Following our wedding in a Chinese City and a Chinese village, it was time to seal my title as the most married man in the world and have one last go at it. Get the band back together, make the difficult second sequel, where they tie it all back to the beginning. Dartmoor's wild and roaring countryside is a place special to the Gawne heart, so we booked a weekend in at Colehaye's park, just beneath Hay Tor for a belter of a weekend.
If you've lived in abroad for a while, you'll know what a treat it can be to come home again. For a while, an Englishman can wallow in his rose tinted visions of old country pubs, clean air, wandering lonely clouds and endless wheat fields; to forget all about Brexit, chavs and rail replacement bus services. It can seem for but a fleeting glimpse that Jerusalem was indeed builded here, on this Isle, full of noises, sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not... English country weddings are perhaps the place to really wallow in this sense of my homeland at its best.
Our guests list was drawn from far and wide - a healthy Chinese contingent travelling 20 strong, further adorned with Europeans, Americans and more. The Chinese were undone by, of all things, French punctuality, causing them to miss their connecting flight in Paris. Under different circumstances, I would have found it endlessly amusing to watch a gaggle of middle aged Chinese travellers, without a word of English between them, negotiating French industrial action rail replacement buses and Westcountry English. But in this case I must only respect their managing to arrive, on time, with 6 hours to go until kick off. Special mention must also go to Daniel O'Brien, for flying in to the UK for a total of 36 boisterous hours from Chicago, leaving 9 hours to spare before his first day on the job at an investment bank.
Finally, one nameless guest who was plucked out of his slumber on the Monday morning sleeping in the front drive in his boxer shorts, T shirt and one shoe. Excellent effort.
It was up to us to show the best of British - hog roast, curry, free bar, lake swimming, live music, bad dancing, long summer nights, country houses, cakes, cheese, picnics, starry nights, stories, a dash of derring-do, no confirmed fisticuffs and a seemingly unstoppable bottle of brandy. I think we made a bloody good fist of it.
Our Chinese guests possibly found this overwhelming in places - they seemed particularly lost as the band started playing and they all pulled seats up to watch, but its amazing what a few well placed glasses of champers can do. Their own performance of 茉莉花 (Jasmine Flower) took the crowd by storm. I was personally a bit miffed when a friend told me he thought delivering a bi-lingual wedding speech in Chinese and English to be 'an excellent party trick'.
After a few lemon Shandies, I reflected on the weekend with a friend who had spent a decorated career in the Armed Forces. He observed that such personal gatherings, where people connect organically and over shared love of family are where cultures can really connect. He had spent decades in stuffy rooms full of uniformed proud mend diplomats attempting build bridges, but in his eyes its all guff compared to twirling a young Chinese lady around to Dire Straits covers in a tent.