Sunday, 28 June 2015

Because we could



That's the answer to the question 'why get married when you're already civilly partnered and you've essentially been married for 27 years?' It's a question of everything being fair and equal at last, of more rights, practically speaking. In an iconoclastic moment, the 'habibi' - which we agreed would be as close to the rather proprietorial title 'husband' as we're going to get - gave his permission for one facial shot on the blog, chosen by him. So I waive the objection that I'm not at my jolliest-looking - I assure you I was extremely jolly throughout - and not wearing my garland, one of two woven out of  favourite flowers, peonies and cornflowers, by our delightful Swedish friend Pia (on the right below) and presented by her as a complete surprise during our wedding tea party at the Garden Museum.


This is me on the day, 15 June, speaking about how glad we were to follow so serendipitously in the wake of the people's choice in Ireland ('a sad day for humanity,' according to a Catholic cardinal, a jubilant one for the majority).


I also wanted to draw our friends Claire and Howard, 18 years together, into the picture. Some weeks back, Claire and I were having a deliriously topsy-turvy time at the all-male Pirates of Penzance on its Richmond leg. She asked why we were buying into the marriage thing, said she'd always been dead against it but that a lawyer had suggested that for the sake of the legal aspect, with special regard to their two children, she and H probably should. My 'no big deal' line clinched it and they announced their banns on the same day as we got our certificate. Which meant returning to Camden Town Hall and finding, from our very delightful and warm registrar, that the form-creating might take 45 minutes on top of an extended wait. So she said she'd do most of the paperwork and post the certificate so we could get off to the party. The odious Mr Panz - featured here in the days when I called him Pantz - had promised to behave himself, though he took a chance for a nap during registration


and was generally soothed by one of his family, bridesmaid and youngest goddaughter Mirabel (she, mother Edwina and Panz were the only attendees up in Camden). Here she is admiring five of the seven princess cakes from Bagariet, the superb Swedish Bakery in the West End, which went with the champagne for the party


after which about 15 of us went on to Gypsy - me for the second time, Ma, J and goddaughter Rosie May among the rest for the first. And who could not love it? I'm so glad and proud that Ma, 84, made it up from Banstead for the tea party and the show, which was just her thing (a thousand thanks to Liz, her valiant driver and friend). I reckon Imelda Staunton, who's not missed a show so far, has added stuff to "Rose's Turn". We agreed that the ensemble is uniformly excellent.


Broadway no doubt lit the lights and hit the heights for the big American victory after the Supreme Court decided, rather surprisingly, in favour of same-sex marriages across the States. We feel privileged to have sandwiched our afternoon coincidentally between the Irish and American victories. Best of blogging friends Susan Scheid, a recently retired New York lawyer, celebrated (with the proviso that the law has been way too slow to catch up with the way we live our lives) and provided a link to the document here. Obama has been on a natural crest of a wave recently, too, handling a heckler at the White House's Pride Month party, speaking eloquently about the judgment and leading 'Amazing Grace' to commemorate the Charleston Christians massacred by a would-be White Supremacist.


Another thing I heard which moved me to smile through tears was a group of friends and colleagues of the late Reverend Clementa Pinckney on the BBC World Service, remembering him with laughter and affection as remarkable senator as well as good religious pastor, proving by their very testaments how 'alive' he still is. Oh, and let's not forget Charlotte Church's amazingly good speech at the End Austerity Now demonstration march (which I couldn't attend because we were still basking in Sicilian food, footpaths, sun and sea). There's an awful lot of good in this struggling world, despite the daily chronicles of suicide bombings, persecution of gays in countries less fortunate than ours, Putin's dangerous lies and IS pathology.

29/6 Another reason to be cheerful, even as the Greek state totters. Courtesy of Greenpeace:

27 comments:

Susan Scheid said...

David: "Because we could" is exactly the way to state it—and the flowery garlands are just right, a little Midsummer Night's Dream touch, I thought. I enjoy, also, that the date of your party was smack between the Ireland and US determinations. Great touch, that, whether or not it was intended. It's interesting to me, over here, to think back on how the once impossible in not so long a time became inevitable. I suspect, at least here, that much of this had to do with reaching a "tipping point" on the number of gay families with children.

