Proverbial defiance

Or at least ignoring the advice implicit in Proverbs 26:11 and man’s best friend returning to the scene of an earlier gastric infelicity.

Over this past long weekend, I have been in Edinburgh to attend a wedding (not my own I should stress, before any of you let your well-funded imaginations to run away with you).  I did have a small role as one of the team of best men – mostly as the “responsible adult” with special responsibility for keeping the groom out of a Turkish greasy spoon on the morning before the ceremony.

I have not been to a huge number of weddings in my life (I will leave readers to theorise as to why) but the ones I have attended have been especially good – and this one was no exception.  The service was lovely, and I even enjoyed the religious component despite my continuing faith shortage.  The service and wedding breakfast (but timed as a late lunch) were held at Prestonfield House which is a beautiful venue (it would be my top choice, were I to marry in Edinburgh) with seriously good food and drink (the shots of strawberry juice, champagne and pink peppercorns were to die for, and possible, of).  It also provides (noisy) peacocks to chase which kept the younger visitors entertained during the photographs – I must admit I seemed to be in rather more of the photographs than I had expected or would consider entirely wise.

I couldn’t concentrate 100% on the breakfast as one of my duties as 20% of a best man was to give a speech about the groom.  Whilst I speak in public quite frequently, this is normally work-related and includes the psychological prop of a Powerpoint presentation – and so I did find this unexpectedly daunting.  Of the 52 attendees, I only knew 8 at the start of the weekend and only 12 by the time of my speech – so it was tricky deciding on how to pitch my talk.  It is also worth mentioning that I had consumed significantly more alcohol prior to my speechifying than would normally be the case when I am working for “the man”.

It is now time to release the unbearable tension I have built up and let you know that the speech was very well received.  Embarrassingly well received, in fact – I think that the alcohol consumed by the audience ay well have helped.  People laughed at the jokes (though Charles II remained stony-faced throughout), even the statistics one, and I have never had so many questions about Group Theory or what it means for a group to be Abelian.  So, if any readers of GofaDM are looking for an after-dinner speaker, with a penchant for maths-based quipery, I am available for hire (and will work for cake and dessert wine).

However, all of this persiflage is mere scene-setting to the important meat of this post.  My fellow members of the best man team were students in their late teens or early twenties.  I had met all of then before, but in some cases this was more than a decade ago and they had definitely grown (more significantly in some cases than others) and the beard was certainly new (I would definitely have remembered a bearded 9 year old).  Despite the age difference (I was old enough to be their father – in fact, quite possibly I was older than their actual fathers) we hit it off rather well.  We met up for a couple of meals the day before the wedding, and there is no better bonding experiences than being silly about hot towels and discussing the correct probability distribution to use to analyse neutron detection over beer and a curry.  I also established that innuendo and the double-entendre can cross the age gap very successfully.

The best men had breakfast together before the wedding in s suitably low-odour venue, looking not unlike a low budget remake of Reservoir Dogs (don’t worry, no ears were harming in the making of this post).  We hung-out somewhat at the wedding itself and a whole lot more at the reception.  Some of my fellow best men were tempted onto the dance floor – I myself was later forced to show people a few of my “moves” – indulging in a dance-off which is probably the funniest thing I have ever seen.  Sadly, I struggle to work the photographic capabilities of my iPhone in good light and while sober, so I have sadly failed to capture this even for posterity (I shall have to re-double my efforts to crack the secrets of temporal mechanics in order to have a second crack at it).  At the reception, we also indulged in some (perhaps) ill-advised experiments with alcohol (a scientific paper will be submitted to Nature in due course) but which might one day change the whole face of drinking (I can’t say more at this stage for reasons of commercial confidentiality).

After the reception we went on a brief pub crawl around Edinburgh – brief not for reasons of health or good sense, but because all the pubs seemed to close surprisingly early.  I had expected more of Scotland – I think all this talk we hear of early death, alcoholism and deep-fried everything may owe more to a well-tuned PR machine than to reality.  Still, perhaps it was for the best – as I was able to deliver the full complement of young people (or perhaps they were able to deliver me) back to our digs without major injuries.  I still didn’t make it to my bed until nearly 4am, but when I awoke later that day I was entirely free of hangover – though somewhat tired through lack of sleep and with a sore throat from too much talking (so nothing new there!).

