Around this time last year, after many months spent rooted in front of a computer screen while applying to jobs online, I endeavoured to put my work woes to one side and travel out to Corfu for a friend’s wedding.
I had met the bride at university four years earlier, while working part-time at a local cinema to help subsidise my studies and indulge in free movies. We became quick friends, as I introduced her to Buffy The Vampire Slayer and she let me leave the room whenever her pet boa constrictors threatened to start regurgitating mice.
The groom, also a law graduate, paid his way through university as a musician. Following his fiance out to her native France, he managed to make a living through his work, establishing himself across the Riviera as a talented and hard-working investment, capable of drawing customers not only with covers but with his own songs too.
On a budget, then, I arranged to journey down to London by Megabus, where I would then fly Stansted to Corfu at some crazy hour the following morning. I had friends in London to spend the day with, and had been booked into Stansted Airport Lodge overnight where I was to rendezvous with one of the bridesmaids, herself on a stop-over from Ireland.
Eleven or so sleepless hours after departing from Dundee bus station, I arrived at London Victoria — cold, tired and absolutely starving. With nowhere but McDonalds open and an hour to kill before I’d arranged to meed my friend at Liverpool Street Station, I settled down with a coffee and attempted to reverse the first few stages of acute sleep deprivation.
Shortly after breakfast I made my way to BFI Southbank for drinks with Best For Film, with whom I had interned back in 2010. Full of beer and sushi, I returned to Liverpool Street in the evening to take the bus to Stansted. Having convinced myself that a taxi wasn’t necessary, and that 2.8 miles was in fact nothing if only you looked at the map, I set off on foot. Two hours later — once again cold, tired and absolutely starving — I finally arrived.
We were at the airport for 03:30 the next morning, and checked in well before 4, giving us an hour to eat breakfast and make our way to the relevant terminal. The bride and groom had been staying in London with the best man and were booked onto the same flight. They had cut it rather fine, however, and with two elderly grandparents to chaperone they were still nowhere to be seen as we took our seats on the plane.
“Excuse me”, I asked, as the air-hostess conducted her pre-flight headcount, “We were just wondering if you could check if our friends are on the plane?” She looked flustered and just a little bit distracted. “I think everyone is on board now. But I can check for you once we’re in the air”. Unsure whether we would be attending a wedding after all, we shared one last worried glance before the doors closed and the plane took off for Corfu.
We exited the plane into brilliant sunshine, relieved to be joined by the wedding party who had indeed made the flight after all. The best man had resorted to wearing his kilt due to the measly baggage allowance afforded by Ryaniar, and, now that we were outside in 40 degree heat, disappeared in search of a cold drink while we waited for our ride to the hotel at Boukari Beach, twenty-six kilometres to the south.
Boukari Beach was absolutely sensational, our rooms and the main building situated across a narrow and little-used road from the sea. Mainland Greece was clearly visible across the immediately inviting Straits of Corfu, while our fluctuating phone networks suggested that Albania was just a stone’s throw away too. After unpacking, we went down to the hotel’s decking for a lunch of fresh calamari and octopus.
A combined stag and hen do had been organised for that evening; a coach picked us up in the late afternoon to take us further up the coast to Issos Beach Bar for fruit and cocktails. Issos was even more beautiful than Boukari, the sandy beach and pristine dunes making it look like a little slice of picture-postcard paradise. Drinking until midnight, we moved outside to take advantage of the loungers and hammocks as mosquitoes swarmed high above the well-lit bar.
Still sufficiently drunk upon our return to the resort, we took to the dark waters for one last swim before bed. Taking it in turns to canon-ball from the pier, it wasn’t long before someone sustained an injury. It seemed that the beach was inhabited by sea urchins. Easily avoided by day thanks to the crystal clarity of the water, the creatures were invisible by night. I woke to find that I had grazed one without realising.
Sunbathing off our hangovers the next morning, we eventually found the energy to slink into the sea and, following a swim out to a distant buoy, took an afternoon stroll along the beachfront for a look around. Stopping for water and ice cream at a small shop opposite the nearby Penelope Hotel, we met a woman who had given up life in Derby to sell souvenirs to tourists. She couldn’t have looked more content with her decision.
We returned to the beach in time for the rehearsal dinner. With ninety guests to cater for, the waiting staff had re-arranged the tables for a dry-run of the main event, each now named after a different French cheese. The food was delicious, and the service both efficient and friendly, leaving us all with nothing to do but relax and enjoy the increasingly dramatic dusk.
The wedding itself was set to start at around 4pm on the last full day. I rose early, and following a morning swim set off on a hike up a nearby hill. I passed other guests as I went — a number of bridesmaids were being driven to and from their various beauty appointments — and after about an hour of walking arrived at a place called Korakades, via a delightfully rustic little village of whose name I have unfortunately forgotten.
After a brief shower I was ready for the nuptials, joining my fellow guests at the beach where we awaited the bridal party’s arrival by boat. The ceremony was to be carried out by the best man, and when everyone was finally in position beside the pergola he began the service in earnest. The wedding itself then over, we moved into the shade — to tables now named after Scottish whiskys — so that dinner could be served and anyone wearing a kilt could be revived with good food and loud music.
And that was that. The following morning we bade farewell to the beach and made our arrangements to return to the airport. Flying this time to Glasgow, it was just a short onward journey back to Dundee where life swiftly resumed and everything went unceremoniously back to normal. It was an unforgettable few days, however, and a wedding I imagine few will be able to top.