Chapter 5 –Hooked
By Chris Wilson
There are two ways to look at marriage and the marriage day itself. One is to crawl up ones derriere and philosophise up until the cows come home and the other is to look back at your own wedding, or a wedding you have been to and reminisce about what a glorious or ludicrous day occurred. I am going top chose the second option, as the deeper implications of marriage have been dealt with in the Paradox of Man, and if anyone looks back at the day itself who on earth gives a damn about philosophy. Wedding days are all about fun and merriment interlaced with a huge dose of confusion and near disaster, so on such a roller coaster we will rejoin Bob and Sue, by now they should be well and truly getting ready for their big day
We join them as they have both woken up in their respective parents house. They are lying in bed and looking out at the early morning sun and contemplating what lies before them. It is good that they have this time for themselves as within the hour, at most, both of their lives, and all the lives of others assembled are about to be turned upside down. Let us look at Bob first, what are his thoughts about the day ahead. Surprisingly enough he is mentally very calm. Physically he is still suffering from his stag night three days ago, but looking at the day ahead he knows what is expected of him, and therefore is fully prepared. Like Sue he has realised a long while ago that their supposed big day has actually very little to do with them, and far more to do with Sues mother, her relatives, the caterers, the florists, and anybody else who chooses to get involved. He knows it has turned into a massive family and social event way outside of their control, and that he and Sue have become mere mannequins, or display dummies, that are to be presented in a much bigger show. They will be dressed up, presented to a crowd of onlookers and hangers on, and then neatly dispatched to pastures new, miles away from madding crowd.
What is also thinking is that he feels that he is almost married already. This day, for him, is merely a question of signatures, unseen deities, and fun for all. He feels that he got married when he first proposed To Sue. That is when he made his real commitment. That is when he got married; today is just for show. There is however one niggling problem on his mind and that is when it comes to saying the vows. From the very beginning He has known that Sue was of Czech origin from an early stage in their relationship, but up until now it has never been a problem. Now, however, he realises that he will have to say her name not only in full but in front of a couple of hundred people. It’s ok for most English guys he thoughtfully muses. I hereby take thee Anne Julie Smith, or who ever, is easy; but Zuzana Libuse Skvorova, is slightly more daunting. He has been practising her name for months, and though not word perfect, he has got pretty close by now. The trouble is that this has only been in front of a mirror, now he has too say the damn name before his Missis, the world, and the deity they have asked to attend. Never mind, he has still got an hour of silence and freedom to enjoy so we will leave him now, it time to turn the spotlight on Sue.
Sue is very happy. She is lying in bed with a quiet yet determined smile spread all over her face. She has allowed Bob to believe that she agrees with him, it’s easier that way, but this is her day, regardless of what her mother might say. She knows that she will be on show, and she knows that she will be like a dressed up model in a bridal shop, but this is one occasion where such a model will not only speak, but speak with real authority; she will just have to pretend, occasionally, that this will not always occur. Her mother, God Bless her, thinks that Sue is nervous and Sue has allowed her to think along these lines. Why, because while her Mum is worrying about the wedding day Sue can start to think ahead as regards the longer term marriage she hopes her and Bob will enjoy. Never mind though, this is her day and she will be the centre of attention. She is determined that she will have a thoroughly enjoyable day!
Ring out, wild bells; ring out to the wild sky. Such bells were alarm bells, and in both houses they began to ring all too soon, for at 8.30 in the morning the occupants of both houses began to stir. It is their wedding day we must remember; do we really expect everything to go to plan. As of now we are actually ready and waiting at the church but lets go back a few hours, as even during the course of a morning and afternoon there is a story to tell. It is both customary and courteous to let the ladies speak first so how did the bridal house fare during the day. As the alarm bells rung a rumbling stampede could be heard as everybody, except Sue, rushed to go to the loo, followed by a ravenous scramble to the breakfast table. Her visiting Czech relatives had arrived late the previous evening so, by now, they were absolutely starving. So it was that for a brief few minutes the only sound to be heard was the pleasurable chomping of jaw lines, and the satisfied gulping of fresh, hot, strong coffee. Then came the dreaded words from Sues Mother
“Ok folks, it’s time for us to move”
The first person to lose her head was the bride’s mother. Under pressure the dear Lady has always had a tendency to become the spitting image of a broody hen, so imagine if you will, such a hen not only suddenly discovering she has not only a clutch of a dozen eggs, but that the wretched things are all beginning to hatch at once. Off she went, flying around the house, screeching about her little darlings, and tripping up everybody in sight who came within her range. Sues cousin, who’s English is not that good, misunderstood a request to move over, and began charging around the house with a Hoover. The machine in question had a long 12 ft lead, so, in her excitement, the cousin, the Hoover, and inadvertently, a large bowl of custard and cream trifle, went everywhere; the trifle straight into the chest of the brides father who already dressed fit to kill. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Sue’s aunt held sway, at times quite literally so. A bottle of brandy ion one hand, and an enormous bowl of cream in the other, she flew around the kitchen like one of the apocalyptic horsemen, screaming insults at anyone stupid enough to enter therein.
