Ffion and her lovesick barnacle

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The Independent Online
It worked out just fine. William Jefferson Hague did take Ffion Llywelyn Jenkins to be his lawful First Lady of Opposition yesterday at 2pm in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster. Confronted with the taxing enquiry, "Yr wyfi i, William Hague, yn dy gymryd di, Ffion, yn wraig i mi?" he tactfully replied, "Gwnaf", or "I do".

The bride was Welsh. The service was in English and Welsh. The food at the pounds 13,000 reception in the Speaker's House was Welsh smoked salmon and Welsh saddle of lamb, with perhaps surprisingly, no leeks. The wine was thankfully not Welsh (Sancerre and a rather declasse Rioja), but some of the prayers and hymns were, along with a Vaughan Williams psalm.

To the small crowd outside St Stephen's Gate, it seemed a very foreign ritual. Press photographers wobbled on ladders while TV cameramen ate corned beef sandwiches. "Why are they getting married in the middle of winter at his place of work?" demanded an American lady. "That's not very romantic."

Tourists and local office workers made up the bulk of passers-by. Guests arriving by taxi hurried past the press. Leon Brittan posed grandly with friends, as the snappers tried out their motor-drives. After queuing for half an hour, the Swedes had still no clue what was going on. "Who is coming here, please?" one finally said. Why, the head of the Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I said, who is shortly to marry his sweetheart, Ff-". "Do you know", asked the nearest Swede dismissively, "if there's a good bar near here?"

Then, at 3.08, the couple appeared, walking with becoming stateliness down the ancient stairway. Then you realised the reason for their slow progress was the tightness of the bride's dress. It clung to her like a lovesick barnacle. It was a dream of ivory silk crepe, scalloped at the neck, cinched at the waist, fishtailed at the bottom and cloaked at the shoulder. The former Ms Jenkins, hitherto a vapidly pretty researcher in civil service threads, was suddenly a businesslike goddess, holding a bouquet of lilies like an arsenal of Indian clubs.

Mr Hague sported a dashing waistcoat, a shining dome and a huge smile, as well he might. His minder, Alan Duncan, directed the press photographers to take the couple's best side. The snappers in turn directed Mr Hague: "How about a kiss?" He happily complied, several times. Mr Hague may not be a screen god, but he is an enthusiastic snogger. The fourth time he clamped his lips on Ffion's, he seized her right arm and tensed it, in an unmistakably erectile gesture. The cameras went into a frenzy. Better-placed tourists had cameras thrust into their hands by the view- obscured, to immortalise the moment.

A final wave. They turned to go back in, and we gazed at the line of tiny buttons that marched down the spine of Ffion's dress. It was a wonderful retreating view. Into a few dozen male heads popped the image of Marilyn Monroe's dress in Some Like it Hot. It seemed appropriate: Egghead Weds Hourglass (Mark II).

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