On Friday we met up in central London for a pub lunch followed by a treasure hunt round the theatre district. Armed with a map, a Polaroid camera, a set of questions to which the answers could (mostly) only be found by visiting the theatres concerned, a couple of pages of photographs to identify (again, requiring visiting the theatres), a list of objects to return with and a set of photographs to obtain, each team had a couple of hours in which to do as much as we could.
It has to be said that this seemed like a much better idea in February, when it was first mooted, than on one of the hottest days of the year. One of our team happened to be eight and a half months pregnant, so she decided discretion was the better part of valour and parked herself in a pub for the afternoon - she was our remote research unit, digging up answers to a couple of questions where phoning the theatre would not cause them to answer with "You want to know what?"
It was very good fun but would have been a lot more fun if it had been 10C cooler. Sadly our team came second (out of two) but we will get our revenge some other time!
After that we had dinner at Neal's Yard Salad Bar (which, despite the name, does not just do salads). We were keen to find a restaurant that would be good for the relatively large number of vegetarians in the party (including the groom). NYSB is, indeed, exclusively vegetarian but the food and the service weren't that sparkling. Ah well.
We moved on to the Albery theatre where Patrick Stewart was appearing in Ibsen's The Master Builder. Stewart was very good, as indeed were the rest of the cast, though the play itself lacks any sympathetic characters (and the ending's a little too predictable; some of us spent the second interval proposing how we thought the play should end; the Scooby-Doo ending, the Wayne's World ending(s), the porn movie ending, etc.). Since it depicted an unhappy marriage, maybe it wasn't the ideal choice for a pre-wedding trip, but the groom appeared to enjoy it well enough.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny (again) and we loaded various people and various stuff into the car and headed off for Oxford, to the flat of MN-the-aggressively-LJless, for lots of nice cheese followed by a wine-tasting. The chap who was walking us through the wines seemed able to cope with a roomful of weirdos; once he'd departed, we drank some more of the wine and played some games (I managed to win a game of Citadels, which only really proves that my fellow players were perhaps not as sober as they might be by this point).
A cab back to our hotel, and then a shower and change into full black-tie regalia for the evening's party. Black tie was another one of those things that had sounded like a good idea when we were thinking of a normal English summer - cool, rainy, whatever - rather than 30+C. Thankfully the venue (the back room of Bar Baby on Cowley Road) was air-conditioned and therefore quite pleasant - especially as it's a cocktail bar. The buffet was more interesting than I would have expected and in general it was a really good evening, with a chance to see some folks I don't meet up with nearly often enough.
The hotel was not airconditioned. And dear gods, was Saturday night/Sunday morning hot.
We woke up about 9am or so and were lying in bed when we heard a loud, and nearby, rumble of thunder. Given that the afternoon plans involved a cricket match, this was a bit disconcerting. It did rain heavily, but briefly, and the ground was sufficiently dry that by the time we checked out of the hotel around 11am, you could hardly tell that it had rained at all.
A pub lunch was enjoyed by most, except for the groom, who seemed inexplicably unhungry and kept dashing either to the bathroom or out for some fresh air. This may have had something to do with the afterparty which had seen him finishing off a day of many different wines and cocktails with some champagne followed by some whisky. Quite why this seemed like a good idea, I am not sure, but given that he doesn't normally drink whisky (since an incident in his youth involving his parents' drinks cabinet, some whisky and a stomach pump), I feel safe in speculating that it may have contributed in his being a little under the weather.
I had booked my college's cricket pitch for the afternoon, so that people could enjoy our usual crap brand of cricket (which bears no resemblance to the 'official' rules) without needing to worry about anyone else wanting to use that bit of park. It started out hot and sunny, and later a breeze picked up; a thunderstorm passed by without much effect other than a brief shower of rain around 1630 when we were just planning on the tea interval anyhow. Once again, this didn't significantly wet the ground.
Eventually most of the rest of those present ambled off to a barbecue and we dragged the groom back to London, put him on a train home and went back to our place to collapse in little exhausted heaps.
And we didn't even get round to putting him on a plane to Outer Mongolia....