Well I have just arrived back in Ireland after a hectic week full of celebratory meals and too much alcohol, as we enjoyed the high spot, the wedding of my third daughter, Louise.
The trip commenced with a visit to see my old chum, Howard Skelton at Southport Cricket Club. Avid readers will remember Howard from the starring role he played in my blog posting of 24th May 2010 entitled A Case of Mistaken Identity. This posting has just recently done the rounds of the cricketing world and now Howard is a celebrity in the making. We had only just made contact after over 40 years and he had invited me down to the first days play at Birkdale of the four day game, Lancashire v Hampshire. It was a lovely day and Howard and myself had a lot of catching up to do. 40 years of stories and photographs from a time I loved so much takes a lot of getting through and it was just after lunch before we wandered down to the ground, only a few minutes walk from his comfortable flat. Lancashire were 100 and odd for two and the Hampshire quickies and a good slow bowler had Lancashire tied down for most of the afternoon. Invited into the pavilion, I met some really nice people especially the Chairman of the Club, Tony Elwood and the President Ken Standring of Lancashire fame. Howard is on the selection committee and so there was lots to talk about with the success of some of the teams and the distress of others. The ground was in fair nick and over the four days 1500 runs were scored and on the same wicket that weekend, the 2nd XI won in a game of over 500 runs. An amazing tribute to the groundstaff and the cricketing committee.
I had to tear myself away; I had to get back to Manchester as most of the family were meeting up that evening for the first celebratory meal which was held at the Rose Garden on Burton Road in West Didsbury. Burton Road has changed so much since my courting days and is now the Mecca for eating out in south Manchester and without fear of contradiction, the Rose Garden is at the top end of this culinary hot-spot. It is just a shame that the front of house man on the night did not fill you with the same enthusiasm as did the produce of the kitchen. A young waitress did her damndest to make our visit pleasant but this bearded maitre d’ did nothing to add to our obvious gaiety.
The following night it was back to Burton Road again where the situation was reversed. We ate at a place called Bistro 165 where an English man and a Dutch girl worked their socks off to ensure a welcome under some serious provocation from one member of our party. The cooking was clumsy, overdone and uninviting and not at all what you would have expected for the price, although my starter of squid was fairly good. The place was noisy and could have done with some decoration. How it has lasted for over 10 years as the blurb says, is incredible but it does go to show the popularity of the area when I saw both restaurants turning away customers on a Wednesday and Thursday night because they were fully booked out.
The meal in Bistro 165 however was to celebrate the 82nd year of the finest teacher to ever have the distinct pleasure of teaching me at St Bede’s College in Manchester. Tony “Spike” Martin introduced us youth to serious reading and I have never forgotten his shining light beaming out of the darkness of Bedian gloom. His gentility and humour again shone through the evening and the geniality of our MC, Mr David Smith once of Oldham, Lancashire but for the last 50 years of Wellington, New Zealand kept the occasion on even keel throughout. The males present were from the 1957 intake, leaving in 1964, unfortunately some had not improved their social skills in all that time, however the positives far exceeded the negatives and I hope Spike enjoyed the night. He is a joy to speak with.
It was a Dim Sum lunch in the Tai Pan on Upper Brook Street the next day, as we gathered up our thoughts and plans for the next day’s celebrations and we scoffed 13 or 14 courses of these delicious oriental tit-bits. A few bottles of wine and some tasty nibbles in the evening rounded off an excellent day at my 2nd daughter’s house in Woodford.
The wedding day started early, with 12 in the house, washing up was a conveyor belt activity and one I enjoy because I can moan away and nobody takes any notice. Then it was off to the Cheshire Smokehouse in Wilmslow for bread for the festivities but not before dropping daughter number four, Paddy Jo, off at the staging post for bride and bridesmaids, the Didsbury House Hotel, where Michelle, the hair dresser and a beautician were flat out making five beautiful women even more alluring than God had originally made them. The suite was littered with champagne bottles, make-up, brushes,combs,knickers and bras, I did not stay long out of decency’s sake. Kerry, ex-Longsight but now Melbourne, Emily from London, Jenni from Levenshulme but ex-Bolton and Paddy Jo from Dublin but ex-Chorlton and Heaton Moor were the most gorgeous quartet I had ever slapped my eyes on and I wept at the beauty of the bride, Louise.
