It was the usual Catholic wedding, went on a bit too long and there was a lot of hymn singing, or miming in my case. At one point the sun had come down through the stained glass windows, bathing Bernie’s white dress in a rainbow of colours, she looked gorgeous. A number of ‘oohs’ ands ‘aahhs’ rang out around the church, the more religious among the congregation assuming that God himself had decided to shine down upon us and bless the wedding. Bumper thankfully went for a morning suit rather than his usual banana one.
I approached Elvis as the photos were being taken outside. We avoided discussing our meeting in the Ivy and we were, after the stag night, back on good terms. The weather had been kind it was a gloriously sunny day.
Bumper’s granddad was pointing at the bride. He was in his late seventies now and the years had begun to take their toll. He was wearing an old brown suit jacket, the sleeves worn away at the elbows, a pair of black trousers, shirt and tie and a maroon v-neck jumper that was on inside out. He topped the outfit off with a flat cap.
“That’s Bernadette, the girl I’ve just married,” Bumper tried to explain.
“And who are you?”
“I’m Barry, your grandson.” Bumper raised his eyebrows and headed towards us.
“Right, I see, ” said his granddad, nodding as he walked away as if it was all beginning to make sense.
“He’s going senile. Not a great deal we can do about it. Thanks for coming Pete, I really appreciate it.”
“Thanks for inviting me.” The sentiment was genuine. I was really pleased to be here.
“You know where the hotel is don’t you?”
“Yeah. I’ll see you there.” Elvis and Marie had already arranged transport.
We had been lucky enough to be sat on the table next to Bumper’s Gran and Grandad. She was a sprightly woman in her seventies with bright pink hair. She appeared to have all of her faculties intact so she must have had the patience of a saint to put up with all of his eccentricities. I suppose that’s what comes with fifty years of marriage.
“I’m not having bloody turnip in my fruit salad,” Bumper’s Grandad shouted loud enough for everyone’s heads to turn. The waitress tried to explain that it was in fact paw paw not turnip but it was all to no avail.
“I don’t care what fancy name you give it pet, I’m not having turnip in my starter. I wouldn’t expect Yorkshire puddings in a fruit cocktail so I wouldn’t expect to see turnip either.”
“Don’t worry love, I’ll take care of him.”
Bumper’s Gran reassured the waitress as she removed the paw paw from the glass. Elvis and I were trying to stifle our laughs when Marie kicked him under the table.
“You’ll be like that one day so don’t think I’ll be looking after you when you lose your marbles.”
Bumper was also having problems with his fruit cocktail.
“I’m not eating that.”
“What’s wrong with it?” asked Bernie.
“It’s got bloody pineapple in it.”
“Of course it’s got pineapple in it. It’s a fruit cocktail.”
“I hate the stuff. I won’t even have it on the stall.”
“You mean you have a fruit stall and you don’t sell pineapples?” Bumper’s new bride was amazed.
“It’s the Devil’s invention. On the same day that God was inventing Jaffa Cakes Lucifer invented pineapples.”
“Ok, I’ll take them out for you. Stop making a scene.”
“I’m not eating anything that’s come in contact with it. They’ll be contaminated.”
“Don’t push your luck.”
Even Marie had to laugh when the main meal arrived. It was a standard roast beef dinner, with turnip, and Bumper’s granddad chose not to argue about the choice of vegetable this time. Having lived through the war and rationing, old habits died hard. He took a generous slice of roast beef and placed it in a serviette. While he thought nobody was looking he took the meat and placed it under his cap for later.
“It’ll do for sandwiches,” he told his wife in a conspiring whisper.
She nodded her head in full agreement; maybe her faculties weren’t as intact as we thought. We howled with laughter at the spectacle, him blissfully unaware at why we were laughing.
“I plan to do something with my life,” continued Claire, “get a decent job away from here. I might even become famous, who knows? I don’t mean become a model or an actress or anything like that. I want to use my brains, really make something of myself,” Claire waved away the smoke from Sara’s cigarette.
“I don’t want to sound big headed but I know I’m good looking, the amount of lads following me about tells me that but I’ve also got the brains to get me where I want and I don’t care what I use to get there.”
“Shut up will you,” Sara broke Claire from her daydream. “Let’s get back before somebody misses us.”
Bumper had wanted Elvis to be his best man but family politics dictated that it was to be his brother Damien who had the honour. Damien was five years younger than Bumper and was commonly acknowledged as the black sheep of the family. His mother had hoped that the responsibility of the speech would make him behave for the duration of the wedding. She was wrong. Nervous at the prospect of standing up in front of scores of people he either didn’t know or didn’t like held no appeal for him at all.
“That Bumper’s brother?” I asked Elvis as we returned from the toilet. I’d noticed him earlier when he was stood round the side of the church attempting to avoid the photographer. He was taking big swigs from the hip flask he had stored in his morning suit.
“He’s going to be a mess before he does his speech, ” replied Elvis. “He was drinking like that before the wedding. Fancy running a sweep on how many people he insults?”
We headed back to the table.
“First of all I’d like to say what an honour it is to be best man today for my older brother Barry,” everybody let out a sigh of relief. Whilst Damien was swaying he was at least coherent. “At least that’s what my Mam says. I was quite happy to sit in the corner and get pissed. Anyway the sooner I get started the sooner I finish so here goes. I’ll get the formalities out of the way so could you all raise your glasses and toast the barmaids for the wonderful job they are doing today?”
“The bridesmaids you idiot,” Bumper hissed.
“Yeah, them as well. Thanks to the bridesmaids even if some of the larger ones did take up more space on the photos than they should have done. The photographer needed his wide angled lens at one point.”
“Oh Christ,” Bumper put his head in his hands.
“I’ve always known our Barry had an eye for the ladies,” Damien rested his hand on the shoulder of the bride’s father, more to steady himself than anything else. Bumper wondered where this was going, “ever since I caught him wanking over a copy of Razzle when he was fourteen.”
There were a few sniggers from the back, some of the older aunts gasped in horror and Bumper just glared. I was quite enjoying myself.
“I’m glad to see that he has moved on from magazines and has actually got the real thing, not that I’m saying she’s been a model in Razzle or anything.” Bumper was wondering how he could stop the speech while he still had a little bit of respect left. “In fact I’ve always quite fancied Bernie myself.”
Bernie’s sister, Colleen, started laughing and pointing at Damien. The other bridesmaids started giggling as well. Damien continued until the whole of the front row was laughing. He thought it was his speech at first until he looked down. There was a black patch slowly spreading across the crotch of his morning suit. The speech finished abruptly and he plonked himself down in his seat hurriedly.
“Looks like you’ve sprung a leak there Damien,” shouted Colleen.
He blushed as he tried to dry his pants with the tablecloth, leaving a pale yellow stain.
It had been a great day and I was really enjoying myself. It was a shame I was going to have to ruin Bumper’s honeymoon by telling him the plan.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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