My brother was married on Saturday. In addition to standing at the gate telling people to take off their shoes and where to park for two hours, I gave a little speech. I also drank far, far too much. It was a really splendid day that somehow managed to come together despite all the chaotic little upsets of life and preparation. There was food, dancing and assorted merriment. There was not, as far as I am aware, any fighting. And there were two people who love each other very much prepared to stand in front of a bunch of people to say in public that they love each other very much. That’s a lot braver than anything I have ever done!
People were impressed by my speech. Somewhere out there is a recording of it. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask someone to film me on my camera. Here, at least, is the text that I prepared:
To begin I’d like to thank John for allowing the use of his land for this wedding party; Katy, Kris and Emily for all the arranging; my dear Mum for the heroic catering; and all of you for making it here today. I know it means a lot to the happy couple that you are here to see their big day.
My name is Luke and I am one of Liam’s many brothers. He has asked me to say a few words. All my brothers are groaning because they know that ‘few’ and ‘words’ are oxymoronic to my vocabulary. Jasper (old habits!) is probably dreading what I’ll say because I’ve been unwitting spectator to far too much of their relationship; but she’s stealing my best friend so nuts to her.
I was going to read from Liam’s diary as a 16 year old but was informed that would not be appropriate. I considered a discussion of the Varangian guard – he’s a Greek, she’s a Viking, they’ll defend the empire – which they’d probably love except for all the parts I’d get wrong.
So I’ll just talk about love, which I might not be qualified to do, and a poem, which I am. I describe the love between Liam and Jasper (or Jaspryella as I like to think of them) as a yellow-painted mountain. This is not a romantic image. When I told Liam this he was fairly offended but I told him to shut up and let me explain. So shut up and let me explain.
My favourite poem – I’m allowed one – is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. In this poem love:
“is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,”
Which is a wonderful. Love as your fixed point guiding you home. I could probably devote a good deal of your precious time to waffling on about the symbolism and so on. But it is also a bit ridiculous. Imagine saying “you’re a gassy ball in a vacuum and I’m a leaky boat, let’s get hitched.” I’m pretty sure that’s not how Liam proposed. Or at least I hope not! But in those lines I can see the germs of what these two have. Each plan they make, they make together; Liam and Susie are one another’s compass in life. They set their course by the landmark of their yellow mountain.
The poem goes on that “Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds.” At first blush this might be a stumbling block; Jasper hates it when Liam shaves. To be fair, if you’d seen him beardless you’d understand. But I’m being silly here. It’s the sickness and health in another way, it’s richer and poorer. It is I take you as you are and as you are going to be. And I see this pair together and I know that’s the way it is. The rain can come and wash the paint off their mountain, and they’ll just get out the brushes.
On the one hand, they are daft. they have pet names that they use in public; they drive everyone around them insane with their double double-u, red lorry game; they’ll start to text one another when one leaves the room; they’re a bit Jane and Mr Bingley in that they can never disagree because neither one makes a decision. It’s maddening! It’s a moving cathedral built on a river. It’s a yellow-painted mountain.
On the other hand, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments”. Someone went to the trouble to paint that mountain. Imagine walking up such a thing and every stone you pass is painted yellow; lemon, umber, aureon, saffron. It’s all yellow, but it’s all different and it’s all encompassing. You pick up a pebble and it’s not that someone’s dumped paint over it, just a quick pass over and done, they’ve gone to the effort of picking up each rock and painting every bit of it. The cutting in is excellent. You suspect that if you melted the ice at the top that would have been painted too. That is why I said to Liam and I say to you their love is a yellow mountain.
The kind of love they have is both something sublime that you find in the world, and something that they’ve made together. It is a marriage of true minds: little games, shared interests, pennies for thoughts and dinner through consensus. Each and every day, whether they are together or they are apart, they work on their giant love in little ways.
“If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”
So please join me in raising a glass and toasting this, and all, yellow mountains.