Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Forget the marriage, it's all about the wedding

Bet theirs didn't cost 25 grand...
Marriage. A beautiful union of two people joined together for a lifetime. For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and...forget that, isn't the gown a Vera Wang?

The flashy wedding is so vogue right now. And there's no wonder why. It's virtually impossible to browse a magazine newstand nowadays without being faced with a wall of tangerine-skinned 'celebrities' celebrating their big day.

With the average event costing more than most earn in a year, everyone from vintage car owners to cupcake bakers are laughing all the way to the bank. Everyone, that is, apart from the happy couple and their long-suffering family and friends.

Overindulgent weddings became all the rage in the late nineties - around the same time a post ceremony knees-up at the local village hall stopped being the classy option. Registry offices have been ditched in favour of posher venues and organists have found themselves booted out of churches to make room for the 80-piece orchestra. It's a fact: society loves keeping up with the Joneses and if that means inevitable bankruptcy then so be it.

After their special day, not only will the newlyweds have a piece of paper certifying their marriage, they will, no doubt, also be the proud owners of at least five maxed-out credit cards. With a luxurious honeymoon on some far-flung isle to look forward to, they can relax and try to push thoughts of those hefty bills on the doormat to the back of their minds.

But it's not just the bride and groom whose bank balances are drained during the wedding season.  Friends and family practically have to take out a second mortgage to pay for lavish stag and hen dos in exotic locations. Not to mention travel expenses to the wedding itself, hotel rooms, suits, frocks, hats, childcare, department store gift lists...it could go on forever.

And that's after putting up with months of the kind of behaviour you'd usually only ever come across on Jeremy Kyle - family feuds, pissed off partners, warring friendship groups and bridezillas more terrifying than the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

So where does it all end? Surely these insanely pricey weddings are beginning to overshadow the real cause for celebration: the marriage itself. On the most romantic day of their lives, numerous couples spend the entire wedding at loggerheads because the flowers are slightly droopy or the chair covers are the wrong shade of lilac.

And guests are so busy quietly comparing the food and table decorations to the last wedding they attended they forget they should be supporting two friends as they begin their lives together.

I once heard a saying that the more expensive the wedding, the shorter the marriage. After all, no matter how much you flash the cash, money can't buy love.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Glamping it up

British summertime ... the ultimate camper's dream
Camping at Glastonbury Festival a few weeks ago gave me a whole new taste for the great outdoors. Having not so much as unzipped a tent since Eurocamping with my parents in France aged 10, it was practically a brand new adventure for me.

Obviously, festivals are far from a perfect camping experience. Picking your way through haphazardly arranged tents in the sober light of day is no easy task, but drunk in the dark it is nigh-on impossible. Of course, it didn't take me long to have an unfortunate encounter with a stray guy rope whilst stumbling back one night - virtually pulling a toe out of its socket in the process and ending up with a wide array of cuts and bruises.

Being a lady who enjoys her home comforts, it only occured to me upon arrival that I'd have no access to electricity in a tent in the back of beyond. It wasn't until I'd bounded into the campsite with a smorgasbord of goodies wrapped up inside my brand new wicker hamper that I realised I was lacking an essential item: a fridge.

I found myself caught in a quandary: it was at least 100 degrees in my tent and, unfortunately, the majority of my food would only survive below zero. After much consideration, I had no option but to hold an emergency midnight feast on the first night to save my banquet from going to waste. So much for my healthy eating plans...it was a diet of pure fast food and carbonated drinks from then on.

The guy ropes and greasy food I could deal with. The toilets I could not. Pongy enough to have me retching from 50 yards away, the smell inside each cubicle was comparable only to the loos in the most downmarket Thai backpackers. With no showers to be seen, those who entered without a supply of toilet roll regretted it for the remainder of their stay. Those who had the stupidity to look down into the cesspit were probably put off food for life.

Needless to say, I ensured I was pretty sparing with the fluids to prevent making too many visits to the hateful portaloos.

Negative as the experience sounded, I packed away my tent feeling rather uplifted. I'd made it. I'd survived with just a sheet of canvas protecting me from the elements. I'd even managed to sleep using a grubby towel as a pillow. And it was a lovely feeling to peacefully drop off without the sound of sirens and the number 37 bus filling my ears.

Slumming it may not be my bag, but something was certainly drawing me to the idea of an English camping holiday instead of my usual stint on the coast of Spain. But of course I'd need running water. And a fridge. And maybe even a microwave...

Researching 'posh camping' on the internet, I realised there were plenty of options to match my crazy criteria. Yurts in Devon, 'ecopods' in Cornwall, safari tents in Scotland, teepees in Sussex and (my favourite of the lot!) revamped traditional gypsy caravans in East Lothian.

However, despite the plethora of posh camping venues, every single yurt and gypsy caravan I desperately wanted seemed to be fully booked. Glamping, it seems, is more popular than Saint Tropez.

Since the recession hit it's become all the rage with trendies across the nation. They're all doing it and, unlike a traditional camping trip, they aren't doing it on the cheap. These may be glorified tents but they certainly come at a  price - the cost of being at one with nature starts at 50 quid a night.

Looks like I might be booking that cheap last-minute deal to Spain after all...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The art of the resignation

Does icing it on a cake make it any easier?
Just over 5 weeks ago I commuted to work feeling like a nervous wreck. I began my journey with sweaty palms which gradually worsened as I neared my destination...to the point where I nearly lost grip of the handrail and sprawled to the floor of the tube carriage.

Having spent the entire duration of my commute psyching myself up, I arrived at the office shaking like a leaf. In fact, I could easily have been mistaken for a Parkinson's sufferer as I tried to get my key into the lock. As if this wasn't bad enough, I had that horrendous dull ache in my stomach which only ever seems to rear its ugly head when I'm a bag of nerves.

The reason for my panic? The freshly-printed letter sitting guiltily in my handbag. I'd finally decided to quit my job and concentrate all my efforts on my quest for journalistic fame. All I needed to do was leap over that final dreaded obstacle: the small matter of my resignation. 

Being a person who avoids confrontation like the plague, handing in my notice is my idea of a nightmare. Even after the deed has been done it's impossible to relax for the remainder of the notice period. What if the boss didn't take it well? What if my colleagues treat me differently? What, (and this was my worst fear) if I'm relegated to office skivvy? It's a total minefield. 

No matter how many times I planned the scenario in my head, I realised there is just no good way to tell your boss you no longer want to work for their company. Whatever the reason, it's out in the open that you've been secretly planning to leave for God knows how long and they're not going to be best pleased.

Suddenly my panicky haze cleared and I remembered the best lesson I've ever learned in life. Never burn your bridges. That is the true art of the resignation. Flattery is still the best way to an egotistical man's heart, so of course I used it in abundance. And any grievances I felt towards my company went unmentioned as, rather terrifyingly, I'll never know if I'll ever encounter that boss again.

Thankfully, it all went quite well. He seemed relieved (and, I noticed, ever-so-slightly smug) that I hadn't been poached by a hateful competitor. In fact, the company's only concern about my departure seemed to be the placement I'd landed at The Sun newspaper. Naturally they worried they'd be seeing a little too much of me on page three.

Ah well, I guess now is the time to start building up my spray tan and booking my boob job. I'll always need a backup plan if this journalism malarky doesn't work out...