TERRY PRONE: Get me to the church on time but not in a stained T-shirt please

Conchobhar Ó Laoghaire and Jerry Buttimer after their marriage ceremony at the Triskel Christchurch.

"They wanted it to be the beginning of a long ribbon of holden happiness a happy marriage can deliver"

I arrived at the wedding in a filthy temper and T-shirt. Which is, you will agree, not the right condition to be in when you attend the nuptials of dear friends.

The temper was occasioned by a kid aged about 18 months who sat behind me on the five and a half hour flight from Boston and who kicked the back of my seat. Readers of this page who know me as an infinitely tolerant person will know that for the first hour, I tolerated this, mostly on the basis that little 18-month legs have only so much energy in them and that the child would suddenly fall asleep and peace would break out.

Neither happened. Her mother, every now and again, would half-heartedly suggest she might desist, indicating the possibility that the person in the seat she was kicking might get annoyed, stand up and say something to her. The child, who clearly had no imagination, was less than threatened and kept kicking. For the entire five-and-a-half-hour flight, thereby rendering my investment in a memory foam neck pillow entirely wasted. Hence, the filthy temper.

The dirty T-shirt, on the other hand, was not the responsibility of the kid in the row behind me. I’m a sloppy coffee drinker, particularly when imbibing in a moving vehicle and had inflicted the embellishment all by myself.

Stain and sleeplessness notwithstanding, as I disembarked, I was unworried. Bad-tempered but unworried. I had a cunning plan, you see. The cunning plan was to grab my case off the carousel, retreat to the loo, wash my hair, dry it under one of those hand-drier devices, change totally — in a cubicle, of course — into the newly purchased wedding-suitable outfit carefully folded in the case, emerge 80% right, apply make-up to bring me close to 100%, get into a car and head for Cork.

In Cork, I would casually mention that I was straight off a transatlantic flight, to the wonder and admiration of any bystander not already transfixed by the newlyweds. A good plan, I hear you say, if somewhat self-absorbed.

The plan was ready to click in when the luggage carousel started and bags by the hundred tumbled and circled. They eventually stopped tumbling, although the orphan bags continued to circle. Not including mine. Twenty minutes off the timeline already.

Off I went to the place where they deal with missing bags. The woman in front of me in the queue was not missing a bag. She was missing earphones. Those small ones, you know? White? That fold neatly into a small plastic container that’s transparent on the top so you can see them folded in? (These are all her descriptions.)

She’d had them on the flight but now didn’t and wanted the plane searched for them. She was willing to return to the aircraft in order to do the search herself, if need be. She spent so much time and energy on the project, she could’ve got herself a part-time job and paid for replacement earphones out of the first wages.

One does not, let’s face it, tend to get emotionally attached to bloody earphones. They have no individuality. They’re all the same. No relationship possibilities. Get over them, Honey, and please do it quickly. We don’t need you to do the whole Kubler-Ross bereavement sequence over a pair of lost earphones, trust me on this.

My temper getting filthier, I waited until I could describe my missing case, produce its identifying sticker, and be reassured of its arrival to my home the following day.

I could wash my teeth and hair. I could change into the fresh underwear every frequent flyer female has in her carry-on. The bottom line, however, was that me and the coffee-stained T-shirt were not only headed for Cork together, but because of Head the Ball who was holding a wake for her headphones, were now likely to be late for the wedding.

As it turned out, when I reached the Triskel Christchurch Arts Centre, the venue, the two groomsmen were still outside, greeting their guests. Conchobhar Ó Laoghaire and Jerry Buttimer. Hugs all round, and then came choices.

The main section of the venue was already filled, an usher told me, but I could choose to stand in the balcony and get a great view, or sit in one of the pews along the side. I went for the pew and a few minutes later was joined in it by Fionnuala Kenny and her husband, former taoiseach Enda Kenny, Ushers kept offering them a place close to the top. Head shakes. No, no, no. Those places are for the current Taoiseach, his partner and members of the Cabinet.

Thus proving something I had always predicted about the former taoiseach: That he would be as happy out of office as he had been in office, if not more so. This is not a man hovering on the edge of the spotlight, yearning to be invited into its arc.

Jerry Buttimer’s father and Enda Kenny got into a big discussion which made Jerry’s brother, who was one of the groomsmen, very anxious, because the ceremony couldn’t get started without Buttimer Pére, being up at the top, but Buttimer Pére is not a man easily persuaded to abandon a chat with an old friend.

Eventually, the music indicated that we were under way, and apart from one of the groomsmen mischievously shaking his head when the celebrant asked if he had the ring he was supposed to have, it all went swimmingly. Well, there was the moment when they all moved into Irish, in deference to Conchobhar’s fluency in that language.

Which fluency, as it turned out, wasn’t quite matched by that of the man he was marrying, because at one stage the registrar offered Jerry a chunk of Irish to say that was so long, he looked at her in dismayed pleading; Ah, here. To the laughter of the assembled witnesses, she broke it into two for him.

Lovely music. Lovely readings, including the St Paul one about love. Lovely ceremony. And as it ended and the guests poured out onto the gravel courtyard to get their pictures taken with the happy couple, I bailed.

The style would have been daunting at the best of times. Frances Fitzgerald in winter white, Mary Mitchell O’Connor in fuschia, and the two of them surrounded by others in minks and fascinators. I didn’t figure, in that context, that a coffee-stained T-shirt advertising a perfume that never made it, called Green Water, would cut it.

What struck me, driving back to Dublin, was how pleasant and uncomplicated the wedding had been. Another guest later texted me to say “the theme was love from beginning to end”. Just two people publicly affirming their long relationship among friends who wanted this to be the beginning of the long ribbon of golden happiness a happy marriage can deliver.

They wanted it to be the beginning of a long ribbon of golden happiness a happy marriage can deliver.


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