Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Our Wedding- Joshua Tree National Park, California

Hi Friends!

This is my first attempt at a blog so God knows what it will turn out like... but here goes!

Susan and I wanted to share some of the vibe of our wedding with all those friends and family who couldn't be there.

We fell in love with Joshua Tree when we visited there in 2002 and it seemed the ideal location for the small, private and very intimate wedding we wanted.... no pressure to cloud our own very special day!

I also have a few other odd sort of connections with Joshua Tree. It's home to the Coyote.. 'singer of the prairie'... my band in London was called Coyotes... the Coyotes album cover was a photo of an old cowboy boot taken at Joshua Tree (an unused photo from U2's Joshua Tree album cover shoot) which we got from Steve Averill who took the photos. It was a favourite haunt of one of our favourite singer/songwriters Gram Parsons, and since then a favourite haunt of many other musicians. If you've ever been there you'll know exactly why... it's beauty is astounding.. the peace and tranquility that exist there seems so inspirational... the air is so clean and clear and the stars at night are unbelievable.

So... once we'd decided on the wedding location, partly inspired by our dear friends Terry and Sheila Knox who live in San Mateo, California and who introduced us to Joshua Tree in 2002, it was all systems go!

Sheila volunteered as our "wedding planner" straight away... it was not a hugely complicated task compared to the usual logistics of church, reception, guest list etc etc... but for Susan and I it was very important that we had an experience that adequately represented the deeply personal commitment we wanted to make in a way that would be intensely private, romantic and unique to us.

So, whilst logistically not the usual challenges encountered by a wedding planner, it was a very sensitive task and carried out to perfection!.... it turned out to be everything we dreamed of and, from our own personal point of view, you'll never plan a more perfect wedding Sheila! Terry too contributed hugely to the planning and the 'good vibes' and helped me, amongst other things, to recce and select the location in a million acres of Joshua Tree!
Heartfelt thanks from us both to you both! xxxxxxxx

So, we arrived in San Francisco on the Thursday 25th January to begin our very special holiday and honeymoon in the USA.

We obtained our marriage license next day at Redwood City in preparation for driving down to Palm Springs, California on Sunday 28th where we would be based for the next three weeks at the beautiful home of Kathleen Needham (Sheila's 'Crazy Aunt Kate') in a very exclusive neighbourhood called Rancho Mirage.
(Left) View from our upstairs suite with the Santa Rosa mountains in the background.

Next up Terry and I set off to recce and select a location in Joshua Tree and we decided on the location below. It was sheltered and surrounded by beautiful rock formations. This is the exact Joshua tree under which the ceremony was performed by a very lovely lady called the Rev. Virginia Surrel accompanied by her gentle husband Rev. Stan Jacobson who took some of the photos of the ceremony.

Before we left Belfast we had our own unique wedding rings specially made for us by a local jeweller called Orla Havlin.

Neither Susan or I like gold jewelry so we chose silver for the rings. They incorporate a unique design along one edge of the ring which is based on the letters of our names.

The wedding was originally planned for Wednesday 31st January but local TV weather forecast warned of possible rain showers that day.... Listen!... we didn't travel all the way from Ireland to sunny southern California to get married in the rain!!!! So, we postponed it until Friday 2nd February when the forecast was for 80 degrees, sunshine and clear blue skies!

On Thursday night (the night before the wedding) whilst Terry and I were otherwise engaged the girls had what is know as a 'Hen Party' in the UK but known in the USA as a 'Bachelorette Party'. Whatever you want to call it, it amounts to the same thing... the ladies get pissed! In this case, however, it was in the hot tub at midnight instead of some sleazy nightclub with the usual accompanying paraphernalia and possible morning after repercussions!

These ladies showed a touch of class if you don't mind!

(Left) On the stairs to our 'honeymoon suite' in Rancho Mirage

Friday 2nd dawned as promised (although, the rain that was forecast for the 31st never actually appeared!) and we had a leisurely morning before setting off to Joshua Tree for our appointed time of 2pm. Susan and I travelled up to the desert with the Rev. Virginia and Stan in their silver Cadillac with Terry and Sheila leading the way in their car.