As mentioned before the brides father received an unusual accolade, and therefore had to run away and change, but as he had already planned to spend a good hour enshrined within the shower and bathroom, no real damage was done. Now we find him in the front room, for some reason he has buttonholed his mother. She is bawling her eyes out by remembering Sue when she was a little girl, while he, for some peculiar reason, is frantically waving an ancestral dress sword in the air. It later transpires he was telling her all about the family’s Czech ancestry, though why he was doing so no family knows to this day. It was presumed by all concerned that his mother had at least some part in his conception and subsequent arrival, so unless he was brought forth via a process of Immaculate Conception, she probably had a pretty good idea who else was involved.
What of the bride however, what was she doing while all this was going on. Catch her working on her wedding day? Not a chance, absolutely not a hope in hell. She just sat on her bed in a scruffy old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt reading My fair Lady, stuffing herself with coffee, and custard slices and cream; and bellowing out orders and requests when ever, and wherever, the mood just happened to take her. This of course was hugely irritating to her wild-eyed retinue but put together what a wonderful picture this became. Imagine being an observer at the Crimean war, the light brigade is by now fully charging. Cannons to the right of them cannons to the left of them, and there is Sue, as the Calvary commander, sitting safely in the rear. What is she doing? Nitpicking, that is what she is doing, sniping, complaining, and continually issuing totally contradictory requests and commands. While she sits everyone else around her is working, no wonder he was having such an enjoyable time
Every dog, or on this case, every relative has his or her day however, and theirs was soon to come. It is the custom on such a day as this that all the ladies dress the bride. Why this is so nobody knows, for she has been dressing herself for years, but these things simply have to be done. Today however things went slightly awry, and everybody forgot the bride. Imagine the shock then when the door of Sue’s bedroom crashed open, and Sue stood, backlit by the morning sun for all to see. For a moment there was stunned silence, for our bride to be certainly held centre stage. Screeching like cross between some Wagnerian or Shakespearean heroine with the hots, she stood there attired in what can only be described as underwear “a la mode Francais”. Not only that she appeared with great dramatic effect with her face and nails accidentally smeared with bright red nail vanish, all of which had been both casually and liberally applied. With a howl of truly awesome preportions she enquired, in no uncertain terms, as to where the hell her attendants were. All she needed was a horse, a rainbow bridge, and a few flames; with such accessories she could have popped over to Valhalla for the day, with or without a full orchestra by her side.
No such mayhem can last forever though so with a bit of T.L.C and a pot of fresh coffee, normal service was soon resumed. Now we should go to the bridegroom’s house, what might we ask happened over there? The day itself actually began very calmly. In typically British fashion an air of pragmatic flexibility hung in the air, as well as the smell of numerous pots of tea that, in this household, were a vital prerequisite to the beginning of a working day. Soon after breakfast was served to all one and sundry, or rather plonked on a large table whereby guest and visitors for the day were invited to sit, dig in, eat, and enjoy. Rather like the bride’s house all had a thoroughly enjoyable breakfast, in a variety of British and European ways. Then the fun began, and as before, the lady of the house, the bridegroom’s mother, set the whole thing in motion. She came out with her first “wait a minute” of the day, and from then nothing and nobody could keep her under control. She is a lovely lady, and much loved by all her family and friends, but at times she is akin to a magnificent old Victorian steam beam engine which, once started, is very reluctant to stop or slow down. Not only that her gears, especially her vocal gears get a trifle out of sequence, and if she hits top speed, then her brakes completely fail. By mid morning both she, and the house were in full swing. The best man was delayed, the groom’s mother was having a characteristic fit of the vapours, and Bob desperately tried to hide or run away. Meanwhile all others in the vicinity were seemingly speaking in tongues. At one and the same time English, Manx Gaelic, and Dutch could be heard, and put together it sounded like a massive catfight atop a set of fully inflated bagpipes.
