England: Day 6

Note: I’m posting a bit out of order, as I haven’t written everything up yet I’dlike to. Bear with me as I fill in the gaps.

Today we drove from Exeter to Bath. Thanks to Kathy’s excellent organizational and herding efforts with the kids, we were actually the first to the rendezvous point. The drive was lovely, nearly to the point of overload — “Oh, look! Another picture-perfect English countryside panorama. Anybody have more chips?” I finally feel like I’m starting to get the hang of driving in this country; though we had two small scares today, both were due to other drivers not obeying the traffic laws.

Once we got to the area, we met at a place in Bradford-on-Avon called Wooley Grange — a sort of restaurant cum family hotel cum gardens. They had beautifully manicured grounds, a very pretty formal garden with a pond, a huge open field with a tennis net, football (soccer) goal, trampoline, and table tennis, a croquet green, a walled garden, a nursery for the younger children, and a playroom for the older ones. The kids enjoyed having room to run and play a great deal — nearly as much as the parents enjoyed them having that room. Here we began to see even more of the wedding crew arrive — friends from Texas, Utah, North Carolina, and Georgia. We enjoyed a wonderful rehearsal lunch, followed by a light grilling of the couple of honor, which Chris eventually cut short so that we could get over to the rehearsal.

The rehearsal went without incident, adjourning after an hour and a half or so to The George, a nearby pub in Bathampton. It was situated on another canalside site, and was doing a brisk trade not only with those arriving by car, but also with the people who had come in the dozen barges moored in the canal next to it. We arrived just as a flight of five hot air balloons (which Becky claimed that had ordered specially for the occasion) floated overhead. Even more of the wedding mob turned up here, so we had a wonderful party going after an hour or two, to the slight consternation and ample amusement of the regular patrons. (I had worn a string tie with my coat, which one of the local englishwomen dispatched Abigail to ask me about.)

Some mention needs to be made of Becky’s family at this point. They’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to make us feel welcome — arranging housing and food for us, planning activities with the children in mind, helping us find our way around, and even taking the kids off to do a bit of paddleboating while Kathy and I were tied up with flowers and tuxedos respectively. Furthermore, they’re all wonderful people, and I’ve very much enjoyed getting to talk with each of them individually. (Liam has taken a particular shine to Nat and Bob, whom he runs off to meet and wrestle with whenever they turn up.) It’s delightful to know that the family with which we’re joining forces through Chris & Becky is one that we’d have been thrilled to befriend under any other circumstances as well.