Sunday, July 30, 2006

Days 135 and 136

This weekend we went away to the countryside, in order to introduce Goth Girl to the yokel side of the family and announce our news to them. We ended up staying in a B&B owned by a couple who knew my great uncles very well and who also remembered my mother, her siblings and indeed my grandparents. I'm glad that we don't live in such a small community, otherwise keeping this partiular secret would have been impossible no matter what we did.

Mother Skiver committed two blunders over the weekend. The first was to spring us upon her brother without telling him that Goth Girl existed or indeed that I was no longer with First Wife. I think they might get over the shock some time within the next six months. The second was to invite the assembled crowd to our wedding. Fortunately, I think they all know well enough not to take anything for granted as we are by no means certain how many there will be room for.

The issue of whether to take your husband's name is one every bride has to consider. I have an idea what Goth Girl intends to do; First Wife, for reasons I entirely understood, never took my name. But in the newspaper this weekend was a girl who must have been desperate to lose her maiden name. Now that the wedding has taken place, I hope that Mrs Dempster gets a lot less writer's cramp than she did as Miss van Bergenhenegouwen.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The saga of Goth Girl's engagement ring

One or two people have picked up on the fact that I only gave Goth Girl a sketch of her engagement ring, rather than the ring itself.

The ring is being made by the very wonderful Amanda Reddy of RedJewel (see the link to the right) and the fact that it is not ready is nothing to do with her and everything to do with me. Having gone to the trouble of raiding Goth Girl's jewellery case, getting her to try rings on (without explaining why) and even drawing around two of the rings to get the right size, I then took Goth Girl for a browse in a jewellers' window. The conversation went something like this:

ME: (pointing at a similar but not as nice ring) So, if we were to ever get engaged, you would want something like that one?

GG: Yes, but not in yellow gold. Platinum or even white gold.

No prizes for guessing which material I had commissioned Amanda to make the ring in.

Anyway, we are about 7 weeks from having the ring ready. Amanda was the only one who knew I intended to propose in Paris and she came up with the sketch and the wonderful packaging it was in. In short, if you are looking for something wonderfully individual at a very reasonable price, please get in touch with her, you will not regret it.

I'd love to be able to show you the sketch, but for some ridiculous reason this site doesn't support .pdf files, so I can't. Sorry.

Days 123-134

The more observant among you will notice the lack of recent updates to this site. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the site has attracted a lot of negative comment from some quarters, quarters which I did not expect to be entirely enthusiastic but from whom I did not anticipate quite so much approbation. I usually don't give a flying one what people think of me, but, you know, this is about the most important person and the most important thing in my life and I want to make sure I am getting it right.

Fortunately, I have had at least an equal number of positive comments - and even the odd complaint about the lack of updates this past fortnight - so for no better reason than to really annoy the people I refer to above, I'm going to carry on for now.

The reason for the absence of posts has largely been the arrival of Goth Girl's parents and the subsequent announcement of our engagement to both families.

What can I tell you about Ma and Pa GG? Not a lot, really, as I doubt that they would appreciate having their personal details spread all over the Web. Suffice to say, though, that they were every bit as wonderful as their daughter led me to expect them to be and that I lost no time in pointing out what a credit she was to them. What they thought of me is an entirely different matter, but I hope they liked me, seeing as they are stuck with me from now on.

We introduced the parents to each other on the Saturday. Fortunately, they had a number of things in common and we could make them talk about those rather than us.

On Saturday evening we dropped our little bombshell on them over drinks, just before going out to dinner. I proposed a toast to Goth Girl's parents and then she proposed one to mine. And then I proposed a toast to "Goth Girl - or, as I like to call her, my fiancee". There was a brief moment of silence, followed by smiles, hugs and handshakes all round. And a very nice French meal.

This is all wonderful, but there I have one slight concern, which is that I have no idea what either set of parents really thinks. They are all such lovely people that there is no way they would let on that they disapproved in any way. In our favour, though, is that neither set claimed to be surprised. I guess they must have seen from watching Goth Girl and I together that there was a certain inevitability about it.

[For the avoidance of doubt, my parents adore Goth Girl. My mother said after the announcement that she had "...given [them their] son back." - I didn't know I had been away!]

The next step was to tell my siblings. My mother made this easy for us by telling one of my sisters in an unguarded moment. Again, Goth Girl is a big favourite with at least two of them [the third lives abroad and has not met her yet] so there was much excitement and a good deal more surprise than the parents showed. My brother did point out that it was unfair of me to leave him to sow the family's wild oats, but I know he is man enough for the task.

This just left the formal announcement. Again, some people were upset - this time that we set up a joint email account to do this. I really don't understand this one at all. Lots of people have joint accounts and the only reason was so that we could be sure that the same message got to people and that each person only got the announcement once. The vast majority of the responses we got were entirely positive and in some cases very touching.

