Monday, May 28, 2012

The Wedding

“We’ve settled on June 8th 2013,” said Ben. He paused and waited for my reaction. 

The finality of his words aroused excitement, satisfaction, relief, but also, deep down, a slight twinge of regret. This date marks the end of the first part, and the beginning of the next. The age of dependence has passed. My son is becoming a husband. 

“We’ve booked the Church near Mum’s house, with a marquee; my friend Stu is doing the music and Izzy will be flower girl”. It all sounded so grownup and organised. So very unlike Ben. 

His life started in a panic, and he’s managed to live in a state of frenzied confusion ever since. He was almost born in our old Volkswagen camper van because his mother and I were late leaving for the hospital – we hadn’t reckoned that London’s roads would be gridlocked because of the royal fireworks event for Charles and Diana’s wedding, so we drove on the pavement hoping a policeman might arrest us and give us an escort through the traffic. My wife’s waters broke on Hammersmith roundabout. 

We finally made the hospital and Ben’s head popped out just as the first firework exploded. Since then, Ben has managed to learn from his parents and be stylishly late for everything in life. 

 I nicknamed him Tig because that was his first decipherable sound as he crawled round our sitting room in Putney. I still call him that, just as everyone still uses the name that Ben called his baby sister – he couldn’t quite say Rebecca, so she has lived happily with Rocca ever since. Ben transforms everything he touches. 

He is loving, handsome, adorable, with more creativity and talent in his little finger than I have in my entire body. I cried when I saw him win the backstroke title in the primary schools’ swimming gala; I cried when he appeared in his first school play; and I cried again last year when I saw his first television credit, as the director of Casualty. 

Far too clever to bother with good exam results, he had a deliciously rebellious streak, which marked him out at boarding school. In his first term he broke the house record for flooding his dormitory bathroom – the water reached ten inches before streaming down the walls of the room below, narrowly missing a priceless Gainsborough. He caused a sensation by going out with a sixth-former when he was just 13 and later dated a Prussian princess. I frequently had to send compensation to disgruntled taxi-drivers for cleaning up their upholstery after his illegal nights in local pubs. The school was unamused: I spoke sternly, but quietly rejoiced at his independent spirit. 

My only really painful memory was seeing him wheeled out of the operating theatre in Barcelona where they’d patched him together with metal bars after his road accident – never, ever, let your children ride motor bikes, however much they plead. 

For years I’d been pushing him to propose to Natalie. They first dated and then lived together in a tiny flat in Barcelona; then they painfully split up, before easing themselves back into each other’s lives. Now they’re taking the plunge into the warm comforting waters of matrimony.

So on Saturday Jo and I drove to Edinburgh to meet the in-laws. Nat’s mother is German and her father is something big in the US military. They sounded formidable, but in reality are as delightful as their daughter. Beautiful, witty and clever (she is a media lawyer), Natalie has thankfully inherited her parents’ organisational skills. A perfect foil for the Gutteridge chaos.

“You’re early”, exclaimed Ben, when he arrived half an hour after us. 

“You’re late,” I said. 

“No I’m not, I told you the wrong time on purpose,” he said, then confided: “It was Natalie’s idea – she does it to me all the time”. 

“That’s why I was so early,” I said, pointing at Jo, “She told me the wrong time too.” 

The two girls winked at each other, then huddled in the corner to discuss wedding dresses.  Order, thy name is Woman.

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