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Ode for Georgie and Danny

September 4, 2016

Our elder daughter got married this year. What a great day that was. I’d do it all again if we could. Both of them seemed so relaxed and happy that it infected the day with joy and love and laughter right from the start. Yes there were things we would have done differently -it’s not the norm to have the bride directing the driver using her phone for example, but it seemed to go really well and if the celebrations indicate the likely happiness of the marriage they are off to a bloody good start. They surely know they have a solid back up of friends and family wishing them well.

For most people the thought of public speaking is a near-death experience. But not for the Clarke family. We all spoke at the wedding. Invited or not. By protocol or not. Her brother did a reading during the ceremony, her father the traditional FOTB opener and Georgina herself paid tribute to those not with us in person, and to her new husband who she described as her ‘voice of reason’ and ‘in-house comedian’. What a fabulous balance to have at her side forever.

And he of course had to do the traditional groom’s speech which he delivered from the heart with aplomb – a far cry from the little boy so shy he hid under the table at his own birthday party. Quite a few lines from it appear as the soundtrack to their wedding video , which is five minutes of feelgood footage.  The best men performed a lovely double act which rounded off the afternoon proceedings perfectly.

 

Georgie and Danny wanted something to acknowledge the evening guests’ arrival – to make them feel they were not simply an ‘add on’, but a real part of proceedings. So after the cutting of the most incredible cake made like a pile of their favourite books:13256182_10207885660151748_2610582959794306566_n

I delivered the inevitable Ode which I reproduce below. But after that came Natalie with a crowd pleasing sing along to a Spice Girls classic which she had rewritten just enough to suit the occasion but not so much we couldn’t instantly learn it and belt it out. Marvellous. How much both my parents would have loved it all.

Ode on the Occasion of Georgie and Danny’s Wedding

We’d like to welcome all new guests,
Reinforcements have arrived!
The ceremony’s over,
And the knot is duly tied.

The speeches were delivered –
And I won’t take up too much time
But I thought a little line or two
Should be spoken out in rhyme.

These lovebirds met when first at school
In Drayton, aged eleven
But despite the evidence here today
It was no match made in heaven.

Georgie didn’t really notice him
He was in to sports and stuff
On the other hand he noticed her
And thought her a bit of rough.

They met again in Birmingham –
Gatecrasher the clubs name,
The first kiss was on that dance floor.
Things would never be the same.

So now Georgie’s on a mission
She tracks Danny’s every move
Be it Fab or any other club
Georgie’s there to get the groove.

He’s hard to compartmentalise
Sporty  but IT geek
Loves board games and the Arsenal
Organised with a creative streak.

He is loyal, he is thoughtful
And of course a technocrat.
No more “the youngest person starts” as
He’s got an app for that!

And  Georgie, our Georgina,
A beauty we can see
But even greater than her stunning looks
Are her brains and empathy.

She’s always thought of others,
Works hard, and gets stuff done
She always likes to be informed and
Takes no shit from anyone.

She likes knowing what is happening
Exactly where she’s at,
And with Danny’s Excel genius
She’s got just the chap for that.

Together they are quite a team
They are tight, they’re strong, they’re true
They liberate each other
To do what they really want to do.

They’re fun, they like to socialise
To eat, to play, to goss
So raise your glasses one more time
For Ms Clarke and Mr Kloss

 

 

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.

The cake!

The cake!

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

Richard’s wife

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

Party party party

January 29, 2015

Party people

Party people

I love parties. I love the meeting old friends, meeting new people, eating, drinking, dancing. Love the positivity about parties. People want to have a good time. And if they don’t, they shouldn’t come. Hosts provide the venue, the guestlist, maybe food, maybe drink,maybe music – but partygoers have an obligation to bring their party spirit and get stuck in. And get stuck in we all did. We went to a 125th birthday party. Not one individual’s birthday obviously, but the combined ages of two friends.

And what a lovely party it was; friends and family in their open plan kitchen – mountains of food, fizz and a playlist that had everyone up on their feet. One of their children gave a lovely tribute, and both responded with their usual warmth and generosity. I, of course, churned out an Ode…

 

Ode on the Occasion of the 125th

So here we are all gathered round

To celebrate two dates

The birthdays of these two young pups,

Our fabulous two mates.

There’s Gerald, Mr Stevens,

Half English and half Mick

Brought up in lovely Twickenham,

But born in Hampton (Wick?)

And Julia, lovely Julia,

Half English and half Jock,

She couldn’t wait to leave old Kent

And don a nurse’s frock

Now Gerald loved adventure

‘Over the wall’ to overseas,

An economics graduate

He wandered as he pleased

Returned at last and set to work,

In computing – he adored

His universal knowledge makes

Him Ealing’s motherboard.

