Of seating plans, turtle doves and symphonies in watered silk – Part 2.

Unlike some weddings in the 1980s which I could mention… mention… mention…

About two years into our relationship, K received a couple of wedding invitations, separated by no more than a few months. Coincidentally, both brides and both grooms bore the same first names; let’s call them Horace and Doris.

In both cases, K and Horace had been friends for many years. In both cases, I had met the couples on several occasions. Both Horaces, and one of the Dorises, had been overnight guests of ours, more than once. All the Horaces, and all the Dorises, came from fairly prosperous backgrounds, with families who placed a big emphasis on show, and front, and positioning: the executive classes, if you will. They were the sort of people who had their Christmas cards specially printed, in the largest size available, with an extra fly-leaf of paper between the traditional Victorian cover design and the embossed greetings page. Both weddings were therefore going to be full-scale church productions. Waistcoats and cravats for the gents; puffed sleeves and peach-coloured watered silk for the ladies. Lots of great aunts. Lots of hats. Horses and carriages. Meringues and gateaux. The full works.

I think you can guess where this is going.

“Maybe they’re having to be quite tight on numbers”, K suggested, kindly.

“They’re just SCARED of having me there”, I pouted, testily. “Wouldn’t want to RUIN their big day, by having a gay couple OPENLY AND FLAGRANTLY CAVORTING with each other and frightening the horses. Or the great aunts. Didn’t like them anyway. See if I care.”

(Younger readers should bear in mind that this was around 1986 or 1987, when the unholy alliance of Thatcherism and the tabloid press was at the height of its spurious triumphalism, and the post-AIDS anti-gay backlash was picking up a serious head of steam. Gays just Weren’t Quite Nice back then. Clause 28 was just around the corner. As was Black Monday on the Stock Exchange. HAHAHA SERVES YOU RIGHT YOU TORY BASTARDS. Oh, I was quite the unreconstructed socialist in those days.)

Just to rub salt in the wound, Horace #1 also asked K to be his best man.

“So I’m just the SHAMEFUL LITTLE SECRET, am I?”, I wailed, in best Cage Aux Folles style – rather enjoying my “victim” status, although I would have died rather than admit it.

“They couldn’t even squeeze me onto Table Z, Seat 99? No, you run along! Don’t mind me! He’s YOUR FRIEND, after all; I’m just YOUR BOYFRIEND.” And so on, and so on. Supportive to the end, me.

Meanwhile, Doris #1 had firm views about how the day should progress, one particular stipulation being repeated almost to the point of obsession.

“K, you’ve got to promise me one thing. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES do we want our going-away vehicle messed up with balloons, and shaving foam, and “just married” signs, and tin cans tied to the bumper. It just looks so TATTY, and so CHEAP, and it would RUIN MY DAY if anyone did anything like that.”

Horace #1, in my considered judgement, was frankly a bit of a wimp.

(Hang on, wasn’t there an ELO song about that? Perhaps the pseudonym wasn’t drawn at random after all. The subconscious moves in mysterious ways. Or in my case, utterly predictable Rock And Pop Trivia-related ways.)

On the night before the wedding, he had become such a quivering bag of nerves that, in a novel expansion of the best man’s traditional duties, K found himself obliged to write the entire groom’s speech on his behalf. This he did without complaining, despite the lateness of the hour, the alcohol coursing through his veins, his own pre-match nerves… and, of course, his singular lack of personal empathy with the subject matter at hand. Still, what are friends for?

During the reception, K realised that he had forgotten something rather vital: his own speech, which was still in the groom’s car.

“Horace, can I borrow your keys? I’ve left my speech in your car.”

“No, you can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re just looking for an excuse to sneak off and decorate the car.”

“No I’m not. I need that speech.”

“I don’t believe you. You’re not having the key.”

“But I can’t make the speech without my notes.”

“You’re not having the key.”

“Horace, listen. If you don’t let me have my notes, I won’t be making any speech at all. Do I make myself clear?”

“OK, OK. But you can stay here. I’ll go and get the speech for you.”

What a pity that, on retrieving K’s speech, Horace #1 then forgot to lock the car behind him.

What a pity that, trying the car door a while later for no particular reason, K discovered this fact.

What a pity that, by this late stage in the proceedings, K’s normally plentiful supplies of goodwill had been thoroughly exhausted.

What a pity that no photographic record exists of Doris #1’s face, on being confronted with the results of K’s handiwork. (Ably assisted by various other guests, all of them more than willing to lend a hand.)

What a pity that Horace #1 and Doris #1 had seen fit to leave me back in Nottingham, with my spinning wheel and my incantations.

What a shame to read Doris #1’s terse contractual obligation of a courtesy letter, thanking the best man for helping to organise such a lovely day, “with just one exception”. (She couldn’t help herself.)

What a tragedy that the marriage lasted less than a year, before Doris #1 ran off with another man. (She couldn’t help No, too cheap. Too cruel.)

You marginalise me at your peril.

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