“I love reading your blog Pam.”
I hadn’t written one in a while and to be honest I’d been rather lacking inspiration. Maybe because I’d been so happy? Was it easier to write about miserable stuff?
‘Well, if you’ve got any ideas or suggestions for what to write about next, then fire them this way!”
It wasn’t that stuff hadn’t been happening. It’ was, but it was just that the topics were subjects I didn’t feel ready to share or talk about just yet. (Save those for another day – maybe).
“Maybe you’ll get inspired after today!” She said as she raised her glass. She couldn’t have been more right.
I was at the mall for the fourth time in a week and in-between the posh coffees (that I just can’t say no to) and the endless odds and sods I still had to pick up for the wedding, I was haemorrhaging money. Grudgingly, I was in the fitting room’s of Victoria’s Secret trying on a ridiculously overpriced (not even that pretty) bra just so that it wouldn’t be visible through my awkward cut out back dress.
This was when I first noticed the coffee stain. A brown coffee streak, down the entire middle of the dress. FUCKFUCKFUCKINGFUCK, (Sorry mum… but this was how I was feeling internally and there’s just no better verb to emphasis it).
I was still to finish packing, change currencies, wrap a gift, get organised, and now, I’d have to get the dress cleaned, before heading out for dinner. Was it machine washable? Or dry clean only. Arghhhhhh!!!!
I hadn’t realised that it was Tuesday (Dubai’s infamous Ladies Night) and when I finally turned up to dinner (late as usual after the dress saga), there was already a glass of wine on the table for me, and wine was exactly what I needed. As the night went on, the drinks kept coming, and soon we had switched to Aperol. I was in full blown holiday mode, forgetting one small, yet quite major detail – that I had to be in Dubai airport by 7am at the very latest.
At 6.30am I was frantically throwing myself out of the door and into the nearest taxi, 100% still merry. Tracey (this is actually her real name – and I got her permission to use it, cause you know, some people can be a bit funny about you writing things about them on the internet…) was waiting for me at the very front of the check in queue, letting people pass her until I arrived. Why the hell had I decided to wear a massive granny cardigan??? I was sweating.
“So it was a good date then, Pam?” she winked at me as I launched my luggage onto the scales. I verbally vomited all sorts of apologies for being late as we rushed through check in, and ran to passport control which was experiencing mega delays thanks to a system error. Tracey had wanted to buy a lipstick, but by the time we finally reached Duty Free, we only had fifteen minutes to reach our gate. I didn’t realise I was still drunk, until I grabbed a perfume (which I have been deliberating over buying for a month cause it’s expensive and I couldn’t choose between the two) and marched to the very front of the cash desk queue, anxiously telling the cashier that I had a flight to catch. Poor Tracey innocently stood by (probably quite horrified), as I was served before all the other people in the queue who were now giving me the evil eye death stare.
All of this wouldn’t quite have been so bad, had I not just met Tracey the day prior to this, where we met for one of the aforementioned posh coffees.
We were just sitting comfortably in our seats, when a colleague of mine came over with some champagne. We had worked together recently and she had remembered that I was going to a wedding in Poland. “Oh… I don’t know if champagne is a good idea for me right now… I am a little bit hungover!! I had quite a lot to drink last night!” I smiled to her.
“Yes. I can smell that actually. I think you are maybe still a little bit drunk, am I right!?” She laughed as she sat the glass on my table. “You’ve got to keep it going now. Just wait for the Polish wedding!” At that moment, another colleague came over, politely obliging Tracey’s request of two amarula’s for our coffees by handing us four. “We’ll have these, then you should try and close your eyes for a little while, Pam. Take a wee nap.” The thing about me and alcohol, is that once I am awake, I am awake. Nothing can send me to sleep. And just like a stubborn toddler, I refused to sleep. Instead, I was plagued by ‘The Fear’ that Tracey was mortified, and panicked over what nonsense I had talked about during my date. Para Pam often revisits me after alcohol.
