A 'big' wedding in Chianti
Well... big for us, that is. And a huge week for the happy couple. And a very happy they are (phew). Yes, our biggest week of the year so far is over. All the planning and tension gone. I'd like to say it's a relief, but the truth of the matter is we had a great time last week. It really was fantastic fun. And getting back to 'normal' life (whatever that means in this highly unpredictable environment) is nice but a bit sad at the same time.
OK, now I know back when I started this blog that I was not going to get personal, that I was going to avoid talking about current or recent guests on the grounds that I might incriminate myself, embarrass people, get sued for libel, and so on. It's going to be quite hard to talk about last week without bringing a few real people into the story, but I'll do my best.
Here comes the bride, and our first foul-up?
So first off the bride and groom arrives. This was a week ago last Sunday. Said hello had a bit of a chat, and then a bit of a panic when another car turns up that we weren't expecting. As they wind down their car windows to say hello, I smile back, and then my heart freezes when I see the arrival instructions I must have sent them at some point.
This is one of the things I fear most of all: the dreaded Booking Cock-up - someone turning up having booked a lovely 2-week stay with us, only we have a wedding party arriving and we're full for the week, for example. So I smile, and try not to look too startled, while I quickly dash back into the office to check just how serious this cock-up is. At this point my heart is beating like a jungle drum and the sweat is starting to gather at the back of my neck. My pants are feelin clammy too - it's hot!
Of course (of course!!??) there is no cock-up, just a slight mis-communication between V and I about a new booking that I had failed to warn V about. In fact, the newbies are here for only 3 nights, and they leave just as the full wedding party arrives. But for a minute, V and I both thought we were going to start our first day of this wedding week with a snafu. That was a close one.
Let's taste some wine
So the next couple of days is taken with me ferrying the B&G around to the British Consulate and the Siena Comune to sign various bits of paperwork. Again, each of these small but significant steps is a potential bear trap, as I approach each hurdle with a not insignificant shortness of breath which I mask by pretending to be unfit (not hard, or even untrue, so not 'pretending' in the strictest sense, or any sense at all). Anyway, the system as it is works well as it usually does, and the small inherent risk that always comes from having a brush with bureaucracy in Italy doesn't in fact cause us any problems. By Tuesday lunchtime, everything is in place, and we know without a shadow of a doubt that barring some natural disaster, there's going to be a wedding on Friday. Breathe.
So that evening, we celebrate by tasting some whites for the wedding receptions. Three bottles, so be precise. So we spend a very pleasant evening under the stars drinking beautiful white wine watch kestrels and bats flying acrobatics over our heads. Mustn't grumble.
The invasion begins
The next day is not quite as relaxing. 28 friends and rellies arrive throughout the day, and meanwhile we're preparing more pizza dough than Patrignone has ever seen in one day. That night everyone gets together and while we try and keep people plied with antipasti and pizza, the two wedding families get together and get to know each other on the Terrace. And you know what, I love making pizza, really I do, but I have now firmly crossed Pizza Chef off my list of potential back-up careers. It's bloody hard work! We churned out 30 pizzas using 2 ovens in around an hour and a half, peanuts compared to most good pizza restaurants! We were knackered by the end of the night!
Still, everyone seemed to have fun, and that's what counts. They app partied until the early hours. We went to bed and slept like corpses.
(Until the f-ing dogs started barking at 4am at some random night-beast in the woods!)
Finally, the big day
Well, to be fair to us, we were pretty well prepared. Ettore had arrived with the lamb(s) the night before, and beautiful it (they) looked too (though, of course, not as beautiful as they would have looked bouncing across summer meadows, but that's life, innit). V had organised the food down to the last detail and was raring to go. The tables and chairs were in place and just needed decorating (just!). The only thing we were missing was a married couple and their entourage to feed.
