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.
A Chinese village wedding
To begin, I was given a traditional outfit, complete with multi-feathered hat, and began the long process of standing in the street as barrages of firecrackers were let off around me. If you've never experienced Chinese firecrackers, they are simply strings of explosives laid out to create as much noise and smoke as possible (and they fulfil this brief to perfection), to ward of evil spirits and announce your happiness to the community.
From there, replete with my sedan chair, musicians, and dancing troupe, I made my way through the village's winding alleys to Teacher Jin's house to collect my prize. Fighting my way through throngs of onlookers and explosives, I found Selina, veiled and shoeless deep inside. My role, as her new husband, was to ensure her feet didn't touch the ground until she reached our marital bed. With this in mind, I carried her on my back to the waiting Sedan outside, with which we paraded her around the village, back to The Skywells, and up into our new bed. Here I was allowed to finally see what was hiding under the veil; I can only assume in times gone by, a few of the young men of Yancun may have been stung at this juncture. Our marriage, however, was decidedly unnarranged, so I knew what I had signed up for and was delighted. 'As is tradition', a child urinated in an urn behind us. Again, I can only assume someone's nuptials were thoroughly interrupted once in years gone by, only for a quick-off-the-mark relative to cry: 'thats good luck you know, they'll all want it at their own weddings soon!' And thus a tradition was born.
After a few CAD plans seemed not to quite hit their mark with Yuzong, who was charged with restoring the old house, Mika and the anySCALE team had to turn to somewhat more low-tech design visualisation techniques.
All is still this morning in our patch of the Wuyuan countryside. The dulcet tones of Chinese construction crews have been replaced with the familiar chirps of birdlife and the wind brushing through the long bamboo prongs, punctuated by the odd explosion. Chinese New Year has come to Yan village, and our workers have downed tools and gone home to be with their families across the county. In their place, Yan villagers have returned from cities and factory towns strewn across China, to eat with and be hassled by their family about when they will get married and have children. For many, it is the only chance they will have this year to take a break. They have brought fireworks, and boy do they know how to use them. For us, this is a significant milestone in the project schedule, and feels like a good time to take stock on how far we've come.