As if my cancer weren't enough, calamity piled on calamity as we prepared for my daughter's wedding. Her main preoccupation was writing her thesis for her PhD. She was up writing for the whole night on the Thursday before the Saturday ceremony and I had to deliver it for binding during Friday lunchtime.
Early in the week I walked into the tailgate of my car and scarred my beautiful facial features which would have made the photographs even worse than we expected them to be (I will post them later). The weather was holding up though; we have had an Indian summer this September. The dresses for bride and bridesmaids seemed to be going well and the flowers to decorate both the reception and the church were being assembled according to plan. The wedding suits were another matter. In order for all the suits to be co-ordinated, the groom had gone to Moss Bros who have branches in every large town. However, something didn't work with the communication and as the ushers and groom's family turned up at various branches of the company, nobody knew anything about the order. Even on the final day one of the ushers had striped trousers instead of plain black. The correct uniform had to be couriered in from another branch. The problem is that Moss Bros have no competition nationally and their management has become slack. Tesco should branch out and compete with them.
We were watching the weather forecast carefully. After high pressure had been sitting over the British Isles for most of the month, a depression was inching in from the Atlantic. 60 mph winds were forecast with rain moving in from the north. Since the main charm of the venue for the reception was the riverside aspect with swans, ducks and geese, this did not bode well.
Then a supermarket delivery truck took off my wing mirror as it tried to negotiate a narrow street. What else could go wrong?
On the Saturday morning the skies were blue with just a little cloud. The bridesmaids look delightful in their ivory colored frocks with burgundy sashes. My suit seemed to fit. My wife looked charming in her new outfit. The cars appeared. These were replica Model A Fords with running boards. I half expected to see gangsters with Tommy-guns appear.
We loaded my four granddaughters into their limousine together with my wife and daughter and watched them depart. The weather was still dry though a little windy. My daughter then came out. Dressed in ivory with a silver headdress imported from America she looked like a queen. We were early as we boarded the second car, so the driver took us on a long route via the sea front. Passers-by waved at the strange wedding car ands we waved back. At the church the little bridesmaids aged 6 to 11 lined up behind us and the doors opened before us. We glided down the aisle to the strains of the Pachelbel Canon in D played on the flute.
The service opened with "Love Divine", then my grandson Alex, aged 14, read from Philippians 4:4-8.
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything be excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things.
The vows were made - a mixture of old and new. She didn't promise to obey, but she did vow to submit to her husband (a better translation). As soon as we got to 'who gives this woman?' I could sit down - very welcome because my legs were swelling up. We sang "Amazing Grace".
Our Pastor, Chris Kelly gave the address. He was excellent - putting people at their ease with tact and humor but not neglecting to explain the gospel. 10 rules for wives from the 1950s cause amusement and some indignation from the women present only for them to be mollified by 12 more PC rules from the 1990s. But from the reading Chris gave the couple just three instructions: Be Joyful, be gentle and be thankful.
The we sang "Guide me O thou great redeemer" before we trooped out to sign the register.
The bride and groom marched out to Jeremiah Clark's Trumpet Voluntary played on the Allen organ. The congregation of about 170 snapped us with their phones and cameras as we processed.
The gangster-cars took us out to Sopley Mill. We were the 52nd wedding party that they had catered for this year. The grounds are their chief feature but unfortunately the weather was closing in. We had hoped that our guests could wander around the grounds in the sunshine, and examine the menagerie of rabbits, guinea pigs and rare breeds of fowl, but it was getting too cold.
So instead we guided the 86 of them up the stairs to a champagne reception on the first floor. In the meantime my son David arranged for select groups to go down and be photographed on the lawn. This was all working well until we noticed that my 89-year old mother was missing. Apparently, they had missed a turning and the 10-minute journey from church to reception had so far lasted 70 minutes. Thankfully, they had a mobile phone and David was able to guide them to Bournemouth airport and go and collect them from there.
So to the meal of smoked salmon, lamb shank, and strawberry cheesecake, which was well received and then to the speeches. As father of the bride I went first. Here is what I said:
For those who don’t know me, my name is Terry. Diane and I would like to welcome you all to Angela and Stuart’s wedding.
We would especially like to welcome Alec and Sheila, Stuart’s parents as well as his brothers and the rest of his family and friends. We know that you have come a long way and we trust that you will enjoy your time on the south coast. Welcome also to members of our family, to Angela’s friends from school and work, and to our friends from church.
