A girl’s wait for Mr Right gets to the point where whether she and Mr Right can still share children gets a bit iffy as she sidles up to forty. So at thirty-four my daughter was cutting it a bit fine, I would have thought, but then she phoned to inform us that she had met him at last at her church. Mr Right, alias Frederick Malleson, was duly brought down from Pretoria in mid-January of 2008 to meet us. Besides having their church in common, both had been brought up on farms. Frederick’s family owned a large dairy operation on the outskirts of Pretoria, with a milk processing plant as well as a large herd of Ayrshires.
They were engaged in March with the wedding set for July 5th, 2008 with the chapel of Lord Milner School, Settlers as the venue. Sheila, who had sworn never to venture to the metropolis of Gauteng ever again, reneged for the occasion, and we set off on the twelve hundred km journey to Settlers, and Greet and Dennis Driver’s farm beyond.
We deviated in the Free State to overnight with our good friends, Greta and Carlo Bighi; a good excuse to see them and catch up. As we entered the nightmare traffic of the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria the next day, Friday, Sheila lay down on the mattress in the back of the Venture van and closed her eyes to avoid seeing it while I drove. With boondocks relief, after a 4pm deadline for a rehearsal at the school, we made it to the tranquility of Dennis’ farm in the Bushveld where we were given a camp chalet to share. It was one of several used for visitors and wild-life students attending lectures on their game farm, where members of both families were made welcome for the occasion.
It was with some surprise and embarrassment that I had discovered that it would not be Dennis, her step-father, who would be giving Nicci away, but myself. She rightly called him Dad, and me Peter. However, I was really honoured.
At the camp, Frederick’s family provided the loaves and fishes for us hoards and we slowly got to meet them all and renew acquaintances with Greet and Dennis’ family. The Saturday morning, after a Bushveld stroll, greeting old tree friends, we had a slap-up English breakfast provided by Frederick’s mum, Anna. Sheila went off to Settlers to join old friends, June and Gay Sabatier, and her nephew, Andy Maling and his wife Colleen, who had been accommodated in the empty school hostels. I joined Nicci in the bridal car, an Audi Quatro driven by my son Ryan and accompanied by their sister Cathryn, a bridesmaid.
Nicci was not at all nervous, that I could see, and all the tales of the glow of beauty that enveil brides on their wedding days were evidently perfectly true. She was on my arm as we followed the bridesmaids and flower girls up to the chapel which was the ex-dining-hall when I had attended the same school in 1953-59. When I had handed her to Frederick and answered the minister’s query as to who giveth this woman to this man? in the affirmative, I could go and join Sheila for the rest of the service.
It was a fine wedding. There were more than 200 guests. Kids were welcome and catered for with a play room and a movie room. Speeches were entertaining, and I was surprised to find that Andy had been asked to speak on the influences Sheila and I had had on Nicci! He did a good job of that, his first ever public speech. Then Ryan, then the two best men, then Frederick, and even Nicci herself got a speech in! It was wrapped up by a speech by Dennis’ sister Margaret Acres who spoke about Nicci’s achievements. I was very proud of Nicci, but can take no credit for being any influence on those. Her B.Sc in Physiotherapy and her Masters in Development Studies were her own hard work and intelligence.
Later, as the party got into full swing, a friend of Nicci’s mimed Ray Steven’s Ahab the A-rab which was excellent. Then we got a song-sheet to sing off, about Frederick’s meeting with Nicci to the tune of Doggy in the Window which was also a scream. A lovely wedding, indeed.
We returned to the farm just before midnight to sleep, then went back to Settlers to join June, Jonathan and Gay, Andy and Colleen for breakfast, chatting until noon when Andy had to leave to catch their flight back to Cape Town. Sheila and I drove to Bela Bela (Warmbaths) to catch up with old friends and spent the night again in our chalet on Dennis’ farm. Slowed by a horrific road in the Free State, we only made it to Ladybrand the next night, but were home again the following one. No place like home.
Oh yes, and their honeymoon…
From Nicci’s letter in August:
By now you know about that ‘top-secret’ honeymoon … When we finally left the reception, we made our way to Zwahili Game Lodge, an exclusive (12 guests at full capacity) bushveld resort about 40 minutes drive from Settlers. We stayed in a luxury thatched-roof tent-cottage with gorgeous views over the surrounding bushveld and koppies. Frederick had wisely booked both Saturday and Sunday evening there so that we did not have to travel the day after the wedding. We had a lovely relaxing day on Sunday: a late morning, afternoon nap and a game drive after high-tea, followed by a 5 course meal served to us in our own cottage! We actually felt a bit guilty knowing how hard everyone was working to clean up!
On Monday morning, after a late start and a stop to pick up shopping supplies on the way, we drove down to Clarens – a little tourist town in the South Eastern Free State, nestled in the Maluti (Lesotho Drakensburg) mountains, and filled with art galleries, antique shops, restaurants and coffee-shops. Our room had a lounge and a fire place, with a four-poster bed, under-floor heating and a great view of the mountains. It was a really lovely week, with just the right balance of relaxation and adventure. We planned it so that we had one main activity per day, which took up no more than 4-5 hours, and then spent the rest of the time sleeping, eating and reading together. Our ‘adventures’ included abseiling, quad-biking, hiking in the Golden-Gate National Park, and visiting a spa for a steam and massage. Neither Frederick nor I had been abseiling or to a spa before – so both were new experiences. Unanimously the abseiling was the value for money winner and most likely future repeat!