The hangover kicked in upon my descent into Warsaw. All I could think about was those Golden Arches, sparkling like the grease on a Big Mac. I needed a McDonald’s and I needed one now. Supersized. With extra ketchup.
Strolling through Krakow airport, I was sure that death was imminent. Tracey was browsing make up, meanwhile I was avoiding mirrors and scanning for anything to cure my hangover. Just one more flight to get through and then we’d finally be in Warsaw.
By the time we arrived to our impressive Air BnB, it was already getting late and I needed to sleep, recover, decorate the flat, and go meet the rest of the group for a pre wedding dinner/drinks get together. Still with a brain like scrambled eggs, I decided that the best thing to do would be to decorate the flat so that it would be ready for the Bride’s early morning arrival. I’ll tell you something for free, it is NEVER a good idea to attempt to blow up balloons on a catastrophic hangover. I got relegated to tying the knots in the balloons after that pathetic attempt, and to opening the packaging for everything else. Poor Tracey.
The next morning, 8am sharp, the bridal entourage rocked up – hairdressers, make up artists etc etc, and the first round of (Amarula) coffee’s were dished out to everyone. At 9am, the first bottle of Champagne was doing the rounds. At 10am, we had to do an emergency run to buy another bag of coffee beans. In between the chaos, I was sat on Pinterest looking at up-do wedding hairstyles. I wanted it loosely put up, in a kind of messy chignon style do. I dunno if it was lost in translation, or wether it just wasn’t a compatitble choice with my satin soft hair, but I ended up with a kind of, high up twist thing, that had two of those nineties style ringlets at either side of my face (why oh why did I ever get bangs – I am still regretting that), and my hair was solid, like a helmet.
Quintessentially British, I smiled weakly and exclaimed, ‘Lovely!’ before paying her, and running to Tracey. “Tracey. I hate my hair. What is this???” Her face said everything that she didn’t have to. “Well, it’s just not what you wanted is it?”. There was no time left for me to take it out, wash it and start all over again. I’d have to attack it with hairpins myself. Tracey handed me a champagne. “Sure it’ll be grand.”
It wasn’t really though, because 45 minutes later, Tracey was also stood in front of me. “I hate it. It’s nothing like I asked for. I knew I should have gone for the bouncy blow dry.”
It was bucketing rain. That bouncy torrential rain that you can hear on the windows. The Bride was almost in tears for the second time that morning, (weddings are stressful). I was going to be wearing blue suede shoes – just like Elvis, and a bag made of feathers. It was very far from ideal. I didn’t hold out high hopes for the umbrella I had brought with me either; I’m pretty sure it was from Poundland…
After all the stress, of the wedding planner being three hours late, and the rain, and all the other blips, I had accepted the fate of my hair, and the sun had decided to come out. The bride was absolutely stunning; so beautiful, and beaming a face as wide as (what is a wide thing?). I almost cried with happiness and love when I saw her.
Fast forward, we were sat at the dinner table, on the first course of a four course dinner. There was a lot of cutlery, a lot of glasses and a lot of bottles on the table. I had safely made it here, despite my shoes loosening off and now becoming a full size too big for me. Not really ideal on the cobbled streets of an old town, but so far, thanks to Tracey holding onto me tight, I had not suffered any calamities.
It was now that the subject of my blog came up. I am always so humbled when anyone tells me that they read it and it always inspires me to keep writing, but lately, I just didn’t know what to write about. Mid conversation, the groom came up to us. “Pam, you guys have to come up and start dancing about thirty seconds into the jive part of the first dance.” He told us that The Bride had requested it, and being the supportive friend I am, I obliged (okay – I grudgingly obliged) despite my absolute lack of coordination, and inability to dance. I hated being the centre of attention, even more than I hated dancing – but surely, at a wedding, everyone focuses on the newlyweds anyway.
