Our weddings – KL

A couple of months after getting married in Aberdeen we had a Hindu wedding ceremony in Kuala Lumpur. This is the sort of thing I’ve grown up with, so I was thrilled that Gareth and his parents were on board for this and my parents were up for organising it.

As Hindu weddings go there were several events involved, and ours were fairly typical for Hindus of Sri Lankan Tamil ethnicity.
KL - 2015-09-26 - Wedding

First up, the ponnurukku, or gold-melting ceremony, which took place a week before the wedding. This revolves around the groom, and is usually held in the groom’s family home, but for our purposes it was in my home.
KL - 2015-09-19 - Ponnurukku

During this ceremony a piece of gold is given a ‘first melt’ by a traditional goldsmith and blessed by the family. The goldsmith then takes away the gold piece to form a pendant called a thali, which is a key part of the wedding ceremony.
KL - 2015-09-19 - Ponnurukku

In the second half of the ceremony a cutting from a tree (called murukka maram in Tamil) is planted and blessed by married women of the groom and bride’s family. The planting and the tree itself symbolise new beginning, life, growth, and the couple’s marriage.
KL - 2015-09-19 - Ponnurukku

Next up was the mehndi (henna) evening, which revolves around the bride, and took place two days before the wedding. This is originally a North Indian practice, but has been adopted by many South Indian brides, and I was very much looking forward to it. Traditionally this is a women-only event – a chance for the bride to spend time with her female friends and relatives before going away to live with her husband (perhaps an early form of hen party). In our case everyone was invited, and it was another evening of catching up with friends and family before the wedding.

I had a henna artist to myself, while another artist did designs for others.
KL - 2016-09-24 Mehndi
Photos by Gareth

KL - 2015-09-24 - Mehndi
Photos by Gareth

KL - 2015-09-26 - Wedding
Photo on the left by my friend Felicity

And then it was the big day. There are various roles which are performed by specific family members (a married sister, maternal uncles, etc.), but often cousins and other relatives or friends are called upon to take up these roles too. Likewise, as Gareth didn’t have many of his family down in KL, some of my relatives were assigned to his family and performed roles relevant to the groom.

Our ceremony took place at the auditorium of the Temple of Fine Arts. On arrival Gareth has his feet washed by the tholan (male companion), my cousin Ashwin, who then receives a ring for his efforts. They are blessed as they enter and make their way to the wedding hall.
KL - 2015-09-26 - Wedding

KL - 2015-09-26 - Wedding

I was away backstage and didn’t get to see any of this, but soon it was time for me to join the ceremony. My cousin Sarah, the tholi (female companion) leads me in.
KL - 2015-09-26 - Wedding

KL - 2015-09-26 - Wedding

There are many, many rituals that the priest performs, which include interaction with the couple, their parents, and their relatives. For any Hindu person participating in a marriage ceremony the numerous little actions that the priest instructs them to carry out can be a little confusing, but are generally based on familiar temple rituals. However, for a non-Hindu person it must be entirely bewildering, but Gareth and my in-laws, helped along by our relatives, did a brilliant job of it all.
KL - 2015-09-26 - Wedding

The main part of the ceremony is when Gareth places the gold thali necklace on me and dots red kunkumam powder on my forehead, and we then exchange garlands. By Hindu definitions we are now definitely married.
KL - 2015-09-26 - Wedding

After more rituals to finish off the ceremony we receive blessings and good wishes from everyone (blessings involve showers of rice and flower petals!).
KL - 2015-09-26 - Wedding

KL - 2015-09-26 - Wedding
KL - 2015-09-26 - Wedding

Once again we were lucky to have family and friends from various locations with us. Our visiting group were keen to participate in these traditions, our local crowd were entirely welcoming and enthusiastic about sharing our culture with the visitors, and everyone was just happy to support us and get to know each other as well.

None of this would’ve happened without the support of both our families, but my parents in particular put in so much hard work in organising the ceremonies and coordinating with us remotely across different timezones (and different opinions!). My brother Vigna’s wedding also took place the previous week, so there really was LOTS going on for our family. And as with anything that’s so important to everybody, we certainly had disagreements, and sometimes it all got a bit too much and tempers flared. But however bad our quarrels are they’re always fleeting; in the end everything happened as it was supposed to, with nothing but love and joy.

