Good evening ladies and gentleman, thank-you all for visiting my blog, and I hope your perusal is a pleasant one. My name is Nev, and for the next few hundred words I shall be telling you about my weekend, plus a few additional little tales...
The above, for those who cannot tell, was written in my "public" voice. For my public voice, you must imagine the dulcet tones of a radio presenter, on the shipping forecast perhaps, or maybe a host of a civilised afternoon gameshow. It is a voice from my unconscious, entirely unintentional, and is a very recent discovery from this weekend (though the last couple of years has seen a couple of previews during on-the-spot radio vox populi on the street). The discovery that I have a hidden voice for public speaking (though perhaps, alas, not a hidden talent) came in the form a best man's speech on Saturday, during the magnificent wedding of Varwell and his new wife, Mrs Varwell.
Yes, Varwell actually went ahead and married a girl, a fact both delightful and alarming - does this girl know what she's getting herself into? And a fact also a little astonishing, certainly if I'd been told it would happen at the start of the year when Varwell was keeping the very fact he had a sweet lips a classified secret. The veil of secrecy was only lifted upon the grand announcement of a marriage, some months ago, and as part of that announcement I was given the honour of being one third of a best man.
Yes, just one third, because Varwell, quite wisely I'm sure, reckoned that myself or any other of the two best men - Green and Kitchen Mark - couldn't be trusted with a range of important duties alone, so that by sharing responsibilities we might manage to approximate a successful tour of duty. However, less wisely perhaps, given that he was fudging the issue of "best", and given that he is a committed Christian, he managed to choose possibly his three most devoutly heathen friends to perform these duties for him on this most special of days. Fortunately, his choice of a heathen trio didn't induce God's full anger, and just made Him a little peeved, and we were treated to just an afternoon and evening of steady rain, and not the furious bout of thunder and lightning and celestial roaring of "NO!!!!" we feared.
We gathered then a day before the wedding day, on Friday, in a Ballater, a small dozy town of wealthy royalists about an hour from Aberdeen. This choice wasn't arbitrary, and certainly was no statement of Scottish Nationalist Varwell's love of Our Queen of The UK, but was because it was the to-be Mrs Varwell's home up until Varwell plucked her out and demanded she live with him in Inverness. Green and I drove Varwell there before noon, so we could give the caterers a few packets of fruit juice (inexplicably this had to be done at noon precisely or else the entire wedding plan would fail). Varwell then vanished to meet his future in-laws, thus leaving me and Green at a loose end, without evening our hotel ready to accept us, so we had no choice but to start drinking.
And that pretty much was Friday. Drinking in the pub, joined at stages by an assemblage of characters, such as Kitchen Mark, the simmeringly beautiful French Claire, a curly haired chap called Keiron and... oh, God knows, I was drunk.
Hence, Saturday morning wasn't my brightest. But the wedding wasn't till 2.30pm, so I had plenty of time to freshen up, take a stroll through Ballater for some lunch, and put on my full kilt regalia, and help Kitchen Mark - a sassenach (albeit ginger) - get into one too.
And so, the wedding. Gosh, it was a religious one. I've been to a number of weddings now, and all but my uncle's and two utterly surreal Korean ones have been set in a church, but Varwell pulled out all the stops by having not one, not two, but four different ministers at his, including his own father. And he included communion as part of the ceremony - the first time I've ever witnessed communion and, goodness me, it's a slightly intimidating experience for the uninitiated. I think it was the chanting that got me (I didn't mind all the blood). But it was a well-judged ceremony, with a nice little moment of freestyling from the organist, and "Bring Me Sunshine" playing at the end as Varwell plus wife exited the church brought a light moment of laughter, especially given the dark rain that had descended on Ballater.
And then it was over to the main hall, for an evening of food, ceilidh dancing and boozing. Ah, but one small hitch – I had a speech to do much later in the evening. And so, unless I wanted to deliver some drunken ramble of a speech and almost certainly offend the 75% Christian audience with tales of fisting, Richard Dawkins and the S Club Juniors (who, incidentally, are all “legal” now; yes, Frankie too), and especially Mother Varwell who was in a perpetual flurry of anxiety that everything went well, it would be wise for me to temper my alcohol intake. And thus I did so, with a big frown on my face.