Meanwhile our lively Julia,

A student nurse at George’s

Spent most time dating different lads

She could – she’s bloody gorgeous

They were worlds apart but then one night

Nurse Mary thought she would

Take Gerald to a party and it

Changed their lives for good.

They met across a crowded room,

To the booming strains of Wham

He looked long and deep in to her eyes and

Said “I am your man.”

“But we’ve only met this evening,

There’s so much that is unknown”

But Gerald pulled her close and said

  He could fix her pleasure dome.

A whirlwind courtship then ensued

Engagement and a marriage

Bet Julia did the organising and

Gerald arranged a carriage

They moved to leafy Hanwell

In 1987

The same year the birth of Richard,

Their first joyous gift from heaven

Then Edward three years later,

And Bella number three

Their love and pride exemplified

In their perfect family.

They’ve always loved to socialise

Their friends are far and wide

Dinners, picnics, parties

Their arms are open wide

Julia is a stop out

Be it theatre, dance or bars

Whereas Gerald has much expertise

In doing up old cars

They are giving, they are thoughtful,

Their hearts are made of gold

So here’s to birthday 125

Who knew they were so old?

Please raise your glasses, sound a cheer,

Let the trumpets sound a herald,

A toast to two most magnificent folk,

Our Julia and our Gerald.

Lovely dinner party on Saturday night – 16 of us to toast a special birthday of a man I have known nearly all my adult life having known his wife since we were children. Her Mum and my Mum were at Cambridge together and then shared a flat as young teachers in Chester. And they were lifelong friends. Both of them great letter writers so that even when they lived at opposite ends of the country they still kept in touch. It is so much easier nowadays, but then it relied on letters and an occasional phonecall. But even phonecalls weren’t ubiquitous like they are now. We had a party line. It meant you shared your phoneline with someone else so if they were using it, you couldn’t. You’d pick up the phone and could hear them talking so you knew you had to wait. And if you wanted to call abroad you had to book a call in advance with the operator. How times have changed and everyone is in constant contact with everyone else. Not a minute of reflective contemplation on one’s own.
But I digress.
Saturday night was filled with chatter with lots of people I didn’t really know and was all going well until late in the evening someone said it was what the country needed; – the funeral of Maggie to celebrate her achievements. I’d drunk too much to just let it go. I should have known better. I was too pissed to be coherent, but she was astounded when I disagreed that she was the best Prime Minister we had ever had, a great female role model who transformed Britain for the better and of course the State should pay for her funeral.

I tried to move on to ‘agree to disagree’ but she wouldn’t let it lie and her uncritical adoration seemed to send me spiralling in to a red mist where I was unable to dig out any facts to throw at her. Just saying “Maggie Thatcher was a cunt ” doesn’t really hack it as a reasoned argument likely to persuade anyone of anything except what a complete twat I am. And of course I am not so blinkered not to realise that she had strengths, intelligence and a fearlessness and that something needed to be done. But the cost some people and communities had to pay was too much.
However, I had struck a lighter note earlier on by reading an Ode I’d written to the birthday boy.

Ode of the Occasion of Richard’s Birthday

I’d like to raise a glass or two,
To the birthday boy.
One Richard Drew.

I’ve known him all my adult life
From well before Ros was his wife.
He lost his heart to this young girl,
They were married down in Kent,
Thank God it still beats strong and hard
(More thanks go to the stent).

He’s always been so lovely,
Sophistication, charm unending,
And patience of an utter saint
When Ros goes full-on spending….

He’s always such a perfect gent
To his family loyal and true
I give you one of our Top Blokes,
The wonderful Richard Drew!

Today is my husband’s birthday. My pension is in bricks and mortar in central London. I wrote a piece of doggerel to my husband on its acquisition and meant to give it to him on his next birthday but things conspired against me so I gave it to him a bit later.

Needless to say the vision I had for it has not yet materialsied. We haven’t even had a flat warming drinks gathering yet and it’s three years since we bought it! But I do love it. But not as much as I love him.

What Manchester Street means to me

We bought a flat in London!

The central swishy part,

It thrills me with excitement

To the bottom of my heart

I know you wanted France or Spain,

Or Dorset or the Lakes,

You wanted hills and walking

Not shops for goodness sakes

I know it’s not your first choice,

And don’t seem as keen as me,

You don’t seem to share my vision

Of what the place will be

I see it as a signal

Of days not far ahead

When we can have some us time

And share a brand new bed

A time to be together

Without children coming first

A time we never had before

That we have not rehearsed

A voyage of discovery

Of you and me and us

The way we should have started off

Before getting up the duff.

I’m full of much excitement

I hope that you are too

I can’t wait to start a dating game

With no one else but you.