We've also had the very lovely Flame Haired Angel over from Paris this week. We were at her apartment when we got engaged and it was good to be able to return the favour, at least so far as accommodation was concerned.

The actual planning of the wedding has continued, although most of it has been ruling out venues rather than making any firm decisions. From the oppressively expensive (£3000 just to hire a room) to the downright mendacious (an extra £10 a head for the same menu because it was a wedding rather than corporate reception) it was as if potential venues were falling over themselves to be crossed off the list. We'll find somewhere wonderful soon, we are confident of that.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Day 122

This was, without doubt, a momentous day. Not for any reason to do with the engagement, but because, after three months of trying, Goth Girl and I finally bought a sofa. It's not an ideal sofa but it was the best and most comfortable that we could find. More importantly, when it arrives in 9 weeks, we might be able to invite guests over and allow them to sit down as well.
Today marked the 4th month of this relationship. It was also the day when the secret got out.

It all happened in a rather strange way. I have another 'blog, called You Called Your Kid WHAT? (link on the right) and I linked it to this one. I created YCYKW? for my own amusement and only circulated details of it a few months ago to a group of family and friends. I've since mentioned it on the internet a few times, but it never occurred to me that anyone at all read the thing. I was therefore rather surprised to arrive in the office this morning to find the following messages:

Just Imagine. Here is pumpkin, surfing the internet with a coffee before starting work. "Oooh," thinks pumpkin, "I wonder if Skiver has updated his blog lately?". Hadn't seen young Barnes before. But oh, what's this? Another link... Anything you would like to tell me?

I am reading 116 days and counting. Stop interrupting. Fascinating! I will get back to you in a few minutes!

Cue much swearing and extracting of promises.

We've told a few more friends since then, people who have been through things with us over the last few months and who know how close we are anyway. One friend, she of the fabulous leopardprint wedding dress, actually said she was glad we had told her, because she had been expecting it and was worried that Goth Girl might say no. Without sounding arrogant, I think she was more worried than I was.

Day 121

Another day and more disappointments as get the prices of more prospective venues. Even without mentioning the W word they all seem to want to charge so much more than we want to pay.

Somehow we manage to get though today without anyone new finding out what we are doing.

Day 120

Some kind of hiatus today as an injured back keeps me off work. It's the recurrence of an old injury and it has been niggling away since Monday. Normally anti-inflamatories like ibuprofen will get rid of it but they seem to be doing nothing.

Goth Girl and I get some bad news today, as our proposed reception venue comes in at a price even Elton John would baulk at paying. More interestingly, a friend of ours, Showgirl, works out what is going on from an only slightly unguarded comment. She is the first person to raise the (comparatively) short time that Goth Girl and I have been together. We are both glad that she does, because it is something that we are very aware of. The thing is, not once has either of us thought that this is anything other than the right thing to do. We are exceedingly happy together and we both know that we are perfect for one another.

At some point during the day we realised that we had not told the only two of my friends that Goth Girl has met, the Rhinos. We send them an email, secure in the knowledge that they at least cannot comment on how long we've been dating - they got engaged after just 40 days.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Day 119

I came into work today to congratulations from the smattering of people who were there. I think there was a slight sense of shock because of the short time Goth Girl and I have been together, but everyone said nice things. In fact, I think the Irish Trainee was slightly scared, as she and her boyfriend have been together longer than Goth Girl and I.

At some point this morning I got a bit overenthusiastic and told a couple of old friends, Team Leader and Daemon #1. Both were wonderfully enthusiastic, even if Daemon #1 did go off into some sort of reverie about how good a parent I would eventually make. If she is not carefull we'll change our minds on the 'no bridesmaids' rule and dress her up in pink and green, like a colour blind toilet roll doll.

Goth Girl and I have spent part of the day thinking about wedding venues. We think we might have found somewhere to have the reception and we might even have decided upon when to have the whole thing. It might be that the only sticking point is a place to have the service. With that in mind, we might be putting the cart before the horse, but I hope not. I hope we can find the right place and make everything fall together.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Day 118

Today was the day for telling people what we had done. Or not.

We have both sets of parents coming to stay in 12 days time and we have decided not to tell them before they arrive. Having both been married before we have agreed that neither of us need ask the permission of the other's parents, but we of course want them to approve and this seems to demand that we speak to them face to face.

That we have a chance to do this is remarkable. Goth Girl comes from Kentucky and her parents still live there. They visit the UK approximately once in a blue moon. Not entirely by coincidence, they are coming over here just when we need them to be here.

This creates problems of its own, though. For the time being, we can only tell people who are unlikely to let on to either set of parents. Effectively, this means our work colleagues.

Goth Girl told her workmates this morning. I did the coward's thing and sent my office an email just as I was leaving for the evening. So far, no-one else knows.