As the first dance started, Tracey, (we will call her Sam) and I, stood on the sidelines watching. The jive track kicked in. Ten seconds… twenty seconds… thirty… okay now it must’ve been a minute and no-one was going up. I dragged a protesting Sam in her super beautiful, very expensive, lacy dress up to the dance floor, and we began to dance (badly).
I was being a good friend. I was taking one for the team, even though my shoes were too big. I’d just pretend no-one was watching. Then DISASTER STRUCK. It happened all so fast. Sam spun me round and the heel of my blue suede shoes somehow managed to loop through one of the lace holes in her very expensive dress and all of a sudden, I was SPRAWLED FLAT OUT ON THE FLOOR. Everyone gasped. The photographer was in my face like a paparazzi and I just laid there, wanting to die of shame. Unfortunately, it was still daylight, and I was still very sober.
I had ruined the first dance, and everyone thought I was drunk. I HATED dancing, and I was pretty sure I had ruined Sam’s day because, like me, she also didn’t enjoy dancing or being the centre of attention. Thank God hardly anyone knew me at this wedding, because I’d forever be known as the girl who decked it at the wedding.
The party resumed after it’s brief panic where everyone thought I had broken my ankle. Thankfully I hadn’t, because I had forgotten to buy travel insurance and that could have made my bad luck even worse, and soon it seemed like everyone had forgotten all about it. The food kept on coming, and the drinks kept being poured. I started shotting water, pretending it was vodka.
The band stopped and called for all the single girls to get up and head to the dance floor because it was time to throw the bouquet. In Poland, its a bit like musical statues, where the band play music and everyone shuffles around and dances. Then all of a sudden, the music stops, and that’s when The Bride throws the flowers into the air.
“Don’t you have a husband???” I said to one of the women I’d been chatting to earlier. “Yes. But he isn’t here, so…” At that moment, the music stopped. And somewhere, I knew that I was going to catch those flowers. They were coming right towards my face and my auto reflexes kicked in. I had caught the bouquet!
But wait, what was this? I had to stay standing, to the side of the dance floor? But why? Next up, was The Groom. He too was to throw his bowtie to all the single men, and the guy who caught it, well, he and I had to dance.
If I had known, that I had had to dance, again, at the centre of attention of everyone, I might just have let that bouquet hit my face, but it was too late, and now I was dancing with The Bride’s brother in law. Apparently, it meant that both he, and me, would be the next to get married (not necessarily to each other which is a good thing because I don’t speak polish and he doesn’t really speak English).
Both Tracey and I had been pre-briefed not to leave the wedding until we were the last ones, and after ruining the first dance, I was determined that we were staying until the very end. We’d be leaving at the same time as The Bride, and so, after some golf outside, and after finally taking down my hair, it was 5.30am and the sun was coming up, before we all piled into the minibus heading back to The Old Town.
The thing about old cities, is that the roads are narrow and full of pedestrianised areas making it difficult to get dropped off at your exact location. So, when the minivan dropped us off opposite a park and told us we were just on the other side, we dutifully got out into the cold Friday morning. I could see my breath in the air. I typed the address of our Air BnB into maps and discovered that it wasn’t really just on the other side of the park, but it was one kilometre away, and so, wearing flip flops and a dress as thick as a sheet of toilet paper, we shivered all the way back to the apartment, lugging high heels and the very large wedding bouquet because it’s apparently bad luck if you catch it and don’t take it with you, and the last thing that I needed was any more bad luck.
It took us 20 minutes to get home and by the time I fell into bed, it was already after 6.30am. We had to check out by 11 and the flat looked like it’d hosted a rap video. Girls clothes everywhere, glasses everywhere, shoes everywhere etc etc. I set my alarm for 9am to get up and clean the flat, and we were still to book accommodation for the next two nights.
