Wedding Planning By The Dart - April 2011
It was a cold and damp October day in Kingswear when Nick dragged me out, grumbling, for a walk. Even Falco the dog – normally biting your arm off at the prospect of an outing – seemed fairly reluctant as the three of us headed towards the coast through the misty drizzle. A sharp wind greeted us as we rounded the headland and my sulk turned to outrage as Nick, without warning, left the public track and walked boldly into the grounds of Kingswear Castle.
“Where are you going?” I huffed, hands on hips, “You can’t go down there – it’s private.” “I know but I just fancy checking it out,” he said and carried on walking, letting the dog off the lead. “You’re being ridiculous – come back.” But by this stage he was almost out of earshot and Falco, with a new found spring in his step, had disappeared around the corner. I followed reluctantly. I have never been good at breaking the rules; Nick has always been excellent.
However, Nick’s impulse diversion turned out to be not as whimsical as I had thought, but all part of a perfectly-constructed plan that he had pre-arranged with the caretaker. He reached the building first and tied the dismayed dog up – in the dungeon, poor animal. By then I had caught up and, taking me by the hand, he led me up the stairs into the keep.
For anyone who has not been to Kingswear Castle, I can highly recommend it. Now owned by the Landmark Trust, it is one of the lead properties for let on their books (a week’s stay for four in high season will set you back £3,438 this year) – and you can see why. The thick walls encase the spiralling stairwells and the enchanting circular rooms so that whilst within them you feel as if you are rooted solidly in history. A court jester could pop his head through an archway at any moment and you wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
My court jester – albeit dressed in Quiksilver and Henri Lloyd – gave me the grand tour of the inside and we emerged onto the battlements to be hit once more by that brisk north-easterly, blowing mercilessly across the flagstone roof. In fact I was so busy trying to flick my hair out of my face so that I could fully appreciate the stunning view of St Petrox church across the water that it took me a moment or two to notice that Nick had disappeared from my side. No – he was kneeling in front of me. For a millisecond I was concerned, “Was he hurt? Had he been dive-bombed by one of the seagulls circling overhead?” No you idiot; he’s asking you to marry him! And so he was.
My reaction? Well, initially disbelief – please understand that I had waited seven years for this (not including the few months of teenage foolery when we had spent a summer of harmless flirting down at Lighthouse beach) – disbelief, followed by a blubbing “yes” and then a creeping realisation that, horror of horrors, I had just got engaged wearing the shabbiest hoody in my collection complete with tea stain from a hasty breakfast.
So what do you do when you’ve just got engaged by the Dart? Well, several things apparently:
One. You rush home to tell your parents, only to discover that they already know because being the obedient prospective son-in-law, he has asked your father’s permission. So you get on the mobile to tell your middle-sized brother – but lo and behold, he already knows because as a full-time member of the Dartmouth social scene he needs about four weeks notice to ensure he’s not already doing something on the evening when you want to celebrate...and so it continues. Even Colin, landlord of The Ship is in on the secret; because he’s been primed to have your favourite champagne on tap all evening (sorry, I’m not an Otter ale girl).
Only the younger of my brothers is surprised by the news. “What; so I’m the only one who didn’t know?” he asks dad. “No Giles, because there’s a reason your nickname isn’t Subtle Nuttall!”
Two. If you are mother of the bride to be, you ring the church. And I mean immediately....ten minutes after we walk in the door, mum has hopped on the blower and befriended one of the lovely ladies from the parish of Dartmouth – we want to get married in St Petrox. She fixes an appointment for us at 10am the following morning; “in case it gets booked up”. Lovely thought mummy dear; I only hope God looks kindly on hangovers....
Three. If you are Nick, you decide that one day of having a fiancée is quite enough and now seems like a good time to leave the country. And therefore he does – off back to Oman for two months to do a bit of yachting (his excuse for a job). Although he calls me three days later, full of glee with the fact that he beat Prince Wills to it. I think the quote went along the lines of, “He gets all his best ideas from me.”
So now he’s out of the picture; Ladies – we reach the all important Number Four. If you are me, or I do believe that it is a fact universally acknowledged by any female in recent possession of a ring, you do the obvious thing and start Life’s biggest quest. You begin the hunt for the dress.
(To be continued in future issues)
Afterthought – Despite our excitement, dog-lovers, we did remember to free poor Falco from his dungeon and he was rewarded for his patience with a pig’s ear from the farm shop.
First Published April 2011 By The Dart