Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Beginning for an Old Dog

There’s nothing more satisfying than watching an old dog performing a new trick. As the cheers rang out with the bells of St Boniface’s Church on Saturday afternoon, Craster the border terrier, proudly sporting a new purple collar
and lead, led his smiling owner down the aisle. The bride was radiant, young and beautiful, and next to her, with page-dog lead in one hand and wife held just as tightly in the other, was, of all people, Keith.

Those of us on the right hand side of the aisle could hardly believe what we were witnessing.
At the overripe age of 55 Keith Hann, the grey-haired bachelor whom I first knew at school and now is a fellow newspaper columnist, had finally got himself hitched.

Poor Keith, holed up with Craster in his isolated cottage in the back of beyond – no, beyond even the beyond, almost in Scotland and ten miles from the nearest paper shop – for years well-meaning friends had made vain attempts to pair him off. There was no easier way to liven up a dinner party than to persuade Keith to recount stories of his failed love life. There were hysterical tales of blind dates with utterly inappropriate women, most of whom appeared to have turned into stalkers, nutters or lesbians the moment he met them. He’d been engaged several times, an
d it’s said that three expensive Tiffany engagement rings lay in his bottom drawer. Jo and I had resigned ourselves to having him on our Christmas Day waifs and strays list forever.

Then, out of the blue, came Maral. I actually thought she was a man at first; or possibly an anagram. For me Maral spelled Alarm, as Keith excitedly showed me her email. Apparently his amusing blog had generated some single female fans in Chester and one of them, Claire I believe she was called, asked a friend called Maral to write to him on her behalf.

Or that’s what the email said. But it was so witty that I’m ashamed to say (ladies, I apologise) it sounded as though it was a jolly jape written by a male friend. Her style of writing reminded me of Keith’s own humour, so I said that if Maral existed, and was vaguely female, he should try asking her out, and ignore the unfortunate Claire. Keith eventually telephoned, then met Maral, and the rest is history; or, rather, the future, as it now includes a bump called Charlie who is due this July 4th.

It was an appropriately eccentric service on Saturday conducted by a quirky vicar who called
himself Rick the Vic. The congregation sat bemused as, like a stuck record, Vic repeated three times the formal question about whether Maral would take Keith as her lawful wedded husband.

“Are you sure?”, he kept saying, while Keith’s friends were hissing “Get on with it, man”, lest the groom had a change of heart. Some had delayed buying their wedding presents in case he failed to show, and Maral told me she was quite expecting to have to tell the wedding car to drive round the block a few times if he got cold feet.

In fact, it transpired that Rick the Vic was following the Iranian custom of asking the bride three times if she wanted to proceed. For Maral is Iranian, or as one lady whispered to me in Church, “Did you know, she is a loose Muslim?” I think she meant lapsed.

If opposites attract, this couple must be fused together. Maral: young, attractive, sociable, Muslim; Keith: Thatcherite, curmudgeonly, the world’s grumpiest old man. Yet they found they possessed the most powerful aphrodisiac: a shared sense of humour. Keith said in his wedding speech that since he met Maral, he has never laughed so much in his life. It shows.

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