Are you ready for this?
I know this doesn't happen every day, and in fact probably doesn't happen anywhere near as much as it ought to..... but I'm about to eat my words and admit that I was totally wrong about something:
That family wedding I was obliged to attend on Friday?
That day off work that I was a little resentful to be taking?
That wing of the family that I was somewhat disparaging about?
The wedding list I was somewhat snooty about?
None of it was justified. I had a lovely time and actually found myself a touch moved at times.
Sure, some of the guests all too obviously came from the "Heat" and "Hello" school of celebrity style and had absolutely no idea of the distinction between attending a wedding ceremony in a church and going clubbing (one pair of yellow and black plastic platform shoes with six inch heels in particular had to be seen to be believed: the girl in question could barely walk, and they managed the not inconsiderable feat of drawing attention away from what looked like an attempt at a french maid costume)... but they seemed nice enough.
As usual, I also struggled a bit with the church ceremony itself. Although I chose to have a civil ceremony, I do understand why people like to get married in a church. In this case it seemed especially apt as the wedding service took place in the church of the little village near Bath where the Bride had grown up and where the bride's mother and her wider family had been active members of the congregation for many years. I also understand that lots of people derive a lot of comfort from their faith. Naturally, I respect that and I respect that people have the right to believe in what they want. I just find it all ridiculous. Even if I could accept the presence of a higher power who created the Universe and all that jazz, I fundamentally struggle to understand why we seem to think that this higher power wants all its worshippers to be in a state of perpetual grovelling. All the hymns and prayers seem to involve throwing ourselves at God's feet and generally sucking up to Him in the hope that He will see us right on Judgement Day. I don't really want to use the word "credulous" as that seems unduly harsh, but I simply cannot bring myself to see it all as anything other than a peculiar set of rituals. Still, that's the whole point of Faith, isn't it? I don't believe in God, so I suppose I'm always going to find the whole thing hard to understand, aren't I?
Putting all that aside though, watching the bride being walked down the aisle by her two brothers was still quite an emotional moment. Although I haven't spent much time with any of them in years, I've known the three of them since we were all very small and at one time (when we were both about 6) I was close enough to the bride that our families used to joke that we were a lovely little couple. Their father died about 12 years ago from an especially nasty and difficult to diagnose tumour in his digestive tract, and it was actually profoundly moving to witness how the remaining family honoured his presence during the day his only daughter got married. Her two brothers shared the role of giving away their sister, and just seeing them walking down the aisle with her emphasised the gaping hole that the death of their father had created in the day. The elder brother also did the first reading from Corinthians. He stumbled a little and got a few bits wrong, but he has some learning difficulties, so this was perfectly understandable, and far more important was the fact that he was standing in for his dad. In the post-Diana world in which we British are apparently incontinent with our emotions, it was moving to be hit by this very understated, but nonetheless very real emotion. Although he was technically only my dad's cousin's husband, I called this man "uncle", and I thought he was a lovely man. It was lovely to see him remembered like this.
We had the usual hanging around after the ceremony when we all transfer to the venue for the reception and get bossed around by the photographer for what seems like hours, but it was a lovely day and it was great to spend some time with my delightful 18 month old niece. My heart sank a bit when I saw the seating plan and realised we were all on the same table as the vicar and his wife, but I needn't have worried as they both turned out to be excellent company - the vicar was actually an interesting guy who had started out his career as a lawyer and had retrained only seven years before. They were also about to take a sabbatical to New Zealand and were very pleased to hear our hearty recommendation of the Quechua 2 second tent and our testimony as to how well it stood up to the torrential rains of the last few Glastonbury Festivals. The meal was also very nice, but it was the speeches that really blew me away: again, the father of the bride's absence was honoured, but in a very understated way. There was a small picture frame containing a montage of images of him with his family placed on the top table, and without any great ceremony, the family also lit a candle for him. Again, I felt his absence keenly during the speeches, with both brothers again standing in for their dad, and I got a real sense of how the family had been pulled closer together since his death, and a sense of how much they felt his absence on his only daughter's special day. I'm not ashamed to say that I was moved. The speeches from the groom's side didn't let anyone down either, and the meal was concluded by the groom producing a guitar and singing a song he had written for his new wife. This could have been cringeworthy, but in this setting and with emotions already running high, it pretty much brought the house down, and absolutely everyone on the top table was wiping away the tears. Yes, it's easy to laugh at things like this, and you might well be smirking reading this now, but the sincerity of the emotion on display was really very touching.
I didn't spend a great deal of time at the disco, but I did spend the rest of the evening sitting in front of an open fire with my wife and my parents, sharing a couple of bottles of Rioja with my dad. We don't really talk all that much, and when we do we often don't see eye to eye, so it was just nice to spend some quality time with him. Since his cancer and the removal of one of his kidneys, he doesn't really drink any more, but this was a special occasion, so it was nice to be able to raise a glass or two with him.
Cynicism be damned, it was a really lovely day and I wish them all the best. Hell, I even hope they get some proper mileage out of that stupid meat tray.
We stayed in Bath for the rest of the weekend, but I'll save that particular write-up for another day.... so stay tuned for the next exciting installment of my weekend:
> monumental architecture!
> spa treatments!
> squiffy shop owners!
> Bath's unexpected Alpine links!
> proper rugby shorts!
> mulberry factory outlets!
> moaning minnies!
> tone deaf posh buskers murdering "Hey There Delilah"!
don't miss it.
The slow walk home
1 day ago