When Esme applied for a passport recently, it bizarrely required the date of her parents’ wedding. John would have known. But she had to ask me. And I couldn’t remember! I looked at some old photos to jog my memory. John is in Top Man and I am wearing a pink crepe wool suit I made from a Vogue 1940s inspired pattern. It had a peplum and shoulder pads and I felt wonderful. It clashed with the flock wallpaper and beige chrysanthemums provided by Register office, but I didn’t care.
Thinking laterally I uploaded the glossy Kodak prints on Facebook, and asked old friends who were there, if they could remember the date. Between us we got the year (1985) and the quarter (January to March), and guessed March, which was enough for the passport.
Then, just for fun, I tested myself on the date of my second wedding, to Nick. I knew it took place after my father had died in 2000, as he wasn’t there. I also knew the month. So I Googled it. Well I Googled the event that took place that day and found it immediately – 15 June 2002.
When Nick and I set the date I invited my friend Shirley, who laughed. She explained that the second phase of the World Cup qualifying matches would be held that day. “Don’t worry,” she said. “England have very little chance of getting through!” Although I had a vague recollection of watching the World Cup back in 1966, and the subsequent “England Winners” postage stamp, Nick and I were oblivious of the impending sporting bonanza.
We booked the local register office and sent out invitations. The Wallis sale supplied my outfit, and I made a headdress with pink tulle stitched to a cheap metal “tiara”. Nick bought six boxes of pink peonies from Covent Garden, and ten of Champagne from Sainsbury’s. Our Marks & Spencer cake was customised with pink ribbon and roses.
We got the house tidy on the Friday, stuffing washing baskets into the kids’ bedrooms and preparing most of the food. On Saturday morning I got my hair done while Nick made the salads and chilled the drinks. I asked my Chairman (a Catholic priest) if he would say a few words in the garden.
Then the whole family drove to Lewisham Register office for the last appointment before lunch. We arrived in plenty of time, to be greeted by the chief registrar. Discreetly she enquired if we would mind bringing forward our ceremony to11am rather than 11.30. She explained that the previous couple had postponed – due to the World Cup match. And she and her team would like to get off early, so they could watch it too.
As most of us were there, we agreed. With a stand-in witness (later substituted when the official witness arrived) we kicked off. Done by 11.30, we took a few photos and returned to the house. Nick and I started offering Champagne, and chatting to our guests, when we realised that the only people in the garden were us, our elderly friends and relatives and a couple of little girls. Where was everyone? Then Father Peter arrived and I asked him when he would be saying a prayer for us. His face lit up:
“What about half time?”
I ran upstairs to George’s bedroom, where I had shoved lots of junk and the television. And there, sheepishly grinning, squashed onto the single bed, or sitting on the floor were about 20 men, all the boys and a few Mums too.
Eventually it was half time and everyone came down for a beer, ecstatic that England had scored three goals. The sun was shining brightly and people got started on the food.
We took our chance and got everyone to gather. Father Peter kindly spoke to us all, basing his talk on 1 Corinthians 13: 4-13. Steve and Margaret, followed by Nick, made short speeches. Our oldest and youngest children, Ben and Gus (12 at the time), spoke about our family. Tears were streaming down my face, and we were buoyed up by everyone’s kindness and support.
I guess the speeches must have gone on for half an hour or more when Greg, a great friend and wonderful tenor, started to sing Amazing Grace for us. As his voice soared a huge cheer went up across all the homes in the neighbourhood. For a moment I was confused. Then we realised – full time. England has done it. A Three-Nil win against Denmark. In a way, I owe Emile Heskey my thanks for putting the game to bed by half time.
Nick and Kate 15 June 2002
Nick and I became a family with five children, but all of them were shared. We didn’t have any together. We both found step-parenting a challenge, but it all worked out well in the end.