That civil partnership ceremony, then. (Part 1)

I was going to leave this one more day – but since K is downstairs watching some potentially grisly programme about Pooches In Peril (as it could be professionally necessary for him to have an opinion about it tomorrow), I find myself back upstairs in the study, glass of chilled Chiroubles to my right, Ian Dury’s 1979 Do It Yourself album downloading in the background, with forty-five minutes or so to bash something out on the subject of last Friday’s civil partnership ceremony.

It was fascinating to compare our friends J & M’s approach to the day – basically a full-scale gay wedding, attended by a full compliment of relatives/friends/colleagues, followed by a sit-down meal, speeches and an evening party – with our own brutally pared-down approach from two years ago. After all, there once was a time when I might have scoffed at what I perceived as an awkward aping of an institution which, as far as I was concerned, the hetties were welcome to keep. (Residual internalised homophobia? Yeah, maybe in part. Who knows. Bit complicated. Let’s not.)

Faced with the reality – two old and dear friends, pledging themselves publicly to the people closest to them, with utter sincerity and no small measure of emotion – all lingering trace elements of doubt melted away for good. Why, even the hard-bitten attitude boys in the corner were bawling their eyes out in the council chamber of Lambeth Town Hall, along with the mothers and cousins and nieces – and even the nice woman who got up to read the Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem, whose sharp, convulsed sobs somehow fell in line with the metre, further accentuating the poet’s message.

Had we done the right thing ourselves, K and I wondered, briefly. Oh, but remember: we weren’t to know about the tectonic shifts that were to engulf us within a month of our ceremony (or rather the witnessed signing of a form, followed by a quick drink, a meal for ten and a week in the Maldives), as the sudden loss of K’s beautiful sister re-mapped his entire relationship with his family. Something which J and M have each come to know only too well for themselves over the past couple of years, as similar forced re-mapping exercises have brought them closer than ever to their own clans.

So, yes: maybe if it were now, we’d be more inclined towards the traditionally ceremonial. But there’s no “if” in life, as my dear old Granny used to say, approvingly quoting my late cousin Millicent, sage of the family.

We had begun the wedding weekend the night before at J and M’s place in Clapham: blinging it up on Cristal and Tiffanys cupcakes, just the four of us. K and I had been there right from the start, you see: offering the boys a bed for the weekend, the night after they copped off in some London bar and decided to elope for a couple of days, leaving respective ill-matched short-term boyfriends behind as they hopped on a train to the East Midlands. Exactly ten years ago next weekend, in fact.

“We feel like we’ve been with you every step of the way”, I wrote on the card. “Except for the having sex with each other bit, and the moving in together bit, and the having jobs in London bit…”

The following morning was spent at leisure at the Windmill on Clapham Common, where a discounted block booking had been arranged: lingering over a crap breakfast (the only slight downside to an otherwise spot-on stay), re-ironing the shirts, twiddling around with accessories – and in my case, experimenting with a hair dryer after a long lay-off. (Major revelation. Blow dries give sheen, body and bounce, and I’d do well to remember it now that the cut is a little longer.)

Stepping out of the room – bouffed coiff, lenses in for once, booted and suited in that hot Paul Smith number with the dusky pink chalk stripe that I bought in Manchester for the funeral – I felt more attractive than I had done in months. Over by the specially hired Routemaster, waiting on the Common with the tasteful white ribbon, I could swear that one of the attitude boys was surreptitiously eyeing me. From a distance, at least. Forty-six, still look hot in a suit, not bad!

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