Saturday, 28 February 2009

The happiest day of my life

I really am going to update this blog with a proper account of my wedding, just as soon as I get hold of the official photographs and have time to sit down and write about it with the attention to detail it deserves. But here, for the time being, is the most charming unofficial photograph I have been sent so far:

I married an angel: the camera never lies

While here is the speech with which I bored our wedding guests into submission:


Well, who’d have thought it?

Those were the words John Major used to start his first cabinet meeting after succeeding Margaret Thatcher. Which is an interesting thought, because it is probably the only instance in which you can use the words “John Major” and “succeeding” in the same sentence.

After all these years I couldn’t think of a better opening line. But I do have my fingers crossed that our marriage will last much longer and achieve EVEN MORE than the Major government. Which, for those of you with short memories, staggered on for seven years and came up with the Maastricht Treaty and the cones hotline.

Far more than we have had out of New Labour in the 12 years since then, it seems only fair to add.

But this seems to be a short political speech, which can’t be right.

Hang on.


Yes, MUCH longer. This looks more like it.

This is the happiest day of my life.

Maral told me to say that.

She also told me, after studying one of those books of wedding etiquette that form the second tallest mountain in our house, after the Himalaya of volumes about pregnancy and babies, that all I was required to do in this speech was to thank her father for welcoming me into the family (assuming he actually did), remind everyone how beautiful she is, thank everyone who has contributed to the success of the day (assuming that it actually was successful, UP TO NOW) and hand out some tokens of our appreciation.

In fact, in her script, my role was very much that of a dull but worthy guest of honour at a prize giving ceremony in a special needs primary school.

Leave the funny stuff to the best man, she said.

I apologize in advance for the fact that I am liable to be somewhat off message. So no change there.

But I shall try to cover her basics.

So, first off, I would like to thank Jahanfar for his kind [CHECK FOR DELIVERY, it says here in red ink] words and to apologize in advance for being a terrible son-in-law.

It’s not going to be easy to adjust to the idea of being part of a big, happy family after living on my own for decades. Or to having parents-in-law when my own parents have been dead for so long (they had me very late in life: what a silly idea), and I am well old enough to be a grandfather myself. In fact where I come from, in Alnwick, if you’re not dead or a GREAT-grandfather by the age of 54 people tend to suspect that you are what they still shamefully call A BIT OF A POOF.

In view of our relative ages, Maral pronounced when we got engaged that it would be all right for her to start calling my Auntie Leslie “Auntie Leslie”, but that it would be bad and wrong for me to start calling you Mum and Dad.

So remember that things could be even worse. As, indeed, is pretty much always the case.

As for my lovely bride, I could stand here and talk about her until it was too late for the first dance (which is really quite an attractive option, now I come to think about it) and still not convey even a tenth of what I feel about her.

I don’t think I actually need to remind you how beautiful she is. You have all got eyes (Oh God – no, I can’t see any white sticks or guide dogs. I think I got away with that one.)

But that external beauty is matched by an inner loveliness the like of which I have never known before.

Maral is, quite simply, the nicest, kindest, funniest and most understanding human being I have ever met. You will appreciate how important the “understanding” bit is when dealing with me.

I have been to weddings before, when I couldn’t avoid it, and heard bridegrooms waxing lyrical about their best friend, the love of their life, their soulmate, but I never really understood what they meant until I met Maral.

I cannot for the life of me understand how someone who wasn’t even born until I was doing my A-levels, and who then went to live in a faraway country until she was eight or nine, can have acquired such a comprehensive knowledge of the complete works of Morecambe & Wise, and be able to supply the punch line of every old joke in my extensive repertoire before I utter it.

But she can.

And she does.

EVERY time.

Despite that, we laugh a lot together. In fact, I have never laughed so much since I met her, and laughing is one of my two favourite things in life. So that’s lucky. And we’ve even done my other favourite thing.


Going to a Handel opera together.

What else?

Partenope, it was called. Some of you are sitting on a table named after it. In fact, in case you haven’t worked it out, ALL the 15 tables here today are named after one of the operas Maral and I have seen during the ten months we have been together. So we have been quite busy, really, over and above the bleeding obvious.

Most of you already know how Maral and I met, so I won’t reprise that strangely affecting little story.

But a big thank you to Malcolm for accidentally introducing us.

The remarkable thing about it is that from the very first time I read her words I knew I was making the acquaintance of someone incredibly special. Even if I did spend the first week trying to work out what her name was an anagram of.

I’m notorious for my hatred of talking on the telephone (always a bit of a handicap in my chosen career of public relations) but my first chat with Maral went on for ages. Like this speech. Yet, unlike this speech, it felt like seconds. It seemed as though I was picking up a recently interrupted conversation with my oldest and dearest friend. And when I actually met her …

Well, here we are today.

There have been a few ups and downs on the fairly short road here, as there are in most relationships, but all have been resolved with the aid of Maral’s simple mantra “I refuse to be dumped when I’ve done nothing wrong.”

A while ago I had to explain to Maral why my only brother wasn’t going to be here today. Some people (though not me, I have to say) might have been a bit hurt by this, but I explained his reasons to Maral in my usual notoriously filter-free way. And Maral being Maral, she laughed so much that I really did worry for the welfare of little Charlie. It must have been like the San Francisco earthquake in there.

I told this story to a friend who remarked that the world would be a much happier place if everyone was like Maral, and could just laugh at all life’s little knocks. And so it would. There is no doubt at all that this would be a better world if everyone was like Maral. It might be a bit untidy and disorganized, I’ll give you that, but it would still be infinitely better.

