The best distraction ever
21 Sep 2011
The best distraction ever
With ongoing health battles, Rachel and Paul Schofield decided to make their relationship official – in record-breaking time!
By Rachel Schofield (née Martin)
It was 1984, and I was working as a waitress (not in a cocktail bar) in the Prospect Hotel when I met Paul. We were both 16 and the best of friends, spending time working, listening to music and socialising together. A year or so later I decided to go to college; my last memory of Paul was when he sold me his Suzuki motorbike and I drove off into the sunset – well, it was probably raining, but it was 27 years ago.
Twenty-four years later, my friend Sarah (known as Millsey) and I went for a drink at The Coach and Horses, coincidentally on the same night that Paul and the boys had gone out for a couple of beers. We noticed each other straight away, but played it very cool. A couple of glasses of wine later I tapped him on the shoulder, the sparks flew and our story resumed.
Three weeks later, we moved in together. My children, Harry and Beanie (Georgina), loved Paul, we all got along so well, had a lot of laughs and an amazing family holiday in the Caribbean. Eleven months later, in March 2009, Paul was diagnosed with cancer and our perfect world fell apart. Eight years earlier, I had battled breast cancer so was determined to support Paul 100% in dealing with this life-changing disease. With a fabulous set of family and friends behind us, we spent the next year in and out of hospital for gruelling chemotherapy sessions and a major operation that left Paul in intensive care. I have never felt so helpless.
One year later, Paul amazed us all by going back to work as a pilot much sooner than doctors had predicted. I couldn’t have been more proud to receive my first photo of Paul back in his seat with a huge smile on his face. At last our life was back on track. However, one week later, I received the news that my breast cancer had returned, and the world of hospitals dominated our lives once again.
On 28th March 2010, my friend Anna and I went for a long walk and ended up having a few glasses of wine in a country pub. Many things were discussed, including the unfairness of life, how much Paul and I were in love, and how we were destined to get married from day one. By the end of the afternoon, I was ready to propose!
On 29th March, I sent an email to Ashleigh at Hotel du Vin in Harrogate, enquiring about wedding packages. On 30th March, I had to be reassured by my cousin Nigella that I hadn’t lost the plot.
On 31st March, when Paul arrived home from work, I nervously waited for him to finish dinner. I put Lionel Richie’s My Destiny on the IPod and got down on one knee (in my pyjamas) and asked him to marry me. Slightly shocked and laughing, he said, “Yes, of course I will, you crazy girl!” I was so happy, I cried.
On April Fool’s Day 2010, Paul and I embarked on one of the craziest days of our lives – organizing a wedding in two and a half weeks. My chemotherapy was due to start towards the end of the month, so if we couldn’t make it all come together for Sunday 18th April, we would have to postpone our special day. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you put your mind – and two mobile phones – to it. By the end of the day we had our venue, the Registrar, invitations sent (by text), the Best Man, and a much-needed bottle of Champagne in The Coach. Everyone was delighted for us.
The following days were spent excitedly arranging everything to make our day perfect, which was achieved effortlessly due to Ashleigh at Hotel du Vin. We were a little bit giddy, and I was panicking about everything coming together, but I didn’t worry for long as Ashleigh calmly talked us through every last detail. We chose the menu and canapés, wine and Champagne, and music.
As expected, my family and friends couldn’t do enough to help. Big Simon, Paul’s Best Man, became wedding coordinator, and we all tackled the list of things to do. Photographer? Easy, my hilarious friend and neighbour Adrian. Flowers? We walked into Caine of Harrogate and five minutes later we left with bouquet, buttonholes and table decorations sorted. My father started on the place cards in his beautiful calligraphy. Big Simon organised the car (a Maybach) over a pint in the pub with a friend. All my girlfriends did their bit, too: Millsey was obviously the witness, Nigella and Beanie would do the readings, Sandra (my father’s partner) would organize the cake. My dress was taken care of, with just the small detail of a crash diet, and I already had a pair of white diamante sandals that were perfect. Nigella and Claire leant me a gorgeous veil and tiara, Lady Claire bought me a beautiful garter, and I would do my own hair and make-up. Paul was easy as he already had a lovely suit, so we popped into Hooper’s and bought his brilliant Duchamp tie. And that’s it. Who needs months to organize a wedding!
The big day arrived and we were all so excited. Paul went off to our incredible suite at Hotel du Vin, and my sister Lindsay (known as Len) came up to help me get ready, with a glass of fizz. Before we knew it, my daddy and I were climbing into the Maybach to head into town. We arrived at Hotel du Vin where Steve, our Master of Ceremonies, came out to greet us. Ashleigh was also there – on her day off – purely because she is a wonderful person. I wasn’t at all nervous and couldn’t wait to walk down the aisle and marry my soul mate. The service was beautiful, conducted with such feeling by the Registrar, who shed a tear along with the congregation.
And so we were Mr and Mrs Schofield. Lots of hugs and kisses later we went into the cellar snug for Champagne, canapés and speeches. My father, big Simon and Len gave the funniest speeches, which had everyone crying with laughter. Our short time together had been such a rollercoaster, which was summed up perfectly. Which brings me back to my gorgeous wedding dress… A poem written and read out by my sister says it all:
Which leads me on to the case of the dress,
How and when she got it, you’d never guess.
As some of you know, well, it makes me titter,
Ray has always been one for fur and for glitter.
Out when we were shopping she squealed in delight,
“It’s perfect, it’s hairy and it’s just right!”
So there in my wardrobe, hidden away, has been the dress she bought back in May.
And yes, I said “May”, let me put you all straight –
She bought it in May 2008!
Tummies aching from all the laughter, we went into the Abbey Well room overlooking the courtyard for the wedding breakfast, which was superb. Everyone sat round one huge long table, decorated with candles and petals, with one enormous stunning flower arrangement. The day was about everyone we loved being together and celebrating how much we all mean to each other. It was just one big party from that moment on and we chatted, drank, laughed and danced into the early hours of the morning. It was the best day of our lives and we want to do it all over again. Maybe one day we will…
Don’t get stressed! Organizing your big day is exciting and a lot of fun.
Seeing my Aunty Sue smiling at me and looking so amazing as I walked down the aisle. Aunty Sue was going through chemotherapy and lost her battle with cancer two weeks later.
Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Harrogate,
Flowers by Caine
Tim Hardy Photographer