13 June 2019

Wedding Juan and Caro

When I started to work at Bangor University, I spent the first years sharing my office with lecturer Paul, and PhD students Juan an Stella. They were lovely office mates! But one after the other left; Juan departed in spring 2017. Some time ago he came back to defend his thesis. And while he was in town anyway he introduced me to his wife. His wife! I had no idea anything like that was on the cards. He didn't seem the marrying kind. I once went on a cruise while he was dating girlfriend X and by the time I got back he was dating girlfriend Y. Oh well! I'm glad he figured he had found the one. And he said I should keep June the 8th free for a wedding celebration.

And then June the 8th approached! I had got more details in the invitation; it was at the house of my colleague Stella (not PhD student Stella), would start in the early afternoon, and would be quite casual. Stella lives in what allegedly was the house of the Dinorwic quarry doctor, and it's on the path from the 'Dinorwic Bus Stop' and the slate museum. When I had walked past with Monique we had commented on it! It looked really big but quite suitable to have a B&B in; the location was amazing so it would certainly attract people. And in reality Stella just has lots of children, and fills the rest of the place up with lodgers. And two of these lodgers had been Juan and his now wife! Hence the connection.

I had decided that Dinorwic isn't really far. I should bike! And I also decided I should stay in the quarry overnight. It's not an ideal camping space; it barely has running water you can get to, the path is meant for pedestrians only so if you go in on bicycle you have to do some gymnastics at the kissing gates, and you're not supposed to get off the path. But it's such a beautiful spot! And I could just bring water from Stella's house. So that was my plan. I would not be travelling light; I needed bike clothes and wedding clothes and camping kit and food and drink as it was a potluck party. But I can do that! So on the 8th I packed my trusted old black bike. I had baked a spinach pie the night before, and had bought some wine. It wasn't a perfect day for this; it was forecast to rain all the way to Dinorwic. But once I was there it should clear up, and the day after should be dry and bright!

Ready for a wedding!

The landscape is beautiful but I didn't see much of it. It got worse than this!  

I set off. It rained only lightly! And I biked up the hill. At least; some of it. The road is steep, my bag was heavy, so I walked some of it. And when I got to the top of the steep bit next to the river Galedffrwd the worst was over and I could bike the rest. It was still uphill, and sweaty, and not as nice as it could have been due to rain and fog, but it was OK. I did manage to miss a junction and accidentally bike to the parking spot for the walk to the Electric Mountain reservoirs, but that only meant a few hundred meters of extra biking at the most. And when I got close to Deiniolen it got easy. Now it was downhill! And I was soon at my destination. I saw Stella through the window and she was glad to see me. She didn't know I was coming! 

I plonked my bike in the hall, took off helmet and show covers (I wasn't wearing my waterproof trousers), and looked out for a familiar face. Not many were around! But some. And then I saw Juan. He was about to get into his wedding shirt and was looking for ironing equipment. He didn't find it!

I found out where to put my wine and pie, and where to change into a dress. I ended up in the noisy bride-and-bridesmaids room. An honour! I changed, draped my sweaty clothes over the bike, and asked if I could help. Stella decided I could go and hunt for mugs around the house, and clean them. They would come in handy later! But soon I heard a familiar voice. James! I forgot the mugs and went to greet him. It was good to see him! 

Later more old Bangor sclerochronologists (don't ask) appeared: Paul! And Alejandro (who had been the photographer at another wedding I had attended; it's a small world!) And also some people who had stayed in Bangor. Good to see them all! But I was clearly early; I had gone by the invitation that said the ceremony was at 2 but Juan had decided it would be 2.45. Oh well. I could have had more time at home to prepare, but then again, soon after I arrived it came bucketing down! I was glad I had only biked through light rain. 

I chatted with the Ocean Scientists and had some nibbles. I had left at noon; too early for lunch! And now I needed some. And then we were asked to sit down. Juan was at the head of the marquee, and the bride, Caro, was walked in by her two parents. Juan and Caro were already married, btw; I was serious when I had already announced her as his wife. They just celebrated in several locations (another party would be in Puerto Rico) and I suppose they just did a ceremony like this every time to make it wedding-like. I heard later they had legally married without any pomp at the registry office, so maybe this was the first time they bothered with a dress and rings and whatnot! 

A friend did a non-legally-binding but beautiful ceremony. Then we congratulated the new couple and drank to them. And then next thing was: photos! They had asked everyone to bring a colourful umbrella as they knew this was North Wales and it was probably suitable. We did a shoot on the path! Then there was the newlyweds-only photoshoot in the quarry, and then we joined for sunny pictures. By now the weather was great! (Between things I had hung my sweaty clothes out: a very good idea!) I always enjoy being in Dinorwic. I also had a long chat with the mother of the bride. She was nice! And we showed James around; he had lived in the area for some 30 years but never been here. What a strange man! And then it was time to get back for dinner. There was a BBQ and there was all the food the guests had brought. And it looked amazing! Such cooks there were. I sat down with the Ocean Sciences lot and we ate ourselves stuffed.

The venue; notice the marquee in the garden 

The photographer and the newlyweds 

During the last stages of the dinner Stella suddenly started to ask people to give a speech. They were all startled! But they all obliged. So we had Stella herself first, James second, Harriet (an old housemate of Juan's and a bridesmaid) next; then the parents felt they couldn't stay behind and one parent of each set did a speech too. The father of the groom was in tears! Sweet. But by then the Ocean Sciences contingent was getting restless; one couple needed to pick the kid up from somewhere, another couple still had to travel a fair distance and they would give Paul a lift, James also still had to drive somewhere far, so we sort of all started to think of leaving. I wanted to pitch my tent in at least some daylight! So I went into the house, changed back into my biking clothes, filled both my flask and my water bladder, packed the bike up again, and started to say goodbye! And then I left. 

The evening immediately was different. On my own again! I got my bike to the gate you get over when you go climbing in the quarry and started scouting. And I found a little patch that was soft and looked like I could get a few pegs into the ground.That would be it for the night! I pitched my tent. And as soon as it stood I dived in: it started raining heavily. Oi! That was not forecast. But it didn't last and I came out again. I first had a wash in a big puddle (not ideal, but still nice) and then had a cup of tea (from the flask!) in the dying light. Then it was bedtime.

You can just about make out my tent against a dramatic backdrop

Scenic skyline!

In the morning I got out of bed and got my stuff ready for breakfast. I made sure to pick a high spot for this: the midges were out! And any breeze to chase them away is welcome. I got my stove ready and lit it. So far so good! But then I saw the fuel pump was leaking. Badly. And fuel is, well, combustible. Within seconds of me noticing it had caught fire. Oh dear! The fuel pump is directly in the fuel bottle of course. I don't want that kind of situation. So I took the water I had intended for porridge and coffee and used it to extinguish the flames. All of them! And I had a look; the pump was damaged by fire, as expected. I did not want to try again. I resigned myself to no coffee or breakfast and packed up! I would have coffee at home. 

My tent on front of the incline which hosts a herd of goats

The way back went rather fast. The uphill bit is short, and not half as steep as the way up through Mynydd Llandygai! So even though I sometimes stopped to take a picture I was home in 35 minutes, just before 8:30. Time for breakfast! 

This would have been the view on the way there if I would have been able to see anything

The compromised fuel pump

I was wondering what things would be like at the wedding. I knew several guests were staying! I am sure they partied deep into the night. I hope it was the wedding party Juan and Caro had hoped for! And I hope they have a very long marriage to look back on this day!

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