Surfacing slowly after a weekend of celebration, I begin this look back at our Ruby Wedding celebrations with an apology to Andrew: Sorry, Best Man - my brain doesn't function too well after a surfeit of bubbly, and I wasn't about to commit myself to the caches of the faithful without my wits!
Firstly, of course, we weren't married on the third of July all these years ago: teachers need time to recover from the end of term and we gave ourselves a week. But we celebrated in style on Saturday so that we could catch most of the friends - and all the rellies - before they disappeared on holiday/back to the World Cup final. And as I did four years ago with Ewan's wedding I feel a dramatic present narrative coming on ...
The morning is a relief. The sun is shining and though there is a brisk wind it has not assumed the ferry-inhibiting speed I had feared. Best of all, it is not raining. (In the event, it transpires that all my siblings and their spice have stayed overnight scattered around Dunoon and Cowal; the few who still have to make the journey are in fact accustomed to the ways of Clyde ferries). But I digress. An uncanny peace has descended on chez Tosh, and the bride of 40 years ago is wondering if she'll actually feel up to this in a couple of hours. (Don't ask. It was ever thus.) But somehow the glad rags are donned and a strangely well-dressed couple totter down the road to Chatters, the only venue I would trust with this occasion.
And it is lovely. No sooner are we inside than I'm sampling the Kir Royale for strength and beginning to feel more lively. We stand at the door, a couple of bouncers, ready to greet guests and repel the general public. One or two appear, then a crowd who have shared a ferry-ride, and before I know it my whole life is represented in this room: the cousins I only usually see at funerals, the friends from the pre-wedding period, the friends who constitute our present-day life-support system - and our closest families, our generation, our children, our children's children, right down to James who only arrived at the end of May. I am euphoric. I don't know that I ever really believed it would happen, and here they all are.
(The keen-eyed will note that much of this is written in the 1st person singular. 'How did Mr B survive the 40 years?' they are asking. But this is my blog - and I long ago gave up speaking for Mr B...)
We drink toasts (and simply drink), eat strawberries, enjoy marvellous food, sing (The St Maura singers, a quartet even older than our marriage), and replicate some of the photos from the wedding day (I must scan in the originals) and our childhood (Sheila's grand idea, to have a cousins' group which requires my youngest cousin to sag at the knees instead of being five years old). I make the speech convention denied me in 1970, and Mr B raises the biggest laugh of the day with his. No. 1 son improvises a welcome that would have made his grandfather proud, and No. 2 son takes a simply great set of photos. The small cousins, our grandchildren Alan and Catriona, take notice of each other for the first time in their short lives, and are soon disappearing to the garden behind the restaurant to pick up gravel and attempt communication. Tiny James sleeps and sleeps in the corner as the noise level rises and tables begin to disperse and regroup.
But two remarks really sum up what I feel about it all. One comes when Andy, John's best man, asks why we don't keep up with each other more regularly because we have such a good time when we do; the other comes later when a friend remarks 'What a lovely crowd of people!' As they all head back to ferries, hotels or - in the case of nine of them - our house - I feel a plan growing, but suppress it for now. There is a mountain of presents to open, and people are talking about cups of tea. The day has far exceeded my expectations, and I don't want it to end.
Next year in ...?