A toast to absent friends
February 1, 2015
Last night we went to a Silver Wedding anniversary dinner. I still think that kind of thing belongs to my parents generation not ours, despite the fact we are coming up to our 27th. It just sounds so old. So settled. So near death. But then we are old. And I think I am perhaps turning that corner now where actually I see it more as being 25 with thirty years of experience rather than being in my fifties. But I digress.
This party was for friends whose wedding we went to all those years ago at the cricket ground in Canterbury. Although I have to be honest and tell you my memory of events is limited. And not because of alcohol, but because I was breastfeeding our middle one at the time who was four months old and hungry. Not being an ‘out and proud’ breastfeeder, and unable to do it discreetly, I spent most of the wedding locked away in a small room with her clamped to my bosom.
I missed my father’s speech (which will have been a highlight as he was a fabulous speaker and would have gone to lengths to try to make this one particularly good because it was for the daughter of my Mum’s best friend who had died some ten years previously and her husband only a year later.) However I did catch the groom’s speech which was fantastic. And last night he again stood up to say a few words but this time was heckled by his nearest and dearest throughout. It was a tough crowd last night!
We were in a gorgeous hotel in Oxford – the Old Parsonage – all Farrow and Ball, lovely textiles, great service, beautiful paintings everywhere. And we got a free upgrade so even better. Fifteen of us met for champagne and those conversations you have with people you haven’t seen for years and can’t quite remember their children’s names or ages. And the guests of honour were a couple in their eighties – they represented my parents and the brides’ parents as the wife was the final ‘gal’ in the triumvirate of our mothers who had lived together in Chester. And my goodness me they looked so well; nimble in both mind and body. Fantastic. I felt a pang for my parents and wished they were there.
We sat in our allocated seating and chose our meals and the wine and conversation flowed. The men moved round between the starter and the mains and we did a quiz about 1990 in pairs. I mention this for one reason only. Yes, you guessed it – the bride’s brother and I won. Whoop! I think it was getting the fact that Glasgow became the City of Culture is what clinched it for us; everyone else put Liverpool.
And then after the meal came a fabulous cake and the speeches. I do like the marking of an occasion with a speech or two. To take the opportunity to publicly thank or praise people. The happy couple both spoke as did their elder daughter. And, as my mother always said about my father, because he was forever up on his feet performing a speech or a poem, “There’s no show without Punch.” And in homage to his memory and wedding speech 25 years earlier, I delivered my Ode:
Ode on the Occasion of the Silver Wedding
My father did the wedding speech
I’m afraid this won’t compare,
But speaking’s in my family
And so I’d like to share…
I’ve known this woman
All my life,
From well before she was
Our mothers met at Cambridge
Where hers studied and mine courted,
Became teachers both together
And a flat in Chester sorted.
And when they had their children,
Although living far apart,
We knew the Ansteys were like cousins
Embedded in our hearts
I always loved her mother
The twinkle in her eye
Her warmth, her wit, her kindness
And a smile that lit the sky.
Her father was more serious
As Professor he was able
His favourite month was always May –
New British Rail timetable
But sadly both were snatched so young
When Ros was barely grown
Leaving her and Charles and young Louise
To grow up on their own
And just by then I think she’d met
Young Richard here – the charmer –
Her brother’s mate from College
His smile it did disarm her
They dated for a few years then
We thought they’d make it up the aisle
But no, their loving went on hold
As they thought they’d wait a while
For years it seemed they will – they won’t
Ros sometimes played the field
But then at last good sense prevailed and
Their marriage vows were sealed
And that was years and years ago
Twenty five to be exact
And here we are to celebrate
The survival of that pact
It’s no mean feat to get here
Marriage isn’t always fun
But you stuck it out through thick and thin
And tonight I’d say you’d won
You’ve won by having children
Who are cherished and adored
You’ve won by loving mutually
Who could ask for more?
You’ve won by sharing laughter
You’ve won by sharing tears
You’ve won by sharing history
For years and years and years.
You should be looking forward
The next innings of your troth
Another quarter century please
And happiness to you both
So charge your glasses – raise them high
Any drink will do-
And toast our love to both of them
Mr and Mrs Drew