Goth Girl has had the toughest job of all. She speaks to her parents every Monday evening. When she spoke to them tonight she had to hide everything from them. She did a wonderful job of it too, even if she did malign my inability to speak French in the process. Fortunately, I think her mother was too preoccupied with trying to plan their visit over here to worry about what her daughter might have been up to in Paris.

That said, my father called this evening. Not telling him was one of the hardest things I have ever done; I am so proud and honoured to be engaged to Goth Girl that I want the world to know. But sometimes it is better to postpone the best things in order to be able to savour them more later.

Day 117

Just to keep in with yesterday's routine, I now find myself writing about day 117 on day 118. It may well be that I'll never get up to date and I certainly don't envisage that I will post something on here every single day, but you can never tell.

Day 117 started very late. Despite our nap during the party we didn't wake up until gone midday, which left us just enought time for a lunch of left over chilli and burritos before we made a dash from the 17th arrondissiment back to Gare du Nord. This meant that we missed out on the additional sightseeing we had planned to do (for reasons too complicated to explain here we wanted a photo of Goth Girl outside Shakespeare & Co, but I messed the original ones up), but it did deprive our hosts of the chance to grill us too much about our engagement.

The train back to London was a delight. A £10 upgrade to Leisure Plus class made a world of difference from our cramped journey over to France. We even got a meal and free drinks. It was like being on an airplane, without all the inconvenience of leaving the ground. Aside from one slight panic when I mistranslated an announcement and thought we were 45 minutes late, it was one of the best rail journeys ever.

Surprisingly, wedding talk didn't hold our attention for the full 2 hour 49 minute journey and I even managed to finish the book which I started when I first met Goth Girl. It is a subject which we have discussed in the past anyway and we are both fairly clear on what we want. As we have both been there before it is a bit easier to get away with very little ceremony and a lot of partying - or at least we hope so.

As we departed the train, the final announcement ended "Allez les Bleus", which reminded us that there was a World Cup final to watch. Fortunately, we made it home in time and even more fortunately Italy won and spared me the anguish of having left Paris before any French celebrations could begin. Now all we have to do is unpack. Oh, and try and stop our friends telling our parents what has happened.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Up to Day 116

For reasons which will become obvious, I am writing this on day 117.

The romance between Goth Girl and I began on 14 March 2006. I had not long announced my separation from my wife, although we had been to all intents and purposes living separate lives for almost a year by then.

Goth Girl and I met at a wine tasting. We had known each other to email for some time before that as we have a lot of mutual friends, but had never met until that evening.

The meeting itself was pure fate. I had arranged to go to the wine tasting with another friend. With two hours to go she cancelled. On a whim I emailed Goth Girl and after a little persuasion persuaded her that free wine was more important than the things she was worried about (not being smartly enough dressed or well enough made up, both of which turned out to be untrue anyway). To say that we hit it off straight away is an understatement; I didn't go home that night and we moved in together 6 weeks later.

This weekend we took ourselves off to Paris to visit some old friends of Goth Girl's. For reasons which I do not entirely understand, they were throwing a margherita party on Saturday evening. Even more incomprehensibly, they wanted us there.

Being a little unlucky, we staggered into Gare du Nord about 25 minutes late. Not many people get their Eurostar delayed on the French side of La Manche. We were taken to a wonderful restaurant where I ate the best snails I have ever tasted, before winding up at an apartment full of burritos.

Saturday was, of course, day 116. We woke up late and headed off into Paris, leaving our hosts to prepare for the party that evening. I should mention at this point that I had never been to Paris before (unless you count a mad dash around the Peripherique one Sunday morning) and have a very limited understanding of the language. Goth Girl, on the other hand, was a student there for a year in the 1980s and speaks French like a native. The upside to all of this was that we were able to wander around her old haunts rather than spend our time in tourist traps. We did begin by walking through the Jardin du Luxembourg and at my request made a trip through Bastille, but by and large we just wandered, exploring the city beneath our feet.

Of course, Goth Girl had no idea why I was so keen to get to Sacre Coeur. I think she thought that I had an obsession with looking out over the city. That it was a warm sunny day was a mixed blessing, as the famous steps were crowded with sightseers. I managed to persuade Goth Girl to move off them on the pretext of wanting to see the Eiffel Tower and we walked up the steps. I was disappointed to find that we could not, as I had hoped, walk around the chapel but instead had to take a road down to the side to get away from the crowds. Fortunately, as we did so, we came across a small garden, lined with trees and benches. As we had a cool bottle of beer waiting to be drunk it was no trouble to persuade Goth Girl to slip in there.

And that was where, after a cursory glance at the Tower, I asked her to marry me. Fortunately, she said yes, otherwise I had been carrying a drawing of a ring in my pocket for no good reason.

We returned home to our hosts, who were not only thrilled by our news but who then proceeded to tell everyone at their party what had happened. Fearful of hijacking the entire thing we snuck away at about 1am and fell asleep on a sofa, two very happy people indeed.