Monday, 4 February 2013

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 36: Love is in the air. The air is everywhere.

The sun rose in the east and planted a kiss upon the chest of the westerly moon which was stirring in the sky. I opened the curtains and space disappeared, making way for wedding bells to ring. We grabbed our growing sacks of crap and chucked them on our backs, marching in the boiling heat towards the bride’s hotel. The sun was shining for them and we were thankful that it had chosen a good day. We got to Alexa, who was chilling out in her room and seemed like she didn’t have a worry in the world. She had her wonderful husband to be, her friends and family, and we were all in a tropical paradise, so I suppose it makes sense that she was like that, however I thought I’d get to see some stereotype of a bride panicking about her hair or shoes, or cake, or veil, or dress, but no, nothing. She was cooler than an iPhone 6 wearing sunglasses and a BOY London baseball cap.

I went off to find a place where I could print the poems which I’d written for Alexa and Hayden, as they’d asked me to read them later on at the wedding. Once sorted I went up and down the roads trying to find the cheapest quote on bus tickets to Bangkok for the following day but had no joy and gave up, returning to the girls who were dancing around the room listening to a DJ playlist on my iPod called ‘Music to make girls dance’. Perfect. Our cab arrived and we were whisked away, bidding Patong beach farewell as we made our way out and up along the coastal road towards Phuket town. For their special day Hayden and Alexa had hired a five-star luxury villa at a place called Andara resorts, along the west coast of Phuket on Kamala beach. Just driving in was like entering another world, a palatial building with black marble floors and warm wooden walls, beautifully decorated and dripping with class. A vast step up from the wooden huts on the river that we’d enjoyed three days previously. The villa they originally wanted, number twenty-four, was unavailable, but the owner of another had agreed to let them rent his for the wedding. There were thirty villas which increased in both size and bedrooms as their numbers got higher. We were in number thirty. Pure swank. After thirty five days roughing it, and a whole life mostly void of the fancier things, I was looking forward to seeing ‘how the other half live’, as were Sarah and Alexa. From the moment we walked in, people were there on-hand for whatever was needed. I left my maid of honour with the mother of the bride to take care of Alexa, and carried my own backpack towards our suite, I always feel too bad to let one of the little locals carry it as I know how heavy it is and I’m bigger than them. We jumped in a little car/buggy hybrid and whizzed up a driveway which wound around to a big gate. The gate opened and I walked along the pathway, towards a staircase. I was led by a member of staff to a great wooden door which slid open to reveal a beautiful looking room with a king sized bed, which had two towels folded and twisted to resemble a pair of swans which together form a love heart sitting on top of its plump looking duvet, a huge flat screen TV, wooden floors, wardrobes and ceiling, a sliding door which led to a balcony, two sinks, a wet room and the biggest bath I’d ever seen, which I immediately started running. It had been five weeks without having one of my beloved baths I was ready to freshen up in style. I rolled myself a jazz cigarette and sat out on the balcony, looking across at the Andaman Sea in all of its deep, blue glory as the sun shone down upon it. The bath was taking a very long time to get full but luckily I had every goal from the most recent premier league football games being played back on the wall, which was an adequate distraction. I asked one of the workers for an ironing board and iron so I could smarten out my garm’s and did my first bit of ironing in three years. It was still a waste of time. I then called reception and asked them for the wireless password and was very surprised to discover it was ‘ZION8888’, leading me to believe I was in the holiday home of some powerful religious zealot.  I daren’t lay on the bed or mess up our pretty swans until Sarah had her chance to witness the room, before it gets Dionified with my upturned bag and general spreading of crap, but I waited for a good half an hour, making myself busy until the huge bath was finally run. When I got to it, the water was ten times hotter than it was when I’d left it, so I then had to start adding cold. Unfortunately time was running out, everyone was meant to be downstairs by 4.30pm and it was already 4, so I had to get into the boiling hot bath and have the shower head constantly cooling different bits of my burning body and slowly lowering the bath temperature. It was a disappointing situation to say the least, but I don’t think a wet Dion running over half way through the service smelling like bubble bath would’ve been a viable option, so I hopped out, had a cool blast with the shower then got dry and ready in a matter of minutes.

