On the way home…

So here we are in Frankfurt Al Main Airport, waiting for the 1545 flight to Dublin, which is due to touch down two hours and five minutes later at 1650.

We’ve had a class time.  Jo says it’s been good to see all the Italians being touchy-feely towards each other (she says demonstrative) but I hadn’t personally noticed for some reason.  She thinks it sets a good example.

Plans to visit San Gimignano fell by the wayside in favour of sleep (and rest for Jo’s left leg, which is still sore from too much dancing at our wedding disco), but we did venture into the snow in the Italian Riviera and the Cinqueterre the day before we left Lucca.  We had taken in some of the city walls the previous day.

We discovered the truth behind Darach Mic Giolla Cathain’s wise words about the decorative red, yellow and green lights all over Rome as we went on the bus tour, visiting the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and of course the Vatican, where they were putting out a few seats yesterday for some reason.  I wonder what that could have been?

St Peter’s Basilica was milling with people, but it keeps certain areas set aside for prayer and worship.  One wonders where Sunday worshippers sit, as there are not many pews in front of the main altar, although the side chapels all have seats.

We stayed in two hotels in Italy, both four star – the Albergo Celide in Lucca, which is quite modern, although attempts to sleep during the day were stymied somewhat by work in the room above us, and the Hotel Quirinale in Rome.  The Quirinale was built in the 19th Century and left me feeling it was quite pretentious in many ways – as though it were trying too hard to be five star.  We did though like the lift nearest to our room, as it was an old traditional style metalwork lift with manual doors (including wooden internal ones!) but had a modern control panel.

We did all our travel around Italy by train, and got to see a lot of different sorts of trains – ultramodern Eurostar-type trains (Frecciarossa) and the Leonardo Airport Express (entirely 1st Class officially, but no particular service), down to rather older trains which, not unlike some of the stations, were showing their age.  All the track we saw was electrified and had modern signalling, but the stations, while all clean, varied from recently decorated to grey with imperfect platform surfaces. Some stations and trains felt much as I think NIR would have done at the heights of the NIO’s parsimony in the early 1990s, or rather worse, but punctuality was generally excellent – the one late train which affected us was to our benefit!

Apart from the tour bus in Rome, we only chanced one bus, which we were told was the right route for the Duomo from the right side of the street outside Firenze Santa Maria Novella station.  We gave up when it came back from the wrong end of the route.

The one problem with travelling so far is the layovers.  We had a three hour wait in Zurich airport last Wednesday, and unfortunately we’re in the middle of another three hour wait here in Frankfurt – on the other hand, we should be back in my car all being well by 6pm, and in Belfast by 8 – the car is at the City North hotel where we stayed last Tuesday night.  City North is very modern, but also quite homely, and we’d far rather get something for our money than pour money into the coffers of the Dublin Airport car park operators – and being at Gormanstown, it’s only an hour and a half from Belfast and rest for tired feet, give or take a stop to buy bread and milk for the morning and keep ourselves going along the way.

Still, we’ll be home not much after the time we reached the Hotel Quirinale last Wednesday – unfortunately we started a lot earlier, checking out before breakfast at 7 this morning!  Jo says, “Try doing that in high heels!” to which I can only point out that they are not something I ever intend to possess…

Some extracts from the groom’s speech…

No, you are not reading the whole thing.  It wouldn’t make much sense if you weren’t there, especially since my job was basically to stand up, say thank you, toast the bridesmaids, and sit down.

“Right, I’m away down the kneebreakers for a pint with big Mervyn.” (Obligatory Uncle Andy joke)

“[Jo] is an amazing woman, and I am only too aware of the responsibility I have taken on.” *laughter* “That wasn’t supposed to be a joke!”

“The responsibility to love, to care, to listen, to remember the first rule: (she is always right) and the second rule (if she is wrong, see rule number 1).  And also the privilege of sharing this road we walk together, sharing the good times and the bad, never giving up, praying daily for God’s grace to treat her the way she deserves.”

“When I first met him, Brian [the best man] was anything but a railway enthusiast.  Now, if I were to say to you that he probably has more railway ephemera than me, my father and my father-in-law put together.  Sorry, Brian, that’s rule number 3: get your retaliation in first!  Doesn’t work on wives, though.”

“Just over a week ago, I picked up a voicemail from Debenhams.  They were very apologetic because the online wedding service was still out of order, and it was getting very close to our wedding date.  I rang them back, and they told me something quite remarkable.  There was precisely one thing left on our wedding list.  Wow.  You have blessed us so much, with your generosity to us in your gifts.  Thank you so much.”

“And it reminds me of that proverb [‘It is in the shelter of each other that the people live’].  As a married couple, we cannot stand alone, but in each other’s shelter, and in the shelter of those around us – you, our friends and our families, including those who can’t be here right now, our churches, Corrymeela and far beyond.

Honeymoon at large

It was an absolutely incredible weekend.

My dad playing Jo in to the processional he wrote for us.

Hugging Jo when she arrived at the front of the church and stood beside me.

The problems our mums had lighting the candles.

Being married by Jo’s sister Louise.

Paddy’s sermon.

Danny’s prayers.

Chris opening and closing the service for us.

The incredible musicianship of my dad, Luke, Lois, Alex, Malcolm, Josh and Simon.

Ada singing her brand new song specially for us.

My dad having a captive audience for a certain Toccata by Widor.

Being played out to my own little piece Celebration (now available on Soundcloud)

Being driven up through Co Antrim in the back of a brown Daimler.

That glorious dinner.

My own speech, getting to thank some very special people.

The most humbling speech I have ever experienced, when my best man told everyone exactly what he thought of me (and what everyone else had said about me too) – so encouraging.

The first dance with my wife, long prepared by Kevin Conwell.

Seeing so many friends from such long distances and having so much fun with them.

The fabulous room in the Bushmills Inn.

The blessing in the Croi at Corrymeela the next day.

The laughter and tears.

The jokes of mine that actually worked.

Registering the marriage myself rather than getting someone else to do it.

Getting my own mobile number back overnight on Monday (it’s back with my best man, as is Jo’s phone, so only the family can contact us!)

Driving to Dublin.

Getting upgraded at the City North Hotel (and given complimentary champagne, not for the first time this weekend)

Dinner at the Bushmills and at the City North.

Waiting for the plane to Zurich (then a three hour break and on to Rome!)

We were absolutely blown away.

So much love has been expressed to us and affirmation of both our lives.

The challenge will be to live up to everyone’s opinion of us!