“Church”. To my family, to all Wiganers truth be told, it should rhyme with “first” and “worse”. And so it did, at the wedding for people I cannot recall by name, in a year lost in memory. The church was blue, Methodist, in Bryn. The wedding between a man I had never met before in my life and a woman who was the daughter of the daughter of the sister of somebody else.
This being Wigan, you could walk from house to house meeting relatives with no more struggle than if you were setting out for a ‘paper and some milk.
(Incidental memory: my grandmother, finger running down the small print of a phone directory tapping, running through the names of people who had died, to her knowledge.)
What did I wear? Cannot remember. A school-shirt, possibly, one of dad’s work-ties. Hair cut no doubt. My sister? A blank too. I recall only very specific things, like watching a video late at night with the sound down.
What I wore then cannot be recalled. I stood next to my grandfather with his booming singing voice in fine form. My voice was muted, slightly scared. The whole atmosphere was stifling, maybe it was the weather. It wasn’t just the weather, it was the service, which was quite fervent and traditional. The service was led with some emotion by a man, who was old, I remember that. Or do I remember it? The view I have through my memory is of the wall behind him, which was blue, and on which was painted a caption, the only word of which I can recall with any certainly is “JESUS”. Maybe it was “SAVES” although that doesn’t sound very Methodist at all.
He was saying – the man, not Jesus – that essentially the happiness of the wedding was all well and good but didn’t we realise that in the eyes of God we had pretty much failed Him and there was not a single pot of jam more we could sell or apology we could pray that would save us. We’d just have to work bloody damn hard every single minute of our lives until we died. He didn’t say “bloody”. He sure as Hell said “damn”.
(Incidental memory: my grandmother wearing the same dress as another guest. It was my sister who spotted this, I remember.)
This was my only family wedding. Which is unusual, given the closeness of the upbringing. I have had two funerals, only one of which was family, although close (to me) family members have died. The closeness of the family unit is as odds with geographic elements. And other elements too, which are easily resolved, if either side of us took the time to resolve them. I wish I could recall more than just trivial highlights, though. We must have had drinks after – did I have a drink? Such things were frowned upon, small “c” conservatives. The Methodist element of the equations were, for want of a better word, diluted.
We must have had drinks, then.
(Incidental memory: a distant relative, near the Bryn railway station. A garden, square, with birds. Something fleeting runs through my long-term memory, as though I am staring at a photo album on top of a camp-fire, photographs flicking and turning and racing up through the heated air.)