Lady Devotea and I spent Saturday evening attending a wedding in Melbourne, an Australian city that is quite acceptable* despite us not living there.
The wedding was of a childhood friend of mine, Stefan and his partner Julia.
Stefan and I played together is several incarnations of a rock band from the time we were about 14 until we both left our industrial hometown for the bright lights of our State capital Adelaide: he to go to University, where he’s more or less been ever since, I think, and for me, to study sound engineering to fill in the time until my career as an international rock star took off.
When we first moved, we lived about kilometre apart, and so saw quite a bit of each other, but I moved, we drifted apart, and then my life changed when I met Lady D, who was an actual rock star and streets ahead in quality of anyone I had ever played with (which is still the case). I joined her band playing bass, and before long we had a life together and I had drifted from all of my friends from my youth.
About 25 years later, Facebook basically put our teenage band back together. I learned that Charlie had 6 kids and was a regional NSW music legend, Paul lived in Melbourne and played the blues, and Stefan was doing some totally weird academic stuff and playing indie music. To be honest, the latter was the least surprising, Stef was always the most out there, philosophical, socially aware person in that town and listened to anything that wasn’t mainstream.
Over the next few years, Charlie tragically passed away and Stef and I found time to catch up when either of us was in the other’s cities.
Incidentally, he is an authority on “ghost signs”: that is, faded signs that are still visible, if barely, on neglected walls. A lot of these are actually tea adverts, as in this example from his blog.
So the invite to the wedding was a big deal. Lady D and I did not know anyone at all at the wedding apart from the groom, and I knew Stefan’s mum from 35 years ago.
We flew in and after a few minor adventures, found ourselves at the venue, gift in hand. (It was a teapot and tea, of course.)
From the moment we walked into the spectacular garden/orchard on the farm where it was held and saw that the celebrant was brilliant, radical, activist, humanist the Former Roman Catholic priest of a parish in Collingwood Father Bob Maguire, whom we have always admired, the event was exceptional.
We talked to wonderful people, and quite a lot of that talk was about tea. We ate wonderful food, enjoyed wonderful environs, wonderful staff. Just wonderful.
One area that is often not so wonderful is the wedding speeches. There were plenty, and they followed the usual script. The MC was the bride’s brother, and so there were plenty of in-jokes for the family which went over our heads. The best man lost his place in his cue cards, so he was funny and warm in parts and uncomfortably lost in others. The Bride gave a speech which was both funny and also appreciative of those present and who had contributed to the organising of the big day.
In the midst of all that, Stefan spoke. He spoke of the connections to the land of the indigenous inhabitants, and 30,000 years of continuous inhabitation in the area, based around the river. He also spoke of the thoughts that he and Julia had gone through, as they are both quite ‘alternative’ and non-traditional: whether to have a wedding ceremony, what meaning it would have to them. He spoke of their ceremony as a continuation of aeons of ritual and ceremony occurring upon the land.
It was quite brilliant.
At a brunch the next morning, I told him how much I enjoyed his speech. He said he hoped it hadn’t been too long or too academic, but he really felt the need to highlight the importance of the river, and of ceremony and ritual.
I reminded him we are in the tea business. Big occasion or small, when it comes to water and ceremony and ritual, that’s what we do.
The metaphor extends to love.
And it certainly extends to cake.
*I have not always loved Melbourne. I had this to say in a now obsolete blog years ago