Sunday, December 17, 2006

A very civil partnership

Yesterday I attended a civil partnership ceremony at Islington town hall. My friend and comrade Clive (who comments here from time to time), was doing the decent thing by his partner Elias. I have to say that even my world-weary old eye was moist as the two of them spoke about how they had first met, how Elias had narrowly escaped deportation, and what their love now meant to them. Altogether now: ahhh!

I should add that the registrar and the rest of the officials and staff at the town hall were superb, achieving the perfect balance between suitable formality, and good humour.

But the high-spot of the ceremony was, without doubt Elias's mother, a magnificent prima donna, who sang the Antonious Carlos Jobin song Dindi , accompanied by a piano-bass-and percussion trio. Now, singing mothers can be a bit of a liability - as Tommy Sheridan can confirm. But in this case, the mother really could sing. And no wonder: it turned out that she'd been the vocalist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra between 1972 and the Duke's death in 1974. And Elias's dad was the whisk-broom percussionist in the trio: he'd played drums with the likes of Charles Mingus.

We ended up with a fabulous disco and booze-up in a Hackney pub, where various friends and colleagues of Clive and Elias gave short speeches and/or sang songs, standing on a chair... amazingly (to me; but then, I've had a sheltered life), Elias's ex-partner and mother of his child gave a warm, good-humoured and thoroughly generous speech, wishing him and Clive all the best for the future. Bloody hell! I don't pretend to understand the sophistication of modern relationships; but it was a lesson to me in common decency, friendship and humanity. I was proud to be present.

By the way: my partner is a keen listener to BBC Radio 4's "everyday story of country folk", The Archers, in which there has also been a civil partnership, between two characters called Ian and Adam. Apparently, it's caused quite a stir amongst Archers listeners, with quite a few of them complaining that this sort of carry-on has no place in a programme that is traditionally devoted to tips on when to get your turnips in, and what to do if your pigs get botulism. She throughly approved of the Ian and Adam nuptuals, and even sniffled when Adam's stepfather, the evil capitalist farmer and homophobe Brian Aldridge, belatedly turned up at the ceremony... but, she said, it was nowhere near as good as Clive and Elia's ceremony. Well done, you chaps!


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