Carolyn & Lovell went in search of Wacky woods, they found him in his shed rolling strips of well used bailing twine. “You never know when one of these will come in handy.” He said, while, putting them into the long pocket of his overalls. The smile on his face made it obvious he was happy to be working on the land once more.
“Lovell, you look like you know a secret and cannot wait to share it. Am I correct?”
“I want you to buy a tree, Wacky. We need it in a hurry!”
“ In a hurry?” said Wacky. “It all depends what kind of tree you are thinking about, my girl. Do you have any particular kind of tree in mind?”
“A Wedding cake tree!” said Lovell. “We need to plant it on the day of the wedding. And we need a spade like the Queen has, to plant our tree.”
“A spade like the Queen has.” Said Wacky. “Well now. I think I could manage that, and have the names and date of the wedding engraved on the spade. Lovell, why not let me get the spade as my wedding present for the bride and groom. What do you think?”
“Oh yes. Good idea, but we need to plant it on the wedding day.” Said Lovell.
Carolyn was listening all the while and stepped forward. “Lovell, Wacky will do his best, but trees are not like bunches of daffodils, you never see them on sale at the petrol station or in the supermarket. Wacky will have to search the nurseries to get a good one.” Said Carolyn, before adding “We cannot plant a tree in our wedding finery, you would not like to get soil on your new dress or shoes, would you?”
Even as she spoke another idea was forming in her mind, but this was not the time to share it.
“We need to let Wacky get on with his work so that he can go looking for our tree. It must be our secret, just the three of us, we don’t want to spoil our surprise so not a word to anyone.”
“Our secret!” said Lovell. “Carolyn, can I try on my new dress now?”
“Lovell, you tried it on yesterday and it was perfect. We don’t want to get it dirty. Best wait until the wedding day. Why not take Crumbs for a long walk?”
At the mention of Crumbs, Lovell was off. “See you later she called over her shoulder.” The tree was forgotten for the moment.
Wacky and Carolyn talked for a few more minutes, about where he would get the tree, the choice of spot suitable for planting, and how they would manage to do so on the wedding day.
As she walked back to the house, she decided to confide in George about her latest idea. She would need his help with the finer details.
George was in the kitchen “Virtuous wedding cake is surely an oxymoron. I cannot do justice to it without a good dash of best brandy.”
Carolyn heard the voice before she turned the corner and wondered who he was talking too. Nobody. He was alone and about to uncover the cake.
“George Knowles, are you feeling stressed? Surely that is the place of the bride and groom, not the best man!” Carolyn teased. “That cake smells fantastic, I want to eat a slice right away.”
George turned away, picked up a smaller box and opened it to reveal another little cake with several slices already cut from it. He cut a fresh slice and put it on a small plate before placing in front of Carolyn. “I had to taste it. My livelihood might depend on it. I cannot afford to poison the bride or groom.” He said with a wink.
Pouring two cups of coffee he sat across the counter from his companion.
“Tomorrow, I will begin the process of decoration. I had an idea this morning. Morgan loves his old cars, what do you think of a Morgan Roadster on top of the cake with a bride and groom in it? I could add ribbons on the back for horseshoes and tiny tin cans.”
“That sounds ‘Cool’, as Lovell would say.” Said Carolyn. “Now I need to tax your brain for a moment. We talked to Wacky about the tree. He was wonderful with Lovell. She thinks getting this tree should be as easy as buying a bag of Golden Wonder potatoes!” He wants to provide an engraved spade ‘like the queen has’ as his wedding gift. I will pay for the tree. The problem is, Lovell wants it planted on the day of the wedding!”
“That could work.” Said George. “Since there will be nobody to give away the bride, the couple have decided to walk in, hand in hand for the ceremony. It means there will be none of this archaic ritual of the groom not seeing the bride before the wedding. They want the bridal party to have breakfast together before donning the finery. I think the idea behind it is to keep Lovell calm. So we could plant the tree after breakfast”
“We could turn it into a little treasure hunt. A ribbon from the table to the back door where we have a row of Weddingtons! Yes new wellingtons for all of us. White for the girls and black for the boys. The white ones will have ribbons on to match our outfits, Lovell would love that idea. I’ll need you to find out what size shoes Morgan wears.” Said Carolyn.
