Abi and Steve got hitched last Saturday. I burst into tears when I saw her in her dress because she is like a second daughter to me. It began all those years ago when my children were little and we were staying with my parents for Tom's, my son's, christening. On a very hot day a rather bedraggled and tearful 14-year old girl arrived at Mummy’s front door. She explained that she had just had a bombastic blowout with her father (turned out he was the next-door dairy farmer) and he had sent her up to enquire about babysitting. We never looked back. Summer after summer, and all the school holidays in between, wherever I was with my children, Abi was too. An extra pair of smiling hands and sweet as apple pie. Holidays by the sea, mackerel fishing trips, Pooh Sticks and pony rides, you’re getting the picture – Abi was part of my gang. After she finished school she couldn’t wait to say goodbye to the cows, and the subject of university was raised. 'Kingston upon Thames,' I said, 'has a very good geography course.' No coincidence that is was about 15 minutes from where we lived and so... Kingston it was, and the happy arrangement that had worked for so long continued. Fast forward 10 years and Abi is a still fabulous, very sorted 30-year old with a beautiful boy Benji, a fabulous fiancé Steve and... a big shiny ring on her finger. 'You will help me won't you?' she asked when she rang to tell me the happy news. 'Save the date!'
And so I did, the church was booked, the dress was chosen, and when she came down from Kingston (yes, still) for Easter with her Dad, she came over to mine and we started making lists. A lunchtime wedding with a tent on the lawn at her grandparents’ house, buckets of Prosecco, canapés and then a sit down supper for a hundred and twenty guests. Speeches, then dancing till dawn.
Children being her thing, Abi passionately wanted her wedding day to be total magic for Benji and his cousins who were all her bridesmaids and pageboys. But old habits die hard and we both knew the pitfalls of small children at weddings, totally over excited, too much sugar, no proper food and parents who actually wanted to enjoy themselves too!
The wish list got longer. First and foremost we needed a Mary Poppins-type character who could spend the whole day looking after the children, and, if she had a friend who wanted to come too, so much the better!
Off with the formality of their outfits. It was a boiling hot summer, so easier to swap from tights and Mary Janes to barefoot and the boys could do what they liked. A bouncy castle for sure and a ball pit, a magic man and a clown, all of the fun of the fair! The whole afternoon was meticulously planned so that the parents could relax and just enjoy the day and the children have a fabulous and memorable afternoon. In keeping with this a special table was set up for the children presided over by Mary Poppins and her friend. Proper plates (paper doesn’t work), roast chicken, peas, carrots, new potatoes and gravy, and then berries and ice cream. The table was piled high with colouring books and crayons for use during boring (to a 4 year old) speeches, and party bags hung on the back of each child’s chair, filled with puzzles and toys and yes, finally sweets!
Queen of children’s routine bedtime, Abi had had a large bell tent put up in the garden and we had piled it up with pillows and duvets. As darkness fell, one by one the children crawled in and fell asleep like exhausted puppies.
Mary Poppins sat outside the tent on a blanket with her friend, a large glass of Processo in her hand, with a tired but self-satisfied smile on her face. Spit Spot.