So I did my bit and took them all to Siena for a wedding. A convoy of 7 cars and a minibus, with me at the front with the bride and her parents, all snaking our way through the tiny streets of central Siena trying reasonable hard not to clip startled tourists as we drove past. There is a pre-defined route that all cars must follow into the Piazza del Campo for a wedding ceremony, and I promise you it is NOT easy. It really is like being a rat in a maze. But when we suddenly rounded a corner and drove right into the Piazza del Campo, well...wow, what a sight. Takes your breath away every time. And driving into it feels so naughty! I pulled up right in front of the Palazzo Publico with the bride, while the other cars parked in the Piazza del Mercato behind: here's an aerial view for you...
So, a short wait outside, the excited procession to the Wedding Chamber in the 1st floor, and then the wedding itself, presided over by the Mayor and translated by yours truly (yes, I was nervous, yes, I did sweat a little, no, it wasn't too bad - no damp pants). I won't go into too much detail because it was their day, not ours, but it was a lovely, moving experience in the most amazing of surroundings, and I felt completely thrilled for them both.
Hello. My name is...
Now the next bit I will talk about because it was pure theatre, pure luck, and pure magic. After the ceremony, lots of cheering, lots of clapping, confetti, smiles, tears, hugs, kisses...and then we all troop off across the Piazza del Campo for a post wedding drink in a bar, cheered by crowds of clapping tourists (thank God they weren't hungry and it could have got nasty). Prosecco and beer, and I'm not ashamed to admit I went for the latter. It was hot!
So, we're all drinking and chatting and smiling, when suddenly there's a bit of a murmur, and it spreads through he group like a Mexican wave, finally getting to me. I stand up to see what the fuss is, and someone says, "You know what, it's really is him! That's Michael Caine!" Sure enough, the G is smiling away and chatting to the most famous British actor of all time. And next, the big man (he really is very tall) is standing up and moving out into the Piazza, to be joined by a very smily B and the G's uncle (official photographer). Photos are taken, Sir Michael shakes hands with the G, kisses the B, and waves to us all as we clap and cheer from our tables before returning to his table. Very cool. What a nice bloke.
The G told me later that this is more than a special moment for him. Mr.C. has been his idol since he was a small boy, and he even has a large canvas picture of him in his flat at home. To meet Sir M ever would be a privilege, but to bump into him in a bar on the Piazza del Campo, 20 minutes after he's got married, and have a wedding photo taken with Alfred himself? Not possible. The G said he's just had the two best moments of his entire life in a half-hour period, luckily, in the right order.
[Photo copyright Patrick White 2009]
Food, more food, and a party
The reception in the afternoon was a breeze. It was bloody hot out on the Terrace, but there was breeze to cool things off, and plenty of ice-cold wine and water. V put on a fantastic wedding banquet, half a dozen different hors d'oeuvres and antipasti, home-made ravioli, fresh Sardinian lamb, Kim's amazing lemon tart...all spread out over around 4 hours or more. I was head waiter, and I swear I must have walked around 10 miles. I can't really do the plate-balancing thing too well (never head silver-service training) so that increased the number of trips needed significantly. And there would have been a whole load more too if the helpful guests hadn't helped by stacking plates for me! They were all so sweet!
And then, once we'd cleared everything up, put the final plate in the dish-washer, polished the last glass, and straightened the last chair, we collapsed. A shower, feet up on the sofa, a large icy screwdriver (not my usual, but it was all I could lay my hands on with minimal effort).
Then V went to bed, while I popped over to the party in the woods to say hello and have a quick drink before I hit the hay. Only, it didn't quite turn out that way. People kept giving me beers, more beers, Prosecco, more beer, and so on, which meant I didn't get to bed until 2am, and by then I already had a headache!
And Sam woke at 6.30am, little darling, so V had a bit of a lie-in while me and Sam watched Charlie and Lola on TV.
Well, of course it's nice to get back into a more evenly paced existence, but you know what? I really liked being flat out, 100, 100 degrees hot manic for a while, and being part of making this week such a special one for the B&G is a big buzz, more fun even than winning a big advertising pitch back in the old days. We all felt very proud of the work we'd done and enriched by the people we'd met. We'd got though the biggest week of the year with flying colours, and had fun in the process. Now that I like.
I'll post a few pictures with this when I get a mo...now fly away, little blog, fly.