With love in 2010  xxx

 Another Ode, this time to my sister,  a connoisoeur of doggerel generated by the family.  I think she enjoyed it – she was in tears as is her usual emotional state when anyone says anything nice about her.

It is bizarre how non-tactile we are as family members. I am less likely to kiss her in greeting than an old work colleague. Even the children screamed with amazement the first time we did it (about 10 years ago). But it doesn’t mean we don’t care about each other. Just we weren’t brought up in a household that ever said ‘I love you’ or any other sentimental guff.

We had a turbulent relationship during our teens – she was out there, getting in to trouble with my parents whilst I was a few years behind and getting away with much much more. Oh what luck it is to be the younger child. But since we both left home and didn’t have to live together under the same roof we recognise each others strengths and rely on them. And get on really well.  So, of no interest to anyone who doesn’t know her no doubt, but herewith a tribute to my sibling.

Ode on the Occasion of Kate’s 50th Birthday

And so it is that we are gathered,

On this auspicious date

To celebrate with wine and food,

The youthfulness of Kate

For aging isn’t something

That Kate cares much to do

She gets fitter, better looking

Than she was at twenty two

In childhood she seemed older,

Taking care to be so good,

And organising friends and me

Into a cycling sisterhood

Being sensible was her hallmark,

So she couldn’t believe it when,

She saw the film Pollyanna twice and

The girl broke her leg AGAIN.

From Scotland then we moved toWales,

She went straight to grammar school,

Where slowly but undoubtedly she

Started to be cool

My friends would tell me wide eyed tales

Of my sister’s latest antic

Of boys with bikes or bus or truck

No wonder Mum was frantic.

And moving swiftly on from then,

She left home at seventeen,

A gap year then to Uni

Where her Dad and Nain had been

Although English was her subject

Her forte seems to be

Making friends who’ve lasted through the years

From both home and from Uni

And then the world of work did call

With Marconi her first job

From training into personnel,

Or HR, sorry Rob.

Her loyalty and diligence,

And increasing expertise

Ensured her working life was full

As she moved around with ease.

In her twenties and her thirties

She seemed to have it all,

Enjoying country life indeed

From Kent to Dunstaball

An endless round of social whirls

With friends both far and wide

They spent their time just having fun

And learning how to ride

And of course that’s something she still does

The only family member yet

To win not one but two great big

First place red rosettes

As teens she’d sometimes slap me

“Just because I can”,

But she’s been a rock to lean on

When the s*** has hit the fan.

As an aunt she has been perfect,

Giving time, and love (and gifts)

The children all adore her

(No I’m not taking the pi**)

You are loyal, you are caring

You put others before you,

You have insight, sensitivity

And you know what’s right to do

You are modest, self-effacing

Well organised and smart

And now you seem much more relaxed

Since someone stole your heart.

So now please raise your glasses

And let’s really celebrate

The wonderful woman that she is

My elder sister Kate

Through thick and thin

This Ode was written as I had been asked to give a speech at a good friend’s birthday. I find an Ode probably easier rather an actual speech, so delivered this.  I make no apologies for the language as it is entirely appropriate.

Ode on the occasion of Mo’s birthday

Twas a cold cold dark November day

A fair few years ago,

When a mewling pukin babe was born

And her parents called her Mo

Her childhood wasn’t fairy tale,

But had plenty that was good,

And something we’re all glad you got

Was your mother’s gift with food.

She set off to find her fortune,

Seventeen and full of wishes

Bizarrely, went to Denmark

Her employment; washing dishes,

Back home again in Glasgow

She took nursing to her heart,

It was the uniform attracted her

She’s always been a tart

Not satisfied with standard stuff,

She specialised in mental

But nonetheless she qualified

And nursing paid the rent –al

She met a man called Stuart

And soon became his wife

And best of all had Hollie

Her favourite gift in life

Not long moved down to England,

The marriage – self destruct

But luckily her friends were close

And one she starts to fuck

Gerald brings her round to meet us

And it goes without a hitch –

At last he’s brought a girl I like,

A swearing, drinking bitch

My children want her as their mother,

Coz she’s fun and fab and wild

And she cooks like Gordon Ramsay –

That’s attractive to a child

She’s organised our holidays,

Our walking witches tours

Taking time and lots of research

To keep us on those moors.

She has a gift, a way with words,

She makes the mundane fun,

In fact I think we all enjoy

Her facility with tongue,

We’ve shared some beds, we’ve shared much booze,

I really can’t be keener,

On the sparkling, witty kindest friend

With her wonderful demeanour

She’s marvellous, magnificent,

She’s everything we wunt

The best that any girl could be-

A complete and utter cunt.

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