I left my towel by the sink, along with my hair stuff and a brush, then rushed downstairs to be greeted by James and his gorgeous little girl Taijahna, and Hayden’s brother Darryn, who is a professional photographer and was snapping pictures of them and some other guests, awaiting the arrival of the bride to be and her entourage. Within five seconds the heat took its toll, even in the late afternoon it was sweltering. They had the walkway set up so that it led onto the infinity pool, where Hayden and Richard were stood, having a quiet exchange with the minister. Hayden was in very good spirits, as ever the superstar Superman, but you could see a few nerves as he cracked jokes and paced around, waiting for the love of his life to arrive. I saw Aimi, and asked if I could join her, since both of our partners were on duty with the bride and groom, and we sat together getting increasingly excited at the beautiful scene. Then some movement started, people positioning themselves for the oncoming arrival of the bride and Darryn running towards the gate to get some snaps. Next came the music, and I looked down to see the bride making her way towards us, with my lover following behind smiling. They both looked gorgeous, tip toeing over scattered flowers until Alexa met Hayden above the pool and they looked at each other with such love, and readiness. The ceremony started and the Australian minister who was leading the service very casually started reeling off facts about  the meaning of love, Greek gods, and some other stuff that seemed to have everybody a bit lost as they sat admiring the brides stunning dress, she looked beautiful and he handsome, the perfect match for this fairytale. It came time for the vows, which they’d written themselves, and they did not disappoint, both making such heartfelt dedications to each other, promising the world in such a way that you’d have to believe they will receive it. It was too much for Aimi and I, sat there crying our eyes out at the lovely display.

If it wasn’t for this moment, so many moments would have been missed. My journey was only decided upon because Sarah and I were invited to witness these two spirits come together, and without that, none of the experiences I’ve had would have happened at the time that they did, and never in the same way again. I was grateful they’d given me the excuse to see some more of the world and escape London for an extended break, and this magnificent scene was the culmination of Everything.

They each had a glass of sand in a different colour and a larger empty chalice in-between them. They lifted their glasses, simultaneously pouring their sand into the new container, joining their separate lives together in matrimony as the sun lowered behind them. The groom kissed the bride, the bride kissed the groom, Aimi and I cried some more and our other halves signed the witness declaration, then returned to our loving arms, where we all gathered to throw flower petals at the newlyweds. After a half an hour of photographs with everybody, whilst knocking back constant glasses of champagne, it was now dark and we were loaded into two vans and driven out of our villa and down to the nearby beach. We were each given sky lanterns, which we lit, and let go after making wishes for the bride and groom, then watching them as they quickly rose, slowly disappearing from sight. Back at the villa, dinner was served, and it was out of this world, a buffet of numerous fancy dishes, of which everything tasted divine. Soft shell crab, fish, prawns, various meats, curries, the lot. Some of the best food I’d ever eaten. There was even somebody on hand at our table who kept filling Sarah’s glass of water every time she had more than a sip. To say we were well looked after would be an understatement. I popped back up to our suite quickly and was amazed to see that in the time I’d been away somebody had come in, replaced my wet towel and placed my hair stuff on a small towel, neatly by the sink. Blew my mind. If I’d known they were that good I would have jumped on the bed earlier, when I had time to burn waiting for my bath. Back downstairs it was time for speeches, Richard went first and nailed the best man speech with ease, lightening the already bright mood further with tales of his and Hayden’s past drunken adventures and saying some genuinely nice things about both bride and groom. Alexa’s Dad followed, seeming very happy and proud at his successful, lovely daughter and her new lovely husband, and Hayden’s father put in a good turn too, cracking everybody up just like you’d expect an Australian Dad to do. I was up next, and took a minute to explain how much of a powerful blessing it is to witness true love such as theirs, and how I knew they were on a good path for the future, because they have something very special between them. I then read the poem I’d written a few days earlier whilst on the long-tail boat in Khao Sok, followed by another which I’d written prior, which went:

'Something special here is found, four feet floating happily above the ground,
we gather celebrating the love they’ve made, which grows a little more from day to day.
With those two rings, you’ve become one, your love burns brighter than the sun,
together, safe when harsh winds blow, you’ll warm each other through the rain and snow.

We all know that whatever the weather, like birds of a feather you’ll stick together,
under each other’s wings you’ll fly, two souls becoming stars that light up the sky.
Live for one another, until the end, and cherish every day you spend,
be strong, united, forever stand, you can take on the world when you’re holding hands.