On balance much of the confusion would have been avoided if standard rather than colloquial English had been used, and only that alone. When you request the English to wait a minute they know exactly what you mean. They don’t hang about, or start counting the seconds; they just get on with what they are doing and await further instructions. The Dutch contingent however was a little more eager to please, and to do so with ever increasing desperation. The groom’s mother said wait a minute, so that is exactly what they did, over and over again. This of course both agitated and infuriated the groom’s mother who, rather testily, hooted and swooped around the house like a hyperactive barn owl, desperately trying to keep everybody both in line and in time. The Dutch visitors patiently explained that they were keeping time, and trying to keep in line, wherever that invisible line might have been, only to be told that, somehow, they must have known what the groom’s mother meant all along.
Then a diversion occurred, the best man, who is also the grooms brother, arrived, still casually dressed and bearing the glad tidings that both the wedding flowers and his clothes were still not ready but, there was no need to panic, as everything would be sorted out in time. Pandemonium ensued which thoroughly annoyed the best man. He has just received a bucket full of Anglo Czech from the bride’s mother over the delays so to now get the same in Anglo Dutch really was very irritating. To his fury he was then informed by one and all that he could not go to church dressed, as he was, in a sweatshirt and jeans. His reply was justifiably terse and relayed the message that if he had a choice of staying as he was, or going as God or nature had made him, he damn well knew what his choice was going to be. By this time Bob had simply given in and slipped away to write his wedding speech. He knew when he wasn’t needed, and he had a somewhat urgent job to do!
Eventual both storms subsided, everybody get dressed and ready, and we now join the happy couple inside the church where the ceremonial duties are about to commence. Or that is what should be happening anyway as a couple of important attendees do not seem to be there. The Bob and his brother are there, as are their extended families and friends. The brides friends are also there, but where, might we ask, are the brides close family and, more importantly, where is the bride herself; worryingly they are nowhere to be seen. Sue has actually arrived on time, a rare occurrence on such an occasion, but to her fury she is told that she cannot enter the church. When Sue curtly states that us actually where she is meant to be trouble begins to brew but soon the reason is explained. Her father and a couple of other relatives were delayed at the brides house as her father apparently needed to, once more, go to the loo. Additionally they have taken a short cut to the church; only too find themselves embroiled in a “help the aged” march. This is a huge affair, but at least, with the help of a high speed, sirens wailing, and lights flashing police escort, they got there in the end, only to find Sues Mother and Grandmother still hadn’t arrived.
Time is marching however, and the registrar bluntly refuses to wait any longer. She ushers everybody into the church and she and the priest commands them to sit down, shut up, and carefully listen for their cues. His is late, he has a funeral to perform in two hours, so the show, he tersely states, simply has to go on. Under such circumstances the ceremony went quite well, but a couple of things, of course had to go wrong. When the bride and groom are saying their vows it is generally accepted that a certain degree of solemnity should be observed. What you do not expect is the doors of the church to fly open, and a bunch of screaming banshees to charge down the aisle. It was Sue’s mother and her entourage; at last they had all arrived. Everybody likes to make an entrance at some point in his or her lives, but on later reflection, Sue felt that this simply they could have picked a better time.
“Wait for me my darling, I am coming, and I am here!”
In rushed Sue’s mother, and behind her, Sue’s stick waving grandmother, the dusty cousin, and, by now, the somewhat inebriated bottle-waving aunt. Never mind, at least they were there; surely nothing else could go wrong. There was only one other problem to contend with and that was the organist.
When you hire an organist on such an occasion you expect three things to happen. You expect him to be there, you expect him to play a recognisable tune, and finally you expect him to play the wretched thing at a speed that everybody can sing, follow or enjoy. Regrettably he arrived, and he played. Unfortunately he forgot to adhere to factors two and three. Akin to a primeval mastodon caught in a tar pit he lumbered helplessly around the keyboard energetically stamping on any key his outstretched sticky paws could reach. If he had been a mastodon, or if a tar pit had been in residence, then some allowance could and would have been made, but such factors were not applicable on that particular day. Instead there was just disgraceful playing by an incompetent organist who was possibly drunk, incredibly nervous, or simply ill equipped to do the job in hand.
The service has now come to a close, and though there were a few other minor interruptions and misunderstandings we shall now leave the happy couple to enjoy the rest of the day. No doubt speeches will be fluffed or be carried through on a wing and a prayer, no doubt there will be the odd family row or two; for such things are automatically part and parcel of the day in question, but we must leave now and continue our journey into pastures new. So as we see Bob and Sue leaving to go to their reception we will go our separate ways. Once married how effectively do husband and wife communicate? Do they share a universal language, and when they talk, do they talk with a unified tongue? This is the area we turn to in our next chapter where, sadly, it seems to be a more a question of codes.