Left to right:
Sheila Knox, Rev. Virginia Surrell, Susan and Errol

So, finally here we were in Joshua Tree, getting married! It had seemed at times that we'd never make it here... last year was tough going in Belfast, but the prospect of our wedding kept us going.

Left and right: exchanging of the rings

It was a surprisingly emotional affair. I mean, of course it was going to be emotional! ...but we were both more than a little overwhelmed by the depth of our feelings when the ceremony began. Susan was quietly weeping and I could barely manage to get my vows out! It was beautiful though.. and reassuring to both of us that it really did mean so much to us.

There you go ! Sealed with a kiss!

Congratulations Mr and Mrs Walsh you might be tempted to exclaim? .... but no!

Susan has been Susan Cooke for a long time by now and for a number of reasons wanted to keep her own name... as is quite common these days.

That's fine with me... she can call herself anything she likes as long as she calls herself my wife!

From left to right:
Sheila Knox, Rev. Virginia Surrel, Susan, Errol and Terry Knox

On the right is the assembled 'wedding party'. A small but perfectly formed group of very happy individuals... and couples! It might seem strange to some folks that we would want such a small and private ceremony, but without all the pressures that usually accompany weddings we preserved that important and romantic intimacy that we both wanted so much. Selfish?... maybe... but this was our wedding... our un-distracted feelings... our day. We hope that those of our family and friends who weren't there, understand our feelings and are happy to share this record with us instead.

The happy couple relax after the ceremony. It's been quite a trip getting here... and I don't just mean the actual travelling! I guess you could say we've 'road-tested' our relationship over the past six years almost... it's had its moments, good and bad as you might expect, but it's been worth every moment and during that time we've built a deep love and a strong bond based on trust which has been sealed at this beautiful and romantic ceremony in the Mojave Desert in Southern California.

When Terry and I set out to find the perfect location for the wedding we had a little difficulty at times in marking the possible contenders....there are about a million acres of desert in Joshua Tree National Park and it's not always easy to tell exactly where you are! Anyway, when
we found our perfect spot there happened to be a road sign on the other side of the road about 20 yards away, but it was facing the other way and we couldn't see what it said until we passed it
heading home....
Well... you have to have a sense of humour don''t you?!
We all thought it was hilarious and it didn't change our minds about the setting.... though we never did find out why it was called the Hall of Horrors...

I explored a little to see if there were any obvious clues but all I
found were these two amazing rocks which I christened the 'kissing rocks'.... The teenage vandal in me was tempted to daub them Errol & Susan but I manged to resist!

Three days after our fabulous wedding we went back to Joshua Tree to explore more fully.. it really is an incredible place and you could spend months exploring it's unique beauty and those amazing desert landscapes. I thought about loading up this blog with a bunch of photographs of the park but, honestly, photos (not even professional ones) come close to doing justice to this haunting place. You've got to see it for yourself!!

One humerous little event which WAS captured on the camera was a chance meeting with a couple of other fellow travellers in the middle of the desert... an English guy with his girlfriend/wife who were also obviously captivated by the Joshua Tree landscape... we chatted for about 20 minutes about the desert landscapes, and a whole bunch of other regular conversational stuff... they congratulated us on our marriage and wished us well.. The couple turned out to be staying at the Joshua Tree Inn Motel (where Gram Parsons died)... I asked them if they knew about Gram Parsons and the guy said "Oh yeah"... to which I replied (and in the light of who I soon discovered I was talking to, this has to go down as a classic!!!) "Ah... so you're into your music then?" As it turns out, he did know a little about music... Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin!
Nice guy... and as you can see from the photo, not immediately recognisable in that woolly hat!
I think he probably wanted my autograph but didn't have the nerve to ask!