We’re here to witness true love combined, creating something that’s divine,
so kiss the bride and kiss the groom, let pride and happiness fill the room.
We’ll toast your future and your past, share this joy and raise a glass,
whilst you dedicate your hearts to each other’s lives, as Alexa’s husband, and Hayden’s wife.'

Believe it or not, in 35 days of travelling, this was the first time anybody had asked me to read something. Considering it’s what I do, I did find that a bit strange, and a bit of a shame for them, but I didn’t ask any office workers to send an email for me either, so it’s fair enough I suppose. It was an honour to have been asked to take part, and it went down perfectly. Two of my best friends had gotten married earlier in the year and they had the groom’s auntie read some horrible piece about doing the housework and shit, instead of getting me to write one for them, which I didn’t really get, but perhaps he was worried I was going to expose our history of mushrooms and weed to his unaware parents. Nevertheless, Alexa and Hayden followed me, thanking everybody for travelling across the world to join them and then BOOM out of nowhere the guitar and saxophone came out and they started doing a duet, Alexa’s delightfully strong singing voice accompanied by a backing track whilst Hayden strummed a few numbers and made his way around the saxophone in a virtuoso fashion as we all danced along and cheered them on. It was brilliant. After a few songs the P.A broke, so we switched over to a playlist for the rest of the evening. We were steadily getting through the drinks as we sat around chatting, and at 10pm Hayden informed me that he’d just had to pay a small fortune to hire the staff for an extra hour to continue serving us all the free drinks, and we had an hour to get our monies worth. Game on. Sarah and I repeatedly took it in turns to get each other glasses of vodka and orange, which we’d swiftly take in the elevator, one floor up, to the fridge in our room. By the time the hour was over, we had at least twelve glasses, as well a few beer bottles and ten shots of tequila, which I had one of the waiters measure out for me before they left. As our numbers depleted we were left with just those who were staying at the villa, Hayden and Alexa, Richard and Aimi, James and Andrea, Darryn, Sarah and I. Hayden pulled out his guitar and strummed away as we all sang along to ‘Killing me softly’ by the Fugees whilst Sarah rolled up some confetti, before getting into our swimsuits and diving into the pool for a late night swim. It was weird being in such a place after all the staff had left, the whole villa was truly our playground and we had a great time knocking back shots and hanging out together. The guys asked if I’d read them some other poems of mine and I delivered ‘The Ballad of James Tanner’ and ‘The World of the Day’ which they all admitted enjoying more than the lovey-dovey, family friendly pieces from earlier.

Musical matrimony
A well-stocked fridge
By this point it was 1am and we went into the games room. It was another huge space which had a pool table, a ping pong table, another huge flat screen television (a feature in every room) and its own kitchen, complete with popcorn machine. I excitedly tried to work out how to use it, and found a can of unpopped corn, as well as all the salt and boxes to put it in, the only thing I couldn’t find was a can opener. I looked all around for one but no joy. I refused to be defeated, looking at the can again, and then I realised that it wasn’t made of tin. I grabbed the only thing I could find, a biro pen, and came down upon it with a stab, like John Travolta in the overdose scene in ‘Pulp Fiction’, tearing a hole in the side of the can. I ripped it open and got the machine popping, and within a few minutes, we were all munching on some salty goodness as we shot pool and listened to The Beatles. Darryn was off on one and kept disappearing on solo missions, running around the huge empty villa and returned telling us how he’d done a few naked laps in the pool. Unfortunately on his way back he’d smashed his foot on a step, which had left his little toe sticking outwards away from the others, clearly broken. He seemed pretty confused by it, and said “Cool, I’ve never broken a bone before”. Sarah went off to get our first aid kit and I joined him in his room as he was feeling queasy at the thought of her bandaging it, and needed to be sick. I stood with him, and his vomiting made me need to do the same, so I emptied a ridiculous amount of sympathy sickness into the toilet bowl too, drastically lessening my forthcoming hangover, before joining him on the bed to be bandaged by Sarah. We returned to the others to find the bride laid out on the sofa, sleeping like an angel as the groom and best man noisily attempted to play ping pong in their inebriated states. As the clock struck 4, there could be no more, and we each made our way to our bedroom doors, wishing each other a good night’s sleep after an amazing day. Cupid stayed awake, watching over every room, feeling successful in his work.


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