GROOM’S SPEECH 28th August 2010
A Little Love Story
Adam, our mythical progenitor, was in paradise, was in the Garden of Eden, before a rib was wrenched from his body to become Eve. So too was I in paradise before Diana walked back into my life on the 4th of June.
I had flown into England from Australia at the end of April for a late spring and early summer Dorset idyll. There to stay with the most amiable of sons and his lovely and most solicitous wife, in a beautiful, rural town, in the most pleasing of light and airy houses with the best and most imaginative cuisine it has ever been my good fortune to enjoy, and in which, through the open, and almost always sunny window of my bedroom, the cuckoo’s call granted me a natural benediction of benedictions. I walked and walked, I ate and ate, I read, listened to music, conversed with my articulate, well-read, hosts, visited local beauty spots, drank Dorset beer and cider and sloughed off anxiety, work, bereavement, grief and sadness. An idyll of idylls. Paradise. Free, free from all the obligations that intimate relationships bring with them. Free to do my own thing, free to be selfish. Bliss.
Then, on the 4th of June, I drove to Dorset’s Gillingham to pick up Diana Houghton whom I had not seen for twenty six years, and who was arriving by train to stay the night and then travel with me to a St Helenian Diocesan Association meeting in Newport, Wales. My first sight of her was from the station car park, very different from twenty six years ago, her hair now startlingly white and straight, but the cock of her head as well as her smile gave her away. For the next few days conversation never faltered or flagged, we revisited our common past on the island of St Helena, we shared each other’s subsequent histories, we probed each other’s bereavement and grief, laughed a great deal, cried a little, it must be said, and revelled in each other’s company.
Early in the morning of the next day, on the way to Wales we stopped at Wells to look over that loveliest of cathedrals. It was walking up the aisle there that Diana realised something momentous was happening to her, though she did not let on. It was only after our two days together, which included a long, long walk and getting mildly lost in the beautiful Blackmore Vale, and after I had dropped her off at the station to return home to London, that I myself realised that Adam’s pre-rib-wrenched paradise, his freedom from all the obligations that intimate relationships bring with them, the freedom to be selfish, the bliss of solitariness was dust and ashes to me. I couldn’t bear her going. It was a form of bereavement again. And so this ancient, prolix, sesquipedalian, versifying, word-smith of a parson taught himself, at Diana’s insistence, a new and very necessary skill. He learned to text his love, to discipline and concentrate his sentiments and wit to the tiny screen and verbal straitjacket of a mobile phone. I assaulted the poor girl with fragments and crumbs from John Donne, the greatest of all priestly lovers, but also William Blake, Charles Causeley, Shakespeare and others. This compression, this necessary reduction of burgeoning sentiment to mere verbal morsels, this concentration and distillation of love’s language, enabled and encouraged me to deal similarly with Time.
A mere three weeks later, on a bench in the graveyard of St Cyriac’s Church in Lacock, I asked Diana to marry me. Having done so I slipped back momentarily into my old wordy self and smothered that simple question in such verbose commentary, justification and explication that poor Diana had to ask me to repeat the question to make sure that it had not been qualified into nothingness. I did so, in a mere four words and she said “Yes”. The graveyard shuddered enough to resurrect its dead and our lives too threw off the last and tattered vestiges of their shroud of past griefs and present aloneness. We each of us had someone other, someone else to focus upon and lose ourselves in.
And so here we are today, unique, almost antique newly-weds. Soon to head for the antipodes by way of Southern Africa, a part of the world full of associations and memories for both of us. On our way to the new through our past.
One of Diana’s greatest gifts is that of friendship. It was that gift that enabled and allowed
the little miracle of our marriage today. It is an all too rare gift, requiring personality, imagination, a refusal to take offence, large-heartedness, effort and selflessness. It is a gift that means that none of her friends need deem her lost. Wherever she goes, she’ll take you with her, will be in touch, will remain in your lives in many, many imaginative ways. Our home will always be yours, a part of her heart always yours. You give her away to me in order to keep her. Rejoice with me, rejoice with her and come and see us as and when you can. If you can’t we will be back. Thank you for being here today.