Thursday, 24 April 2014
The Best Man
First there was the award ceremony on Friday 11th April. "Love Your Borough" awards 2014. Well, I was nominated in one of the categories "Volunteer Group of the Year Award" for my work with our residents association. I was up against some stiff competition so I didn't bother preparing an acceptance speak or polish my shoes.
The award ceremony took place at our extremely fine Assembly Hall. It and the Town Hall are examples of really good inter war design and build. The place was packed. We were greeted with a glass of bubbly and escorted to our table along with about 300 others.
We had a host, Mike Crump, and a guest speaker Robert Elms , along with an introduction from the Leader of the Council. Robert Elms is a BBC Radio London host - London born. I thought he was black from his voice: white as driven snow. Anyway we had about 20 minutes of him rabbiting on about what I can't remember.
This was followed by a couple of fire jugglers (except it wasn't fire but intricately controlled neon lights): they held us spell bound. And then it was straight into the glad handing and back slapping. Between the Leader's Highly Commended award, Health and Well- being award, Employee and Team of the Year award we had our starters and the Rock Choir - an all female group of about 30 assorted aged ladies and just one extremely tall man. Then onto the Civic Awards, Improving Your Neighbourhood, and Making Waltham Forest Safer awards, followed by the Uniformed Service Award, Main Course and Sweet and the Sounds of the Four Tops singing group who were very good.
After a bit of breather, Robert Elms went on to present the Sporting Inspiration Award and then it was the category for which I was nominated "Volunteer Group of the Year" Award.
And I won! I made my way manfully onto the stage and shook Robert firmly by the hand. Cameras flash and it was all over except for the local reporter who asked me how I felt about winning. I thanked my wife, mother, and all the unsung heroes and heroines without whom this moment of well deserved praise would not have been possible.
Fame extracts a price. Now people stop me in the street and point following the publication of my mug shot in the local rag. Friends nervously approach. Others stop me in the road and ask for my autograph - I don't do them - too, too common. My wife of course teases me rotten. "Now", she says "it's official I'm "Pillock of the Community 2014.""
The following Thursday I was at a funeral. My old landlord in those far off days in Belsize Park 1971 -76 had died the week before at the age of 81. The funeral took place at St Peter's, Belsize Park which I attended. It's the same church that David Mitchell and Victoria Coren were married in. There were people there I hadn't seen for decades. We all looked extremely old, appropriately so I thought this being a funeral.
On Easter Saturday I was best man at my mate's wedding. He and I have been friends since 1971 and shared a flat in Belsize Park. He was marrying for the first time, his bride for the second. He was determined to have a blow out.
And was it some wedding. They'd hired the whole of the Order of St John's Gate House in Clarkenwell, as well as the church associated with the Order. My job was to ensure that the many aspects of the day were joined up smoothly.
First, I had to ensure that the ushers knew where to direct the guests. There were two lots. Close family and friends for the civil service in the Council Chamber. As best man I had responsibility for the rings. I felt like Frodo slipping them on and off my fingers during the ceremony wondering if people would notice should I vanish in a puff of smoke.
Not losing anyone of the close friends etc they were herded by my troop of ushers out of the Gate House and across Clarkenwell Road, to the church where the blessing was to take place. Other guests had already arrived and we successfully corralled them into the designated seats so it looked as if the church was fuller than it actually was.
The guests were mildly entertained by a string quartet which abruptly broke into the Entry of the Queen Of Sheba, or something equally processional as the bride, groom and the priest breasted the church doors. There were poems, homilies, quite a bit of Bach and the taking of oaths before we all found ourselves in the gardens attached to the church for the group photos.
I then lead the non family guests, about 60 of them, back across the Clarkenwell Road to the Museum of St John's where more bubbly and cocktails along with sumptuously expensive nibbles were served.
The bride and groom having finish the "Hello" photo shot joined us and much catching up and commenting on this or that hat took place. I spent some time running around threatening people that they would be not allowed into the Great Hall and the magnificent free meal if they didn't collect their table placement tags. All this was timed with military precision.
Precisely at 6:15 pm I asked the bride and groom if they were ready to received the guests. They were. I bellowed to the assembled crowd to form an orderly queue to be presented to the betrothed couple before climbing up the stairs (with strategically placed ushers to ensure that no one took a wrong turn into the kitchens or mock medieval cess- pit).
The Grand Chamber was stunning. with huge displays of flowers on each of the 9 tables - some with branches of cherry blossom with painted blown eggs hanging from them. I announced the bride and groom as they entered, and they then cut the cake. And the meal began: with singing waiters. Each course was served to the sound of well known operatic arias - it was a sensation.
The rest is quickly told. My best man's speech received a round of applause. The bride and groom made touching short speeches expressing their love for each other. I then told two tables to move - because the disco was to start and the bride and groom took the floor for the first dance.
After all that food and wine at the meal there was a bar and buffet set up just in case you needed refueling during the disco.
I left after the bride and groom departed and got home after midnight.
It was the most fabulous wedding. Certainly the most magnificant and well organised I have ever been to. I was proud to have been a part of it. My mate, the bridegroom, never stopped smiling the whole 9 hours the wedding festivities lasted. I can't wait to see the videos and photos - yes they had a professional video recordist as well as a photographer getting every instance, every nuance of the day.
Sue and Peter: here's to a long and joyous life together.