The English Weddings

Note: I originally sent this as an email to my friend Wesley (in August 2001). Since the mail does not contain any reference to personal matters, I decided to leave it unedited (except for correcting the occasional typo or error).

Hello Wesley,
here is a "report" on my English trip, it may come a bit longer than expected so I'm sending it separately... remember: you asked for it! :-) The journey starts under the better auspices, the day is warm and sunny and I am feeling good and relaxed. With my flight leaving at 14:30, I leave from home at 12:45 and calmly reach the train station where trains to the airport stop every 15 minutes. Strange enough, twenty minutes go by and still no train in sight. Luckily, it takes only another couple of minutes for the next train to arrive. That is good, because I have been muttering curses like a drunk sailor for the last five minutes and was about to get to the end of my repertoire. I enter the train with a certain sense of relief. Since the ticket machine at the station is broken, I think to myself that at least I'm going to save the money for the ticket. In fact, there is a sign on the wall that more or less says: "Passengers that do not have a ticket because the machine at the station is broken must go to the head wagon and contact the train officer there. Or be fined." I am in the last cabin of course. Eventually I reach the officer, pay the ticket, sit down and the train stops: we are at the airport. So begins my journey, and boys it is a sign of things to come...

As I'm already a bit late for the flight, I rush to the check in desk. Only a few desks are open, and there are maybe three or four people in front of each desk. I choose a queue that looks promising and join it. When it is almost my turn the nice lady before notices me and informs me that the desk is open for her group only, and would not accept people after her. I look around and there are now seven or eight people before each desk. Oh well, I can still make it so I pick another queue and start waiting again. The people in my queue are the most calm and impassive I have ever met. I have seen a sloth once on T.V., he had been doped in order to capture him but could still move faster than the man in front of the desk. Luckily, no one is in a hurry. I'm starting to feel a bit nervous, but before I get a chance to become really upset it is my turn and I happily give my passport and ticket to the clerk. "Are you going to London?" she asks. "Yes" I answer, with a smile. At this point I notice her raising an eyebrow, and it immediately occurs to me that I may have given the wrong answer. Though I cannot go into details here, I have developed an interesting theory regarding the raising of eyebrows, and from the angle, duration and shape of the eyebrow a great deal of information can be deducted. I'll have to write a monography on it one day or the other. Anyway, she hints that there may be problems with the plane being overbooked. I feel depressed. But, she adds, that was not going to be a problem! I feel elated. That is not a problem, because the radar of the airport had been broken in the morning, and all flights are late two to three hours. I feel depressed again. Eventually, I get upgraded in first class and admitted to the terminal, where I can relax and spend the next few hours.

Remarkably, the wait is unremarkable. The terminal has a few shops but nothing worth mentioning. The shops outside the airport are cheaper than the duty free, I wonder what's the duty they are talking about. Only the cigarettes are cheaper, and I quit smoking one year ago. I end up doing crosswords on a chair, and at about 16:30 we are called to board the plane.

The first class is nothing to write home about. In fact, it is identical to the second class but for the crew offering you a glass of champagne before the take off. I immediately suspect that the champagne is doped in order to keep people more quiet, and ask for another two glasses. Shortly after the plane gets rolling to reach the runway, I sense a faint smell of French cheese, the type of smell that gently prepares you to the serving of the famous Alitalia "hors d'oeuvres". However, some previous experiences suggest that may not be the case, and a quick glance at the menu confirm the doubt. The smell does not come from French cheese, but rather from the feet of the guy seated in the back row, who thinks he's being so smart in putting off his shoes for a two-hours flight. For some reasons, the smell being the same, knowing that it does not come from actual cheese makes a world of difference. The situation is difficult and only the continuous repetition of my personal mantra, which is "Appron, appron, YOU-TSAY!", allows me to keep my mental sanity...

Ok Wesley, please pardon my lenghty attempt at humour. All the facts did happen though, and from now on I'll try to be more concise. I arrive at the Charing Cross station about five minutes after the departure of the last commuter train. Next one is scheduled in fifty minutes, which of course I take to arrive in Tunbridge Wells at about 22:40. Here a friend of mine picks me with a car and eventually I am at home at about 23:00: the entire journey took more than ten hours.

The night goes by uneventfully (I tell you this because "tomorrow" things would be quite different...) and a nice and sunny British morning awaits me when I get out of the bed. Since our friends have a lot of space outside the house, they will host the dinner after the wedding in a huge tent, called marquee, mounted in the nearby grass field. While we help dressing the tables and preparing for the dinner I can appreciate the first difference with an Italian wedding: there is very little food around. In Italy, it is not at all unusual to sit down to eat at 13:00 and get up at 19:00, but here there are a few appetizers and only one or two servings are scheduled. This is of course completely balanced by the amount of alcoholic substances, which in Italy would satisfy three times the number of guests. Just for beer, there are three full large cans of Harveys and another one, slightly bigger, for lager (Stella Artois). Anyway, the ceremony begins at 15:00 and it is very nice, probably shorter than the Catholic version and more to the point. After the usual photographs and throwing of confetti (which in England are colorful pieces of paper, while in Italy we call the same the small sweets that groom and bride give to their friends and relatives as a wedding gift, packed in a special and "artistically shaped" box ) we come at home and from now on it is beer bashing. Actually, I have to add that our English friends are very very special people and their "speeches" offer more than one moment for commotion, but tears are soon forgot in beer... I don't have much fun during the party, this is partly due to the fact that I don't drink much, partly to the music that isn't that great and partly to the presence of a girl that I got a chance to know a bit too much some years ago and am not so eager to meet again. Ahem.

Anyway, I am a bit tired and happily jump into my bed shortly after midnight, when the new husband and wife leave the party together, as tradition wants. Now, you must know that I usually sleep like a baby and it is very difficult that I get awake during the night, but for reasons probably due to our ancestral survival instinct, that night I suddenly open my eyes and... there is a shadow over the bed! In the few seconds that follow I get a chance to collect more information: the shadow is that of a man, naked, who very calmly lifts the blanket and enter into my bed. I usually can keep my cool, and I manage to stay calm in that situation too. First thing I do, I sit on the bed and lie my back against the wall. From there, nobody is going to try to move me, and live to tell. However, I soon realize that the man is probably drunk to the hair. He doesn't seem too interested in me, but what do you know? I decide that maybe the old sofa at the lower ground is safer, so I slide along the wall and get off the bed, saying "Go on the bed" to the man who was already in there (I mean to say something like "please stay in the bed if you wish" but I have temporarily lost the ability to put words together in a meaningful way). When I put my trousers on and wear my glasses, a noticeable improvement upon the previous situation, the man gets out of the bed, mutters "Wrong room..." and leaves the room. Did I forget to mention that the door has no lock? I go to bed again in a few minutes, with my trousers still on, and sleep the lightest sleep in my life... Of course I recognize the man, but I don't tell anyone the morning after: I don't know and I don't want to know, you know...

Copyright (c) 2001-2005 Alessandro Scotti

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