This wedding of my daughter Caroline to Dan took us down to the Kent coast last week-end. It was second time for both of them but the 40-somethings had organised it all just as if they were star-struck teenagers. Caroline - as befits her parentage - is an organiser and innovator par excellence and we all had a really wonderful time at a very impressive service.
In the pre-match programme we were advised that it would be a Humanist Ceremony. This threw me a bit as the Humanist concept suggested cardboard coffins and earth closets. Not at all the sort of thing my luxury loving offspring would support at all. There did not seem much guidance in my Dummies Guide to World Religions so I consulted my religious guru. His explanation reassured me - thanks Robin - and I had the best suit pressed rather than having a fresh non-leather sole applied to the sandals and new orange dye for the Buddhist gown.
Both had worked at the ceremony and it reflected their attitudes to life in general as much as to each other. This may be why I felt it to be more convincing than a "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here...." plighting of troths. We - the onlookers - were invited to join in at various stages; I had to restrict my urge to shout Alleluia and wave my hands in the air a couple of times. About half an hour so - just the right length.
Then champers on the lawn whilst the photographers - amateur and professional - did their thing. There again, the individuality of what we were doing shone through as Caroline had 'persuaded' a friend - a professional who normally avoids wedding work - to catch important and charming moments.
We then boarded a old Route Master bus and off to the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway. A narrow gauge effort that took us to the breakfast at the end of the line. I think we must have done two full circuits of Hythe giving pedestrians full benefit of the sing along a'iPod choir - mainly 70s hits given the age of the majority of the guests.
We had a superb day and the journey through the countryside was really beautiful. Breakfast over it was time for speeches and here again the routine had been pushed aside. We had a speech from the daughter of the groom, my effort and then a closing effort from his nine year old son Tom which gave the lie to all those claims that children of today cannot read. And not just read - spoken with expression and understanding. We then had a musical soiree with a group led by new husband Dan who, I understand, taught himself to play the guitar just so he could play at his wedding. The commitment showed. Then back on the train and a run through the night back to Hythe and dispersal.
There was another dimension to our trip. It must be all of eight years since I have driven down from the top of England to the lower reaches and then around what must be a fairly typical English town. There is absolutely now way I can see myself moving out of Scotland. There is a frenetic air almost everywhere; an ants nest recently disturbed was a good description. All seemingly aimless and with no common purpose. The majority of buildings were unkempt, hedges not trimmed and gardens overgrown - nothing to extremes but none of the pride and the wish to conform I see locally North of the Borders. Far too much graffiti and stained road signs in need of a wash. The traffic was of the style that seemed always on the edge of Road Rage. I cannot recall a single smile or nod of the head from anyone - a feature that struck us here from the moment we arrived.
No England - you had your chance to shine but you blew it.