I want to thank all those who have helped to make this day special for Stuart and Angela, particularly Chris who took the service, Rosa the Registrar and Mary who did the flowers in the church. Thanks also to Best Man Gavin, Hannah, Amelia, Evie and Charlotte who were beautiful bridesmaids, Alex who read so well, and Peter, Jack and Richard who with Alex acted as ushers.
We have also to thank Sopley Mill who have put on this splendid spread. Elizabeth of Southbourne who made the dresses for bride and bridesmaid, and Alison Florists of Charminster Road who did the flowers that decorate the room here. For anyone who wants an idea for a start up business, I recommend that they go into dress suit hire. There is clearly a gap in the market. Your only competitor would be Moss Bros, whose management is so poor that they would fold if they had any competition.
One of my proud duties is to commend Angela to you. I hardly know how to begin. When she achieved the top First Class Honours degree from Oxford it was the culmination of a brilliant academic career at school and university. Angela has always won prizes. When she was very little she won an art prize. Grade 8 and a performance certificate for both piano and clarinet, it seemed an insult when music was the only GCSE that she didn’t get an A star for. She was also Dorset long jump champion and Dorset young scientist of the year when she was at school. Now here she is looking very beautiful in white like someone out of Lord of the Rings (no, not Gandalf, nor Gollum – I was thinking more of Galadriel – the part played by Cate Blanchett). When Stuart put the ring on her finger, I half expected that she would disappear!
Angela is a very determined person. If she sets her heart on something she is sure to get it. When she thought about getting married she put an advert in the local paper saying, “Husband wanted” She had 117 identical replies all from women saying, “Please take mine!”
Fortunately, that was not necessary as she met Stuart. We welcome Stuart into our family. Stuart is a great sailor. I believe they are going on a boat for their honeymoon. Just, please be careful as you go round Cape Horn. So he won’t get bored on board I have leant him my complete collection of Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander books. Seventeen volumes, I think.
October 3rd is a very auspicious day for getting married. On October 3rd 1899 The Boer War began. On this day 1928 the Chicago Taxicab War started with two Yellow Cabs being blown up. In 1942 the Germans launched the first V2 rocket on October 3rd and ten years later on the same date the first British atom bomb was exploded. In 1968 there were street riots in Mexico City and in 1975 it was the Thriller in Manilla when Muhammed Ali fought Smoking Joe Frazier, then in 1993 it was Black Hawk Down – the first Battle of Mogidishu in Somalia started.
It is hardly surprising that the first SOS was sent on October 3rd 1906.
I was despairing in finding anything about marriage until I came up with October 3rd in 1995 OJ Simpson was acquitted of killing his wife.
Then at last a successful marriage: In 1990 East and West Germany were reunited!
My next task is to give sage advice on the subject of marriage to the happy couple garnered from 42 years of experience.
This is what I have learnt. Marriage is the place where you get forgiven even when you don’t deserve it.
So Stuart, here is my advice: Apologise – even when you don’t know what you have done. There is no point in denying it. ‘Fess up straight away. Getting forgiven is much better than fighting, and what are you going to do if you win?
Ogden Nash put it well: To keep your marriage brimming; With love in the loving cup; Whenever you’re wrong admit it; Whenever you’re right, shut up.
Marriage is to a man’s advantage. Married men live longer than single ones, (no it’s not true that it just seems longer) but married women have shorter (though more exciting) lives than their single sisters.
Marriage is a wonderful institution. But who wants to live in an institution?
Shakespeare gave us the best description:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
admit impediments. Love is not love
which alters when it alteration finds,
or bends with the remover to remove:
Oh, no! It is an ever-fixed mark.
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
it is the star to every wandering bark,
whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
within his bending sickle's compass come;
love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
but bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Finally, to get back to Angela – as some of you know she wants to be a haematologist, and one of the main concerns of haematologists these days is the stem cell. I’m not sure that I approve of embryonic stem cells when it seems that you can obtain from the bone marrow stem cells that can be coaxed into turning into whatever kind of tissue you want for a spare part – whether it is kidney, heart, liver or brain. I am sure that this was what God had in mind when He took a bone from Adam to make Eve.
But where should he take the bone from? He could have taken it from the skull, but that would have given the impression that he wanted Eve to rule over Adam, He could have taken in from Adam’s heel – but that would give the impression that she could be trampled underfoot. So he took a rib. From his side to show that they were equals, from under his arm, so that he would protect her, and from next to his heart to be loved by him.
Ladies and Gentlemen Please raise your glasses to toast the Bride and Groom.
We finally finished about 8-30 pm. I was too tired to watch the football on television.
The rain stayed away until this morning, but then it poured.