Together Alice and Morgan had chosen Savina Schultz, a prize winner in the field of Web Design & Development. She had actually spent several weeks working on a full design package for Hour House. It was more a full streamlining of their business plan, developing a logo for stationary and every aspect of sign-age about the building before beginning to build a website. Working this way, she got to know her clients and discovered what they wanted from a website, rather than a “You have to have this, this and this’. Morgan was more familiar with the world of social media, but Savina wanted him to take a step back, remove his accountant’s hat and replace it with that of a service provider for a few days. Having the accounting background was a bonus, but he had to see the task as more ‘giving than taking’.
The logo was a tasteful and elegant outline sketch of the bell tower that included the clock face. Then followed a Facebook page and twitter account. Savina was careful to ease Alice with Morgan’s help, through the journey of running a business on-line. The team of receptionists were almost weaned onto social media when they moved to solid food. This all eased Alice’s mind and she did not feel so much out of her comfort zone, as she had done at the beginning.
Lunch for the ‘What’s On Brigade’ was held on Halloween. That idea was down to Savina. Representatives from the tourist board, television and radio, social media outlets, as well and newspapers and glossy magazines were all invited. The invitations allowed for four hours: One to five pm. The plan was to begin in the Oratory with a welcome drink and nibbles followed by an hour of chat that covered all aspects of the facilities and a programme of events for the next couple of months The guests were taken in small groups on a tour of the rooms. There was ample time for photographs and Savina had organised for a video to be made and handed out as part of the package that included sample menus. There were plenty of treats available for the guests to take away with them. There was a selection of freebies for them to give as quiz prizes; Dinner for two, lunch for four or a luxury weekend stay in Hour House. George offered to give a one day cookery course or an evening demonstration of festive food & Caroline agreed on giving a talk about Interior decorating.
Then it was back to the banqueting room for a five course lunch showing George’s talents to the full. After lunch there was an opportunity to ask questions before a walk in the grounds. They returned as the daylight was fading and mulled wine was available for anyone who wished to imbibe as the day reached a natural ending with a fireworks display. The buzz from the guests sounded promising and they all seemed to enjoy the day, in fact they seemed in no hurry to leave. The truth would follow over the next couple of weeks when the proverbial ink was dry and the public had their chance to make contact or bookings on the phone, the website or on the Hour House Facebook page.
“Alice, you know I have had several meetings with the local Council authority about approval of Hour House as a venue for marriages and civil partnerships? This here brown envelope brings good news. Excellent news in fact!” Said Morgan the next morning, while going through his mail.
“Not alone have we the permission to use Hour House as a wedding venue, but Angela Murray, who wrote this letter and was the registrar we met when arranging our own nuptials, says we can move our wedding here if we wish. The actual first wedding at Hour house!”
Alice’s face lit up. She wanted as little fuss as possible and staying at home and not having to arrange transport to and fro, appealed to her.
“Now you girls need to get your skids on, we have a promise to keep. It is time to take Lovell shopping for her dress.” Said Morgan, adding “I suppose you have your own regalia sorted at this stage?”
“Yes. Carolyn and I sorted both of our outfits, the other day when we had lunch in town. You might be glad to know it is not a meringue, and I am well past the age of virginal white, but my outfit is tasteful and I think you will approve. Carolyn was an excellent advisor. How are you fixed for Tuesday? I take it you still want to tag along? You always have a calming effect on Lovell and I know she would like you to come with us.”
“A promise is a promise, I’ll be there. Just let me know what time.” Said Morgan.
With that, Gigi, came through the door backwards, in her arms were a bundle of boxes tied together with string.
“ The games I suggested!” she pronounced. “I have another three bundles in the car. I am sure to fill that cupboard in the hall with these board games and jigsaws.
Morgan jumped to her aid. “Let me take those from you. I’ll come out with you and carry the remainder in. That bundle brings back memories. Cludo, Ludo and Snakes and Ladders. They were all part of my childhood. I still have a dominoes set somewhere, I will dig it out and it can be added to the bundle.”
“I have checked them and they are in good order with no missing pieces.” Said Gigi. “In fact the only thing missing is a chess set. I do remember having one many years ago. Maybe my son took it to America, when he emigrated.”
“Ah no. What a pity, I loved chess. I had a lovely marble set when I was young, but sold it so that I could afford to buy a part for the car I had at the time. You know, Gigi, between these games and all the books in the library, guests may never want to leave Hour House.”
“So long as they are happy to play, and not try to take the books or games home with them.” Said Alice. She had caught up with them as they had reached the car and between them, they managed the remaining bundles.
“I have some outdoor games too, would you be interested? Maurice, my late husband had a godfather who worked at Jaques of London, so his birthday gifts all came from that company. My son is not interested in any of them, his leaning is towards sky-diving or when on the ground he likes the speed of Rallycross automobile racing. The garden games include Quoits, a Croquet set, Skittles, Boules a large traditional wooden Naughts & Crosses Game & Giant Dominoes. A more recent addition is a Giant Jenga game. The tumble tower comprises 56 blocks of hardwood giving a 19 level tower. It is heavy I think the wood is Mango. It comes with a sturdy carry bag for storage and transportation. The blocks are blank. I am thinking that it might be possible to add the Hour House logo. I have spoken to my son and he assures me that he does not want any of the games. Unfortunately, his relationship with his father was not good, so I do understand his feelings.”
