then I found a beautiful antique ring—a fat round bright yellow gold ring with a bit of engraving around a bright blue sapphire. I fell in love with it...but it was not to be. I was worried about the pressurized setting not keeping the stone in (the ring was from 1911), David was worried about the quality overall, and although I will likely go back and buy it with some grad money one of my uncle's gave me I couldn't sell myself on getting a ring that neither of us felt 100% about, even if I did love it.

Antique ring I fell in love with.

More browsing. More feeling dissatisfied. Finally we went back to The Wedding Ring Shop. It is a cheesy looking shop that has a giant wedding ring serving as the door handles. We had been in there earlier but as they didn't have any prices displayed we figured it would be way out of our limited budget. By this point in the day I was feeling rather low—hungry after hours of fruitless searching, and only becoming increasingly dissatisfied with options. Fortunately I have David.

Within minutes of entering the shop he'd found a ring that he thought looked similar to the one I loved at the antique store. And after finding that I noticed that this store had a number of rings with engraving on them. After much looking, because there were many options, I found a wedding band that was hand engraved with a series of flowers and vines around it. Love, again! The way the light caught the engravings made it look like it was sparkling with gems, but it was still plain enough to not clash with the all the stones in my engagement ring.

Not my ring, but similar

I hardly dared to hope that we could afford it. However this shop is wonderful! All the rings are made to order, which meant that we were able to customise it to fit with our budget. And we also ordered David's ring from there so he got the fun of choosing the style and metal as well. The only downside is that since the rings are all made-to-order we won't be able to pick them up until July 13th, four days before we leave for our wedding. Still, I think it is well worth the wait—not only do we have rings that we love, but we had the fun of going to get them in London.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

May Week--Scheherazade

Much has happened in the last week so it will probably take a post or two to cover it all.

Last Monday David and I went to Clare's May Ball, Scheherazade. It was the most fantastic event that I have ever been to. The thing closest to it is Dry Grad, but that description doesn't even do it justice. It's like comparing a peasant to a queen :)

It was such fun to walk to the college in proper evening dress, as there are just enough tourists around now that you can tell people are wondering where you're going. When we arrived at the college the line to get in stretched for about a block, but we were fortunate enough to spot some friends mid-way up who snuck us in with them.

The first thing we noticed were camels, two of them, wandering on the medieval street that ends in Kings. I braved a picture with them, although was terrified that they would spit on me! Then we finally entered the college grounds (past security that included wristband swiping and photo id). The evening required a program booklet and map. And from then on it was one giant party!


- unlimited champagne, bellinis, beer, wine, cider, and Arabian-nights themed cocktails (with fig or mango liqueur)

- unlimited food including curry on couscous, falafel, hog roast, freshly fried donuts, candy bar, crepes, ice cream, baklawa, a chocolate fountain, pastries, bacon butty, and a deli (with pate, smoked salmon, veggies, cheese, houmous)

- shisha (hookah) with a delightful fruit flavoured thing to smoke

- late night punt rides on the river

- musical performances all night, including big names like Faithless (rock) & Neil Crowley (jazz) and also local groups playing folk, swing, and classical.

- Indian massage, manicures, a casino, and a silent disco

We wandered, we ate, we spoke with friends, we danced...David rode a mechanical camel (like a mechanical bull). We reclined on cushions in a garden, smoking on the shisha and watching fireworks over the river. We took cocktails down to the improvised dock and went for a punt ride on the Cam at 3am. We listened to some amazing local folk, in the style of the Kingston Trio. We met up with most of our friends at one point or other, made some new friends, and managed to stay until 5:30am for the survivors' portrait. We also managed to get the last bottle of champagne.

It is the first time that I have ever stayed out all night without feeling even the slightest bit bored or exhausted. I was so busy I didn't even notice that the sun had set! It was beautiful to see dawn creep up over the gardens after such a romantic and magical night. I felt beautiful, people said I looked beautiful, and I was surrounded by beautiful people.

