Not long now
How many people came to your wedding? 100? 200? 300? Seven? As a rule of thumb, younger couples have bigger guest lists. Work, family, friends, friends of friends, mates from childhood. Fresh-faced men and women who are an item tend to have the resources of school/university to bolster their congregation.
We have jettisoned most of these people.
Age and life experience teaches us this; to value the people who value you back. A maxim that applies equally to friends as it does family. Half of my relations aren’t invited and two of Sarah’s three brothers didn’t make the list.
One of the brothers rang to say that he was dreadfully sorry but he couldn’t attend as it was his silver wedding anniversary this weekend, even though he was married in 1990, twenty four years ago. When Sarah pointed this anomaly out, he still maintained what was not so, was. Some people are strange.
As it is twenty years almost to the day since my last wedding, it got me to thinking who is coming tomorrow who attended the last splicing?
Apart from my Mum and my sister, the only other person who made it is Greg, my best man. Everyone else has fallen by the wayside. Happily, those erstwhile contacts have been replaced by people who are delighted to attend and are not turning up under sufferance. One older guest remarked that it was nice for once to go to a formal ceremony where everyone wasn’t staring at a wooden box.
As I age, people are becoming more important to me. But the ones who are important are fewer than before.
I know a number of couples who have no children and because of their ages are unlikely to ever have any.
These three couples all have one thing in common- they have many friends. Friends form the basis of their social life and occupy much of their non-working lives. I suppose it’s their own version of family. But here is the question, if that is their version of a family unit – which unit is the stronger ? Which unit is more loyal?
I hope it all goes ok, I hope nobody faints, nobody dies and there isn’t a fight.
In any case, tomorrow it is the Malmaison hotel in Liverpool, where “the judge will put it all to rest.”
In 1979 I was a thirteen year year old kid with one friend and plenty of enemies. I spent my nights doing my homework or cutting out articles from the Guardian and sticking them in scrap books (yes, really). I could tell you who was in the cabinet, name the last ten prime ministers, I could talk you through the history of the Second World War, and have a good stab at the First.
In the world of sport I could name you the scores of every post war cup final, and who scored, and who the managers were. Now, was this because I was a complete anorak? (Very probably) or was it to do with the fact that, during that particular decade, there was absolutely nothing else to do? Yes, you could play out in the summer, but what about the winter? I lived on a long country road with no other kids living anywhere near. In January the early dark descended around our house like a straight jacket, barring any hope of escape. With only three channels on the telly (yes, three) when my Dad moaned that there was nothing on the box, there really was nothing on the box.
So studying the battle of the Bulge (that’s a skirmish from WWII, not a diet programme), really was as exciting it got.
So that was my life in 1979. Girls? What about girls? Well yes, exactly what about them?Girls to me were a terrifying species best ignored. The thought of talking to one, never mind chatting one up, filed me with a gut wrenching dread.
Standing on the terraces watching the game versus Ipswich Town at Anfield in 1979, I remember my mind wandering to what I would be doing that night. I imagined a call from a make believe gang of pals, insisting that I walk over to one of their houses to play twister and drink blue pop.
I imagined laughing and joking with a mix of cool guys and pretty girls, blowing cigarette smoke at each other and snogging some gorgeous bint on the back step.
None of that ever happened of course. I would just sit in my room watching Sargent Bilko on a snowy black and white remote and then nodding off at midnight. If I could just talk to a girl, or even better, if a girl could talk to me…
The Ref blew for the end of the Ipswich Liverpool match and me and Dad filed out. It was then that a tall girl with patchwork bel bottom jeans and a crazy frizzy mass of brown hair pushed past. She was giggling with her mate and chewing gum.
I noticed her cute smile and chocolate button eyes as she looked past me, searching for some unknown friend.
Now, why couldn’t I be friends with a girl like that…..
Liverpool City centre pops up in more movies than you think, usually impersonating downtown Manhattan or the Chicago of the thirties. And if a director ever needed a stand-in Brooklyn bar , they would do worse than plump for Bacaro on Castle Street.
The name Bacaro comes from the bars dotted around the back streets of Venice, but the owners look like they had the bars of little Italy in New York in mind when they designed the fit out. More laid back than it's flashy neighbour - San Carlos, the loose informal atmosphere and the open plan design attracts the student/ young professional crowd.
Being neither young, students or professional, we were nevertheless invited to choose one of the tables for two, all spaced cosily together along a red buttoned leather bench under a strip of tall window. The urban transatlantic feel was enhanced by our waiter (actually Brendan hailed from Canada but his father was American so he half counted) and the rattle of cocktail shakers from behind the well stocked bar.
We consulted our place mats that doubled as menus. Brendan helped us choose from the little plates, the small portions of Italian Tapas. Commencing with spicy sausage pizza (tangy and satisfying) together with excellent minty spinach mash on mozzarella, his recommendations were spot on and reassuringly not the most expensive on the menu. Shortly, Brendan returned to gently and informatively upsell us some more little plates. We plumped for the avocado salad, ( fresh and perfectly ripened) together with the smoked vodka salmon and grapefruit.
The delicate fish held its own as the tartness of the fruit battled it out with the chilli, the dish was beautifully presented and as fresh as the dockside. Helpful to the last, Brendan presented us with some gratis courgette fries that had been ordered by mistake. But after sampling a few I didn't feel the need to thank him for his gift (they're best avoided).
Pudding was a passion fruit cheese cake, the traditional biscuity base replaced by rolling the dessert in a crunchy digestive. Very delicious and the passion fruit gel accompaniment a lovely sharp surprise. Sarah had one glass of the passable house white, but I avoided the grape due to the agonies of a post stag hangover.
