I am very honoured, and very happy, to have been asked to say a few things on the day of Dot & Flo’s marriage. I am especially happy that they have had a ceremony in which they could publically and legally state and show their love and commitment to each other. In the same year as they have taken on a house, in the same year as they have continued to build up their respective careers, they have also arranged this whole event themselves, and this says a lot about them as a couple: they are builders, they get things done, and I can only have confidence that they will continue to do this with their marriage in the years to come. It is a very beautiful thing to watch couples promise to stay together and build their life together, even more so when one of them is your daughter doing the promising and the other is doing it because she loves your daughter.
So let me tell you about Dot and what she is bringing to the marriage: Carol, her mum, always says that she was born wise – she knows stuff about people and life which she did not learn from her parents; in fact Carol will often seek her out to get a sounding board for what ails her; Dot will listen, so clearly, in fact, that you’ll often come to the conclusion you should have come to months ago, simply because you have talked it through with her; she will bring her innate wisdom to the marriage.
Let me tell you more about Dot: she will bring a natural charm to the marriage, a charm that she has exercised even before she was a baby. When she was a toddler and we had just finished a slightly formal meal visiting the grandparents, the meals where the grandchildren must behave as grandchildren must, and as everything had been cleared away and various clearing noises were being made from the kitchen, I relaxed a little and gazed out the window at the distant passing cars. My reverie was broken by various quiet fidgetings from the chair next to me and two gentle ‘thump’s on the table-clothed table. I turned round and saw two small fat feet airing on the table, shoes and socks husked about on the floor and two large eyes fixing me with the statement, “my muffins are on the table!” She will bring charm to the marriage.
When she was a little older we were on holiday, with the same grandparents, down in Devon, having a grandad holiday, walking around fields. Anyway, the kids loved it. We were making for the corner of a field looking forward to the mud around the style, (looking forward to getting back and having breakfast). The cows we had passed earlier seemed to be following us, crowding is – herding us – into the corner a little more earnestly than we liked. Carol and her mum were straight under the barb-wire fence calling for the children to follow. I, quite gladly, welcomed the opportunity to show the boys how to get through a bar-wire fence. Phew. I looked round to see Charlotte, standing in the field with her grandad, holding his hand with one hand, and in her other hand holding his full-length walking stick standing a good twice her height, little fat legs stood in her red boots. Agh. More calls from the mothers. But Charlotte had raised her stick, brandishing it horizontally above her head with a little grunt, and girding herself to shout out the only words she could think of for the situation, “herbs and garlic!”, from the cheese we’d had the previous day. Would this work! The cows stopped, some waved their heads to one side shooing some flies, some waggled their ears. And Charlotte and Grandad made their leisurely way to the style, while the rest of us wrestled our way past the brambles and bracken to meet them. She will bring charm to the marriage.
She was born with those eyes – almost like a cartoon character, her growing up was, in fact, her catching up with her eyes – and I’m still not sure she’s finished growing into them yet, although she’s finished growing and is a six foot tall, handsome woman. She used to acquiesce to her brothers tickling her, she would go straight into a mouth-wide-open ‘aaaaaaahh’ deep from the back of her throat, and when the tickling stopped, she’d step down into laughter and giggles as she calmed and always end with an ‘agie’. For which she was named in her family for many years. Now that she has grown up she has developed what she calls ‘sass’ – she’ll call people out, she’ll say ‘awkward’ when things are, awkward, she’ll say ‘no’ when the great wish-fulfilling tumble of the discourse had been hoping towards ‘yes’, she’ll broach the question that had been skirted around. All with a wide-eyed and compassionate quirk and smile about her face. Sass, not offence. She’ll bring great charm to the marriage.
A lot of people like Charlotte because she likes people, because she gives a chance to people, she lets people be what they are, she recognises things about people which it would be so easy to ignore just ignore. And she has gone straight ahead and used these qualities in her work: managing, volunteering, mentoring, visiting and now social working, people. She will bring care to the marriage.
She will bring beauty to the marriage: well, just look at her. When she worked for the Post Office in Brighton, she was put on the enquiry desk because she was ‘easy on the eyes’. But she is also beautiful in spirit, just look behind the smile.
And she will bring her life and her future to the marriage. And this is perhaps the most important of all – she is going off into marriage in the way and direction that she will create herself, a new direction, a new venture, a new life. It won’t be my baby-daughter-over-whom-I-cried-when-she-was-born, who is getting married, but an independently-grown woman forming her own life and values together with Flo. This is the best thing for a parent to witness after they have done their ‘bringing up’ job, not that the child grows up to be a copy of their achievements (and, probably, flaws) but that they transcend their parents’ upbringing, making their own life and sharing that back with their parents. She will bring her life to the marriage.
And let me say a few things about Flo, what do I think she will bring to the marriage. One of the first times she visited as the new girlfriend I’ll always remember that frozen look of what-have-I-got-myself-into when the Redford family all spilled out of the downstairs toilet by the front door where they measured their height once every few years – even their pets. A single toilet room with four tall people all shuffling around trying to get past the door which opened into the room; and yet she swallowed, and got on with it, even while this troupe of Venusians all stood around and greeted her. She will bring living and letting live to the marriage. There are bottom lines beyond which Flo is immovable, and one of those is her love for Dot; she will bring loyalty to the marriage. I have known that she pursued hard to earn her degree, I’ve seen her work long and determinedly for the representation of LGBT through her party, I know her to push herself beyond all sorts of personal boundaries. She will bring determination to the marriage.
Therefore I’d like to publically welcome Flo to our family: you’ve got the qualifications, Flo, you’ve said the vows, we’d like to offer you the gig. Thank you both for arranging everything and for bringing us all together to witness your marriage together – Dot & Flo.