That’s me. In a weekend packed with potential disasters which included Auto-Mugging on London’s mean streets, surviving Harrod’s toy floor without having to eat the credit card, managing some sleep while ensconced in the same room as two excited children, and remaining sober for absolutely bloody hours whilst others were nose down in the lager trough, I serenely* triumphed over serial adversity with only hints of sulky tantrum.
Talking of the speech as I did for quite a long time, my suit was noticeably un-fruited, my trousers entirely failed to explode, and the guests were kind enough to laugh. Sometimes even out loud. It was a strange experience in many ways; sobriety comes hard to me especially in the face of a free bar – so after my new Sis-in-Law refused all our pleadings, she and my bro were finally hitched and we decamped to a rather lovely Victorian pub full of the desperate-to-have-a-drink.
Here are some of the things I learned during a couple of displacement activity hours; the City of London is a lifeless void at the weekend – shops don’t open, restaurants remain resolutely bolted shut, pubs franchise their entire buildings for the event-only trade, and you cannot buy a box of matches to re-enact the Great Fire or light a cheeky cig. With nothing for tourists and a workforce that is entirely suburban, this square mile is tumble-weed post-apocalypse empty.
My surreal wanderings were interrupted by some random flash of illogic bringing forth the speeches some two hours early. This was good because it mitigated the real possibility of me eating an entire packet of Marlboro Light, but was equally bad as most of the guests still retained the power of speech and thought, somewhat working against my cunning plan to make them laugh. I bet their aim was still pretty damn good as well.
The stage was set if not very big. We ousted the band (their soundcheck having rendered most of us ear bleedingly deaf), nicked the radio mike and looked out on a sea of about a million people shoaled around the oval bar. A place I’d very much like to be in, or – preferably – upside down under. Worse still, my straight laced middle bro was both way funnier than I expected and entirely spontaneous. This from a bloke who carries out risk assessments before tackling a difficult set of stairs. The bride’s father was – well – American but none the worse for it, except when his ramblings nearly had me grabbing the mike and demanding to be put out of my misery.
Before we go on, it’s important (well to me anyway) to understand this is not me making a drama out of something that isn’t a crisis. I know – as many of you do – that I am a terrible show off, ego writing cheques my body can’t cash, terribly economical with the truth and never happier than when the attention is entirely centered on my verbal diarrhoea. But the terms of reference are different, those are my terms and my rules of engagement. Standing up in front of a 130+ people – most of which you don’t know – and having to be funny, that’s something entirely more scary.
And it was. I learned some more things; clever sentence construction translates poorly to the spoken word. Jokes that read well present something a little more ambiguous when blurted out at high speed, crafted stories hard learned by rote sound dry and forced, pauses are good, ah-doc works better, half as much would have been twice as funny. My desperate last minute edit made the whole thing a bit less baggy, so after twelve minutes – of which I LOVED the last five when I dumped the text and switched to something a bit less formulaic – I also found that people are incredibly generous, easy to please and happy not to have been bored.
And afterwards – with a welcome beer now in hand – I thought I had made too much of the whole thing. But I’m not sure; not because it actually mattered that much to me, but because it was my Bro’s wedding, and he’d rather stupidly entrusted me to humiliate him, and I didn’t want to fuck it up. Which is why I cut it, took out the edgy stuff, lost the best jokes but kept the happy vibe of the day. It felt like a mature response to something, and that’s not really my normal mode of operation.**
To that end; I played more with my kids than I did drink with some old friends. I left my extended family to get on with it because I wanted to spend time with my own. I turned down God knows how many beers and left sober enough to walk back to the Hotel. Where I grabbed a shower and much needed cup of tea. You always worry about getting old, but the bugger just sneaks in while you’re busy trying to be different.
Walking the mutt last night, I was struck my how little London appeals to me. Having done some tourist stuff with the family, it’s all fine and occasionally amazing but it ain’t for me. Place is full of nutters I told the kids on the way in, and nothing in the last 48 hours convinced me otherwise. Good to see the bro married off to a lovely girl, shame they couldn’t have done it somewhere less concrete-y or full of arseholes.
The last thing I learned was the worrying fact that almost all of my living relatives read this blog. Some of them find it amusing, many doubt it’s accuracy and most find the swearing a little reprehensible. I promised I’d try not to write “fuck” quite as often. Don’t send me back to London tho, or all bets are off.
* Thanks to some a reprehensible backslide into a single packet of lung unfriendly pharmaceuticals.
** Not sure I should have bothered, because his brave – if rather foolhardy – jamming with the band provided more humiliation that I could ever dole out. He did play most of the right chords, just not at the right speed. Or in the right order. Fair play tho, cahoonies the size of coconuts.