I cleaned the flat, and then woke Tracey up with an Amarula coffee in bed. “Here’s some nearby available Air BnB’s. Have a wee look and see what you think.” AC was a priority for Tracey because the current place didn’t have any and it was very hot. She narrowed it down, and I barely glanced at the specifics. I wasn’t really used to Air BnB – I mostly stayed in hotels or with friends.
We had our own stuff, as well as The Bride’s, and the leftover bottles of Prosecco, but unfortunately, after being on a pedestrian part of the square, we couldn’t seem to arrange an Uber to take us to the next accommodation, and so, once again, we walked a kilometre to the next place, lugging the bouquet on another adventure.
To cut a very long story short, we were sat in the lobby of the Air BnB, but with no email of how to gain entry access. He’d took our money and scammed us. The telephone number provided with the listing was no longer active and he hadn’t responded to any of our messages. The security man was old and didn’t speak a word of English, and so I had to communicate with him by using the Google Translate app. I’d never been more grateful in my life to have a working data SIM card, even though my battery was running out.
Tracey was slumped on the tiles of the lobby looking like she might have a nervous breakdown. After a lengthy phone call to Air BnB, I left her there and went in search of a caffeine hit, and came back with a flat white for her and an Americano for me, which she added an Amarula to. It was 2pm by this point, and we were both hungover and exhausted. I want to go home, I told her. I just want to sleep. We had already wasted this day, because we would surely be too tired to even go out and we’d still have to get to another place with all this stuff. We had already missed most of the flights now, after waiting so long for Air BnB to get back to us, but Tracey, the absolute hero of the day, found us a connection to Dubai via Frankfurt. We’d leave for the airport at 4pm after we had met up with The Bride to give her back her things, before heading from Krakow to Frankfurt, with two hours in-between for transit time to Dubai.
We were sat at the gate waiting for our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt munching on a box of Pringles. Tracey was over the moon with her bag of Duty Free purchases, and I was just over the moon to be heading back towards a bed, when all of a sudden people started tutting, and cursing and frantically calling people on their phones. Turns out, thanks to a storm, our flight had been delayed by an hour and a half. I was trying to stay positive, but deep down, there was no hope in hell that we were going to make that Dubai flight, and even more fun for us, was that because we were on staff tickets, and flying with two separate airlines, we wouldn’t be eligible for any compensation or courtesy hotel stays. We would be stranded in Germany overnight.
We drove by the aircraft bound for Dubai on the way to the terminal. There was 20 minutes before departure and we hand’t even got to the baggage carousel yet. And so, for the second time that day, we began looking up accommodation, specifically ones with airport shuttles. “This one looks okay?” It had an airport shuttle, breakfast included, and looked quite nice. Both absolutely exhausted and beyond fed up, we just booked it. I called them to check the pick up location of the shuttle only to be told that it had finished at 10pm – eighteen minutes ago. I looked up the hotel on uber, and it was 50 euros to reach there despite only being a six minute drive. Tracey decided to go and enquire about a taxi only to be told rudely, the same thing. It wasn’t here, that I had the breakdown though.
It was the next morning, when the hotel manager slapped the bill down in front of me with an added 60 euros onto the cost of the room. “For your transfer to and from the airport.” he stated after I enquired.
For us, an airport shuttle is a free service that picks you up and drops you off at the airport. Apparently this is not the same in Germany. I didn’t say that I wouldn’t pay it, I said I would, but I also said that I wouldn’t give a good review on the hotel because this was misleading information and if we had known that this would be the final cost, then I might as well have chosen a big chain hotel directly opposite the airport rather than a family run hotel which charges this much for a shuttle service.
The hotel manager just TURNED. He became hostile and argumentative with a kind of burning fury in his eyes. “Fine. I will send the shuttle away now, and you can make your own way to the airport.” He headed towards the entrance and started shouting at the driver in German. It was at this point, that I lost it. The tears just spilled out as I frantically begged the shuttle driver “Please don’t leave without me, please please please. I have to make this flight!!!” The shuttle driver just shrugged his shoulders. “He’s my boss.”. The manager was trying to take the luggage out of the mini van, and I just kept putting it back in. Tracey took my bank card and paid the bill, while I sat in the shuttle, refusing to leave, tears spilling everywhere. I felt sorry for the business man sat beside us who had just witnessed this whole sorry saga. “I hate Lufthansa…” He sighed. “I hate this place.” I cried harder.