We left at around 6am, wandering through streets that sported others wending homewards, passing lorry drivers on their way to work. Jesus Green was the emptiest that I've ever seen it, and the streets were still in the bright dawn. Then to bed, waking in a grey afternoon, and feeling as if the previous night was nothing more than a glittering dream.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

May Week—President’s Dinner & Some Bumps

It is most certainly May-week and our whirl of gaiety has begun!

May-week means that the students are finishing their respective defences, exams, and theses and are now let loose on the town to party. But this is Cambridge, what, so these aren't just any parties! I hope to have at least small updates of our activities.

Last night we had the President's Dinner for the MCR formal. It is one of the grandest formal halls of the year. Before dinner we had champagne in the Scholar's Garden, a garden normally only open to Fellows. It was quite lovely to see everyone fluttering around in evening dress, drinking from flutes of champagne.

The dinner itself was quite crowded and we were lucky to get seats together. But once the food started we realised why it was so busy—it is not every day, not even at Cambridge, that one gets a four course dinner. To start, flat mushroom with pesto, spinach, and cheese. This was followed by red mullet in saffron sauce. I'd not had mullet before but can report that it is very delicious—tastes almost like scallops. Of course since my intended is a Latin satirist he could not refrain from making jokes about mullet and adulterers. This course was followed by chicken fillet in cream & mustard sauce, creamed potatoes & chives, and carrots & beans. Then dessert—berry cheesecake, coffee/tea, and petit fours. And of course the wine changed with the courses—white, red, and port. It was magnificent, and the Master of the College, Prof Tony Badger, gave a delightful and wonderful speech that made me so proud to be the almost-wife of a Clare man.

Following dinner we went to the MCR for chocolates and drinks—g&t's for me and whiskey for David. Then at around midnight we headed home, picking up a bit of a greasy snack to soak up the alcohol. David had to be at the boathouse at 9:15 this morning, and I confess my poor boy was rather tired.

He has been participating in the May Bumps ( after his boat unexpectedly placed last week. This means that every morning since Wednesday, David has road far out on the river and then, with a signal from the cannon, he and his crew have rowed full speed ahead in an attempt to smash their boat into the one in front of them / avoid getting smashed by the boat behind them. So far they have been bumped twice, made it safely through yesterday, and are hoping to bump Kings (and thus win for Kings the dishonour of being bumped 4 times). Lucky crews who bump four times (ie: once each day) win an oar, whilst unlucky crews who have been bumped four times win spoons. So excitement is high. And, if I may steal a line from one of my friends, "it's only at Cambridge that you can hear them say that Jesus bumped Christ (referring to the colleges, of course)".

This evening boasts the Boat Club Dinner for David and, hopefully, time spent with friends watching a Mormon version of Pride & Prejudice for me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ceremony Readings—and thoughts about faith

I had my first real "overwhelmed" moment a couple of days ago. With just under two months to go the what-ifs started piling up in my head. Now that other people are really getting involved in planning their bits of the wedding I kind of have to face it as a reality, instead of just a far off event that I can plan and moon about over.

Between David, Madeleine, and the eventual return of my common sense I am feeling better. I have a tendency to forget that other people are able, and willing, to help me. I also have a tendency to worry and then waste time, rather than doing something productive. But now I am armed with a to-do list that grows every day, but which I am committed to working on every day. This evening, btw, saw some additions to the wedding website go up so if you haven't checked it in awhile, go take a look!

Last night David and I put the spoken part of our ceremony together, at least for the most part, and that got me thinking. In a world where it often seems that having a blatantly non-[mainstream]religious ceremony is a way of standing out and being controversial , my ceremony is putting my personal and religious beliefs to the forefront in a way that is not normal for me.

This really is the first time, at least since my confirmation, that my beliefs are taking centre stage to be witnessed by friends and family, many of whom do not share my beliefs (or at least do not share them in part).

As we picked the readings, prayers, and vows I was struck by what a statement I was making. It may not be obvious to anyone there, but it is to me. In some ways it is a statement of our Catholic beliefs (like the reading from Tobit), and in others it is a statement of our beliefs about marriage (being permanent, and the idea that children are a blessing). The readings we chose emphasize the importance of spiritual life and virtue, rather than highlighting love/passion/desire.

