Me and Rachelle have been together over 9 years now and engaged for quite a few of those. We have a 7 year-old daughter, and most people just presume that we're already married. Rachelle often gets called Mrs Haines and never bothers to correct them. She's been nagging me for quite a while to agree to set a date, and I don't really know what's been stopping me. I guess after having one previous failed marriage I was a bit disillusioned with the whole concept of marriage and thought it was unnecessary; after all, we're living together and have a kid, so what difference would marriage make? Plus, there's always been other priorities. Every year after we got engaged there seemed to be something that would take priority, such as moving house, starting a business, and most recently emigrating.
We got talking this weekend about our next holiday, trying to decide whether to go on holiday somewhere this year, or save up and go back to the UK next year to visit friends and family. It's then that it dawned on me that for the first time in a long time we're truly settled. We're not thinking about moving house, or waiting to sell a house (as we were for 2 years in the UK), or waiting for a Visa, or uncertain about the next career path. There's absolutely nothing stopping us from doing the dirty deed anymore!
To be honest, even though it has been Rach who was previously pressing the most for us to set a date, this time it was completely my idea. She hasn't mentioned it in ages. So when I suggested it (in my defence I had consumed a couple of glasses of wine) you could say she was rather pleased!
So does that mean that I've changed my mind about marriage? I suppose I have. The most important thing is family, and even though marriage couldn't do anything to make us a closer family, at least it will mean we all share the same name. And, it's a good excuse for a party!!
So, November 2010 is the date that we've decided. It's 18 months down the line so that friends and family from the UK can have a chance to save up and get out here. Rach is now busy wedding planning - researching venues so that we can book and get a firm date.
Hyatt Regency Coolum
It was a relaxing mini-break at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Coolum on the Sunshine Coast that was the setting for us finally agreeing a date, courtosy of my employers. My company holds an annual event where they get to take customers and our vendor partners away to a posh hotel for a couple of days, with the third day being for employees. Saturday night in the hotel was paid for. So was dinner Saturday evening, including wine. I'm glad to say that although I did indulge quite heavily in the free wine, I have learnt my lesson from the time in Antwerp when I got alcoholic poisoning from free red wine (that's a whole other story), and managed to stay reasonably coherent.
The days started with a couple of hours bonding in the morning, which mainly involved Exec and the account managers regaling us with their stories of drunkenness from the previous 2 nights. Then the rest of the day was our own. It was a nice family occasion. We'd taken Lauren with us and many of my colleagues had also brought their kids. The Hyatt Regency is a massive sprawling complex, with individual villas rather than your standard hotel with rooms, much like many of the all-inclusive resorts you get around the world. There were shuttle buses and golf buggies to get around the place.
The hotel itself is home to the Australian PGA Championship golf course and if we'd had more time I would have loved to have got in a game, but with only one afternoon there, and the fact that it costs $75 just for 9 holes, and I'd forgot to take my clubs so I would have had the cost of hiring clubs on top of that, I decided not to bother this time. Instead we went down to the beach club, quickly went on the beach and saw that it was empty (with the exception of my boss, Tim, and his missus sitting there in their chairs looking like a typical English couple on a day out in Skegness (he's a fellow pom).
The sea was pretty rough with lots of dumpers so I neshed out on going in. I did brave the beach-side pool though, only afterwords discovering that it was the one pool that isn't heated! This time of year the water is freezing. Both myself and Lauren went in but there's no getting Rach in an unheated pool when the outside temperature is anything under 30 degrees C!
After lunch we went up to the Village Pool as it's know, which is much larger and, importantly, heated. There's 9 pools in the hotel altogether apparently.
We all gathered in the evening for drinks before proceeding for dinner in the hotel's Italian restaurant. With it being nearly Winter the hotel was pretty quiet so we virtually took over the restaurant.
For the first time in what must be a year, we had organised a babysitter to come to the room to look after Lauren. Lauren was quite happy about it though, as when I first told her that we were going to the hotel her very first response was 'Has it got room service?' From all the hotels we've stayed in over the years it seems the thing she gets most excited about is room service.
Rach is still not completely comfortable with using babysitters that we don't know (which is why we don't get out very often on our own) and was a bit wary. But we'd booked a professional babysitting company - Nannies of Noosa - and she was relieved when the women who turned up wasn't some 17 year old kid, but a lovely women who had brought a bag of games to play with Lauren. Lauren really enjoyed it and we'd definitely recommend Nannies of Noosa.
The Italian was fantastic. As there was a large group of us it was a set menu rather than us all choosing our meals individually. We had 3 different pasta dishes to choose from for the main course which was fine by me - Italian is probably my favourite cuisine.
Come 10:30pm we went back to the room, which was the time we'd pre-agreed with the babysitter, however Rach nicely offered to continue babysitting duties while I went back out to rejoin my colleagues for a few more drinks.
About 9 of us ended up in the hotel nightclub - Frasers. We were the only ones in there! That's probably why they closed the bar at 1am, much to my disappointment. The bar closing was my trigger to go to bed.
All in all it was a really good trip. The Hyatt Regency is lovely, although a little bit dated. The rooms are certainly in need of modernisation. But it wasn't costing us anything so we could have no complaints. Even though the hotel, dinner and drinks with the meal were all paid for, we managed to rack up a $400 bill. That's the danger of charging drinks to the room, it's far too easy. A round of shots that I bought in the nightclub cost me $65, as I discovered the next morning.