“I will do that no problem. Said George. “I suppose a second ribbon would lead to the spade and the third take us to the pre-dug hole in the lawn where the tree will go. Carolyn, you have such good ideas, I think I should Marry you!” They both laughed.
“That tree might be a winner, providing photo opportunities for wedding parties in the future. I doff my hat to you young lady!”
“Thank you, kind Sir!” Said Carolyn. “Now I must go and have a word with Gigi.
Gigi was on the first floor, surrounded by her house girls. They had been sorting rotas for the next couple of weeks and particularly on the days around the wedding.
“Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration, and we are so fortunate to have been selected as part of the Hour House family. Everything must slide into place seamlessly for the Big day and from there on into the future. All staff being included in a wedding as it is taking place, is unusual, but right at the beginning of your journey together, makes it all the more special. It means your employers see you as part of the Hour House family. We must all play our part on the day. We have arranged a couple of tables for you to sit and mingle with the waiting staff. They will be slipping off to the kitchen to collect and serve the food and drinks, when all have been served they will rejoin you for the meal. It will give you another chance to get to know another branch of our work family. Naturally, if you see anything that needs attention, I expect you will sort it out in a quiet and efficient way.”
There was an excited muttering from the girls. It was indeed a totally different experience for all of them. Paula asked a question, one that was in all their minds.
“What about wedding presents? We do not really know our employers yet. Should we all contribute to a central fund and give one general gift?”
“Relax, girls. You are beginning your adventure, working here in Hour House. No present or presents are expected. In fact, Alice and Morgan made that very plain. They do not expect you to spend your first pay cheque on a gift for them. I will provide a gift from my staff and a large card will be available for each of you to sign.”
“That sounds wonderful.” Said Carolyn, as she joined them. A token gift from all of you is just fine, I know George is doing the same with the waiting, bar & kitchen staff.”
The girls seemed relieved. Since there were no more questions or worries, Gigi released them to continue with their tasks. They headed off in a happy murmuring buzz, with Paula at the centre. She seemed to have adopted the role of their spokes person.
Turning to Carolyn, Gigi said:
“I am glad to see you, I want to talk to you about the wedding morning. Would you like me to look after and distract Lovell when you are busy getting Alice ready. I am sure it will be a very emotional occasion for her with memories of the past raising their little heads. She is so fortunate to have you as a friend, particularly at a time like this.”
“ You read my mind, Gigi. I was coming to ask a favour.” Carolyn filled her in on the tale of the wedding cake tree and ‘A spade like the Queen has’, adding the idea of a treasure hunt after breakfast.
“What an original idea for a wedding gift, I would never think of that in a hundred years. I can picture Lovell with that spade. No doubt she will be checking videos of the queen at tree planting ceremonies, just to make sure it is done properly.” They both laughed.
“I will look after Lovell on the morning, she has become very comfortable with me. We are already making plans for when she stays with me during the Honeymoon, when Alice and Morgan are away. I can arrange the ribbons for the different stages of the treasure hunt. I will have a word with Wacky. You can leave it to us.”
Relieved, Carolyn told her about the idea for ‘Weddingtons’.
“You better add me to that list. I always wanted fancy wellingtons.” Said Gigi. “If you let me know the colour scheme, I will sort out the ribbons. What about the guys boots, they won’t want ribbons? Maybe I could clip on a rose or a natural tiny posy of leaves, feathers, branches and some stones from the grounds? I’ll talk to Wacky about that one.”
“I like the sound of a natural tiny posy, go for it. If you need help, let me know. Gosh, look at the time, I need to head for town. I have another secret to fulfil! Thank you for all the help Gigi, we want this day to go with as swing!”
Leaving Gigi to her thoughts, Carolyn headed off to town. She had promised to visit Mr Grimes and collect a parcel for Alice.
