2003-09 (SEPTEMBER, 2003)

A Weekend At 'Dogwood' - NSW, Australia

Paul, Marketa, Andy and myself all bundled into the Holden and drove up to 'Dogwood', Dave & Jenny's country retreat, for a weekend of R&R. At least that was the plan. Dave & I quickly press-ganged Paul into a weekend of building the Uber Shed, so we didn't do much of either of the two 'R's.

Having cut the trees for the main wall posts some weekends previously, Dave & I were very keen to see if we could get some "in the ground". Dave and Trevor had been busy digging the post holes, so all we had to do was stand the posts up in the holes - easy, right? So how come it took us the next two days to erect four posts, then? Well, the shortest is over 4-metres long (they range up to 6-metres in length) and they are full, round trunks of solid Grey Gum - not one weighs less than 300kgs. The first three went in reasonably easily and we only almost killed Paul the once. The fourth took the rest of the weekend.

This last post was the biggest yet - too big for three strapping desk-jockeys to move. Thus plans for the 'Suzuki Crane' were mooted, and thus the rest of the weekend was blown trying to make brains/science/leverage/engineering do what two country blokes could have done in under 10 minutes. 'Suzuki Crane' consisted of an A-frame of smaller trees chocked on either side of the main post and canted to an angle of exactly 60°. A rope was then led from the head of the post, over the apex of the A-frame and thence to the towbar of the Suzuki Vitara (you were wondering where the Suzuki came in, weren't you?). Theoretical operation involved the Suzuki slowly driving forward and the post standing up and sliding smoothly into the destination post hole. Actual operation involved the Suzuki slowly driving forward, the post rising to 45° or so and then toppling sideways and almost killing Paul. At one point Paul even ended up with the A-frame crashing down around him, the 500kg post missing him by inches. By lunchtime on Sunday various plan refinements (including chamfering both the post and the hole) succeeded in getting the post erect. How many times the phrase "one last try" was uttered I can only guess.

And what were the ladies doing all this time (apart from sniggering, of course)? They were doing the lion's share of the R&Ring and taking turns to make the boys lemonade and stand by with medical supplies. I'm not sure if anyone else had a good time, but I had a ball!

Wedding Preparations - Christchurch, New Zealand

Early last year I asked Andy to marry me. And she said "Yes" (Phew!). And in a lot of ways we might have just left it at that (that's the hard bit done, after all, isn't it?). But gradually we've come around to the idea of actually doing the next bit. So next year we're going to do it. Which means this year we need to start organising it. Clear so far?

We jetted off to Christchurch on Friday evening to start the process. As my sister says "you just stick a load of food and booze in a room and get some people to show up, right?", so how hard could it be? Our objective was to knock off the venue, the caterers and the celebrant in one day. Game on!

Bright and early on Saturday morning Mum, Dad, Andy and myself jumped in the car and headed over to Akaroa for the day. Akaroa is a cute little seaside village that was our number one contender for the location of our very informal wedding. We had narrowed down the venue choice to two very different options - quietly elegant Blythcliffe and vibrantly unusual Linton. The former is packed with fairy-tale charm - but if it rains, you're stuffed. The latter would make for a very memorable day, not least because I would have had to murder the woman that ran the place before our Big Day was through. Tough choices indeed. The caterers were much easier. The former proprietors of one of Christchurch's foremost restaurants had relocated to Akaroa and were now running a luxury guest house and catering business in the area. We hit it off with them immediately and were very happy with their suggestions and advice. They had catered at both venues before and their comments sealed the venue choice for me. At Blythcliffe the hosts fade into the background, always there at a moments notice if required, but otherwise out of sight. At Linton the hostess gets dressed up and throws herself into your event. Blythcliffe it was. By this time the day was almost done and so we didn't get to meet the celebrant - we'll save that for another time. We pootled back into Christchurch, freshened up and then went out to dinner at 'Indochine'. Gorgeous!

Sunday was a blobbing day. Mum & Dad had only been in their new house for a week, so we spent much of the day helping them to unpack boxes and move furniture slightly to the left. That afternoon Matt arrived from Sydney and that evening we all went out to The Lone Star Café for our traditional Spare-Rib-Eat-A-Thon.

Andy & I flew home on Monday morning and went straight in to work. Now all we've got to do is: the invites, the dress, the suit, the music, the menu, the vows, the flowers, the table settings, the stereo, the rings, the lighting, the accommodation, etc., etc., etc. - what does my sister know?!