Alex James: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

My sister got married on Saturday. I guess she married "up". Her father-in-law collects paintings by Canaletto. My father collects coils of rope. Mind you, my mother did once have her bottom squeezed by Damien Hirst. Love is blind, though.

"How tall is Charlie, Deborah?" my mum asked.

"Mmm, he's six feet two, I think," she said.

"Oh, how tall are you then, Alex?"

"Yeah, I'm six feet two."

"Charlie doesn't look as tall as he is. It's because he's so broad," said my sister. She has rare visual acuity, and regularly won the pavement drawing prize at Bournemouth regatta week when we were young. We all knew then that she was destined for great things. As well as being broad for his height, I would have said Charlie's also quite short for his height. Maybe it's because he's pretty slender for someone so broad. Still, she knows him best.

They were going to get married down here on the farm, but as I suspected, it worked out cheaper to have the wedding in Sloane Square and the reception in Mayfair. There was a bishop and everything. Still miles cheaper. I liked that bishop guy. He completely understood showbusiness and set the fastest time of the day for a namedrop from a standing start. No one could compete with him. His trump card was that he actually knew God quite well, and kind of made you wish you did. He said he'd noticed people always cry more at weddings than at funerals. I had been completely overcome when my sister appeared. That's the best moment, when the sea of hats turns, smiling, to catch a glimpse of the bride.

I spent most of the service gawping at my own wife, who has been stumbling around in baggy pyjamas dealing with newborn twins for as long as I can remember. Suddenly there she was, wearing a red dress, hat and heels and immaculate in her rediscovered beauty - the very best kind. I swear she was six feet two in those shoes. It was the first time I'd heard the wedding vows since we got married. They make even more sense three years after we said them.

My dad was enjoying Claridge's. He really likes oranges. It's not something he particularly talks about, it's more something that I've noticed. It's not like he wants everyone to love oranges, but many is the time I've seen him at peace with an orange wondering what to do next with all his rope. The orange in the room was worthy of notice, though. That was a really nice orange, he said. It was so nice your mum ate half of it, and she's not keen on them.

It was an elegant reception. I know some of Charlie's friends, from the days when I knew everybody. Actually I know his very oldest friend, Gerry - a very fine chap indeed. "Did you know," said Gerry, "Mick Jagger has had sex with ten thousand women." That's one a day for thirty years. I can't help seeing that as a failure, somehow. I'd much rather be sharing oranges when I'm his age.

a.james@independent.co.uk

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