Tuesday dawned crisp and dry with button clouds festooning the sky. So very different from the tree bending wind of the previous two days. Lovell was back from her walk with Crumbs before the breakfast was ready. Since everyone knew that it was her big shopping day, George had made blueberry pancakes. Her favourite. There was a party mood round the table as the stack of pancakes diminished and the coffee cups were drained. The chat was about the plans for the day. Morgan would drive Alice, Lovell and Carolyn to town. He knew he wanted an hour with Alice, another alone and the remainder was to do what ever Lovell wanted. Carolyn wanted to whisk Lovell away for an hour at some stage, so it was decided that while they went on the mystery task, Alice and Morgan would go in their own direction, before all meeting up for coffee at eleven.
Alice and Morgan headed off to see Mr Grimes, the jeweller. They wanted to purchase gifts for the wedding party, no better man than Mr Grimes to take them on the right track. He knew them well at this stage and felt they could trust him. As they walked through the shop, Morgan’s attention was caught by a silver chess set in a free-standing display case. A low whistle of approval escaped his lips, but he quickly turned his mind to the task in hand as Mr Grimes approached them. Alice noted the whistle, she had remembered the conversation with Gigi. She was slightly behind Morgan, so was able to give Mr Grimes a wink while pointing at the Chess set, before putting her finger to her lips. It would make the perfect wedding gift for her soul mate. Alice loved chess, though her skills were a little rusty these days. A few games with Morgan would soon sort that out. She would phone Mr Grimes the next day, to organise the sale of the chess set.
Meanwhile, Carolyn and Lovell were headed in the direction of the largest department store. A wedding gift was on their minds too. This one was for the Bride and Groom from Lovell. She wanted to buy everything that sparkled and shone, but Carolyn steered her in a more sensible direction. Mind you it was a difficult enough task: Finding the right gift for a couple who seemed totally content with what they had.
Not finding anything that Lovell really liked, Carolyn asked: “What about a gift that will go on and on for years, such as a tree.”
Lovell’s face was a picture “A tree?” she questioned.
“This would be no ordinary tree.” Said Carolyn. “A wedding cake tree. The Latin botanical name is Cornus controversa. You know it will look different in every season. The branches spread like the tiers of a wedding cake. It produces large clusters of white flowers in June, followed by blue-black fruit, and glossy, dark green leaves, turning rich red and purple in autumn. It would be a total surprise and we could have a planting ceremony with a special spade like the way the Queen does.”
That seemed to appeal to Lovell. Carolyn was not sure if it was the wedding cake bit or the mention of the Queen that did it, but she kept going.
“Wacky would be able to find a good one and we could plant it in the lawn at the front of Hour House for everyone to see and enjoy.
Lovell was really warming to this idea, Carolyn could see the excitement in her eyes.
“This way it can be organised quietly and we will not have to carry a parcel around all day! We will keep it a secret and talk to Wacky tomorrow! What do you think Lovell?”
Lovell was happy and promised to keep the secret. With that she asked “Can we go and buy a new collar for Crumbs to wear for the wedding?”
They did and soon it was time to meet up with Alice and Morgan for coffee. Carolyn was ready for coffee and a rest, she was sure that looking for a dress might not be as simple as choosing the tree.
Over the coffee, Morgan teased the girls about where to begin the search for the dress. Lovell wanted shoes to go with it and some decoration for her hair. Morgan said they should begin with the dress and then he would leave them to hunt for the shoes and headgear. They could phone him when they had finished and he would collect them in the car and take them for a nice lunch.
So the dress hunt began. Morgan walked beside Lovell, talking gently to keep her calm. This was the most exciting day in her life so far. They were all pleased to see her so well and able for the excitement, but they had to keep it in check. They did not want any more ‘episodes’.
They had expected this to be a long haul with many changes of mind. But Lovell surprised them in the second shop with the words “This one. I want this one!” It was simple, semi fitted and without knowing, she had picked the same colour as Carolyn. Morgan offered to take the bag back to the car, but Lovell was having none of it. She was not letting it out of her hand, never mind her sight. Anyway she needed to have it for matching up with a hair decoration.
Carolyn knew a shop that had pretty little Fascinators, so they went there. The sales lady was very helpful and suggested several styles. Lifting Lovell’s hair into a sweep, she placed a silver grey Fascinator in place. “Perfect!” they chorused in unison. So the decision was made. The paid and added the delicately wrapped package to the bag with the dress. Now it was on to the shoe shop. They went to the same shop where Alice and Carolyn had bought their shoes. They gave Lovell the space to examine all the shoe displays. When she reach the greys. Caroline pointed to one style that would match the Fascinator. So they asked to try them on.
Sizes were checked and the assistant brought them over. Lovell tried the shoes on and walked across the floor. They were comfortable. And the sales lady told them they had tights in the very same colour, the size was chosen and added to the bundle at the cash desk. Alice had her dress and she was a happy bunny, nothing else really mattered. The goods were paid for and Carolyn was allowed to carry the bag this time. Next stop was to buy some pretty underwear. Lovell felt like her favourite soap star with all this attention and shopping. When they finally met Morgan she threw her arms around him and said !”This is the best day of my life.” Alice had a sudden urge to wipe some grit from her eye. It was really to stop tears trickling down her face. It was indeed a good day.
Lunch was delicious, all the shopping gave Lovell an appetite. She pleaded with Morgan to take a photo of the dessert so that she could ask George to make it some day. When the lunch was over, and energies fading, they headed for the car with shopping and secrets happy to head back to Hour House.