I suppose that they really highlight my desire and prayer for us as a couple—that together we would grow in faith and love, helping each other on this journey of drawing closer to God, and becoming models for each other of Christian virtue and Christ-like love and sacrifice. This is something to strive for.

I am coming to realise now how impossible it is for me to keep separate my true beliefs from the world I inhabit. Although I have kept silent when friends and acquaintances of mine have put articles/comments on Facebook, for example, that I find offensive and inconsiderate of my beliefs (my silence because they have a right to their expression in their own space, and I could absent myself in such a way that I would not have to view it), I can no longer even consider silence in the realm of my own world. Yes, this goes beyond a few readings, but enters the very core of myself and of my marriage.

What I mean, or think I mean, is that my wedding ceremony is providing everyone with a glimpse of my world. I hope that I shall always be considerate of the beliefs of my friends and family, even when I do not agree, but my Catholicism and my beliefs are not an option—they are part of the whole package.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Good things coming!

I am getting married in two months and one day! Wow! I am sooooooooooooo excited! I will also be home in 41 days, which has me majorly excited too.

The last four days have been a good combination of wedding stuff and fun life stuff in general:

- I went over some plans with Madeleine & Tara for a bridal shower and a shower/hen do thingy. My ladies are making me feel so loved and special!

- I bought the last of one of part of my bridesmaids' gifts on Saturday. For obvious reasons I can't post what I got, but I hope they love it as much as I do.

- David and I went shoe shopping today, and we got new dress shoes for both of us. Although I already have my wedding shoes, these ones will work if the others are too high, and they also go with my rehearsal dinner dress. They're cream flats and have an embroidered design + sequins on them, plus little bows on the front. David chose 'em, after I tried on a few pairs. David got new dress shoes since his current black ones have holes in them (and are now being used for rowing, lol), and they look very nice and sophisticated. He'll be wearing them on our wedding day, which got me quite excited while we were shopping.

We've had a very lovely weekend. Saturday was quite hot, so we took our time in heading downtown for groceries and opted for a late brunch at the college. David picked up a bottle of white wine for us to have with our brunch, and because of exams the Clare students have been granted special privilege of being able to picnic in the Clare Fellows Garden so we were able to take our trays of food to the banks of the Cam. It was such a restful and lovely afternoon, drinking wine on the river banks and watching punts and ducks float by. It was nice to have a rest before the whirl of end-of-year gaiety begins:

David, who was rowing in first (stroke) position (ie: setting the pace), and the rest of his boating team placed for the May Bumps. This is quite a big deal, and if all goes well he will be racing until Saturday. Saturday evening he has his Boat Club dinner. The night before, pending tickets, we will be attending the President's Dinner at Clare, which is another formal event (and includes drinks in the Masters Garden, a garden normally forbidden to students).

Sunday there is a BBQ after mass, and then Monday we have the Clare May Ball. I am soooooooooooo excited for the ball! It has an Arabian Nights type theme, and it will go on until dawn. I have the day after off work and we are planning to stay out until it finishes. The tickets were very expensive but we are assured that it is worth it. I will no doubt post tonnes of pictures once it is over. My evening gown is hanging in my closet, I have my new shoes, and last weekend we went to Marks & Spencer and got David a tux.

The following weekend should also be wonderful. We are going to Hatton Gardens in London to buy our wedding rings!!!! And in the afternoon we are meeting our friend Zina and going to see Shakespeare's Henry VIII at The Globe followed by lunch in a pub along the Thames.

Then, if we have any money left, we will be purchasing tickets to the folk festival in Ely which takes place at the beginning of July. And THEN we will be hopping on a plane on a Saturday afternoon and landing in Vancouver and the whirl of pre-wedding activities will begin.

It almost makes me tired just reading it all, but there's so much to look forward to!

David pouring wine by the Cam

Enjoying my heart English breakfast (for lunch)

Clare College--Old Court

David relaxes after a hard month of writing a dissertation chapter