Wednesday, 17 February 2010

I can still cringe!

I have given three wedding speeches in the past and some have been more successful than others. My first wedding speech was certainly a little sloppy?....well you judge for yourself.
My sister and I had just spent a truly amazing week in Istanbul. Rest and healthy living were certainly not on the agenda and we were returning to the UK desperately in need of vitamin C and sleep. My friend's wedding was in the afternoon following the morning flight home. The speech I was to deliver had not been considered at all during my time in Turkey and on the plane, I decided to write a poem about the fantastic couple Jack and Jackie (last name: Frost - no kidding). I can remember the first two lines:

When Jackie first showed me Jack
I thought she was joking

This provoked a ripple of laughter but other than that, the rest of the 'poem' was overshadowed by just four words.

On the plane my sister had suggested the line, 'Jackie has got elephantitus' and I had written it down. It made sense. Jackie had a huge elephant collection. Everyone of significance in her life - including her future husband - had bought her an elephant. In the primary school she taught in, it was general knowledge that she loved elephants, so at the end of every term she had to make way for yet another herd stampeding into her house. She had elephants on the wall, knee-high ones on the floor, on the shelves, in her kitchen doubling as utensils, in her bedroom and several boxes of the less appealing ones in her loft - no exaggerating. The elephant situation had got a little out of hand. Truth was, however, she actually and sincerely hated elephants and I was the only one with this insider information. She did not understand how she had got herself into this predicament but also felt it would be insulting to point out her dislike to everyone who had lovingly added to her collection. So, I thought I would save her on her wedding day. Yes, indeed, I would be the brave person to stop this whole silly business so she could walk around her house without continually bumping into elephants.

And I did. I started my poem and there were some noises of people being entertained. And then I got to that line,
'Jackie has got elephantitus.' and it was at that point and only that point that I realised what I had done. I remember a thud of silence in the room and my sort of boyfriend at the time looking up at me with a smile - a smile that was kind of saying a painful, 'really'?

You see Jackie wasn't exactly petite.

And then I did some panicked getting-out-of-the-hole digging that failed miserably and I looked like an arse. I was pointing to the banner I had made (that had an elephant on it) and saying jumbled inarticulate things like:
'no...what I mean elephant need you to know she hates elephants.....that's what I meant...arghhh...I wasn't'

Later that evening more people, including my sister, turned up for the evening ceilidh. My sister recounted how she had said to an elderly aunt that her sister had given a speech. The response she received was a filthy look and a turned back!

Fortunately Jackie (who reminds me PERSONALITY-WISE of Dawn French) is the absolute opposite from lacking a sense of humour. I am not sure what she thought I was up to and we only spoke about it in a bantery type way afterwards but she didn't appear to hold anything against me and we remained great friends. Sadly she lives in Cornwall now. I don't think it was this incident that drove her there but it is a long way away.

But the 'story' did not end there. A year or so later, my Tassie mate Louise sent a journalist friend to stay with me for a night - as this friend was over researching her geneaology (this took her to Great Yarmouth). We had a lovely evening together. We shared lots of stories - the elephantitus one being one (her court case up against Stephen Biddulph being another). And being a writer, she went back to Australia and turned my story into a short story -not the wedding bit - the teacher with an unwelcome collection of elephants bit. I believe she had it published in a magazine. She sent me a paper copy - minus the ending - because I guess she was scared I would try and publish it too (she had hand written 'copyright' on every page). I still have it somewhere and I would love to know how she ended it.

Needless to say, I did more planning for wedding speech number two and it went well. I probably over-planned wedding speech three, but it was still an improvement on wedding speech one - but I guess that's not saying a lot!


  1. I take it that you are not a member of Toastmasters ???

  2. Been away from the computer (well, blogs really as I've been writing) a while so catching up on on older posts.
    Always enjoy your writing

  3. LOVE that, that's my Wednesday smile out of the way.

    I could do a list of faux pas as long as well, a pretty long list.

    Once we were waiting for a courier to come and pick up some artwork for a job in them olden days, afore ye digital transfer methods of now, I stood impatiently in a window looking out for the fella. but got distracted by a telephone or something, when I looked up, the clients daughters car was waiting outside, So I shouted into the back room, "The Bike's here", sadly Helen who had come to pick up the pack of artwork was by this point standing behind me in a doorway. I think she assumed it was some sort of deviant nickname we'd come up with and was outraged enough to actually slap me round the back of teh head. lot's of two way red faced mumblings occurred, we've since forgiven each other.

    I wrote "Barry's big gay flower van" in dry wipe marker on the side of our neighbours white van, (Barry is a 6ft tall 16 stone engineer), don't ever ever ever write on oxidised white van paint, it doesn't come off at all. I thought Matt was going to die laughing, I thought I was going to die on the receiving end of Barry's fists. Fortunately he thought it was funny (eventually), and Brasso does get it off.

    there are more, lots more, I have this engaging brain problem when it comes to getting a cheap laugh.

  4. I seriously doubt they would have me - unless they wanted me to provide examples of how not to toast. However my public speaking has improved (I was quite young when I delivered that speech)and I do it professionally all the time now and rarely insult people!

    Mark - thank you. How is the writing going?

    Mr T - I think that the faux pas is the bain of the extrovert....pump it out and then realise it should have remained internal afterwards! Add in a bit of hyperconnectivity and all chances of control have gone out the window. It's always comforting to hear that others can do it so well too.

  5. Didn't realize I'd been the start of the elephantitus thing...And I still let you speak at my wedding! Seem to remember I came back from Istanbul fully rested and clean as a whistle xxx

  6. This is all new writing comments on blogs. I am elephantiasis woman, even less petite, bearing no grudges after 15 years but with not one elephant added to my collection since that day. Any more dtories with me in cos it's odd seeing your life in ablog! Sweet georgia brown!

  7. Hallo wonderful woman!!!

    So despite insulting you and everyone that had ever given you an elephant, on your wedding day...I did actually sort the elephant situation for you!!!!!! Here to help.

    No charge.

  8. No it's not's elephantitus. Quite different

  9. Oh Sweet Georgia Brown and the chronological disco!!!

  10. That was so funny! I love it when people try and dig themselves out of a bottom-less pit. I love it when they they always do. Given the subject matter, I doubt she'd ever forget...but at least she's forgiven you.

  11. Agree with Ken, trying to explain is a 50% proposition to make it better at that stage...

  12. James - yes just one of many times of you leading me astray.

    Ken and Eric - yes the odds were stack against me coming out of that looking like a good guy because my point of realisation was always going to show. I felt terrible for years but can blog about it without the gut wrenching cringing I used to have to do. Absolution might be near. Jackie's forgiveness was forthcoming but I still had to metaphorically self flaggellate every time it came into my mind.

  13. I've got to say Molly, if I ever have a problem like a surfeit of elephants, I'll come to you for a creative solution :)

  14. Codgi - good to see you're catching up on your course work after skiving like you did - just to go skiing!

    Do you have ANY elephants? I'd like to know what the chance of my services being called into action. I could probably do frogs too.

  15. P.S. I think I found a link on someone else's website to this post as an example of how not to do wedding speeches. Fancy that. All I can say in my defence is...I'm sure could have been worse.

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