I like to think of this retirement blog as a multi-various literary fest. Cover many topics and not in any great depth, is my motto. So to a different topic. I think I mentioned, in passing, that our daughter is getting married at the end of May. I write this with all the usual joy and quite a bit of relief. She’s been here before, this is the third time she’s been engaged and we were beginning to worry. But yesterday (i.e. Sunday) we went to see the place they have selected to get married and have the reception and, for the first time, I began to realise that this was actually going to happen. And so I would have to make a speech, self-centred of me I know. Admittedly with all the other stuff going on in our lives at the moment, I have not had much time to consider what was happening with our daughter. Today our son got the all-clear with his cancer results and so, what with Sunday’s visit and this good news, I need something to fill the worry vacuum. Nothing better for this than worrying about the wedding. We are going away – to Ireland – in a week and a half’s time but when we get back we’ll be right into it. So I keep thinking I should be writing my wedding speech. This should be a happier affair than the last time I had to stand up and deliver a ‘speech’, this being at my mother’s funeral. Probably need to strike a different note for this one although, given the instructions I received from my daughter, backed up by Mrs Summerhouse, maybe there will be some similarities. Let me explain this, at first sight, rather strange statement.
Obviously in writing my mother’s eulogy I focused on the positive aspects of her life. Now with the wedding speech I have been given strict instructions to make it a ‘nice’ speech. No sarcasm, irony or outright insults. How the hell am I supposed to write anything with that kind of censorship hanging above my head? As any regular reader of these blogs will know, I tend to lean towards the sarcastic. And the irony of the instruction, to be nice, is that my daughter and I have always had a very good relationship based on mutual piss-taking. And let me emphasise the ‘mutual’, this has not been a one-sided interaction. In fact my daughter is very good at taking the piss out of me. In fact she is one of the very few people, maybe the only one, who is capable of reducing me to amazed silence. Part admiration but mostly huge irritation that I cannot think of a suitable come-back. Here is my opportunity to get even for those times because, as I understand it, she has no right of reply at the wedding. Well not at the time of the speech but afterwards might be different. But now I have these restrictions and everything I write is to be run before the politburo aka Mrs Summerhouse, in order to see what references might offend and hence must be removed.
So on Sunday all this came out of the little box I had placed it while I was thinking / worrying / agonising about all the other stuff in my retirement life. They’re getting married at a place called Byland Abbey (see image above and ‘nice’ picture below), home of the Cistercians from 1143, I think it was, until Henry 8th came along and knackered it. If anywhere it’s near (7 miles away) Thirsk in North Yorkshire. Sunday was the first time we had seen the place they had chosen. It wasn’t the easiest place to find and we thought they should have a deal with the providers that they only paid for the ones that made it to the venue. Could save a lot of money.
I had to smile when I thought of our marriage 42 years ago. Options then were few, particularly as I was marrying into, what I believe is called, a devout Catholic family. So the local Catholic church it was. At least it had a roof which is more than the abbey does, it fact for the most part it doesn’t have any walls either. The church where we got married had the full set and, as I say, with a roof on top for good measure. After the ceremony we all retired to a nice little pub up the road apiece. I still remember the cost of the food – 27/6p a head (i.e. about £1.30 in todays’ money) and that included salmon and Asti Spumante. Ooh we knew how to live in those days. In the evening all those that were left standing went on to the local Indian restaurant in Derby. Luxury indeed. In these days the cost of the wedding is slightly more than that. Thank God the bridegroom’s parents paid their share and daughter and husband to be also paid theirs. Some things change for the better.
So there we were, not an exaggeration to say, in the middle of nowhere, looking at the marquee and going through endless questions about the wedding and the reception. I would have thought all these details would have been sorted by now but apparently not. So size of marquee, see through sides or canvas, type of tables, which way did they face, even type of bar – low or high – and much, much more. Much discussion about food including pizzas in the evening made on the spot from a converted horse box, but very nice and not a horse or horse meat in sight. No curry but pizzas should do nicely. We also got the chance to look at our room for two nights with puppies in kennels. We’re in the Mouseman room, named after the guy who produced a lot of the furniture in the room and who engraves a mouse on each piece of (expensive) furniture he makes. The cost of this one room probably more than the cost of the whole of our wedding including the honeymoon – spent in Brussels in the flat, as they were called then, of a mate I went to school with. Yes, times have changed.
So there we are retirement and the impending marriage of number one daughter. I can only hope that my father of the bride speech is as funny as my mother’s eulogy. I shall do my very best to maintain a sense of humour all through these challenging times.