A few years ago, I reconnected with several members of my estranged father’s family. I will never forget the day when a lady strode into my then workplace, heading straight towards me with a half-nervous smile and open arms. I instantly recognised her as my Auntie Karen, who I hadn’t seen since I was tiny. She had my face, although her skin was tanned, and her hair was a bright blonde. She threw her arms around me and all at once I realised just how much I had missed her.
Left to right: Patrick, Zack, Karen, me, Nanny Hilda, and Neil.
From then on, I became closer to my four cousins; Kane, Kieron, Daniel, and Zack. I met up with them in my hometown, Rye, and also in Brighton one summer. A couple of times, they brought my Nan along too. I started to feel like a part of the family I had lost all those years ago.
A year or two after getting back in touch with my family, my cousin Kieron got engaged to his lovely girlfriend Bethan. Everyone was so excited! The wedding would be in July 2016 in their hometown of Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex. I was thrilled and honoured to be invited to the wedding, and even though I knew it would be tricky to get to, I was determined to go.
Luckily, a friend agreed to take me, my Uncle Neil, and his wife Lauren, all the way to Burnham for a small fee. It took the stress out of travelling – Lauren is disabled and sometimes uses a wheelchair, so getting there on the train would have been a nightmare. I do drive, but my car is too tiny to fit three people and their luggage in all at once… plus I’m quite nervous about driving in unknown places as a rule!
After a long and scenic drive from East Sussex to Essex, we finally arrived at Beth and Kieron’s house where we were made to feel welcome and were able to rest for a while before going out later on.
In the evening, we met up with the rest of the family, and some of the other wedding guests at a music festival at the Parlour Cafe in nearby Creeksea. The grounds were spacious with hay bales to sit on, as well as tables and chairs. There were pretty fairy lights everywhere, which looked increasingly effective as the sun began to set. We all gorged ourselves on burgers, hotdogs, and chips while listening to some talented local singers before heading home. I went with Karen and her fiance Patrick to their house, which very quickly felt like home.
For my first evening in Burnham, I sat on Karen’s comfy sofa with her, Patrick, Kane, and Zack and watched a movie. I also met the love of my life, their gorgeous Staffie, Bonnie, a delightful, round-bellied old lady who loved nothing more than a head scratch and a cuddle. I never wanted to leave her!
The next morning was the big day! A flurry of nervously excited young men bombarded the house, stripping off in every corner of the house. I awkwardly sat on the sofa with Bonnie, already in my dress, waiting for the madness to die down. My Nan arrived and sat with me, which gave us a little time to bond. She really is a mad old bean!
Once everyone was set, it was time to head down to All Saints Church in Creeksea, where my cousin was due to marry his beautiful bride. The church itself is hidden down a narrow country lane, next to a golf course that overlooks the River Crouch. The church was reconstructed in the 1870s, in a traditional design. In other words, it is very pretty and old looking!
The wedding got underway. I was second row from the front, in between my Auntie Lauren, and Patrick’s mother, Christine. My Nan and Auntie Karen sat in front of me. From where I was sitting, it was hard to get a decent shot of the bride and groom walking down the aisle, and that is my only regret about the day.
After the ceremony, there was an opportunity to take photographs in the churchyard. I was really proud of some of the shots I took of Beth and Kieron, and the rest of my family. Everyone looked so wonderful.
For the evening meal, we headed back into Burnham to the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club. The venue was perfect for the occasion, my favourite part being a long balcony that overlooked the river, where a nexus of small boats were floating on the water. I kept stepping out onto the balcony throughout the night to capture the sunset at different times. The sky turned from bright blue, to soft pink, to burnt orange, and then to black, and at each stage, the scene took my breath away.
At the end of the night, there were only a few hardcore dancers remained on the dance floor. I sat at the table, watching the lights flickering in the distance across the river. I suddenly felt serene, as if I was relaxing at home. This place had defied all of my expectations, and I already felt a craving to return. I barely got a chance to explore Burnham, but from the glimpses I’d caught from the car window, I knew this was a place I could easily fall in love with.
The next morning, I left Burnham, and I had that horrible post-holiday depression, as if I’d been torn from the place I belonged. My Uncle and Auntie felt the same way, and for a short while afterwards, we all daydreamed about upping sticks and moving to Burnham permanently. I doubt I’ll ever do it, but I definitely intend to go back soon. Hopefully, next time, I’ll have time to wander around and take some more photographs of the scenery.
Check out the entire wedding album here.