AUTHOR: James Dowen

AM’s wedding day

If you live in Hurstpierpoint, or one of the surrounding settlements, you
get married in one of the quaint local village churches that run along the
South Downs, and then you have your reception at Pangdean Farm. This is the
system. It isn’t a system that is challenged or questioned in Mid-Sussex,
it’s just what you do. And it works.

AM rightly kept this tradition going and thus ensured, in his usual
effortlessy charming and relaxed style, that a seemless day of wedding
festivities would ensue.

My journey back into another world, a softer and much nicer world, started
at a most typical country watering hole; The Bull, in the small village of
Ditchling. The ushers and family of the groom met and were presented with
their matching ties for the day, and rounds of drinks were repeatedly
offered by all as a prerequisite to us turning back the clock once more.

I find such group socialising events acutely painful and the exact moment of
re-breaking the ice particularly sharp. So, as an escape, I involved myself
in usherly duties and got to the church nice and early to prepare the orders
of service, the confetti box, and other such absolute wedding necessities.

As I handed out the gently crafted cards to the guests on their arrival to
the arch of the church, it occured to me that I knew almost each and every
of the faces that came by me. A little older, a little warmer, with a
little more history, but on the whole, I was so glad to see that it looked
like they had been ‘happy histories’, since we last met. The small group of
ushers obviously regressed at every opportunity back into gleefully childish
moments but between these little treats mentioned much more mature
experiences that had passed in their lives. Their own weddings, the births
of their own children, and moves around the globe. It occured to me that
this was one of the first social gatherings where adult life was really
underway for all and that the travelling and ‘finding myself’ phases had all
now passed.

Proceedings started at half past two, and being the wonderfully English
affair that it was; it was half past two, on the dot. The hymns were
delightful choices, the wedding party beamed in the joyous nature of the
day, and we were off and running.

I have know AM for a LONG time. During a journey of trials and tribulations
he has been a constant. As you reach your early thirties you think that you
have experienced virtually all of the emotions at their most raw and
cutting. When those experiences come along and cut you that much deeper it
is always a shock to the system. During his sermon, the priest spoke at
length, but most engagingly, of love. Now was a moment that I, and all
those who witnessed the service, saw in AM’s eyes a far deeper emotion than
he had clearly ever experienced before.

E, was the bride to dream of, and as she glided up the aisle, all were
stunned by her beauty and elegance, and prayed silence. AM, of course,
looked ahead and awaited her joining him, but as he turned to look at her,
time stopped for an instant, and he was clearly dazzled by the moment and E
herself. He looked like a young boy, embaressed and shyed away by the great
power and presence of an older and attractive woman, full of sensuality, for
the first time.

Now was his moment and he was totally and helplessly in love. The ground
may aswell have risen from under his feet for himself and E and nothing in
the world had the power to take this from him. After the journey we all
undertake, the journey of no guarantees and often cruelly broken promises,
he had found his life partner, and he was cementing this relationship
infront of a group of the most important and cherished people in his life.
As the priest asked if anyone objected to the marriage, the silence and awe
of the witnesses continued, and all were sure and backing him that he had
chosen the right path.

As we, the congregation, exited the church, we were met by a dazzling early
afternoon sun twinned with a refreshing breeze that wafted over us when
necessary. The weather was simply perfect. Now though, was that interulde
of standing-around style group-socialising before the saviour of the day;
the food, and my favourite bit; the speeches. I was introduced to John The
Teacher and his lovely wife Zara who had a humour and manner specifically
crafted for English country weddings on sunny days, and we jumped in their
car and I guided them to the nearby farm at Pangdean. Awaited for us, as
usual, like a Royal presession being carried out for the umpteenth time to
the exact T, was the proprietor Nickie Currie and her clockwork team.
Clinking of glasses, rehashing of old but well tested jokes from our past
was underway, and AM looked so relieved he could have almost gone and had a
quick nap under one of the nearby apple trees. Life is good.

Everyone from toddlers to oldies were cajoled, and photos were taken by an
equally well used and trusted Sussex photographer so the day could be
captured on camera for AM and E. The bridesmaids were all particularly
attractive in their sweeping purple gowns, but as always seems to be the way
at weddings these days, myself and the other ushers were informed thus; that
they were also all particularly married. Oh well…

Time to go an eat – thank god!

The tables were named after all of the places that AM and E had visited
during their time together, so far. I was on a table by the name of ‘Luxor’
and an accompanying card note left on the tablecloth, the ‘Luxor’ guests
were informed that this was where AM proposed to E. This then seemed like a
most satisfactory table to be positioned on.

Everyone apart from myself was a teacher or a partner of a member of the
said and respected profession. AM had effectively taken the sporting
decision of leaving Dennis Nielsen (me), in charge of a group of newly come
out and delightfully happy and gentle gay people (the leftie teachers), but
with the challenge to me of saying ‘JUST TODAY, you are NOT allowed to eat
ANY of them!’ I took AM up on this both pleasurable and painful competition
and embraced everything positive and truly nice in AM’s key-workery crew.

They truly were the nicest people on god’s earth and I ALMOST felt guilty,
at times, for dedicating such a large part of my wharped life to
unrelentingly taking the piss out of AM, who too, is equally pleasant, mild
mannered, friendly, and inoffensive. ALMOST, I repeat.

To my left sat John; a delicate, slightly nervous and softly spoken former
furniture restorer, who turned back to his passion and vocation of teaching
English Literature, and in his opinions and life direction truly wished
goodwill to all. To my right sat Kate, a colleague of John’s, whom works in
the same department of teaching. She advised me that Wuthering Heights is
the best book she has ever read and I lowered the tone but only once when
dropping my guard and allowing her to know my rather clear and direct
negative opinions on Shakespeare and his tiresome and heinously tedious

They were, and I’m sure continue to be, lovely people. Everything about and
around them was fluffy and curved and I was certain that at no point do they
lie in bed, staring up at the ceiling in the moonlight, tormented by
ambitions that during the current desperate financial climate, being a pawn
broker is a great business model, and how can one set up a similar business
as soon as possible. Neither would they think that Greece should
effectively reposessed and asset stripped, themselves at the helm of all
negotiations. When, at times, AM, eyes filled with the bitterness of
misunderstanding capitalism, has ranted about his pension not being as much
as he was promised by his government comrades, I have often looked at him
and asked myself if anyone ever told him that mummy bah bah eventually
leaves all the little lambs to feed and look after themselves. Yesterday,
when meeting more of AM’s companions, I really found out that the answer to
that question is ‘no’. They see the world in EVER well meaning eyes and
just really believe that we can and WILL all get on and work together in
this life. A lovely attitude, but probably not that effective to live by
when asset stripping Greece or setting up a pawn-brokers explicitly
targetted at old people.

I think I have known AM’s dad longer than I have known the male department
of the Elderly and Infirm. He takes the piss out of me more than I take the
piss out of AM and I too always revel in teasing him regarding the huge
decisions he has to make in his new-found work of local good-doing and
officialdom. He made a cracking little speech though, and told us some
heart warming amusing stories about AM writing to Jim’ll Fix It and being
beaten by his mum at badminton. Chuckles for all and a few cheeky private
jokes were shared for the amusement of a select few. Thanking you, ‘Big

As the speeches finished and the tables were being moved aside, I made my
discreet exit back into my life and world of reposessing Greece and thought
to myself that AM is so happy. He plays badminton with his mum, he probably
genuinely believes that Jim may Fix It for him to play for his beloved West
Ham and that mummy will never leave her little lambs to look after

And who am I to ever try and tell him otherwise?

AM and E, wishing you luck and love for evermore.


Ben x