However, I wouldn’t want you to get the idea that I have an automatic snooty downer on all wedding ceremonies. Far from it! For as soon as I step through that church or registry office door (provided I’ve been F**KING INVITED IN THE FIRST PLACE, that is), the cynicism falls away from my shoulders like a discarded winter coat. (Use Of Simile hem-hem.)
Oh, I can deny it all I like – but I’m a sentimental old sausage, and a perennial sucker for a happy ending. And if we’re talking happy endings, then there was never any happier than the union of… well, let’s call them Ron and Yvonne.
Yvonne had been our lodger for the thick end of two years, back in the old house in Sherwood, when it was everyone’s favourite after-hours bar and weekend crash pad, and we were the lynchpins of an exponentially expanding social clique. She was single when she moved in, and still smarting from an upsetting, unexpected break-up – and so we watched, and counselled, and encouraged, and plotted, and played Devil’s advocate, or Devil on the shoulder, or gooseberry, or Obviously Gay And Absolutely No Threat At All dancing partner…
…and cautioned, and tutted, and gasped, and passed the tissues, and shook our fists in Men They’re All Bastards outrage, and then pissed ourselves at the sheer viciousness of our wise-after-the-event, laughter-as-therapy character assassinations…
…as Yvonne gamely lurched through a couple of highly unsatisfactory (if mercifully brief) liaisons with a couple of well flaky geezers who were Just Not Worthy Of You, Darling.
Then along came Ron. The secret office crush turned clandestine fling (They Must Never Know), which swiftly turned into something a good deal more serious. Because Ron and Yvonne just fitted. It was so blindingly obvious that it was scarcely worthy of mention. No need for any speculative maybe-he’s-the-one sessions on the sofa, necking cans of Stella from the corner shop in front of The Golden Girls. Besides, Ron was round all the time.
When K and I made an offer on the new, large, stylish house, with the massive knocked-through living area (the PARTIES!), it was a given that Ron and Yvonne would move in and lodge with us. They even came along for the third viewing; for as far as we were concerned, there could be no go-ahead unless they approved.
When K and I came to our senses, and realised that the house was far too big, and in a dodgy area (hookers outside the door, three remand homes round the corner), and that actually it was the whole late-night-speakeasy syndrome that we were trying to escape from, not encourage… and after we made an offer on the much smaller, even more stylish house (beech parquet!) in the posh bit of town… we had to sit the lovebirds down, and break the news gently.
They took it very well. Ron was still living at home, and his parents were retiring back to Jamaica in a few weeks, so they could move in there for a while, then look around for a place of their own. In fact, I like to think that we gently nudged them onto the next stage.
The week we all moved, Yvonne gave us a card. Many thanks to two darling boys who have been like brothers to me, EXCEPT THAT NO BROTHERS WOULD CHUCK THEIR SISTER OUT ON THE STREET, DESTITUTE AND HOMELESS. All my love, Yvonne. xxx Yes, a gentle nudge.
Stretching right back to the all-dayers at Rock City ten years earlier, Yvonne had loved, loved, LOVED her soul/funk: Luther Vandross, Alexander O’Neal, Freddie Jackson, Eugene Wilde, Soul II Soul, En Vogue, The Family Stand, Barry White, Earth Wind & Fire… and Oleta Adams, whose Circle Of One album had soundtracked her courtship with Ron. When she walked down the aisle of the Shakespeare Street registry office, in her stunning Dries Van Noten gown (ivory silk, with a bold yet delicate scarlet floral pattern to one side; had to sweet-talk it out of someone else’s hand, down at Harvey Nicks), there could be only one accompaniment: Oleta’s unashamedly schmaltzy, borderline preposterous, irresistably heart-melting piano-based ballad, Get Here.
You can windsurf into my life, take me up on a carpet ride,
You can make it in a big balloon, but you better make it soon.
You can reach me by caravan, cross the desert like an Arab man,
I don’t care how you get here – just get here if you can.
They put me on ghetto-blaster duty, tape all cued up, with Oleta’s Rhythm Of Life as the exit music for later. Because even if I’m good for nothing else, I can wield a mean Play button.
Walking slowly towards Ron, a few feet away at the registrar’s desk, her sister by her side (in THE! MOST! meringue-y of all puff-sleeved confections ever – but when you’re Downs Syndrome, and you’ve been excited-to-bursting for months, how could anyone possibly deny your heart’s desire?), we all knew she’d cry. Ah, bless. She’ll smudge that make-up before she’s even started.
A few minutes later, as the bride and groom signed the register, more soft music started wafting into the room. At which point, one by one, all of our friends turned to face me: big complicit smiles on their faces, thumbs aloft.
“Nice one, Mike!”
“The music! You cheeky bugger! Brilliant!”
I listened more closely. Blimey, Engelbert Humperdinck.
Please release me, let me go
For I don’t love you anymore
To waste our lives would be a sin
Release me and let me love again
You’d think these sorts of establishments would check such things through, wouldn’t you?
And come on, people: did you really think I’d be that evil? Frankly, I’m a little put out.
More to the point: was there someone that Ron and Yvonne hadn’t invited?