Picture it if you can…
It’s the week before our wedding. I’ve been burning the candle at all three ends (metaphysically speaking) to finish my first solo novel – a dark fantasy farrago called The Dragon in the Stone.
(Not read the story so far? Start here…)
An army of friends and relations have rallied round to offer help with practicalities. Serving food. Assisting with music. Dressing Rosemary’s hair on the day. Providing flowers for the church (and the bride, and the reception). The wine is on order, and the food is in the hands of an expert re-enactor. The church – St Bartholomew’s in East Molesey, where Rosemary’s mother also got married – is expecting us. And the venue – a church hall within walking distance of the church – is booked.
My best man – Mike Scott Rohan – is feeling poorly, though. And I’m not feeling too brilliant myself. It was the strain of meeting deadlines in the middle of a life-changing series of events that brought on my ME in the first place…
Rosemary is in Molesey, with most of her family rallying round to help with the preparations. I am in Watford…
Heading for a night on the floor, courtesy of a friendly Molesey neighbour, I drive to meet my bride-to-be and her family. And just about make it there before my ME resurfaces. And lays me out for the count…
Fortunately my mother-in-law-to-be is my greatest fan. (Even though I have a beard. And write weird, rather violent fiction. Though it helps that I’m passionately in love with her firstborn.) And so…
Morning has broken – or possibly I have…
I wake up – more or less, anyway – in a bedroom which I seem to be sharing with my bride-to-be. (A separate bed, I should add, and I am in no condition to take advantage of the situation.)
Soon afterwards I am warmly greeted by my mother-in-law-to-be, and asked what I would like for breakfast. (Sadly I can’t remember what I said – or much else about that morning.)
My condition is not good. My ME has returned in full force, and I barely have the strength to stand up.
I’m worried. Though probably not quite as worried as everyone else. At this rate they’ll have to take me to the altar in a wheelbarrow.
Enter our friend James Donnan, a fellow-lunatic from the White Company. He takes the decrepit bridegroom in hand, gets him dressed in his posh Orford gown, and gets him to the church. Even to the altar.
Picture it. I’m at the altar – more or less upright – waiting for my bride. Hoping against hope (and experience) that I can remain upright long enough to take my vows.
Motion at the back of the church. My bride has arrived, escorted by her father (who is wearing a long gown not unlike my own – and not unlike the Burgundian gown my own father has chosen for the occasion).
Entrance music courtesy of Kathleen Berg on the organ – a Kentwell friend I will get to know far better in the years to come. And Rosemary comes up the aisle at double speed. To be sure of getting there before I fall over.
And suddenly – amazingly – alchemy takes place.
I turn to look at her. See her concern – and her love. And see something like 180 friends and family – about half of them in their best re-enactment gear – all willing me to be OK.
And almost at once, I am.
I’m fine. The dizziness, the aching limbs, the fog in my brain – they’ve all gone.
Because I’m looking into the loving eyes of the person i most want to be with in all the world.
MInd you, you should see her face when we get to ‘in sickness and in health’…!
Joy is the ultimate medicine
So how does that work? How does a state of almost complete collapse disappear in a couple of minutes?
It could be, of course, that my illness was ‘all in my head’. But anyone trying that argument on me needs to explain away some very real physical symptoms. I don’t buy it.
It could be a miracle. Which would be a pleasant option, but an unlikely one. (Even for a practising Catholic taking part in a full Nuptial Mass).
Or it could, quite literally, be chemistry. (Joy and love are both pretty good at producing endorphins…)
Whatever the explanation, it happened. I made it through a ceremony that lasted an hour and three-quarters full of solemnity and fun in equal measure.
‘Now the green blade riseth’ accompanied by Rick and Helen on bagpipes and straight trumpet. Entirely appropriate because a) we were within the octave of Easter and b) the tune is a medieval carol.
The ‘old flames quartet’ (we’d both dated musicians) going great guns while we signed the register.
Our nephews Jamie and Simon coming out with a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ in a quiet moment. Because they thought there should be music all the time.
Exiting to the strains of the ‘Battle Pavane‘ (to start our married life on the right note).
And the priceless moment – as we walked in procession to the reception, led by Rick and Helen – when the driver of a car pulling out of a side road clearly thought he was seeing things.
He was. About 180 people, half of them in historic costume, coming at him down the road to the beat of a drum and the skirl of the Northumbrian bagpipes…! (Years later we actually met and spoke to him. He still remembered his moment of stunned amazement!)
An unforgettable day. For all the right reasons. But – like all weddings – merely the prelude to a new stage in our relationship.
And the life lesson?
All those people who tell you that happiness is more important than anything else… are probably right…