It was Julie's birthday a month after our 25th (Silver) Wedding Anniversary in 2011. A surprise party was organised for her, with a huge amount of behind-the-scenes help from children Pippa and Jamie, and all my friends and colleagues from Somerset Army Cadets - in particular Roy Farmer, Pete Burge and Nigel Levett - who transformed the garden whilst I was out collecting a surprise visitor.
Sharing the same birthday as Julie was her best friend and her Chief Bridesmaid Charlotte, who had secretly flown in from Newcastle. Julie had been expecting something because Pippa asked her to pack a bag for the day as she was going to leave the house for an unspecified location - but that's all she knew. Charlotte thought that they were just going to meet and spend the day nattering, but in fact they were whisked off for a whole day of pampering, champagne and nattering to a hotel spa near Wincanton! Pippa organised and paid for this brilliant day out.
Whilst they were out of the way my Army Cadets' friends erected a white marquee, set up lighting, tables, chairs, sorted out tons of cutlery and transformed the garden into a party zone - and then disappeared again to get changed.
All the guests - some 60 or so - had been asked to arrive at a specific time and hide their cars as Julie thought that there were only a couple of friends staying the night. Jamie went to pick up Julie and Charlotte from Wincanton before dropping them off at my mother's in a nearby village and returning home to get ready.
My brother and his girlfriend brought my mum, Julie and Charlotte over to find the garden packed with friends - old and new.
Old friend and ace photographer Jeremy Clifton-Gould saved me the effort of actually working and snapped away all evening - thank you. I don't think that I have ever heard Julie silent for so long - she was knocked sideways by the unexpected invasion! A team arrived from to cook a hog roast on a spit and by the end of the evening it had entirely disappeared - before I had eaten any!
Old friend and my Best Man, Rob, with his wife Anita, also managed to join us for this reunion and a really wonderful night was enjoyed by everyone. To cap it all, the next day Pippa and Jamie presented Julie with Alfie, an eight week-old Sprocker Spaniel (Springer/Cocker cross) puppy for her birthday to replace the much missed Zulu. What a weekend.
Julie & Peter's Silver Wedding Anniversary