The air practically tasted of urgency as I ran towards the church, fearing my lateness. As it turned out, I needn't have worried - practically nobody was there yet. People were milling around, as is the way, including a lot of people I haven't seen for a while. Going in, my white suit jacket and black trousers not clashing as much as I'd feared, I took a seat next to my sister and unfolded the thin parchment which held together the order of service.
For this was no ordinary wedding. This was one that had been in the works for long enough that it should end up excruciating. This was the wedding of my friend-who-is-a-nurse, one of the friends who I've had since I was six, acting as both voice of reason and encouragement towards rebellion, sometimes both at once, which takes serious talent and large amounts of alcohol. Add that to her Maths-Teacher fiancé (now husband) - MTH - being possessed of the ability to wisecrack at an incredible speed and a strange mixed Polish/Irish heritage, and you have the recipe for a day to remember.
Or, if you prefer, lifetime.
The day in question went past in fits and starts, sometimes at breakneck speed, and sometimes so slowly that you were wondering if time had stopped altogether. The wedding ceremony was rushed through by the vicar, who forgot to turn his radio mike off, so the vows were punctuated by whispered cues and titters from those audience members with sharper ears. The reading was from Solomon's Song of Songs - always good to hear - and my hairy friend (her brother, indeed!) stood up to read his poem well, giving a sly raised eyebrow as he sat down. It lasted barely half an hour - maybe less - before we were all rushed out...
...and then suddenly everything went slowly again. This was the hustle-and-bustle picture-taking part of the ceremony, and thus I was reduced to wandering aimlessly around with an empty cup in my hand, wondering who to talk to and what about. It was only when we gathered all the Woodcrafters around and took a picture that I actually got to communicate with anyone. I also ended up in a "Friends of the Bride" picture, along with about three million others (she has a lot of friends).
Skip through the next hour or so and you find me once again moving swiftly through time, as the sit-down meal came and went with quite alarming rapidity. To my delight, my table contained Robinson and Lovely, Mane and his girlfriend, ILB, my friend-who-is-a-teacher, the young raver, scene girl, Mane's little brother and girl-I-used-to-have-a-crush-on, so jaunty conversation and building models out of Lego (yes, really) carried us through the courses with increasing speed, and even the speeches (five of them, as opposed to the customary three) seemed to flash by in a trice, before a sudden and unexpected drop right back into the doldrums for a while... brought to an end by cake.
The second half of the revelling I enjoyed even more. A ceilidh was instigated, with both organised dances (I partnered my friend-who-is-a-teacher and we were mystified by what we were meant to be doing) and wild spontaneous ones (The Wild Rover was a particular highlight). I also danced with my hairy friend's wife, who is beautiful, but also smiles incredibly widely. It was a bit like waltzing with The Joker. But pleasant, nonetheless.
But the real triumph comes at the end, as it always must. For a jukebox had been standing idly in the corner for a while, but here it came into its own. The instant the ceilidh band left the stage, people were clamouring to make their selections of things to dance to. From Sit Down to (I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles, we let our inhibitions go and our crazy dances - often led by my hairy friend, Mane and his little brother, or everyone's favourite young raver - got madder and madder to coincide with the venue's getting hotter and hotter. We danced on tables, we collided with each other, we sat down on the dance floor and performed both complicated lunges and little jerky movements. I got a round of applause for doing a 360° turn. Wannabe was, of course, a triumph.
As a taxi turned up to ferry my friend-who-is-a-nurse and MTH off to what presumably will be a life of ease and plenty in the land of milk and honey (or alternatively a honeymoon in Kenya), we poured out of the side exit to see them off. A ripple of light clapping ascended to a mass crescendo of applause as they were carried off, with us stamping our feet and roaring our approval. And we continued... long after they had disappeared into the night.
And that, my friends, is love.