They think it’s all over - well it is now. No - not the World Cup. After an eternity of build up and preparation, our daughter Karen is now married to Mark Sherry. The wedding took place at Dumfries House, Cumnock on 9 June with our old friend Alan Garrity performing the wedding ceremony. As Father of the Bride I can tell you I was furious (Purple Bricks furious) to read the headline a few weeks before- “Prince Charles planning to walk bride down the aisle”. I didn’t care if it was his house - there was no way he would be taking over my role. When I read on I realised that it was some other wedding they were talking about.
I must say my Father of the Bride speech seemed to go down rather well. It seems to be true that the ‘public speaking’ thing never leaves you however rusty and out of practice you get. What seems to impress people is speaking without pages of notes but in truth you have been going over it in your head for months and are really reading it off a virtual teleprompter in your mind. There - the secret is out. “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech” wrote Mark Twain. It’s OK to plagiarise the jokes - just make sure they are relevant and the sources obscure. You should check that they haven’t been repeated on Dave the night before.
Dumfries House estate in the brilliant sunshine was a magnificent setting for the big day. Prince Charles Foundation has done a great job restoring the house and estate with all the resulting employment, training, environmental development and just a fantastic recreational resource for the whole community. His Foundation has also ventured beyond the estate to completely refurbish the New Cumnock open air pool and Town Hall as well as planning the construction of nearby Knockroon, a sustainable village built on green principles. The whole day was perfect and no one broke the house rules of not sitting on the Chippendale chairs (worth over £1 million each) or touching the Chippendale bookcase valued at well over £4 million.
A pleasant distraction from the frantic build up to the big day was the arrival of my big sister Louise and husband Ian from New Zealand. Louise began a new life for herself when she took a teaching post there in the late 1960s and we have only seen each other a few times since. As you can imagine there was much reminiscing and then she was off to meet old friends from her Edinburgh days including a 78th birthday meal with Maggie Shearer and Morag Murray - the ‘Golden Girls’ as she called them.
While she was staying with us there were some new stories I had never heard and things I had never seen before. Our mother died when I was 4 and Louise 12. I have little memory of her and no keepsakes. Louise produced a small bag of our mother’s jewellery - earrings and bangle from Ceylon (Sri Lanka as it is now) and her engagement ring. She had brought them to give to our two daughters, Karen and Fiona. Coincidentally at that point I got something in my eye.
She also reminded me of a story I used to tell our children when they were small and then our grandchildren in turn. It seems she must have passed it on to her grandchildren and her son Kenneth had added the perfect illustration to the story of the Camelephantelopelicanary
Once upon a time there was a camel. He wasn’t a very happy camel because he thought he looked dull and stupid with this ugly hump on his back.
The camel wished he would look more like the other animals.
One day he walked through the woods and came across a big grey animal.
“What are you called?” the camel asked. “I’m an elephant,” he replied and casually picked a peanut from the floor with his trunk. “I wished I could do that”, the camel said in admiration. And all of a sudden the camel got a grey trunk too.
As he walked on, he came across an antelope making giant leaps.
The antelope stopped because he had never seen such an animal before.
“What kind of animal are you?” he asked. “I’m a camelephant. I wish I could make such high jumps as you can. What are you called?”
”I’m an antelope.” And all of a sudden the camelephant got the skinny legs of the antelope as well.
He started jumping around and near the lake he met a pelican. “What strange creature are you?” the pelican asked. “I am a camelephantelope.”
“Never heard of”, said the pelican: “At least everybody knows I am a pelican.“ And the pelican put a few fish in her pouch to bring home to her children later. “I wish I could do that,” the camelephantelope said.
And all of a sudden he got a pouch just like the pelican.
On he walked again, and after a while he heard the most beautiful singing voice. He looked up and in a tree there sat the tiniest yellow bird singing wonderful songs. The bird saw him too and stopped. “What kind of animal are you?” the bird asked. “I’m a camelephantelopepelican.”
“No kidding,” the bird said. “What are you, my wonderful singer?” “People call me a canary.” “Oh, I wish I could sing like you” And the next time he opened his mouth, he could.
Proud as a peacock the camel walked through the woods, and everyone looked at him in utter amazement. “What on earth are you?” the snake finally asked.
“I’m a camelephantelopepelicanary,” he replied with pride.
Then everybody started laughing so hard they could not stop.
The camelephantelopepelicanary looked at himself in the water of the lake and realised he looked a bit silly. “Oh, I wish I was an ordinary camel again,” he sighed. And right away he turned into a camel again.
The animals in the woods started cheering. “That’s right,” the snake said: “nothing wrong with being a good old camel.”
The camel looked into the water once more and said: “You know what? He is right! There’s nothing wrong with being a camel.”