Louise and Boz, her husband, real name Richard but for some historical reason claimed the derivitive, had picked out a Unitarian Chapel in Wilmslow, a comfortably sparse, mid-18th century prayer house with an excellent and enthusiastic pastor, Jeff Gould from Massachusetts. The service, lovely in its delivery, was speckled with seriousness, laughter and singing, the guests on a high with expectation of forthcoming events. I wept once more as I handed Louise over to man mountain, Boz Berry, a rather tall chap from Withington, the son of a retired headmaster and a teacher of music. We Malpi are going up in the world marrying into such academia: the Berrys however have one massive failing and it brings them all down to our level. They are all City supporters, poor sods.
A few photos and then off to the wedding breakfast which was scheduled for 5.00pm. We were all famished but champagne and wine and beer served as pre-prandials soon diverted our appetites and it was in merry mood that we all sat down to eat in the Hall at Woodford Community Centre that had been made over into a marquee. The food which had a middle eastern influence was excellent, the service great, the wine was more than quaffable. I stumbled through my speech, once more overcome with emotion at the thought of losing my beautiful daughter to a City supporter and we all withdrew to the far reaches of the marquee as they prepared the space for dancing.
The music was from a fantastic band called Ofay from Burnley way playing jazzy, hip hop stuff. Their music was improved even further by two of my grandchildren jumping on stage without a qualm in the world and dancing for over an hour to the strident rythm of the band. Joe and Polly could well make their mark in the terpsichorean hall of fame and I for my part was honoured by a lovely girl from Gatley, Debbie Higham, who granted me three dances and said some nice words as she threw me round the floor with gay abandon. There is not many women who can cope with my clumsiness on the floor but she persevered.
We all staggered home at well gone midnight, the 100 metre walk for me seemed more like two mile but we all made it and settled down in the kitchen for a night cap and a post mortem on a wonderful day. Louise still enchanting me with her beauty and Boz with his steadfastness, a lovely pair already made complete with the attendance of young Ernest, their one year old child who was the star of the show.
Waking in the horrors of drink the following morning and trying to will life into shattered limbs, eating what one could find the easiest and then going round to the hall to clear up. This attempt at labour soon invigorated the almost corpse but the day was flat and heavy as the body thought of last nights excesses and today’s langour and an early night was much appreciated by one and all. Monday dawned and still a physical wreck, old age and excess are never good chums but I will never learn. However action soon lifted the doldrums and it was off to the in-laws for a last celebration and to wave the married pair off for a few days in Paris. The “do” was finished, we flew back to Boyle and dreamed again of a lovely occasion.
My thanks go to the Berrys and Louise, Mark and Katy for looking after us and for Mark’s chauffering abilities on the day, with his leather cap and expensive suit, he had been voted best dressed servant. I want to thank all our grandchildren who for some reason or other show enormous amounts of love for Helen and myself, they were all so good and ably attended by Lindsay, their nanny, who made sure they put their best foot forward on the day. I want to thank the bridesmaids for looking lovely and travelling many a mile to be there on the day and also Jamie Hallahan for having the temerity of coming out of West Cork to face a gang of cut-throats he had never met before. Also my thanks go to Dave “Kiwi” Smith for organising Spike’s party and for telling some atrocious antipodean gags and Howard Skelton for whipping through the last 40 years since we last met and feeding me delicious chicken sandwiches. My biggest thanks have to go to Helen, my wife of all those 40 years, for guiding me through the jungle of life and to every guest at the wedding, who pulled out all the stops to make it such a fantastic day. My thoughts are with you all and may we meet many more times to celebrate whatever is in store and the memories of one hell of a week.