Runton Hall has recently started hosting weddings. The decision to do so came as a relief to me, as in my capacity as ad hoc bookings manager I had arranged for one to be held in the Great Barn this coming Saturday, with camping for guests in the Fallow Field near the Forest School on the southern end of the estate, and full provision for dj’s and catering. I’m afraid I had to bulldoze the idea past the Board of Trustees with such phrases as ‘powering up the revenue engine’ and ‘expanding Runton’s portfolio of activities’, but in my defence I was the only person in the room who, unbeknown to the Board, had spent nine grand on Sandstone Star bell weather tents that morning expressly for the purpose of hosting weddings in the first place, and wanted them earning rental income sharpish.
These handsome acquisitions were paid for by selling off abandoned glamper tents, left behind when their owners go back to Guardian reader land without them. I don’t know why you’d spend six hundred quid on a tent and only use it once, but then I don’t know why you’d suddenly want to get full sleeve tattoos at forty five and sit around drinking craft lager and being offended by literally everything either, and that’s some of the other stuff they like to do at the weekend. If anyone would know about tents, I reasoned as I contemplated the Sandstone Star purchase, it would be a survivalist. My hunch proved correct when Beggar’s Canyon, our consultant doomsday prepper, was not only able to shift our abandoned stock via who-knows-what network of citizen militia and woodland folk, but also put us in touch with a very amenable camping wholesaler, from whom the new tents were purchased. ‘She’s not just an enormous face’ as an impressed ‘Anton’ was moved to exclaim, and he’s right, although I warned him to guard against such comments around someone who knows how far a steel ball will penetrate solid oak when fired from a hunting catapult.
It’s exciting for us though, and an important milestone in our attempt to drag Runton Hall into one of the centuries immediately proceeding the twenty-first. I have literally no idea how to host a wedding, which differs from my repeated assertions to the Trustees that I had done it ‘loads of times’ in a fictitious previous career, and that it was easy. Whether it actually is easy is no concern of mine; I merely assumed that hiring a wedding planner for less than you are charging to plan a wedding yourself would be easy, which was indeed the case. Anyway, everyone’s happy and the only hitch was the catering, for which Joe is building a couple of pizza ovens. This did not fit entirely seamlessly with the Bollywood theme of the event, but I smoothed this over by suggesting that guests might like a spicy pizza with bolives and bonions, with borange juice for younger attendees. Some of Joe’s numerous children are to be press-ganged into circulating with trays of such delights while Joe, ‘Anton’ and I keep the ovens aglow until such time as we can abandon our posts and drink heavily with the wedding party, thus affording ‘Anton’ a chance to ‘get hold of a spare slag’, and other sundries with which I will not trouble you. It’s sometimes difficult to imagine that Anton – the rag and bone man of love – once had the romantic wherewithal to actually get married himself, but there we are.
Elsewhere on the estate, various comings and goings take place as usual. The Paul Is Dead people have departed, and as I write this we are relatively nutcase free. There has of course been a general election since we last spoke, and if you didn’t already know the result, the online petitions calling for recounts, reforms to the voting system, the subsequent removal of every party except Labour from ballot slips and so forth should tell you which way things went, although Labour did put in a magnificent effort which did everything other than actually win. I’ve voted for all the main parties at one point or other, and although I religiously stay up and watch all the Election Night coverage because it is genuinely riveting, I never really mind who comes out on top. Mind you, I always say Conservative when asked for my allegiances regardless of which way I’m voting, because it offends the righteous – the righteous love being offended, and so by claiming to be a Tory I am spreading a little happiness in these troubled times. I suggest you do the same if you’re feeling mischievous and want to see how quickly the Hope Not Hate people turn out to hate literally everything. Progressive liberalism is, I should think, the highest evolution of democracy, and if it wasn’t always fronted by angry middle class wankers, I’m sure it would catch on.
Anyway. By the weekend we will have a group of twenty Flat Earthers ensconced in the Old Servants’ Quarters, a rather nice, roomy property rewired by ‘Anton’ and without an electrical fire for some weeks now. They are unlikely to be disturbed by the wedding reception, which is on the other side of the estate. Everyone loves a wedding, surely, and a Bollywood-themed wedding is only a bunch of Bens and Lauras light-heartedly appropriating someone else’s culture in the name of matrimony, after all. I’m sure the Flat Earthers would find it a giggle, and probably more so than the Paul Is Dead people, who consider that the whole of civilisation – weddings, Bollywood, general elections, glamping tents and all – has in turn been appropriated by shape shifting lizard hybrids from among the rings of Saturn. Appropriated for what exactly I am yet to discover, and have been at Runton long enough to know that I don’t like to ask, although we may safely assume it isn’t for ‘Anton’s skills as a romantic electrician.