Well, the great day’s arrived, and Jilly and I are delighted to extend the warmest of welcomes to you all to Barton House to celebrate the wedding of our beloved Joanna to Tom, a fine man whom we admire greatly. Though when I said that to the best men, they grinned at me.
There are a few people who wanted to be here but have not been able to make it, to our great regret: there’s Jo, who would have added some words at the service, there’s Jonathan, Russ, Donna and Connie, Catriona, Michael and family, there’s Jo’s godmother Jo, there are Ian and Pat, Alan and Valerie, and Auntie Ros.
But you are all here and that’s quite wonderful. This quarter century of bringing up Jo has been such a happy time, from the baby whose hamster cheeks made us wonder if she’d ever be able to speak, to the Mistress of Science working in an environmental consultancy who can write about “The influence of physio-chemical parameters on dissolved oxygen saturation” and be taken seriously.
But her education had another purpose. To quote Trollope, “Oh what a labyrinth of difficulties a daughter is!”
At an early age Jo had a bit of an attitude problem. When she could first force words out from between those cheeks she didn’t start with “Mama”, or the even more wonderful word “Dada”, her first word was “NO!” She used that word a great deal, exploring different ways of saying it, and watching the effects of being infuriating.
So she had to go through Miss Banister’s Dame school, and St John’s, and then school in Exeter, and university in Birmingham and London, to learn that there is an alternative word and it could one day be useful, --------- and fortunately she did learn it in time so when Tom spoke to her in the woodland here a year ago she was ready with the much better word, which is “YES!”
Jo also had a rather fine shriek, which she would deploy when she thought she was being tormented by her sister, who was probably only trying to organise her, or when she was being required to do something by her parents. Just in case you haven’t heard it yet, Tom.
But Jo is a fair person and I have great admiration for her judgement. When she was young Jo would help sell tickets for the raffle at Church coffee mornings, and we were told her salesgirlship doubled the ticket sales. Then she’d be asked to pick out the first winning ticket and we have memories of her standing there, arm in the bucket, eyes tightly shut to prevent any favouritism.
Jo is very orderly and neat, which was probably a survival thing as her childhood bedroom is quite tiny – not quite a cupboard under the stairs, but for complicated reasons it is a very small bedroom. Jo spent a lot of her childhood years quietly watching the world from behind her blankie, clutching Pink, her teddy, and she learned the power of patience and effective timing.
Over the years her bedroom got trashed by childhood, and a little while before going Travelling she said plaintively that she didn’t think her bedroom would ever get redecorated before she finally left home, ----- which of course went like an arrow straight to the heart, as all parents will understand. She is leaving now, but also her room does now look very nice.
And how the experiences of travel changed her. Our holiday when she was fourteen was her first flight since she was a baby, and she wouldn’t look out of the plane window. Later she flew on a School sports-trip to Australia, so by the time of her post-grad round the world trip she was ready to ride down the most dangerous cycle track in the world, and fling herself out of an aeroplane. She came back from that journey considerably changed; we, proud parents, saw in it the birth of the woman, ready and able to take advantage of what Imperial College offered.
Sport has always been a large part of Jo’s life. At school there was netball, and basketball, to Schools national standard, and there was – and is – running, despite her dodgy Beacham knees. She and Tom enjoy each other’s running experiences; that they both enjoy marathon running is a building block in their relationship, even if it does seem rather masochistic to a rotund father.
But the centre of her attention over her childhood has been horses. She might not have been able to look down from an aeroplane window, but she had no fear of looking down from the top of a horse, which is much less safe. Initially it was from hobby horses, and there are fine pictures of Jo riding round the garden aged three, as undressed as Lady Godiva.
Then there was Brandy, and Caz, and Tali, and I know that Jo wants to spend some of her more settled life getting back to matters horsey. Tom, there are people here who will shake their heads in sympathy with the horsey things that lie ahead for you. But Time, sport, travel, and her accelerated education meant that while Jo enjoyed riding out, and Pony Club camp, she has never really got into competitive riding. But the lack of competitions with these animal friends didn’t matter to Jo: for her, caring for them was more important than urging them on to great deeds. Tom, that sounds good to me.
There is one animal, though, that Jo fears above all else, and that’s the spider. Her trip into the South American jungle was cut short because of the big hairy spider she found at her camp tent [and she gathered there were plenty more where that came from]. Jo cannot live without a man around because she needs someone to come and take spiders away in a dustpan. This is a responsibility I now hand over to you, Tom. My final act was to clear the South porch of the church of spiders’ webs because it would have looked bad if you’d had to drag Jo out of the church after the service in order to get her past them.
Some of you have seen Tom in his professional capacity and I’m quite clear he’s a skilled negotiator. Those of you who were around at Jo’s 21st party may remember my efforts at marketing Jo to recover some of the cost of bringing her up. We did subsequently get an offer of a fiver, but the p&p would have cost more than that.
It’s to Tom’s credit that all this started on the day of the Badminton Horse Trials last year and I guess he must have enjoyed that horsey day out, or at least thought that if that’s as bad as it gets then I can cope with it.
Anyway, back here afterwards Tom was a bit preoccupied with a tax problem and while I was fixing some supper – a very rare event I have to admit - we were having a truly fascinating discussion about tax. Anyway, as I was chopping some tomatoes he ambled back in and said “There is something else I wanted to ask you”, so, still in tax mode, I said “ask away”, and he said “ I want to ask Jo if she’ll marry me and I wondered if that would be all right with you”, and I was so startled I said “Well, yes, of course yes” – and completely failed to negotiate on price.
For many reasons we are delighted to welcome Tom into our Beacham family, and to call Sandra and Chris our relations as well as our friends.
My sister commented some months ago that she was proud to be a Holmes. Her husband John observed, “When you became a Holmes you didn’t lose of any of your Beacham traits.” I’m sure that this couple will bring to their marriage the best of the traits of both the Beachams and the Wakefields and I would like you now to raise your glasses to wish the happy couple a long and fruitful life together – Jo and Tom, Tom and Jo, Mr and Mrs Wakefield.
Jo was set up with the ring in the Christmas pudding in the Christmas before the proposal (at St Albans).
Until the early part of the 19th century it was a custom in Inverness (where one of your great grandmothers came from, Jo) for the spinsters to meet the matrons for a game of football. All the men would line the pitch and urge their women on. The matrons usually won because apparently the single men used to choose their wives-to-be from those who showed the most prowess and endurance on the football field. (Came from a word calendar that Jo gave me).
We mere men are of course subject to forces beyond our control – mostly women.
Fixing Louise’s computer the conversation drifted onto the wedding, and all that needed to be done in preparation. I said that we were re-laying slabs and scalpings over the weekend to make the terrace safe and I needed to pick up a vibrating plate, a whacker, from the hire centre before 5pm, which was looming, and Louise became somewhat agitated that I should finish the computer and get away – as she said, “It’d be terrible if the wedding arrangements went off badly because you hadn’t got a vibrator.”