On the 18th of October we started our day, went out to work on the ocean, volunteering at International Marine Volunteers, a Great White Shark Conservation Programme in Gansbaai, South Africa. It started as a normal day here for us, taking tourists out cage-diving on our boat "SlashFin" in the Atlantic Ocean looking for Great White Sharks.
I feigned sea-sickness so I could get Masha alone at the front of the boat and as I cried out "I need my mummy" and collapsed to the floor, I was in perfect position on one knee to whip it out (the engagement ring you dirty monkeys!) and ask the love of my life to marry me!!!
When she said yes to marriage, and yes to immediate marriage, little did she know that the clients on board were not actually clients!!! I asked if anyone knew a good priest and Pastor Frikkie stepped forward. I asked Jan (one of my favorite people on this Earth - our boat's skipper, ex-diamond diver and an absolute dude) if he had any wedding dresses and suits tucked away in the cabin, and of course he did! Finally of course we needed music and so I asked if anyone knew a good gospel choir and that was the moment that Masha realized that this was not a boat full of prisoners on a rehab cage-diving trip (please forgive me guys in the choir, it was a story I created to stop her asking you all questions!) and was actually the Zimbabwean gospel choir that used to sing at my hospital bedside when I was bitten by the spider on the airplane 2 years ago.
And then the sea got rough!!!! I must apologize for my sense of humor everyone but I loved the chaos of it all! Out in the Atlantic Ocean at the world hotspot for Great White sharks the boat was rocking all over the shop, one of my mates threw up over the crew and almost fell overboard, one of the choir threw up into my friends gumboot, half the choir then started throwing up, then bless him Pastor Frikkie (who I salute for getting on a Great White Shark vessel in stormy weather with a wooden leg) started throwing up, and Sonja our photographer started drifting towards Sickville Tennessee until I gave her a "medical mint" (love that placebo effect!)
In the middle of this Perfect Storm, there was a beautiful 30 minute period when Pastor Frikkie (who was vomiting up until 5 minutes before the ceremony) pulled together a beautiful marriage ceremony for my beautiful bride Masha and me, accompanied by my best man Ettiene and Masha's Maid of Honour Meredith, and we tied the knot!!! As soon as the ceremony was done, Pastor Frikkie rushed for his sick bag and The Oldham Elvis took over to sing first an a Capella version of Trying To Get To You to Masha and then performed Amazing Grace (my grandad used to play it on the organ) with the backing of the gospel choir and pictures with a Latics flag held up high and proud!! It was simply beautiful to have such an intimate experience (I spoke to Masha in Russian from the heart ) in the midst of what can only be described as complete and utter CARNAGE!!!! I loved it!
Masha and I stood on the top deck as we travelled back to shore, surrounded by friends, as the sun started to set over the Harbour in the beautiful town of Gansbaai. Back to the "Great White House" restaurant for food, champagne, bouquet and garter throwing, speeches, and a delightful concert finished by our Gospel Choir friends!!! Back home for booze, music and laughter and the greatest day of Mr and Mrs Hogg's life so far!
I must give a special thanks to Meredith. Without Meredith's help, this was not possible. Meredith, WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! Meredith = Professional Superstar
Aside from getting married, we've seen Great White Sharks, stingray, whales galore (including breaching whales!) seals, and penguins (we witnessed a public release into the ocean of 4 penguins from our sanctuary - so cute to watch them head off home again!) and it's been MAGNIFICENT!
We've been horse riding on the beach, to Cape Agulhas the southernmost tip of Africa, stayed in a caravan on the roof of a hotel in Cape Town, went up Table Mountain, and filled our bellies with steak and red wine!
One final point is that this has also been a significant psychological experience for me. I hate flying after the trauma with the spider and can only get through a flight with my BA Baracus knockout medication. I keep facing flying to try to beat it and it was important for me to come back here (my Great White Shark trip was cut short by the injury) and complete what I started. I slept in the same bed as I did whilst the venom was eating my leg; I've had lots of flashbacks and killed a number of demons. I've been able to thank Jan personally for helping save my leg, see and hug all my friends again, and it's all helping. I don't know if I'll ever beat this phobia of flying, but I'll never be afraid of facing it and trying. Having Masha by my side will definitely help!
Masha I love you with all my heart, thank you for becoming my wife!