I still had some wine and champagne of course, and mingled with the masses, and enjoyed a buffet dinner. And despite the impending speech, I was feeling remarkably relaxed about my first bout of public speaking in ten years (and with earlier efforts being mortifyingly bad). Until about 15 minutes before, when suddenly my entire being went “oh crap”.
Varwell was first to speak, and produced a seemingly off-the-cuff, sincere and humorous thank-you to everyone, and especially to his new wife. He was followed by the father of the bride, who managed a few confused and unquestionably unrehearsed mumbles into the microphone before quickly proposing a toast. It wasn’t quite my turn, as because there were three best men, we had collaborated to divide the speech into three sections, all based around parts of Varwell’s anatomy which led to various anecdotes and warnings for his new wife. This included several props, including the main one, a lifesize outline of a human body, with a frightened photo of Varwell’s face for the head, and such parts as the stomach, the feet, the heart, the brain, and a discreetly placed fig leaf.
Mark began, and produced a fine display of off –the-cuff quips, especially in silencing an argumentative (and very worried) Varwell with “Is this a speech or a conversation?” Of course, earlier that day, he’d had practice in speaking to an evening larger audience, global no less, when he’d spoken live on Radio 1. He’d woken at 5am gripped by panic as he realised he’d left his sporran in his suitcase – in his flat in Aberdeen. French Claire had driven him back, and while listening to Radio 1 he’d texted them about it, and they had phoned him back asking him to speak.
Green then followed, managing impressively without any copy of the speech or even notes, and managed some terrific, if unintentional, comedy when he lost his earplugs prop in his sporran and sprayed all his money over the table trying to find it. As he often speak publically, albeit less on comedy matters and more on dry and technical specialised sciences, he was more concerned with timing than of stage-fright, but managed such lines as “Simon only has eyes for you, Nicole... well, for you, and maybe for the occasional 18-year-old... single malt,” just right to elicit a slight gasp of surprise-then-relief from the more devout element.
And then the microphone was handed over to me, and from within my radio voice took over. It’s strange how the few minutes seem to have vanished from my memory, as I can only really recall the sight of about 130 people looking at me, looking at my speech a lot, and moments of surprise when some jokes went down much better than expected. The speech ended by referring to Varwell’s “most important organ” and then a few puns as “you don’t want to balls this one up” and “you have to look after the big man”, before revealing I was referring to Varwell’s heart, and saying a few nice words about Varwell (who is a splendid fellow, truth be told), proposing a toast, and sitting down to great relief.
I proceeded to drink really quite a lot then.
The wedding got into full gear then, as the ceilidh begun and I remembered how much I enjoy being Scottish. Can there be a better way to celebrate a wedding than a ceilidh? Disco dancing is so tacky and excludes much of the crowd, but ceilidh dancing is hugely enjoyable, traditional, is so energetic it gives the satisfaction of exhaustion not unlike climbing a hill, and most importantly I get to manhandle lots of women.
Varwell and his wife had very correctly opted for a full evening of ceilidh dancing, uninterrupted by anything else except a half hour cake break. The crowd were enthusiastic dancers and the floor was always busy, and the night disappeared into a whirligig of Scottish dancing and vigorous stripping of willows.
And perhaps because of all the dancing, I woke the next morning, despite the many whiskies and wines, feeling astonishingly fine and fresh – as I enjoyed reminding a worse-for-the-wear Mark. A bunch of us ate lunch, and then it was back to Aberdeen, where life continues on as before.
There we go then. There’s other stuff I’d love to tell you, such as the stag night last week, but I’ve written quite enough. I failed to take any photos at all that night, though I’ll endeavour to find some and perhaps post a few up in a couple of years’ time. Oh, and I’m moving to Edinburgh in two weeks time. That’ll be nice.
And so we come to the end of this particular blog, but I would like to thank you all for reading this far, and I of course look forward to having you with me next time, when I expect to be reporting on the topic of a dinner party being held for my cousins.