Southern China every year takes a deep breath, tightens its rain coat and steps into the blast of the rainy season. And when it rains, it surely pours. This year did not disappoint, with our newly restored roof being given a thorough workout (and coming through with flying colours, I might add).
To help speed up the construction process, we gave the team here a 'hard' deadline: that on May 5th, we would hold a wedding in our new home in Wuyuan. Taking a leaf straight from the university student's playbook, early confidence and cups of tea increasingly gave way to frenzied panic, all nighters and pleas for deadline extensions. Having sat on the other side of the table a few times before, I knew a blagger when I saw one. 'Just get it done'.
and they did.
The result is staggering - but a story for another day. Rather, this is the story of our intimate, 20 guest, friends-and-family-only intimate ceremony in our garden, whiling away the sundown with a dozy nap. Or so we thought.
Our previous pleas to the local government to get our electric and plumbing put in on time leant heavily on our fabulous 'wedding-carnivale' narrative, complete with international press, senior members of the British Government, Mary Berry and 2 members of One Direction in attendance. Local dignitaries and villagers alike took this very much to heart, and helpfully smoothed over our utilities quandries, whilst also giving us helpful recommendations for wedding planners.
As is often the way in China, at an 11pm strategy meeting the night before, the veil was lifted on tomorrow's proceedings to the Gawne family. Dowries were to be presented, there would be 'some' spectators and firecrackers, and I would collect Selina in a traditional Sedan chair from the house of Teacher Jin, a local village elder and bring her back to our home. As is tradition, Selina's mother was to cry, as one only would when a hairy, scary foreigner steals away your daughter.
What followed did technically follow this outline, but I feel I had been somewhat undersold the magnitude of the event.
The Old Enemy
In a wooden framed house, termites and leaking water have long been the enemy. Today we have water proof membranes and pest control, but in the early Qing dynasty one could but build a house well and take good care of it. This policy saw ours through Centuries, until political revolution and building neglect allowed these enemies at the gate a toe in the door. In our case, they had attacked the corner joint of our main beam, a booming 8 metre long piece of Asian red maple supporting half of our house, and would need to be changed. After we took down a smaller sub beam, we saw the inside was hollowed out by termites (picture below) and feared for the worst as we looked at its big brother still holding half the house up a few metres away.