I had a worryingly large amount of fun on this somewhat alcohol-infused night out, I seem capable of slipping back into the student life with very little trouble: though I should point out that my own student life was almost entirely teetotal (one small glass of sherry on my first day and one small glass of champagne on the last – I blame the parents, and more specifically mine).  My youthful partners-in-crime also claimed to have had a good time – despite being handicapped by having to drag around a man both well-stricken in years and possessed of a very dodgy sense of humour.  The media often rails against young people portraying them as some sort of feral underclass; my own (admittedly limited) experience suggests I’ll feel much more comfortable when they are in charge of our destiny than the current incumbents (largely selected from my own generation).  They seem so much more together than I did at their age (or indeed am now!).

At some point during the night of (always polite) debauchery, I took an action to organise a dessert wine weekend in York.  The only thing the wedding lacked was enough dessert wine – but that is true of so much of life – and I had fallen in among fellow connoisseurs.  This is a action I plan to take quite seriously – I have already started researching the options on this train as I head south   They do say that you should never go back (and, in particular, attempts to re-capture one’s lost youth are contraindicated), but in some ways it would be a return to someone else’s student days – so perhaps it will be OK.

Watch this space…

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Mr Brown goes into town

Well, OK, I’m not Mr Brown and I caught the 7:55 rather than the 8:21 – but my trip to London yesterday was the best chance I have to pay tribute to the late David Croft (let’s face it, I am unlikely to start work in a department store, holiday camp, or French café during the second world war in the near future).  And, when I return each evening I am ready, if not with my gun then oft-times with a pun!

Sometimes, I do not have to work at juxtaposition – my life just delivers curious combinations of experience to me.  As mentioned above, I did have to go into London for work yesterday and my inbound journey was somewhat delayed.  This was not, as you might have anticipated, due to loss of catenary cables near Sawbridgeworth (apparently, the felonious travel there expressly to steal live 25kV cables from above a passing express.  I know metal prices are high – but I think there is still plenty to half-inch that is not carrying high voltage above fast-moving and slow-braking rolling stock.  But, what do I know?) but due to loose cattle on the line.  More cynical readers may think this was just an invented excuse – on a par with “the dog ate my homework” or “the cheque is in the post” – but I can assure you it was not, the wrong type of livestock were real.  When we finally arrived at the problem location, the cows were still loose: standing just to the side to the track staring at the train is it inched past.  In the Wild West, trains are fitted with cow-catchers to deal with exactly this sort of problem (well, they are in the Westerns – though, if pushed, I’d have to admit that these are not generally marketed as documentaries and are set somewhat in the past) but the Class 379 Electrostar unit in which I was travelling, whilst fast and comfortable (and a huge improvement on the Class 317/1 that one sometimes has to endure), was not so equipped.  I presume that National Express East Anglia felt that paying the extra for a cow-catcher made little economic sense in the Tame East.  Hindsight is a marvellous thing!

After a busy day of meetings, I raced back home prior to cycling into Cambridge to see some comedy in the evening.  Luckily, Frisky and Mannish (for it was they who were purveying the comedy) provide a high-energy (and volume) performance, as by this time I was already somewhat tired and a more low-key performer may have seen me doze off.  The show was jolly good, though I fear my knowledge of music from the charts was too poor to fully appreciate some of the material (to be honest, in my world, charts either require graph paper or relate to naval navigation) – but I suppose that’s what you get from only listening to BBC Radios 2, 3, 4, 6Music and 4Extra (née 7).

The show did require audience participation – and despite sitting in the back row, I was required to participate rather more fully in the show than anticipated (then again, I had anticipated none).  The premise was to form a 5-piece boy-band from members of the audience after the style of Take That: from the days when they were a boy-band, rather than the reformed middle-aged bloke-band of today.  This beggars belief, but I was chosen to form part of this soi-disant boy-band (the other four could certainly have passed for boys, even in quite good light, but I thought my days of passing for a boy lay in the distant past) on the basis of my dance skills (I was the Jason Orange figure, I believe).  For the avoidance of doubt, I should make clear that I have no dance skills whatsoever – and even the basic hand movements for the Macarena proved totally beyond me (perhaps I should have been spending less of my available mental capacity trying to translate the Portuguese words to the song at the same time) – so I can only assume that my dancing was chosen ironically.  My age, apparently, wasn’t – so I do wonder if I should send Mannish details of my optician.  As a result of my selection, I spent some 10 minutes on the stage (and not the first one out of town, to return briefly to the Wild West) and did gain rather a taste for it, despite the lack of a singing (or speaking) part or (indeed) a fee.

So, perhaps rather than the movie or book of this blog, I should look to present GofaDM on the stage.  At least that way the posts will (mostly, though I’m no respecter of the fourth wall – or estate) be safely confined behind a Proscenium Arch.  Perhaps, also if it were staged then in the distant future academics will argue as to whether I really wrote this blog or it was someone else entirely.