Saturday, September 13, 2003

Extended family

This weekend I will go to the football and watch Oxford play Mansfield, we’re top of the league and still unbeaten so I’m looking forward to it. The rest of the weekend is pretty blank, we may go to the cinema, we may see Katie, we may even visit the Dobscrub’s new baby, if Vicki conveniences us all by having it on Friday or Saturday (come on Vickster, some of us have to work). But we don’t have much on, and frankly, I’m glad because I’m emotionally spent.

The first time I remember meeting Sara she was in full Stone Roses chic in a pair of flared jeans and wallabies shoes. She was about 13. I don’t remember the first time I met Gareth, but it would have been about four years ago and Sara would have insisted on him dressing up in his best clothes when they came over. Sara doesn’t wear flared jeans anymore, and Gareth barely changes out of his slippers when he comes over. Things change.

They finally did the biggie last weekend and got married. In what was a full day, I nearly wrote off the Rolls Royce (with one working door) hired to ferry Sara around. The Pastor decided to call Sara Louise, “Louise Sara” during the vows. Two people did a runner when Sara walked in realising they’d got the wrong wedding, and then returned having forgotten their camera. A guest sitting at the front of the church in full view of everyone suffered the crippling embarrassment of her camera film rewinding and her phone going off… to which she cursed herself with an audible “Oh for fuck’s sake.”

During the reception, the best man Tim took his duties somewhat literally, his speech dismantled Gareth’s personality bit by bit with stories of vomit, drinking, and nudity, which were illustrated with pixilated photos. Afterwards Emma’s Grandma said that Gareth and Emma’s dad’s speeches were marvellous, but for some reason neglected to mention the best man. He also started a near riot by opening up some old East coast, West coast shit*.

Despite a minor panic over a late arriving DJ, the evening do saw Gareth’s often monosyllabic teenage brother turn from gangling pubescent to Fred Astaire, wowing the ladies (including, most disturbingly, my mum) with moves so nifty it was like he’d been force fed Ceroc lessons since a young age. He finished the night off at 2am returning to his teenage roots, ordering tequila and two vodka shots and then disappearing to the toilets to throw up.

There were other cameos, Donkman’s dancing, the appearance of a back up bridesmaid, Tom doing a Del Boy prat fall when trying to lean on the shoulder of his girlfriend just as she stepped away to talk to someone. Gareth’s mum’s first words when she appeared in her beautifully tailored, carefully chosen designer outfit: “Ooh I’m sweating like a pig”. Then there was Claire shaking her booty like a high class table dancer two minutes before bursting into tears like someone had shot her dog blubbing “It’s like she’s left us”. Another rendition of “One more tune” like we were back on the Stag. Emma’s auntie filming the whole shebang on a video camera the size of an elephant. Tim breakdancing. The dancefloor invasion during the first dance… by the mother and father of the bride. The Waitrose Paprazzi pushing their way into the cheap seats “’scuse me, scuse me, oh no I don’t want an order of service, I’m not invited”. Me and Katie looking on aghast as Gareth’s divorced parents enjoyed a tongue sandwich then walked off the dancefloor revealing themselves to not be Gareth’s parents at all. And what about the ushers and Sara posing for a picture whilst questioning through fake smiles “What the fuck is he doing” as one dirty old bugger tried to lick the ear of the photographer?

The biggest surprise of all was being singled out in Gareth’s speech. Apparently me and Emma have offered “support, advice and above all common sense” which, whilst I’d have preferred “Elk racing, Leer Jet flights and fire breathing” was very touching.

So ubiquitous is the presence of Sara and Gareth in our lives, I had totally forgotten how close we are as friends. But moreover it confirmed to me that we’re on track with the Ruffles Philosophy. Y’see, we want a house that our friends can come to anytime they want. You may have to take us as you see us, which is usually in a mess, but you’re always welcome, the kettle is never cold.

I love the way Sara and Gareth come over in their tracky-bots to do little more than chat the world away, eat takeaway and watch the telly or how Simon appears on a Sunday to watch the 1980 version of Flash Gordon. We may not impress you with our cooking, or the size of our house, or our off-beat holidays to Upper Volta but if you come over there’s no pretence. Totally relaxed, totally normal. I like having friends who let us be like that.

On Saturday Gareth helped confirm to me that the philosophy is working, if during the 20 months of organising, we helped make things a little easier then I’m happy.

*we went to a split site school; there were two lower school’s Lower School East and Lower School West which merged into one upper school in the fourth year – there were rivalries.


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