Not only that, certainly, but it fits Kennedy's reasoning for the majority. While I'm grateful for the result, I'm not comfortable with some of the reasoning, particularly when it comes to statements about the institution of marriage itself. He goes back, for example, to Cicero: "The first bond of society is marriage; next, children; and then the family.” His concluding remarks are highly problematic, too: "No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions."

Oh, I see—so we were all unfulfilled and condemned to loneliness simply because we didn’t have state-sanctioned unions? This is why, when anyone congratulates me, I say there is nothing to congratulate, it’s simply that the state at last has caught up with what has long been the case. If pressed, I then note that the marriage certificate ought to be retroactive to the date the union was formed (in our case almost 35 years ago).

To give him his due, though, Kennedy does an excellent job of articulating why it is not only appropriate, but also essential, to take changing societal mores and context into account in interpreting the Constitution over time, whereas some, if not all, of the dissenters, seem to want to set the Constitution in amber, as if it were a dead fly.

But I’m afraid I do go on, when what I ought to be doing is simply celebrating the very nice party you’ve shared with us here. There is indeed, “an awful lot of good in this struggling world,” and it’s balm for the spirit to take time out now and then to celebrate that. As Obama reminded us in Charleston, there is, amidst it all, “amazing grace.”

David Damant said...

The full frontal is to an extent disguised by the garland, which rather like a wig makes the face look rather different

David Damant said...

I see that Charlotte Church has said that austerity is unnecessary. That indeed can be argued but I doubt if she or the marchers could even begin to articulate the arguments properly. I fear that this is a good example of the usual way of attacking economic problems - choose the economic arguments to fit the social aim already arrived at.

David said...

So eloquently put, Sue - and thank you for qualifying Kennedy's reasoning. Yes, back-dated is what we all deserve. I also think that civil partnerships should have automatically be turned into marriages, though I understand some folk still only want the former. And 'marriage' is still restricted by what most churches won't do, so it's still for the most part civil.

Glad you liked the garlands - someone else pointed out the Dionysiac element, and to have Greece and peonies invoked together pleased me a lot. They're also a tradition for Pia, around the Midsummer mark. In fact - namedrop, swank - I was at a dinner at the Danish Ambassador's fabulously light-filled residence, an event to mark the departure of the equally wonderful Finnish Ambassador, and the Paraguayan Ambassador (I know), a Wagnerian in extremis, pointed out that we were dining on Johannistag. I'd love to attend a Midsummer revel in Scandinavia. Sophie thinks she was a 'Midsummer baby', ie conceived during the Bacchanalia.

Eeyore, Sir David, but I take your point about the facechange. As for brave and articulate Charlotte Church, she started from the human, a perspective that has been lost under this government. She'd have a long way to go to be a minister, but her speech was all-inclusive, and whatever the impossible bind we find ourselves in economically, it's so obvious that much, much more can be practically done to adjust the ever increasing gap between rich and poor. As Gandhi put it, 'there is enough in the world for everybody's need, but not for everybody's greed'.

Ruth said...

How wonderful! And I love the garlands.

And yes, Obama singing was so unexpected and so good. Really moving.

David said...

Thank you, Ruthie. Your fellow artist did us proud.

Can you imagine Cameron leading any singing? Why can't we have one like that?

Claire S said...

It was a lovely occasion in a perfect setting, and we're very honoured that you wrapped us into your speech and celebrations so generously.

The circle was completed last night - Sunday was the day I took them all to see Pirates at the Hackney Empire! They loved it, and it was a treat for me to see their hilarity. The show didn't quite have the delirious electricity which it did in Richmond, and that is definitely not just because it was my second time. Perhaps partly the effect of a larger venue; also the end of the run; but I also suspect they downplayed some elements for a different audience. But still a joy.

So it's serendipitous that your email came this evening. Many thanks for the photos - and I do love the one of you here with J festooned! Delighted to have a mention here, too

David said...

I'm so pleased the whole family enjoyed Sasha Regan's Pirates - how could they not? A couple of students told me today that they also laughed until they cried, but were also impressed by the high musical values. I think maybe the Hackney Empire diffuses the impact we got in Richmond, but still clearly enough came through.

