The priest who married Mrs Llew and me has died. We read of his death in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ today. He was Father Gerard Irvine, who was vicar at the time of our marriage, of St Cuthbert with Matthias, in Philbeach Gardens, Earls Court, London.
It was Autumn half term. London’s plane trees were shedding their leaves. Mrs. Llew’s wedding dress still has traces from the day of the mud in which her dress trailed. Fr Gerard can be seen, smiling, in our black and white wedding picture.
His obituary, in today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’, states that he was 90 years old. This means that when Mrs Llew and I were married he will have been 41. He seemed middle-aged to me then: a ‘grown up’.
We had no money. So Mrs Llew and I decided to hire a London Transport bus to take our guests to the reception at the Black Bull, next to Chelsea football ground. I think, as it turned out, that we were trail blazers in doing that. At the reception a Jewish friend, who stood in as my best man, presented Mrs L and me with a glass of sherry, urged us to drink from it and then smashed the glass under his foot, shouting Mazel Tov. It was a moment of great meaning, hope – even fufilment
He was standing in for the scheduled best man, who, as it turned out, was too drunk to turn up.
It was, for the day, a Bohemian sort of wedding. It followed a summer of courtship in twilit streets of West London and Fleet Street– evenings when the presses thundered in Shoe Lane and the Chelsea dusk was scented by the smoke of Gitanes.
Fr Gerard (Haileybury and Merton College, Oxford) must have thought we were rather a gauche pair, ploughing a totally new furrow in life: Mrs Llew having won her way, a stranger at every step, from a council house through to an Oxford degree, and me finding my way in journalism.
There is no melodrama intended here. But, looking back, we grew up in a time when giants walked the earth, people like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, both of whom Mrs Llew heard lecture.
Nearly 50 years on our children prosper. There have been some strange turnings but I pray that our ways will be made straight.