Wednesday, 20 July 2016

"Red hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous"*

A few weeks ago, shortly before the fabulous and fantastic family holiday in Portugal, I received an unscheduled call from my goddaughter whose wedding we were due to attend in Guernsey in July. "Will you make a speech at my wedding please?" Which speech? Best man, groom...? But no, the speech which is usually the honour of the father of the bride in this day and age was, back in the day of our own weddings, assumed by a close friend of the family and that turned out to be me. I did stop and think about my answer over a few hours because it is a big thing to do, the potential for stuffing up fairly enormous, and, if we're honest here, aside from work-related presentations, most of my public speaking over the last 10 years has taken the form of alcohol-fuelled ramblings of an off-the-cuff nature spoken from the position of standing on a chair late in proceedings.

"Yes! It will be an honour!" Did I really say that? I need to point out at this time that my goddaughter is a redhead and as the mother of another formidable redhead, I know that a negative response is not an option. So over the next few weeks there were Skype calls, phone calls and emails to family and friends of the bride until I had amassed sufficient information to write something half decent. First draft completed but it felt clunky and distinctly unfunny.

Meanwhile there were two trips to London in a week (that's a lot for me) - firstly with number 3 to Wimbledon where we were treated to Federer and Murray and generous hospitality from the CBs, and then for a luvvielicious press night at the Royal Court for number 1's (well, strictly speaking Matt Smith's) new play, Unreachable Very funny and a good move for number 1 career-wise. Then it's on to the after-party (careful, or I shall burst into Remix to Ignition by that fine Yorkshire singer, Our Kelly) where there are so many luvvies that my beloved kept saying "It's him off..." which is how our late friend Richard Whiteley used to refer to himself. 

Back to Yorkshire and the reality of the clunky speech and time running out. Number 1, when she is not gainfully employed in the acting profession is a mean motivational speaker and was my saviour. "Help!" I said. And she did. The clunky speech was returned to me with all my bits in tact, except for references to Meat Loaf, but reordered and with a few extra jokes which totally worked. And actually the first time I read it, it was funny.

Fast-forward a mere two days and we are on Guernsey the night before the wedding and my goddaughter, the bride, makes a cracking unscripted speech at dinner which reminds me that, as probably the only person in the room who didn't go to university, I am the least qualified to face the task ahead. "The mountains that must be climbed in unsuitable shoes..."

Before we head out the following afternoon, me in my totally ridiculous hat (but I love it) I practised my speech for the 25th and last time, and for the first time in front of my beloved. "You'll have to stop for the laughs," he said. "What laughs?" I wailed, "it's not funny!"

The wedding was beautiful and one of the readings had been mine at number 1's wedding a few weeks before - surely a good omen? Back at the reception, the godfather is minding me like a stalker. He knows that if I turn and run now, he's in the frame for speechifying. Stone cold sober, unlike the audience, with just a gin and tonic stiffener 10 minutes before, and I'm up. Here we go...

They laughed - and apparently they cried too - but in a good way, if there is such a thing. Mission accomplished. The groom and best man were awesome and I did some speed-drinking on red wine and mohitos to catch up with everyone else.

Brilliant wedding, gorgeous bride, great times with good friends and now, sitting in the departure lounge at the airport, a massive sense of relief. Thank you, Guernsey! I'll be back soon (hopefully with rather less responsibility!)

*PG Wodehouse 

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