Morgan and Alice were continuing to make arrangements for the official opening for business. Thanks to some favourable reviews in the media. The phones and email, brought many requests for bookings. The Facebook and website were proving popular too. Sophie, one of the receptionists, agreed to update daily, and moderate the incoming requests and replies. She may be one of the younger members of staff, but she seemed to have been born with technology in her veins.
The honeymoon would be short. They wanted Hour House to begin in earnest on the first day of December. The Mayor of the local council and representatives from the tourist board were coming to the opening. Leaders of local Rotary, Lions, Probus & Arts and Crafts groups, as well as the local camera club, had all replied with an affirmative answer, some hoping it would be possible to use the premises to hold monthly meetings from the beginning of the new year.
“We need a rota of who will meet, when and where.” said Morgan. “It would never do to have them all on the one day at the same time!”
“Do you want me to handle that? I was thinking the needle-worker group could use the Oratory on one evening a week. There are plenty of sockets for their sewing machines and we can easily provide coffee or tea at the mid point of their evening, all part of their fee.” Said Alice.
“Alice dear, we have a secretary. Let her organise it for us. She will be here to ease our load, we cannot do everything ourselves. Just as we needed help to restore Hour House to its present glory, we now need the help of staff to help run it efficiently. Sometimes we need to put down the book of work and start writing our own story. I want to have time, for and with you, that is why I asked you to marry me. Lovell too, we need to have time to spend with her.”
“You are right, Morgan, I feel I neglected Lovell quite a bit, while planning and working on the house. This is all a great big learning curve for me. At times I feel like a butterfly newly emerged from the pupal stage of life. I never would have attempted it without you! I promise to make time for you and Lovell as we walk through life together.”
On 21st November, the day of the wedding, curtains and blinds were opened across Hour House to large trees shrugging in the winter mist. Anyone looking through a window at the front of the house might wonder why Wacky was walking away from a freshly dug hole with a little mound of soil beside it. Thankfully all the family were at the back of the house, busy with their own thoughts, so unaware of what was happening outdoors. The breeze was working to tidy up the sky and sweep the clouds into the corners so the sun could shine across the bright blue dome.
Morgan was singing in the shower “Right now is life… I am going to enjoy every minute of the journey along the way!” He suddenly thought of his father and the loneliness he felt after his wife had left him. Yet, without that loneliness, the cars and his friendship with Sydney, Morgan would not have discovered the love of his life, Alice.
‘You don’t need anyone’s permission to be happy, or to live a good life, it is a state of mind only you can create.’ Morgan was not sure who said it, but he certainly agreed with the sentiment and wanted to continue living by it.
Meanwhile Alice was soaking in a luxurious bath, with some special oils that Gigi had brought home from New York. They were a gift especially for use today. There was plenty of time before breakfast and feeling so relaxed she allowed herself to drift off into a little day dream. Caroline promised to bring a coffee when it was time to emerge and have her hair done.
Gigi meantime, was trying to keep Lovell from donning her dress for the wedding.
“Not yet Lovell. It is way too early and remember we have a tree to plant after breakfast. Pull on a pair of trousers and the cagoule with the zip all the way down the front. That way you will not mess up your hair when you are ready to change clothes for the wedding. I think we have time to take Crumbs for a long walk before breakfast and then you can brush her down before putting on the new collar. What do you think?”
“Oh yes please! Crumbs likes a walk in the morning.”
“You can take me up through the fields at the back, I have never walked up there before.”
It was agreed and off they went. Thankfully there was no sign of Wacky, so no need for a discussion about the tree or wanting to check the hole. Gigi was surprised that Lovell had kept the secret so far. She was feeding Crumbs some special titbits that George had made especially for her, and both were ready to have an excess of energy worked off.
Soon it was time for breakfast and the only meal of the day cooked and served by George. He had delegated the responsibility to he deputy for the remainder of the day. Most of the preparation he had supervised the day before and told everyone what they had to do. George’s task today was to stand by Morgan and look after every need of the couple. He had a speech ready, but it was quite short. He hope it would hit the right tone.