The following evening we had a small dinner reception. Being Malaysian we had to mix things up a little, and as we’re both big fans of Chinese food, a delicious Chinese banquet was a lovely way to end our celebrations.
KL - 2015-09-27 - Reception

KL - 2015-09-27 - Reception

It turned out that our reception fell on the evening of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. I’ve written about mooncake and this festival, both of which I’ve always loved, so I was thrilled to have a tower of mooncake at our reception (Gareth likes mooncake too, just not as much as I do…).
KL - 2015-09-27 - Reception

There are so many more details that just can’t practically be covered here, but they all contributed to a wonderful whole, and like our Aberdeen wedding each little thing often had a connection to somebody or something which made it special. In the end having two weddings wasn’t easy, but it was always the natural choice for us. People have asked which wedding was my favourite, and I honestly couldn’t choose.

Our KL wedding was very much an expression of my culture and traditions that have been a big part of my life, and while my husband has always been great about opening himself up to my Malaysian world, this took it to a whole new level. Gareth wasn’t just a bystander though, he was involved in a lot of the planning, and made clear what he was and wasn’t comfortable with. He enjoyed the experience and is proud to have it as part of his life too.

Our Aberdeen wedding, on the other hand, involved traditions that have been part of Gareth’s life and that I’m familiar with, but it was also very much an expression of us as individuals and as a couple. Both taught us a lot about each other and ourselves, and deepened our bonds with our families.

0243 DSC_2311

 
 
All images originally by Kronoz Photography unless stated otherwise.

Our weddings – Aberdeen

It seems like the last two years has been all about weddings, especially with Gareth and I having two! Now that it’s been about 6 months since it was all over, I definitely don’t miss all the planning and logistics and billions of emails, but it’s been really nice to look through all our photos, and to look back at some wonderful experiences.

To begin with, we had a civil marriage ceremony in Aberdeen. It was book-themed; nothing epic (just google literary weddings!), but simple touches that appeal to our bookish sides. The ceremony was in Drum Castle, in the library, and we used these quotes in the invitations and order of service.

Aberdeen - 2016-01-02

We chose purple, green, and white colours, and my bridesmaids and I carried bouquets tied onto our favourite books.
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

Gareth and the men in the bridal party wore Spirit of Scotland tartan ties, with buttonholes that we made the day before. In addition to lavender and baby’s breath, which were in the bouquets, Gareth’s buttonhole had wheat, as he works on cereal crops, his best man Sam had heather from our garden, as he used to work on heather, and our fathers and brothers had rosemary and thyme, also from our garden.

Aberdeen - 2015-07-11
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

Here we are, getting ready to enter. My cousin’s two daughters and Gareth’s brother’s daughter were flower girls, and my friends Lex and Judith were my brilliant bridesmaids.
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

During the ceremony my friend Emily provided the main music on violin, our friends Mike and Sarah performed a piece on flute and melodeon, and we had readings by my brother Vigna and our friend Graeme.
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

Our mums were our two witnesses for the registration.
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

And then we were outside and celebrating with everyone.
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

It was an amazingly sunny day, and the gardens at Drum Castle were just beautiful.
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

We then headed out to the next venue, the Doubletree Hilton, and since it’s by the beach…
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

For the meal, we named the tables after some of our favourite books, and used them as centrepieces. I’d also been crocheting little hearts, which we strung on to the back of each of the mini easels – you can just about see a purple one peeking out behind My Family and Other Animals.
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

The favours for guests were little notebooks, and we had bundles of handsome vintage books dotted around the room (great eBay finds).
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

The cake was made by my friend Kimmy – Victoria sponge, with white chocolate buttercream and edible flowers.
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

Then it was time for the ceilidh. Our band was It’s No Reel, and they kept the crowd going with great tunes.
Aberdeen - 2015-07-11

And all too soon it was all over and time to say goodbye. It was such a magical day, made so very special by our family and friends.
 
 
All original images by Steven Bedford Photography

International Women’s Day 2016

2016-03-07 Books by female writers

In keeping with last year’s literary theme, I’m celebrating female writers today.
The past year was pretty packed for me so reading time suffered, but here are some books by women that I’ve very much enjoyed.

