I woke up and did a bit of reading, finishing off 'The Greeks' which has had me enraged in a cloud of feminist red mist for the last few weeks; it finishes by hinting that Pandora's 'box' was not some kind of external wooden object…. My plan had been to have a LIE-IN but at 10am I suddenly wanted a proper cooked hotel breakfast and we raced down to the restaurant to find many of the party there enjoying their 'full Irish' (eggs and bacon etc) ….
This energetic start led us into a mad dash to collect up all the items and props that we'd set up for the night before - going into the hotel kitchen to find the antique cheese stand, and the left-over cheese and cake, and so on. All this was to be taken to Leugh - Jo's family home. We gathered up the hired clothes from all the grooms' men (eliciting groans about missing hats and hatboxes), and arranged convoys of cars to bring everyone to the barbecue, giving directions in a landscape where we weren't really sure of the way, there are no postcodes and in this case, the house shares its name with the road and the village but without any signs along the way to say where it is.
I had been thinking about the special qualities of a wedding between different cultures. In many weddings, I guess, the two families have a bit of a chance to get to know each other, but if the wedding is 'abroad' for one side, then there is much more of a gap of knowledge, and more speculation. In this case, I wasn’t at all sure what the protocols would be, and in fact there were differences between what I sort-of expected and what happened, but these may have been generational rather than cultural. In 'the old days', weddings often happened late in the morning, followed by lunch and then tea - after which the oldies crept away to their beds (zzzzz) and the young went bopping. But here, as I have explained, the wedding was timed for 3.30, the meal started at 6.30 and went on for 2 or 3 hours, and then the dancing started - and everyone, everyone was expected to take part. My problem was, by 11pm I was utterly bushed and had to go to bed. What a wimp! And I was not alone…. But I had the clear impression that the Irish were well used to this, and as I explained yesterday, they booked their bus home from the hotel (which is in a pretty remote place) for 4am. FOUR A.M. And they were ready to go on with the party the next day at the family barbie. I am seriously impressed.
I heard one or two people picking up a theme I touched on before - namely the war-like character of weddings: us against them. All said in jest of course. But we were seriously outnumbered - a very few Mussetts and some friends. Imagine what it would have been like if this was a tribal peace-making through marriage - which must have happened ten thousand times in the history of the world. I was asked how many sisters and brothers I have, and whether they were all here. I was told I had taken Jo to my heart. I was asked if I had been told all about her family. I kept thinking of Wealhtheow in Beowulf - the cup-bearing queen in King Hrothgar's Hall of Heorot: she (by her very name) is clearly a Welsh or Celtic woman, and married into a specific role - to be a 'peace-weaver' between her people and the conquering or invading Danes. I thought Jo looked like a queen when she was married - stately and endowed with the powers of youth and beauty, and the promise of fertility such as all brides bring. Members of her family said 'Let's hope we have another party like this, soon - a christening!'.
We all went to her parents' house for the promised barbecue and feasted on cheeses and salads and burgers and drank the wine - and the grannies held court in their respective quarters of the garden, and Chris was a genial master of ceremonies inside the house. There came a point when some of the car-less needed a lift back to the hotel, to start to make their way home, so we became part of that convoy, and then took advantage of the swimming pool back at Dundrum.
It's blissful when you are tired and away from home to be able to swim in a warm, clean pool - so calming and quiet, that sense of total immersion. We went back to the barbie afterwards and Andrew played the piano and everyone sang - it was unifying and splendid and as we made our final departures, that music was lifting us all up in a kind of optimistic wave, funny and harmonious.
In the end, about a dozen of us had another little feast of frittata and salad back at our house to round off another pretty-near perfect day. Driving back and forth between Dundrum and Leugh, you pass through this subtle, ancient and lovely countryside and it's tempting to think of coming to live here for good. It's a Janet-and-John world here, a bit old-fashioned, where the children are polite and courtesies are the normal thing.
I am writing this now at an amazing B&B called Harbour Command in Schull, down in SW Cork - on our way to Crookhaven where we came as children for a memorable holiday in 1959. During the night I thought of so many things I wanted to include - the difficulties of wearing high heels when you haven't for a long time, the dreams I had this last week (that my mother's real father was in fact a man called Frances Keech, that I had pustules all over my face and realised they must be smallpox, and more of those confusing situations where you are showing someone round a building without knowing anything about it). But here we are, with a stupendous view outside - even as far as the Fastnet Lighthouse - and another day in front of us, touring more of this spectacular coast before heading back to Dundrum. Tomorrow we'll pay our bills, collect up the last of the wedding detritus and take it to Jo's parents' house and pick up the mass of stuff we have to take back to England.... wine, the wedding dress, presents, suitcases, etc etc. But for today we're in cooling sunshine, with the bays and headlands out there waiting, the sea shimmering and pearly, the windfarm turbines turning lazily on the horizons, the small fields cut for hay, the hedges brilliant with montbretia and fuschia, the orange and pink fusing happily into a kind of living jewellery along the banks.