Bucks Fizz, a cooked breakfast, warm rolls from the oven and plenty of coffee. Everyone tucked in. Gigi sat beside Lovell, so that she could steer her conversation and not have any secrets slipping out at this late stage. That pair were fast becoming friends.
Alice looked happy but quiet, not unexpected from a bride on her big day. Morgan was the same as he always was, teasing Lovell gently, while giving assuring glances to Alice across the table. The conversation on general topics flowed with ease. As they were all finishing, Gigi slipped away and went to have a word with Wacky. He had placed the Weddingtons in a row at the back door. There were ribbons from the Bride and grooms boots winding out the door and round the corner where the other ends were tied around the handle of a spanking new shiny spade. And another let them to the front of Hour House and across the lawn to a hole. Happy that all was in order, she returned to the breakfast table and gave Lovell a gentle squeeze on the knee. It was the sign that all was ready.
Lovell pushed her chair back and stood up and began to speak.
“Alice and Morgan, I have a surprise for you. We need to go outside the back door to find it. Come on everyone they might need some help.”
Alice looked at Morgan and he looked at her. Neither of them knew what was about to happen. They joined hands and followed Lovell with the others slipping in behind them.
It was Lovell who gasped in surprise when she saw the row of Weddingtons. Carolyn nodded to Gigi and she moved forward to explain the next step. There were removable name tags on each pair so they would not get mixed up. There was even a chair for anyone who wished to sit while putting on the boots. Once every one was ready, they followed a ribbon and found the spade leaning on the wall. From it was another ribbon, so on Lovell’s instructions Morgan carried the spade on to the next stage.
“Lovell, surely you are not going to bury me on my wedding day. Are you?” Asked Morgan.
With that, Wacky appeared around the corner of the house with a tree over his shoulder. They all watched as he walked slowly and steadily across the lawn. Placing the roots into the hole, he turned to Lovell. “I think you have a speech to make, young lady.”
Lovell stepped forward to make her speech.
“Alice and Morgan, this is my present for you on your wedding day. It is a wedding cake tree.”
A wedding cake tree, You mean we can eat it?” teased Morgan.
They all laughed and felt relief that the secret had been kept until this moment.
Alice and Morgan were delighted and showed it by giving Lovell a hug.
“We are not finished yet. We need to use the spade that Wacky bought for you. It is like the one the Queen has for planting trees. It has your names on it. We have to do it properly.”
“Thank you Wacky, what a wonderful idea. Perhaps you could show us what to do.”
“Oh no Sir. Lovell has been watching videos of the Queen planting trees, so she knows exactly what to do. Perhaps she could help me with the first bit, The guests of honour only tip in a spade full when the tree is almost planted.”
Lovell stepped forward. She checked, at Wacky’s suggestion that the roots were evenly spread and lifted the first spade full of soil into the hole.
“Thank you Lovell, now why not let everyone have a turn and finish with the Bride and Groom.” Said Wacky.
Everyone took their turn beginning with Gigi. Just before it was time for the Bride and Groom to use the spade, a car came up the drive and parked in the drive in front of them. It was Mr Yates, with his Clarinet. They called him over, inviting him to add a spade full of soil. Handing the Clarinet to Carolyn, he did as he was bid, before handing the spade back to Lovell.
As Lovell handed the spade to her sister, Mr Yates began to play the Clarinet.
The tune ‘What A Wonderful World’ drifted through the air while the bridal couple planted their tree.
Everyone in the group began to sing:
“I see trees of green,
red roses too.
I see them bloom,
for me and you.
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.”
With that a waiter carrying a tray, walked towards the group with flutes of Champagne.
Morgan gave the spade to Wacky and he finished off by adding a stake. Then he moved to the front of the tree and placed a commemorative brass plaque in the grass in front of the tree.
With the work done, they all returned to the house to don the glad rags and ready themselves for the business part of the day.