We'll raise a toast to you at 11am on the 15th.

Willym said...

Once again I find myself depending on your words and photos to take me someplace I wish Laurent and I could have been. Big hugs to you and J - the garland is very becoming - added a sort of Albert Herring touch to the event????

David said...

Thanks, Will, but really - Albert Herring? Didn't you mean 'Greek gods'? Quite apart from the fact that we both wore them and neither one of us is a virgin... Though you are close season-wise: our dear Pia knows how to garlands weave because of the Midsummer tradition in her native Sweden.

David Damant said...

Except that they need votes, why should politicians have to behave like "ordinary people" ? Why should they sing, or hold hands in public, etc? Can you imagine that great man FDR singing? Such behaviour has nothing to do with coming to the right decisions, and the present assumption that it does is unfortunate. I guess that part of the reason why Pius XII is accused of handling the Jewish question incorrectly( in fact he did the right things) is because he was of princely demeanor - not "human" like the present Pope.

David said...

Not even worthy of a counter response (though it's not an either/or situation). In case you hadn't noticed, dear David, this post is about celebrating the good. If you feel you need to counter that with cynicism, think again before posting. And I do resent the "human" re the present pope. Depends whether you think religion is about poncing around in frocks or getting down to hands-on work with/for the poor and disenfranchised.

wanderer said...

Late to the party, again, I have just seen this. Congratulations! (noting Susan's caveats).

it is a quandary, whether to or not, and I'm not sure for me 'because you can' cuts it, yet, anyway, still a hypothetical down here where time is reversed and we are being sucked back into the dark ages.

As Lily Tomlin said: " Who wants to be like them"? We (likewise 27 yearers) will, when the time comes which it will eventually, take I think whatever steps are in our legal and financial interests, and consider our union just that, our union, which no man can put asunder for it is well beyond the laws of men, petty or otherwise. Funnily enough, K just the other day used the 'married' word anyway to publicly describe us, and not for the first time.

But the big picture is different. It is almost beyond my comprehension that this is now (kinda) mainstream, when we simply fought for "I exist".

Happy Days to you both.

David said...

I understand your caveats, wanderer, and interested to read your take, though I'm a bit sorry you think we went only for the 'small picture'. I can assure you that this wasn't done out of wanting 'to be like them'. If we had, we'd have brought out the full marriage works (I had no desire for a solemn registry office or church service, though I'm happy for others who want it). It was just a party, and thinking it over I realise what a great way it was of celebrating what we've come through since the civil partnership (my unexpected series of depressive episodes, hopefully ended three years ago, and J's getting me through them alive). The date we chose, the 15th, was also my birthday, and that has always had a sour taint owing to the fact that my father died at that time. So truly celebrating was a way of getting over it.

Wish I'd said all that in the speech. Not to mention the fact that Claire, pledged marriage-wise to Howard on the same day, was the herald of future happiness 29 years ago when she came out of the audition room for City Opera's new season saying 'there's this baritone with a fabulous voice and the most amazing blue eyes'.

Matilda Palmer said...

Thank YOU for inviting me to share in your happy day! All was splendidly festive and I should really have liked to have worn one of those princess cakes as a hat: not that it would have rivalled Pia’s beautiful “Flora Crowns"! And now I know to hunt down the little Swedish bakery in Covent Garden which just sounds lovely. Just before your wedding I had my very nice American cousin to stay and we spent a few days running round London before going to Lyme Regis - 45 years ago at the age of 18 she went off to live in the north of Sweden and worked for a family who had a small wool mill specialising in natural dyes. She was reminiscing about it all, and we went over to a little Swedish shop in Barnes to get supplies of Knackebrod. Good, and plain, and ordinary but what a pity we didn’t know about the bakery in time!!!

David said...

Well, Tilly, Bagariet ain't cheap, but we weren't going to economise on princess cakes from Ikea. The bakery also does the most remarkable cardamom flavoured cake, possibly the most delicious I've ever tasted (there were three at the party, but I'm not sure whether you got a slice). Plus of course cinnamon buns for breakfast. Used to be easy to get a seat in the tiny interior, but it's way too popular now.

