Wedding made in Devon

My brother got married this last weekend at the ripe old age of 40. Readers within a couple of days of this posting will know that it was the best weather we've had in Britain all year – I'd say for maybe two years. And the wedding took full advantage. Unlike most weddings in the UK this one started on the Saturday and just kept going through Sunday. The central location was a hillside on Dartmoor where a marquee had been pitched decorated with long throws of colourful saris, hanging lanterns and flashing fairy lights. At night it looked spectacular. And the wedding party mostly camped around it. There was a firepit, a roasting area for the hogroast, a children's dressing up area. A pile of haybales which turned into an impromptu sleeping area by Sunday morning.

The wedding drew together a large contingent from Scotland – the bride's family – kilts of course were mandatory (even for the groom), my side of the family which is more scattered but which can draw on a motley heritage of English, Welsh, Irish and even Scottish. And a major contingent of former students from Plymouth and local friends which represented shall we say the bohemian side of Devon.  All thrown together to form an instant community whose centre were Glyn and Cara.

The collision was spectacular. The marriage service itself started with the piper outside the gate of Widecombe parish church, during the service where my other brother Nigel and I had mustered our children to sing a couple of songs from Oh Brother Where art Thou – there were 7 musicians and singers spanning half a century – the youngest (who had a line of his own) was 4.  Confetti was a mix of dried rose petals and blown bubbles.  Back at the encampment the bar was open and the hog roast got under way. Long time friends the Famous Potatoes (barn dance band) organised the dancing which got progressively less barn and more ceilidh like as the evening wore on. The Scots had it. But then Glyn's DJ partner Pete Gregory got on the decks and swing and latin jazz took over. Glyn aka DJ Griff has been part of Jelly Jazz promoting jazz dance music in the West country for the last 10 years now. And the Devon crowd had it. After an interval sending magic lanterns into the sky over Dartmoor we returned to the dancing. At one point 2 of my children sang a song they had written for the couple complete with slideshow including photos hastily rolled in from the wedding the same day.  After 2am I ran for cover – the fire was burning and the guitars were coming out. I knew if I didn't escape I would be playing and singing for at least another couple of hours. So at least I got some sleep.

Morning time there was a collective fryup using a skiffle more than a metre across. And with the sun blazing down even hotter than on the previous day there was time for a game of hockey. Working with the kids to get sounds out of a DJing beat box, and listening to jazz on a windup gramophone.  One of my most precious memories was a discussion about 78 records: Perez Prado versus Hank Williams versus Rosetta Tharpe while at the same time helping young children to restart the windup gramophone without breaking it! All while sitting out on the hillside as the sun beat down. By the afternoon it had got too hot so a whole group of us went down to the River Dart where there were pools deep enough to swim and jump in and look for brown trout and wonder when the salmon would next swim up. 

There has been a lot of writing about happiness in recent years. What it is, how to measure it  and how to increase it. What made this weekend so special was the many shades of it, all based around people, most of it unexpected – from hour to hour we had no idea what delight was going to come next. But they kept on coming each one different from the last. When you bring children into the world you want them to have a vision of life which is not dependent on consumption. On community which is not based on just those people you feel secure with. This wedding  was a blaze of creativity and love and friendship. Which I will not quickly forget. 

Had to head back to London in the afternoon leaving Glyn and Cara still esconced on the hillside their wedding pavilion in place for the rest of the week. Really really wish we could have stayed with them.

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