I don’t care for them much. Every major sporting event must start and finish with a ceremony of some sort, usually lavish. But leaving sport to one side . . .
We are born, some of us get married, and all of us die. There is little by way of ceremony when we are born, though certain people of male persuasion use the occasion to ‘wet the baby’s head’. For them, the birth of the baby is a useful excuse to get plastered, though the men who react in this way don’t usually need an excuse.
[While visiting a maternity ward I saw one such man arrive in a lubricated condition and offer his wife a bag of the toffees for the new arrival. His wife asked, rather acidly I thought, how the baby would cope with toffees having no teeth.]
When we die a ceremony of some sort is usually thought necessary. I have been to three lately. On two occasions the gentleman giving the oration, if that’s the right word, had yet to meet the departed and was relying on notes provided by the family. It didn’t work too well: someone who hadn’t met the man telling those of us who had what he had been like. I would prefer to pass unremarked than be subjected to that. I would prefer to pass unremarked full stop.
But I am leaving the best till last. I haven’t been to many weddings, but two stand out in my mind. While being driven to the venue by the groom, he told me the marriage wouldn’t last more than five years. Then, with a straight face, he went through the ‘till death do us part’ routine with the pregnant lady in question. I can’t remember her name but she played the oboe quite well and I hope she still does.
And a woman who is still a good friend went home to England for a vacation. When she came back she was engaged to be married. I questioned her closely about this since it had happened so quickly, and found that that her certainty was complete. Much though I tried, it could not be shaken. So much so that I ended up playing the organ at her wedding. Some years later, after the divorce . . .
In both of these cases the parties weren’t just entering into matrimony, they were entering into ‘holy matrimony’ and exchanging blood-curdling oaths in the sight of The Lord. What was that about? Did they think He wasn’t listening? They must have noticed they were in one of His houses at the time.
And lastly, a sad story. A relative of my wife is a religious man. Put any apparent contradiction in the Good Book to him and he will come up with a well-rehearsed apology for it. So it was not surprising that he married an equally religious woman. This lady had taken her religion to a higher level than he had, composing a volume of verse in praise of The Lord, a copy of which she gave to my wife’s sister. But, and I was aware of this at the time, she had been married before and was now divorced. She had already exchanged blood-curdling oaths of the ‘till death do us part’ variety and the man in question was still walking the earth. Was I missing something here? Anyway, she exchanged these same oaths with her next man, my wife’s relative, whom I shall call Fred.
Several years later, Fred came home from work one day to find that his wife had gone, taking with her his peace of mind and their dog. It later transpired that she had been planning this move for at least six months with the new man in her life who was, among other things, considerably better off than Fred. They had used this time to fit out their house or, as they say in the tabloids, their love-nest.
I have come to the view that a ceremony is a vain attempt to impose meaning on the meaningless. Bleak though this conclusion is, it does not make me unhappy. The sky is dark and the wind is cold.
[In the interest of openness I should say that my wife and I were married in a civil ceremony. In addition to us, there were the two witnesses required by law and a registrar of births, marriages and deaths. There were no photographs.]