Friday, 26 June 2015
So it was with much alacrity that we both jumped out of bed early on yesterday. Wedding day: not ours mind you, but some friends who having lived together for 26 years were getting married....on the advice of their financial adviser.
About a month ago we went to our friends for a lovely meal and there they announced that the nuptial cord would be knotted. And would I and another long standing resident of the London Borough of Waltham Forest act as witnesses for the wedding ceremony at the local registry office.
What could I say? As a local celebrity I'm accustomed to being called upon to carry out the odd civic duty, to arbitrate between contentious parties in civil disputes. It was playing to my strengths: I waived my fee. After all they were my friends.
I was rather put off to be told that I had to turn up with my passport or similarly acceptable proof of identity: like my discharge papers from the Great War. It was pretty obvious that I knew who I was, and my friends who asked me to be a witness could at a pinch pick me out in an identity line up. So why had I been asked to bring along proof of who I was.
Well, it's all to do with sham marriages. Apparently, as reported in the Daily Mail, millions of fake marriages take place each year. Innocent, nubile virgins are shipped over from exotic climes and find themselves in registry offices across the country being married off to nefarious men from less than exotic climes south of the Baltic. It would appear that so sophisticated is the scam that despite the fact that neither partner can utter a single word in English except "Bobby Charlton" they were able to hoodwink our ever vigilant immigration bods.
So, yesterday morning as well as ensuring I was wearing clean pants the right way round and not inside out, and that my socks were a pair, I had to have to hand some form of proof of identity. Since I haven't been abroad since my aborted trip to Marrakesh in 1969, my passport was rather out of date. Luckily, my driving licence issued in 1976 on the 10th anniversary of my passing my driving test was still valid. Although someone might question whether the youthful face staring out from the photograph bore any resemblance to my lived in face.
Frankly I don't trust officials. I had visions of turning up at the wedding and being asked to prove who I was to find that my driving licence wasn't accepted. The bride would break down in tears, the groom, so close to his life's ambition, thwarted would land one on me and I'd undergo 10 hours of emergency surgery and emerge severely impaired. So, as well as my driving licence I took along my latest bank statement. They'd have to be convinced by that.
We were picked up by car at 10:30 am and sedately headed for the Registry Office, the driver having no sense of direction. We arrived in good time and the Registrar outlined our duties as witnesses. All the time I was thinking: "They'll want to see my P45 now". But no, neither of us had to produce evidence of who we claimed to be.
I put that down to the fact that the couple marrying were white and middle aged and that the witnesses - me and another - were even more white and middle aged. We were obviously no threat to our nation state. Which I thought was rather complacent since I saw an ad in the ISIS Family Friend for " White Middle Aged Men Seeking to Relive the Sixties".
The wedding went off a treat and we hurried back to the couple's home - mortgage free - to drink to their life together. I was rather pissed by 1pm and fell asleep when we got home. Luckily the missus woke me up at 5:30 which allowed me enough time to stagger off to St Paul's to hear Hayden's "Creation". 2 hours later I was completely sober: it was I think quite a performance, but don't ask me for a critical review.
I'm all in favour of marriage. It keeps things nice and tidy and provides gainful employment for many who would otherwise be unemployable.