The following 5 weeks were a fantastic honeymoon! We based ourselves in Rancho Mirage for the next three weeks and explored the surrounding country by car... San Bernadino County, The 'Desert Cities', Santa Rosa mountains, Big Bear Lake (around an area called the 'Rim of the World' for its fantastic vistas over the San Bernadino Valley), San Juan Capistrano (where the swallows return according to the song), Yucca Valley and Pioneertown (which has a fabulous Roadhouse called Pappy & Harriets where everyone from Gram Parsons to Johnny Cash has played... including one Robert Plant!)... great music and great food!.. and a trip to Mexico with 'crazy Aunt Kate'... this produced one of two good songs I wrote while in California...'Just another Border'... the other being 'Wedding at Joshua Tree'!

We'd driven up the Pacific Coast Highway on our last visit and decided this time to drive back to San Fransisco along Highway 395 though the Sierra Nevadas .... a fabulous drive!! We ended up in Virginia City, Nevada more by accident than design... it was close to Lake Tahoe where we had intended to turn back south but we had a bunch of friends in VC from a previous visit in 2002 so we decided to surprise them... it was a good decision... thats where I wrote the Wedding song!... and it was great to see our good friends Cowboy Steve Hilliard and his beautiful wife Theresa and we arrived just in time to play at the Washoe Saloon with Steve at another old pal's birthday party... another musician called (yeah.. I know!) Jesse James! He claims to have a brother called Frank down in Texas someplace but thats another story!

We caught some good music too along the way... Joel Sonnier the great cajun accordionist, Los Lobos, 'Vicious Groove' (a fabulous and aptly named soul/blues/R&B/funk combo) the Larry Vann band (a crusaders style jazz/blues band) and a bunch of different bands at Pappy & Harriets.... oh!... and the food!!!.... oh yeah!!!

Spent the last week chilling out in San Fransisco with Terry and Sheila and visiting, and being delightfully spoiled by, old friends Paul and Charlene McCurdy, and two of Susan's neices (mine too now!) the lovely Laura and Catherine Masterson.

Margaritas were a bit of a feature of our last week in San Fransisco and if there is ever a degree course to be taught in the making of the perfect Margarita it should be taught by Paul McCurdy who should immediatley be given an honorary professorship in the subject!!
Guys at home here.. forget about that Jose Cuervo Gold label crap! I have now been indoctrinated into the holy world of 'real' Tequila and I'm here to tell you, and freely admit that, in my ignorance, I've been drinking the tequila equivalent of paint stripper for nearly 30 years! It's never too late to learn though! Thanks Paul!

The last short leg of our honeymoon was spent in London and Sussex at the home of good friends Steve Simpson and Victor Toy. I did three gigs with Steve (which we dubbed the 'honeymoon tour') including a special one-off 'Coyotes' gig at the Grey Horse in Kingston which was smokin'! There were a couple of original Coyotes missing but four sixth's constitutes a quorum! Missed you Willie and Dave! But great to share the music again with Steve, Malcolm, and 'Secret agent' Cooper... and thanks to Clueso for holding it together!

Caught up with a lot of old friends there too in a short space of time....
Hi!! to Peg and Nigel, Pauline and Nicky, Pat and Alex, Dan the Man, Lizzie (thanks for the afters!), Steve Kennedy, Fiona and all our friends at the Compasses, Gerde, Joy, George & Sheila, Zoe, Dave & Mandy... and, of course, my other new and lovely niece Angela!

Susan and I would finally like to say a huge THANK YOU!!! to everyone who made our wedding trip so enormously special...

Thank you so much to Kathleen Needham (our dear and unforgettable 'Crazy Aunt Kate'!) for your unending generosity, thank you Rev. Virginia Surrel and Rev. Stan Jacobsen for your beautiful ceremony, thank you Steve and Victor for always being the consumate hosts at our English 'home away from home', thank you 'Coyotes' for always being so musical, and most especially our beautiful California family, Terry and Sheila....'The Fabulous Knoxes' who made it all possible with their immaculate planning and their unparalleled hospitality!!