We are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
It’s hard to describe this story without giving away too much, but it delves into family relationships, communication, society, finding your identity – told from the point of view of a girl growing up with psychologist parents. A pick from my book club.

Half Bad and Half Wild – Sally Green
Young adult fantasy, dealing with segregation, societal expectations, and coming of age amongst witches. Classic witchy, magicky stuff in a very contemporary setting (they carry mobile phones, use the internet, and deal with local authority bureaucracy). Really quite gripping reads, and the final book of the trilogy, Half Lost, is out later this month.

The Invisible Library – Genevieve Cogman
Librarian spies from a mysterious Library hunt down books from alternate worlds, and here they investigate goings on in a steampunk London. A good, fun read.

I plan to slowly work my way through Penguin’s Little Black Classics, and my reads so far include:
A Pair of Silk Stockings – Kate Chopin, and
The Old Nurse’s Story – Elizabeth Gaskell
Kate Chopin’s tales are gritty and hauntingly sad, while Elizabeth Gaskell’s two stories are gothic chillers – very much unlike her more familiar stories, but just as intriguing.

As expected, my “to read” list is one I could keep adding to forever, so I shall just share my Pinterest board for books instead, which I think is quite female heavy.

Finally, here’s something to look out for today:
The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction longlist will be announced, followed by the shortlist in April, and the winner in June.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Cat in the Window Café

Move over Taipei, Tokyo, and Tyneside – Aberdeen now has its very own Cat Café.
Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café

Cat cafés started out in Taiwan but really took off in Japan in the noughties, and have become all the rage now. Essentially it’s a café with cat residents, with plenty of room and all manner of toys. Human visitors are allowed in for a small fee, to adore and play with them. It’s a lovely way to spend some time with cute furry friends if you’re unable to keep your own.

The Cat in the Window Café on Netherkirkgate opened just a few weeks ago, but I’d heard talk of it for some time, and even overheard strangers on the bus speak about it. As my friend Lex is mad about cats, it seemed the most obvious place to go on our Saturday out to celebrate her birthday.
Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café

The café is all about the resident cats’ welfare, so there are a few strict rules, such as the number of people allowed in at a time and an age requirement for children (there’s an online booking system, and FAQs on their website). The cats also have their own area that’s off-limits to visitors, where they eat, have their litter trays, and can just go to for a break from humans. They come out when they feel like it, so as with any housecat it’s down to luck if they’re in the mood for cuddles or playing during your visit. There are 8 cats here though, so there’s usually several out at a time.

This one was doing lots of sleeping.
Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café
Boo, male moggy

This little kitty didn’t want to play, but was happy to be stroked under the table.
Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café
Belle, female moggy

As the café part of the name suggests, you can also have drinks and nibbles while you have kitty cuddles. Lex had a hot chocolate, and I had an Oolong and fig tea. We didn’t try any of the cakes as we indulged in cinema snacks before this, but they looked yummy. I loved the little mug lids as well.
Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café

Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café

Napoleon padded around imperiously, ensuring everything was in order, stopping for strokes here and there.
Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café
Napoleon, male Chinchilla Persian

Theodore came out to visit for a little while, and then went back inside.
Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café
Theodore, male Scottish fold

It was a little quiet at first, but eventually Boo woke up, and went nuts for fluff on a stick.
Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café

Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café

Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café

A few more came out to join us a little later on too, at first pretending not to be interested in playing, but loving it really.
Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café
Mickey, male Scottish fold (straight ear)

Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café
Romeo, male Asian

Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café

Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café

Time Flies When You're Having Fun | Cat in the Window Café

It’s a fabulous new enterprise in Aberdeen; definitely worth a visit if you like furry animals.

Garden Birdwatching

This morning I took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. The idea is to watch birds in a garden or park for an hour, and count the maximum number of each species.

We had good old sparrows;
2016-01-30 Big Birdwatch

starlings, which I haven’t seen in a while;
2016-01-30 Big Birdwatch

a couple of blackbirds – here is the female.
2016-01-30 Big Birdwatch

The robin also made an appearance,
2016-01-30 Big Birdwatch

and here’s my garden favourite, the blue tit.
2016-01-30 Big Birdwatch

The online counter on the RSPB website is pretty handy for submitting numbers, and the survey runs over this weekend. A very pleasant way to spend an hour indeed!