Saturday, December 11, 2010

58. The wedding

Not only had Jeni fallen deeply in love with Tony, but Juliea and Helen were also mad about him. In looks and character he was very like Tom, so I quickly became Fan No.4 . Even tempered, energetic, considerate, kind, good looking, sexy and with a great sense of humour, what more could a girl want? But he was only in his early twenties, had recently finished his time in the army and was still looking for employment. He could have his choice of any girl in Bulawayo, so he would be crazy to take on the responsibility of bringing up two little girls. But, like me with Tom, once Jeni had met Tony, no one else would do. In spite of her concerns about her precious son becoming involved with a young divorcee with a ready made family Esme, Tony’s mother, always made Jeni most welcome in her home, in fact I became a bit fed up with “Esme says this” and “Esme says that”, which made me feel somewhat inferior. One evening Jeni came home looking as if she had been attacked by a Bull Terrier. It must have been very difficult for Tony to come to the very sensible decision that he was not ready to face the responsibility of marriage and they had ‘broken up’. I don’t know how Jeni got through the days, it seemed as if I had to scrape her up off the floor to get her off to work. The girls kept asking “Where’s Tony?” and that made everything worse. The girls has also bonded with Tony’s young sister, Gaynor, and they missed her too.

About a year later Jeni came home with her face lit up like a Christmas Tree. Tony had phoned and wanted to see her and when they met he took her to a little semi-detached house he had bought, which he asked her to share with him. Helen had been only two years old when last she had seen Tony, but as he walked through the door she looked up at him shyly and said to me “That’s Tony”. Jules nearly demolished him with her greeting. They were to be married and, because Jeni now had a day job, they would be taking my girls away from me, but their happiness far outweighed my sadness.

Tony and Jeni wanted a very quiet wedding, which would have suited us because we were hard up. Furnishing the new house and buying a car and not being able to get at Tom’s RAF pension, albeit a reduced one, called for careful budgeting. But Tony’s family were from Pioneer stock and had a long guest list of friends and family. We felt that by accepting Jeni, Helen and Jules into the family the least we could do was to give them a nice wedding. Catering for over a hundred people would be a challenge, making the brides and bridesmaids dresses would be time consuming. The bridesmaids were to be Gaynor, Jules and Helen. Jeni’s dress was a classic style in the palest blue, and the bridesmaids dresses were pale apricot with dozens of white daisies, cut from a huge piece of lace, hand sewn all over the skirts. Jeni carried a spray of orchids which were found with great difficulty because it was the wrong time of year for orchids.

The cheapest venue we could find was the St.John’s hall, a stark, cold place but it was brightened with dozens of candles stuck in bottles covered in silver tinfoil, shining glasses and brightly coloured napkins. Fair Lady Magazine had recently published an article on catering for a wedding, with excellent instructions. It was all done in stages and lists given on what to buy, when to cook, what to freeze in advance, right to the time of serving. It was very well done. The weather was cool in June and so I did not have to worry too much about refrigeration. The menu was cold, curried chicken made with cream and chutney along with many different salads. Some friends helped me with the deserts but there were not enough because some greedy men were taking seconds and thirds before other guests had taken their firsts! Men always seem to love the deserts

We had ordered a bar and a barman, on a sale or return arrangement. At many wedding receptions the guests are served with tea while awaiting the arrival of the bride and groom but, as I now had about seventy gallons of wine, bottled and ready for drinking, I decided to put bottles of wine on the tables, although I think most people were a bit suspicious of it at first. What can I say? By the time the bride and groom arrived the guests were already in a very merry mood, and when the bar was declared open only a few hardened beer drinkers moved! Speakers had to be reminded to speak, and we forgot to cut the cake. One guest asked me if I would exchange a box of my wine for a box of imported South African wine. Well, you cannot have greater praise than that! Finally, Jeni and Tony changed out of their wedding clothes and went racing off to an unknown destination on my Honda motor scooter. Actually they went to Umhlanga in Natal by air, it being too far to go on the Scooter! By 11:00pm our booked time for the hall was up, and there was plenty of clearing up to do, and to make people move, I switched on the overhead lights and the candlelight illusion vanished. Later many people said it was the best wedding they had ever attended. And Tom had told me I could not do it!

One tragic note I must mention here. Gaynor was a very religious girl and, during the wedding ceremony, sang a beautiful hymn, accompanying herself on her guitar. I can still see her standing on the rostrum in her peach coloured dress, hair hanging in lovely curls round her face. A few years later she married and had a baby boy called Benjamin. The little family were living on a farm, which had become a religious, self supporting community, and Ben was only weeks old when the farm was attacked by terrorists and everyone but one little boy, who managed to escape, were brutally murdered.

The day following the wedding, Mother, Juliea, Helen and I also flew to Scottbourough for a ten day holiday, and after the busy time preceding the wedding it was lovely to relax and not have to think about food and work. The girls had never been to the sea before and found it all very scarey and exciting. Mother was a very tidy little lady, never spending much on clothes, but always neat and never without her string of cultured pearls, which she only wore after lunch as dictated by Lady Astor. Pearls before noon are so vulgar, you know! In the afternoon we were walking on the beach and mother fell backwards into a little rock pool. Once I had established that she was not hurt I had to laugh, seeing her lying there, resplendent in her pearls, looking as if that was exactly where she wanted to be!

One evening after dinner, the children being safely tucked up in bed, we were having coffee in the lounge when I noticed a little child sitting with a group of adults, having a nice chat. It was Juliea! She had wandered from Mother’s room looking for us and, typically Juliea, found some people to talk to on the way! When I read about that little girl, Madeleine, who disappeared from the hotel in Spain, I remembered that incident and realised how easy it could be to lose a child. Tony and Jeni returned from their honeymoon and the girls moved in with them, but they were not lost to me completely because they came to stay most week-ends, so that the newly weds could have some quality time together. Gertrude, a lovely girl who was married to Mother’s gardener, looked after them when they were not at day care.

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