174. April the 6th

A new moon enters the sky today, as the tax year ends.

Tomorrow I am driving to Cheltenham, to pick up Rory at the end of his fifth term at Gloucester University. It’s also Grand National day at Aintree, which has disappeared from my landscape.

Above all, it is our 34th wedding anniversary.

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Maureen and I had a bright, mild day for our nuptials, back in April 1985. Old Birmingham mates Fran and Shaun arrived at our flat in good time that morning to make sure my red tie and braces were straight. Sue and Martin turned up in their Ford Capri, and drove us to the registry office, where a limited group of friends and relatives witnessed our ceremony. John Devane and Carol were amongst the first smiling faces on display.

I can remember the moment after the knot was tied, when the kiss sealed the deal. Everything in the room faded to my new wife’s face. The promise and care that sparkled in her eyes. A divine feminine. With lips to die for. For the rest of my life, I could hug and hold this female, and hope for reciprocation. Whatever the registrar was saying sounded about right. My mum was smiling. I felt lucky, proud, and looked after.

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Next stop was Essex Cricket Club. Photographs, then a lunch laid on for the same group. Brother Neil did the best man duty. My speech was little more than a joke about seeing old faces. I was no lover of protocol, and lacked the confidence to ramble on to a crowd.

Here are the never-uttered words, taken back through time from a future of greater nerve, articulacy and perspective.

 

You all heard the vows. I will cherish and love Maureen for the rest of my days. I just will. Nothing can prevent that.

You all saw my eyes. That is how I feel.

I am still pinching myself that she has let me live with her for over two years. That I get to put my arms around her at night, and enjoy her care and comfort.

 I have to be honest and admit my worries. I fret that nobody could ever put up with me, over a lifetime, given my limited ability to follow rules, my often dysfunctional nature, and my tunnel vision. I wonder if that scary package might challenge even my new wife beyond her considerable tolerances and talents.

 From my heart, I don’t think she has to worry about me straying. She stole that heart long ago. And there is so much pleasure to be had at home. If we fall into a rut, I will try to fight the dullness, with suggestions that shock, intrigue and probably annoy her. If she can just be with me through all of my oddity and single-mindedness, my constancy is assured.

 My alcohol consumption will test her more than the chance of unfaithfulness. It has been moderate for some time now, but I do love to charge through the pint of no return, and damn the social consequences. My betting, also, will test her. It is escapist, and potentially perilous, but the cocktail of brain and viscera is something that integrates and provides meaning for me like few other things.

 Another admission: I don’t have a job at the moment. It won’t be long. Even so, I know that there will be days when pennies are in short supply. The way I am will limit my options. Being realistic, I cannot work in groups for any period of time. I am too sensitive, quickly dismissive of hierarchy and easily bored by banter, and so will have to make a living – or career, if things work out – mostly in isolation.

Maybe I can do that, but there will almost certainly be fallow times. And there will be no escape from oppressively black days when I will be at a loss as to the point of everything.

 Here is the thing about marriages though. If they are real, they will take the pressure and ride the bumps. I think ours will.

 I hope we have children. No plans, yet. There is a deep well of unused love in me, waiting for a shining bucket to lower. Always, my DNA stands firm, mission-ready. One of the few things I have any confidence about is my capacity to encourage, praise, listen and let be. Not sure that I will be any good at discipline, but will console myself at their happiness as they run wildly around Chelmsford’s streets unburdened by paternal restraint. The little devils will be bright, able to work out the key boundaries for themselves. If this goes pear-shaped, their mother will step in.  

 If they arrive, I will read to them each night. So that they get to know the beauty and power of words. And as they grow, I will make no bones about the transcendent delights of sex. It will not be talked of as some kind of sin. And the dialogue will not be one-way. Kids know things that adults have forgotten. I promise to listen out for that, if they do arrive.

 Nobody knows the future though. My only resolution as a husband is to tell Maureen as often as possible that I love her. Even on the shittiest days.  

 That’s it. Get some more of that drink down your necks. Hope you all have a cracking day. I intend to.

 

After the formal reception at lunchtime, we went back to our flat for the afternoon, with some of Maureen’s family. Then I suggested to Shaun and Fran that we go for a beer before the evening reception, and we settled down in The Bird in Hand, just down the road from the cricket club, where the evening reception was to be held. It really was meant to be one pint, but other old friends from university turned up. All of a sudden a messenger arrived to say that my wife wanted me at the reception. Yikes. Shite. I had neglected to be there on the door to greet the first few arriving visitors.

I was too happy to feel guilty, as I sprinted down the road. Maureen’s dad, Roy, advised her to be forgiving. We danced to Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’ to open proceedings. One of ‘our’ records.

Then I pranced and tripped from guest to guest, thanking them all for their attendance and beaming out smiles. A few more beers, topping up the day’s high. A slow dance or two with Maureen. Staying on a plateau of utter contentment for hours until the crowd dispersed.

The next day, when everybody had gone home, we enjoyed opening a tall pile of presents. Then we tidied up, went for a drink with Martin and Sue, and prepared for married life.

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