Last Saturday I rose late: magnificent in my unreadiness for my oldest brother's wedding. My hair was a rat's nest, I hadn't a clue what to wear, there was no petrol in the car and no film in my camera. The geographical relationship of Cambridge to the Chiltern Hundreds needed urgent research. And then there was the question of a gift, though the wedding present was the least of my worries. My brother Justin is, after all, a man who at 37 years of age still finds it amusing to give his siblings dried sea-creature parts from a Chinese supermarket as Christmas presents. Another year it was his and hers thongs from Ann Summers. (A studded leather posing-pouch called Thor was a big hit.) Then there was the Yuletide bag of fruit which he distributed among us with a running commentary: "For you, Rowan, a cherry: in case you lost your last one." And so on. Under the circumstances, I thought some anti-freeze from the motorway service station would look very fine gift-wrapped on the bridal sideboard.
What really concerned me was my mother's likely reaction to my lateness. She had already called me four times on Friday to remind me that the wedding started at 2pm sharp. The officiating vicar had no fondness for the ancient custom by which the bride arrives late to give hangover and traffic-jam victims a sporting chance to sprint into the back pews. It was a good thing he didn't conduct my wedding, where I was knocking back a large vodka in the pub at the exact moment I should have been saying "I will". Since that day my husband has been valiantly trying to run me like Mussolini ran the trains. Last Saturday, however, he was battling a migraine and was powerless to galvanise me. The two hours we needed to make Buckinghamshire with our sanity intact dwindled to 80 minutes, and as we hurtled down the M40 the headache's throbbing presence was like an angry third passenger.
By the time we slipped inside the church the bride had already walked down the aisle twice. Her father was so anxious to appease the vicar that he set off for the altar immediately on arrival, before the organist was seated. The disgruntled cleric sent them back to the church door to do the whole thing again to music – neatly proving my lifelong conviction that running early can be every bit as disruptive as running late. We just made it in time for the bit where the vicar tempts the congregation to state reasons why the couple should not be joined together in lawful matrimony: "I object; he supports QPR, and he's the only man in Britain who thinks puns are funny. Nobody can honour that." I have never forgiven Justin for responding to a simple request to wind the car window up with, "you horrible, little window, you revolt me". On the plus side, my new sister-in-law was gaining a husband who brought a radical new perspective to a great gem of English literature: "Tyger, tyger burning bright, what cruel sod set you alight?" It really seemed best to let the marriage go ahead.
This being mid-September, with everyone back from their holidays, I imagined the same scene was being played out up and down the country – and probably a fair few christenings too. Love and Sex (or as the Church calls the latter, Procreation), providing a much-needed antidote to the menacing hum of world events. Atheists and agnostics, as much as the faithful, are relieved to park their buttocks on pews worn to a dark sheen by centuries of worshipful rear-ends and feel the emotional continuity with our forebears. Our own small congregation of siblings and parents had shuffled along to four weddings and two christenings in the past six years.
The same enduring strength of love conquering all was evoked by Tony Blair in his Washington speech on Friday. It was poetically muscular and moving. But I couldn't help thinking that a man who played in a student band in the Seventies might have done even better if he had drawn instead on the lyrics of John Martyn's "Solid Air": "I don't want to know about evil, I only want to know about love."Reuse content