Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Of A Good Few Orangemen

My weekend I owe to a few Orangemen. That is a couple of Indian guys at the Belfast International Mela festival who entertained brilliantly hundreds of people with some really alternative acrobatics. And also a guy at the Ballycastle Lamas yesterday who patiently appeared to hover of air while countless around him just stood and starred trying to work out what their eyes were seeing. Great stuff and well done to the men in organge!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Of Queue Queue Blimey a Queue

I returned home last week from a few days in Geneva. I love going abroad but I always enjoy returning to the UK. Call me a home bird if you like. This time it was different however. For the first thing that confronted me a Gatwick Airport was a queue for passport control that zigzagged its way left then right then left and right some more from the officials to where I stood and promised me at least a half hour wait.
They say that the Americans have such a good standard of service because they complain when they're not happy. My experience of the British in queues is that they moan like hell to the person in front and behind but say nothing when they finally get served. So I did a deal with myself.
I promised myself not to stress or get angry as I stood hot and tired in more or less the same place for 30 minutes on the understanding that I complained when presented with the opportunity. That is complained properly, not moaned, and to a person responsible for the debacle not Joe Blogs in front of me.
When at last I was given the opportunity to present my passport I asked the official whether he thought things were going well this evening. He replied with some honesty that he didn't think they were. I said that I felt it was a poor service and he agreed but suggested I talked to the people in charge pointing to a raised platform behind him manned by two officials.
The conversation went like this :
"Excuse me Sir but that over there is disgraceful" (they both looked at the now even longer zigzagging line)
" What is?"
"That queue. I've waited 30 minutes just to show someone my passport. This is the first experience many get of the UK and all they see is British inefficiency"
" I'm sorry Sir but we have all the people available to us at their posts. It really is the best we can do"
"I run a company and if I said to customers who complained about our shoddy service that it was the best we could do - they'd laugh at me".
They both cowered away peering at the queue as if to convince themselves that it wasn't that bad and I had overreacted.
So I ask myself did it change things? Probably No. Did it stress me out complaining and send my blood pressure sky high? Well, actually No. In fact quite the reverse. It felt very therapeutic. And indeed when queuing I didn't feel stressed or at all angry because somehow I knew I'd make someone account for the discomfort they were putting me through and that helped.
Would I do the same again? Yes. And every time.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Of Wedding No.2

And so it happened; Wedding No.2. This time for the English relatives in Branscombe, Devon.
The weather was perfect. It was not too warm for the likes of me in a heavy wedding suit and it was sunny enough to bathe Branscombe in beautiful sunlight - as if nature had been dressed for the Blessing too.
If the weather delivered then so did the vicar, Reverend Hilary. She was just outstanding. She told me when we first met that she used to be a teacher and it showed during the service. She had beautiful exposition and it was clear to me that she knew how to "prep a lesson" and address and engage those in front of her. Her smile and energy was just infectious and I don't think anyone I've spoken to since has failed to comment on just how good she was.
The church is straight off the front of a chocolate box and is as charming as it is English. As I boy I once camped in a field to the rear of the church and somehow thought that one day the church would feature in my life and some thirty five years later I proved myself right.

Because the ceremony was a Blessing as opposed to a wedding we had the flexibility to include our own vows. Anna started with her seven and then I followed with mine. It was a bad mistake. I should have gone first for when the woman you love stands in front of you and tells you how she plans to love and take care of you for the rest of your life it's difficult not to choke.
We left the church to the best of what the choir, organist and bell ringers had to offer and it was good. Very good. As we made our way out the grounds I couldn't help but notice two doves perched high up on the church wall. I winked at Bertha and Harry and wondered if Anna had named them in her own mind Alexander and Alexey after her own grandparents now also long passed away.
What followed was a small but lovely reception. Every relative seemed to chip in something. There was singing, dancing, speeches, quizzes, art and craft, party games.

In the evening Anna and I reflected on what had happened. In Moscow we had enjoyed a terrific and very Russian wedding. In England we'd enjoyed a very English one.
Two lucky people in a great place in a wonderful world.