Your cousin sounds fascinating!

wanderer said...

That was a bit misread David.

I didn't think for a minute that you went for the small picture, and by way of explanation: by the Big Picture I meant that of same-sex marriage being so established in the West, and particularly now in every state of the Union, and that is what I was contrasting with my very clear memories of having the very existence, of 'being', a homosexual recognised as legal, let alone the marriage of two of the same.

As for Tomlin, that was an introduction to how I/we feel, not a surmise about yourselves.

David said...

I think I understood it perfectly well: the big picture is that you're glad this is part of something, the small is that you don't share my views on why it's a good thing. So no corrective needed.

Laurent said...

Love the photos, the flowers headdress very Roman Carnaval and makes you look Laureato! The cakes look yummy. Best wishes for continued happiness.

Susan Scheid said...

David: Happiest of birthdays, however belatedly! What you wrote in the comments caused me to think back about meeting J the first time, when you were still struggling so much, and how gracious you both were in the midst of it. J was so welcoming to us, perfect strangers, not to mention witty and just plain fun. Then, meeting you, and again J, we were struck once again with how unfailingly gracious, generous, authentic, and warm-hearted you both are. It's no surprise that, over your years together, you've gathered together such an utterly beautiful community of friends. We both feel very lucky to be part of it in some small way.

David said...

Sir David, a friend writes: 'FDR and Churchill singing (starts at about 3:09) https://youtu.be/OQwdyzkDjdA

'Apparently, FDR loved to sing and sang all his life. He liked to sing while driving his car.'

Laurent, thank you. We now have optional characters for our garlands: Greek gods, Roman revellers, Loxford virgins, Swedish and Shakespearean Midsummer-Nighters. All will do.

Sue - so generous as always, thank you.

David Damant said...

I did not express myself well. My point is that people who are reserved and formal are just as likely to do the right human things as those with more sympathetic personalities. It is a pity that this is not recognised.

David Damant said...

As regards poncing around in frocks, one recalls Mandela's reply to the remark by Archbishop Tutu, that when Mandela became President he should wear more formal clothes and not casual shirts as before. Mandela's reply was that this comment did not come very well from a man who floated about in a pink frock

newleafsite said...

David, my embarrassed tardiness in responding to this post is due to my own neglect of checking in at wordpress, and relying instead on post announcements by email (yours don't show up there). On the other hand, my congratulations and best wishes to you both can now include a slight reference to some of what's already been said. So very glad for you both, and so pleased that you are steadfast in celebration and hold out against notions of doing what you want and being happy about it for "wrong reasons." Happiness needs no reason - it is its own reason! Hugs and love and continued health and happiness to you and J! I couldn't be more pleased for the two of you, and for a serendipitous new meaning of July 15th! -- With joyful tears and flushed cheeks, Elizabeth

David said...

Well, Elizabeth, it's at times like this that I really do believe the Internet is a most wonderful thing. Whether or not we meet, it's just wonderful to receive such heartfelt words and know that they come from a really good person. Everyone's quite right, of course, one needs no official seal of approval - but things like this make it a bit easier to walk down the street holding hands (not that I'm good at that with anyone), to shuck off any vestiges of shame or embarrassment at what people might think, which sad to say still pop up when one least expects it. It's yet another evolution from coming out, living with someone, and so on. Each signpost needs celebrating. And it really was a party I enjoyed, for once.

Gavin Plumley said...

Congratulations, David. Love the hints of Albert Herring and Meistersinger about the garlands of flowers. We did the 'upgrade' quietly, having thrown a big old party six years ago, but, personally, loved seeing the use of the word 'husband' on the marriage certificate. Looks like you had a good and proper feasting!

David said...

Gavin, it's been so long! I keep expecting to bump into you at concert or opera, but it hasn't happened (though occasional we are on different pages of the same programme). Well done you too. We actually had an afternoon party eight years ago too, but some folk are no more, which we lament, and we're still here, which we celebrate.

The garlands were a total surprise - I prefer to see it as a Swedish Midsummer Night's Dream, though it's appropriate that the garland in the top picture is on the Master Singer's head.