Before I met her I was writing a blog which counted down the days to my death on 4 February 2012, according to a misery-inducing little website called You feed in your body mass index and your alcohol consumption, and it does the rest.

Luckily all the raw data have changed since I made that initial calculation.

What has also changed is the fact that, before I met Maral, I didn’t greatly care if I only had three years left to live. Now, even though she has made it crystal clear that I am going into a home at the very first sign of dribbling, I want to hang around as long as possible to see what happens next.

Thank you, Maral, for transforming my life.

And I hope you know that, behind this miserable curmudgeonly exterior, beats the heart of a man who absolutely adores you. And always will.

Keep going, you fool, as Eric Morecambe used to say. Not that it did him much good.

Now to those thanks, before you all lose the will to live. Thank you all for coming, it has meant a lot to both of us, and I am not just referring to the bill for this reception. Particular thanks to those of you who have made long and arduous journeys to be with us – from Iran, from New York, from the British Virgin Islands (our only remaining colony that is also an oxymoron) and from Chester via the roadworks on the Tarvin roundabout.

Thanks to all those of you who have sent us so many lovely cards and presents. We will get round to thanking you properly and personally when we have a minute to spare. And, having regard to the mountains of junk packed floor to ceiling in both our houses, thanks also to those of you who did not send us anything.

Thank you Jahanfar for giving your elder daughter away. I can appreciate what a wrench it must have been.

Thank you Farah for your huge contribution to helping us organize all this, and for baking most of our wedding cake. Maral has a small token of our appreciation which she is now going to give you. Thank you also in advance for being volunteered to join Maral in the delivery room in July. Rather you than me.

Thank you Auntie Leslie for being here to support me, in the absence of any closer living relatives (you are still living, aren’t you?) and for baking the bottom layer of the cake. A deceptively heavy but embarrassingly inexpensive present is making its way along the table even as I speak.

Thank you Rick for conducting the service so beautifully and for agreeing, over my dead body, to Maral’s bright idea of following the Iranian tradition and having to be asked three times before agreeing to become my wife. I don’t know about you lot but the suspense almost did for me, even though I’d been to a rehearsal and thought I knew the ending. Thank you also for raising my appreciation of religion way beyond my traditional participation in closing time prayers: on my hands and knees in the bar repeating “Oh God!” very slowly. Here’s that bottle of whisky you told us to get you …

… and here is another for my cousin-in-law Tony, who kindly came all the way from Suffolk to deliver that uplifting sermon. You managed to attain heights of craziness that just about matched the rest of the service. No small achievement, so thank you for that.

Thank you Louise for doing all the flowers so beautifully, on the tables here, in the church and in our bouquets and buttonholes. Maral has a little something for you, and I’m hoping it’s not a flower.

Thanks to our three ushers Adrian, Guy and Ali, who clearly did a brilliant job because you were all sitting in the pews when we came out rather than hanging from the chandelier. Two of you are my godsons and it is only fair to warn you now that Maral and Rick have been heard plotting a christening. We haven’t given any thought at all to the question of godparents but the last time I was passing one of those gangs of offenders picking up litter I did bribe them to hand over a couple of high visibility orange vests marked “Community Payback” just in case they might come in handy.

Thank you all and Maral has some small tokens of our appreciation (note the words “small” and “token”) here if you are sober enough to come and collect them.

Thank you, Iain, for agreeing to be my best man and for not losing the rings. And, in particular, for completely failing to organize a stag night. Who on earth would want to spend a night on a pub crawl ending up in some sleazy strip joint, when they could be sitting quietly on a sofa with Maral watching Coronation Street instead?

You’re all supposed to be nodding.

Next weekend it will be precisely 27 years since I stood up as your best man at your wedding in Newcastle, and made a hugely inappropriate speech cracking sly jokes about the fact that your lovely bride Anne was expecting a baby at the beginning of July. A fact which you had done your utmost to keep quiet, though you were a bit let down by Anne’s sister breaking into raucous laughter when the vicar got to that bit in the service about marriage being ordained for the purpose of procreation.

I realize that you have been waiting a very long time to get your own back, and I would like you to know that our decision to announce Maral’s pregnancy in our wedding invitation letter was not solely motivated by a desire to prevent you from making cheap jokes at our expense.

Though it was mainly about that, if I’m honest.

Anyway, we look forward to hearing from you in a minute and it’s probably just as well if Maral gives you this small gift now, because we might not feel like it afterwards.

Incidentally, the last time Maral and I were in Mr Chow’s Chinese restaurant on the Wirral, the message in her fortune cookie said “Never go second to Keith Hann in funny speech making competition”.

Finally, the bridesmaids. Didn’t they look lovely? And didn’t they do well to make it right to the end of that very long aisle? Particularly the one who had been out drinking until the early hours.

It was really, really kind of you all to let Maral and me play just a small part in your big day.

Thank you all and if you’d like to ask your mummies and daddies to help you to come and see Auntie Maral (not you Ghaz) she has a little something for you.

Now have I left anyone out? I hope not.

Oh, Craster the page dog. Thanks, son, for not disgracing yourself in church. It’s a shame you can’t be here with us now, but I’m sure a great big doggie bag will be on its way up to the Bridal Suite any minute. Closely followed by a great big dustpan and brush.

Hands up anyone else who’s spent his wedding night with a flatulent Border terrier sandwiched between him and his bride.

In summary, it’s been great and I just hope the rest of my married life will be as much fun as this.

So I would now like to ask you all to upstanding and join me in a toast to the real stars of the day:

The bridesmaids. And possibly the best man.