Last week my cousin Ross got married to Karina, his Latvian girlfriend at a small castle just south of Edinburgh, Scotland called Dalhousie. It was the first time Vince and Stacey had been North of the border and my first time for a while too.
Rail is the most romantic of transportation, that much we know, although lugging two large suitcases onto an East Coast mainline train, trying to find your seat in a busy carriage and get a little boy settled all before you pull out of the station is a bit of a passion killer but this dissipated once we were underway and heading north. The journey itself takes in some beautiful countryside in County Durham, Northumberland and the border country including Durham Cathedral, the Angel of the North, Newcastle and Berwick themselves before running along the East Coast to Edinburgh. In a thoughtful way, the train staff did their best to acclimatize us to Scotland by leaving the air conditioning on so when we got to Edinburgh Waverley, we were literally and figuratively chilled. Some of the other attendees had spent some time in Edinburgh itself and gone to the Zoo and other attractions but its a hilly city with no real central transport system so the only way to get around is on foot and in this arctic Spring we're having, not one for delicate Southern constitutions to bare.
My dad met us at the station and drove us south to the castle via that rare mix of great Edwardian and Victorian grand buildings and pebble-dashed grey tenament housing. The Castle itself is set in some beautiful picture book grounds which would tick any spotters guide to Scotland - rugged landscape, wildlife, a stream, battlements. The rest of the family arrived in dribs and drabs throughout the day and congregated in the added sun lounge which was attached to our room. As superfluous in Scotland as a screen door on a submarine you may think but as one of the few rooms with a TV, we were a destination. This also meant going out to stock up on other Scottish curios such as Irn Bru for the kids, Sweetheart Stout, my late Nana's favourite drink and a nostalgic tipple for the older drinker and the pear cider that is now so much in vogue. It was also a chance to use up the Scottish bank notes I'd collected since we arrived. They are very colorful and more reminiscent of Euro's than traditional British notes and while they are readily accepted in the North of England, you can run into problems further south despite being perfectly legal currency. Once everybody had caught up we settled down and two became three as Vincent decided our large bed was a better proposition than his camp bed next to us.
We rose the next day to a traditional Scottish cooked breakfast of black pudding, fried mushrooms, sausage, scrambled egg and haggis. Well I did, Stacey looked on aghast as if her husband had become one of The Walking Dead. After retiring and getting dressed in our wedding gear - simple black suit for me, lovely dress for Stacey and a little suit and shirt outfit for Vincent who spent the rest of the day proclaiming that he looked like a businessman to all and sundry. A piper heralded the couple and we followed them down the staircase into the Chapel. Pipers are one of those things that are fine in theory and far away but the closer the presence the more uncomfortable you are aurally and physically. A bit like a Tom Jones concert. The Chapel faced the gardens through it's arched stained glass windows and a simple, efficient service was enlivened by a small snow owl flying down and bringing the wings to the best mans' glove. Fortunately he declined to leave his own good luck message on patrons and flew away home.
Everyone hung around, chatting, corralling kids and drinking until the bride and groom re-emerged, Ross now sporting a kilt but still not able to out-glam his new bride. The meal arrived which was also nice Scottish beef before we had the speeches and we had a little time before the evening festivities commenced. Wedding discos have come on a long way in the past 10 years certainly. Now the DJ can download any track you want which makes for an eclectic playlist of modern Atlanta-based Krunk and RnB to standby wedding classics like YMCA and Karma Chameleon. We decided to turn in about 9pm, Vince was exhausted and his mum and dad weren't far behind either.
I decided to treat myself to another Scottish staple of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon the next day, again Stacey took the safe cereal option before we drove back leisurely to enjoy what was left of the weekend and to prepare Vince for going back to school and Stacey for going back to the States at the end of the Easter break.