The driver dropped us at the wrong terminal, and it was deliberate, and so began the stress of trying to reach the other terminal, on the first day of the German summer holidays. We just made it to the check in on time, yet again. The check in lady was so kind, and helpful, chatting away to us the entire time.
As we reached the immigration, for some reason Tracey’s boarding pass wouldn’t scan. Losing patience with these machines and eager to reach the plane, I looked at it in a bid to help her, calling over some assistance from the immigration desk. “Tracey, why the hell does your boarding pass say Bangalore???”. And sure enough, for some reason, Tracey had ended up with the wrong boarding pass. Back down to the check in counter we went.
We finally cleared immigration, and while Tracey went in search of wine, I went in search of a coffee, and found a Starbucks round the corner. “A medium Americano with sugar free vanilla syrup and milk please.”
“Sorry, we don’t have any sugar free syrup.” one of the staff said. “Oh… okay, so…” The woman behind the counter rudely interrupted my train of thought, “Oh noooo! Vat vill vee do. There’s no zugar free syrup – just full vat syrup. Oh my godddd.” She rolled her eyes and waved her hands at her face in mock horror while I stared at her blankly.
“What did you just say to me?” I glared at her. The barista, obviously sensing trouble interrupted. “So it was a latte?”. “No. An Americano. With milk.” This really was not the best day to hit me with sarcasm. I was not in the best mood.
Tracey reached me just as the coffee was being made and the payment was going through. The barista handed me a black coffee, full to the brim.
“I wanted some milk please.” She looked at me blankly. “Maybe we could pour a little bit of coffee out to make room for the milk?”
She tipped the coffee over the edge and the cup was leaking everywhere. “That okay?” By this point I was beyond caring.
We carried on, following signs for the departure gate, and about 100m round the corner, we reached a security check points with 5ft billboards declaring no liquids over 100ml allowed. I sighed a designated sigh, and dropped my coffee into the designated bin. I was so over this day. I just wanted to reach the plane, and sleep.
We were the last ones to embark the aircraft, and as I walked towards my seat, I realised someone was already making themselves quite at home in it. “Excuse me, sir,” Tracey politely asked the man. “Are you in the right seat?” Maybe he was in his connecting flight’s seat… Maybe he read it wrong. He was frantically shaking his head, No, rummaging through his belongings and searching for his boarding pass. Sure enough, he and I had the same seat number.
I was not getting off this plane. I had made this far, and I was going to Dubai. “Tracey, I can’t deal with this. I’m going to the toilet.” When I returned, the problem had been solved, and my seat was vacant, right next to Tracey. Finally, we were going home.
“After all this, it was still the best wedding I’ve ever been to.” I said to Tracey laughing.
Tracey turned to me, “You know, Pam. It’s only been a few days, but I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. I feel like this trip has lasted weeks!”. It really had felt like I’d known Tracey far longer than a few days. “I feel like I’ve seen every single side to you there is: drunk; hungover; tired; happy; grumpy; embarrassed; stressed; upset… I feel like I’ve known you a very long time!”
She really had seen every single side to me there was. She’d even met with Para Pam when I told her about my post drinking fears.
“If you want to retract your invite for me to come to Vegas with you next summer, then I’d totally understand.” I told Tracey. “I’m a bit of a liability, but I promise, I’m not usually as reckless as this.”
“You kind of invited yourself anyway!” She winked at me, “But I’d love for you to join!”.
And as we thundered down the runway for take off, I thought that’s what it’s all about. Being 100% your realest self – because those who are meant for us, will like us anyway, flaws and clumsiness and all.