The restaurant began to increase in volume and as the stools at the cocktail bar filled up, it was time to make an exit but not before Brendan presented us each with his farewell present, a lemon vodka digestive. Bacaro opened earlier this year but already has a loyal discerning clientele and at thirty eight pounds plus service, offered excellent value and comes thoroughly recommended.
I grew up in the seventies when watching rain trickle down your bedroom window was considered a hobby.
My high school was not so much a seat of learning more an obstacle course of physical and emotional pain – a nightmare of a place where the strongest survived and the weak went under. Think Lord Of The Flies meets Please Sir.
A few years ago a TV documentary sat a modern day Premiership referee in front of a video of the 1971 FA Cup Final replay between Leeds and Chelsea. The game is remembered as a particularly vicious encounter with tibia snapping tackles and violent stud-first kicks. As he observed the recording, the referee shook his head, producing card after card, confirming the view that if the contest were played today it would be reduced to a five a side kick about. Schools, football, the work place, everything in the seventies was colder, harsher, duller and if a video existed of a typical day at my school c1979, any Ofsted inspector, instead of brandishing red and yellow cards, would be writing the following in his notes; exclusion, expulsion, child psychologist, ambulance, NSPCC, police, riot squad, investigative journalist.
Once I was cheeky to teacher called Mr Clough in his history lesson. He hit me so hard with the palm of his hand that I flew across the prefabricated classroom and knocked myself out on the wall heater. I went home to tell my Mum and she told me off for giving cheek.
If that happened today Mr Clough would be arrested, jailed and be on the local news. In 1978 – a fortnight after sending me flying – he was made head of year – go figure.*
What has all this to do with our romantic story I hear you sigh? It is this – Sarah, the future object of my desire, was going through something very similar at an all girl’s school so violent and abusive it made my own comprehensive seem like a Buddhist monastery.
We grew up twelve miles away from each other. She was in a city, I was in a town, but because we shared the same values, mores and attitudes when we met many years later, we had a similar backstory and communal points of reference that we could recall and intertwine. Remember when this used to happen, remember when you could do this ?
By rifling through our common back catalogue of lower middle class life in Seventies Lancashire we could spot-welded moments in time that we both remembered from different perspectives.
When I was a teenager my Dad would take me every Saturday to go and see either Liverpool or Everton play. He had no great affinity with either team he just enjoyed the football.
Squeezing into Anfield was always a chore. I remember me and my bedraggled Father staggering out of the Kop after a game. He used to pull his squashed Trilby out from his coat pocket and jam it back on his head. Once he attempted to wear it during a particularly tense encounter against Leeds Utd. If he got told to take his fuckin’ hat off once he got told a million times. We had not so much been to a football match as tossed about on a high sea of Liverpudlians. Weathering the storm of twenty thousand crazy scousers was very often a harder battle than the scrap going on down on the pitch.
Everton on the other hand was a breeze to enter; you could stroll up just before kick off and have your choice of seats in the half empty stands.
When we watched Liverpool, if we could get in Dad preferred the Anfield Road (the terrace at the opposite end of the ground to the Kop) because it tended to be calmer than the rest of the standing areas.
There was one game (a 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town in 1979) that sticks in my memory, not for the game, rather for who I saw….
* a line from my favourite film
I’ve been reading some wedding posts on some wedding forums detailing the fraught relationships that some Brides have with their female friends and family.
Arguments between sisters, mothers, mother-in-laws, sister in laws, best friends, bridesmaids, and many others.
Reading these posts set me to wonder why women’s relationships are so different than those between men?
I’ve just read this from a psychologist website , admittedly this is about younger women but it seems to me that this is relevant to women of any age.
“Conflict in girls’ groups can also go unnoticed because it is usually indirect: the competition is for the more nebulous good of popularity (not, as in boys’ games who can throw furthest, who’s the strongest); but who is best liked, who’s most likeable, or popular, or who is closer to the girl whom everyone likes. The chief commodity in the girls’ community is intimacy. Girls monitor their friendships for subtle shifts in alliances, and they seek to be friends with popular girls. Popularity is a kind of status, but it also brings problems. Popular girls were often disliked because they can be envied, they can be the target of gossip, and they can be considered stuck up. Because the most important thing in girls’ friendship is intimacy, they cannot have masses of friends, and so a popular girl, who attracts lots of other girls, must reject some of those girls in order to preserve the intimacy in the relationships she has. This makes her seem to others stuck up.”
The article went on to say that boys play is fifty percent physical whilst girls play is only one percent physical.
Hierarchies within groups of boys tend to be clearly defined, whilst girl’s friendships are more subtle and built on shifting sands.
I have a great friend who I am always having the banter with. Some of the things we say to each other are quite outrageous but there is always a clear boundary over which we don’t step. We have argued but it’s never led to a fall out, in fact we argue all the time but it’s always forgotten the next day. Grudges are not allowed. I think the underlying reason is that there is a bond between men that is just not there between women.
Or am I being unfair?
And the competitiveness between women is different. Someone who is going to our wedding is also going to another wedding the week after. Sarah said that if this person returned from the other do waxing lyrical about what a fantastic day it was it would kill Sarah. She asked me what I would think if this other wedding was better than ours?
I searched my soul and thought long and hard and realised that I really wouldn’t give a monkeys.
Once I ran a half marathon and a pal beat me by five minutes and I was gutted. But fall out with him? There would be no reason to. Maybe that’s the difference between men and women – what we compete over, what we care about .