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January 29th 2011
See some of it on YouTube (some websites may block this)...
The full text of Richard's speech...
Twelve years ago I was something of a lost soul. My second, my de facto, marriage had broken up. The relationship I had had after that had also failed.
One night my friend Jenny, who is here today, persuaded me to go to a singles function in Mosman. My initial impression was not good; but I decided to give it another go. It's just as well I did because there I met Wendy.
Initially the relationship was stormy. We moved in together and then we moved out. We saw other people we looked around. But in the end we realised that we were right for each other. Since then we have lived so happily together that our relationship has outlasted many marriages.
In the middle of last year I was offered a voluntary redundancy from the State government for which I had worked, for the past 16 years. Together with 13 years previous service my golden handshake amounted to a tidy sum. It was time to put my affairs in order. And of course my longest running affair was my affair with Wendy. I decided to ask her to marry me.
We had already planned a trip to London, Budapest and the Middle East and I decided that during the trip would be a good time to pop the question. But a good opportunity did not seem to crop up until we reached Damascus in Syria. Damascus is a place of legend; associated with civilisation from the beginning of time. And so we found it to be.
It seemed to me to be just the place for a proposal.
There is pretty road that runs down the side of the old citadel. It was there that I decided to introduce the subject of a possible marriage. But I found Wendy incredulous. And as we walked on I explained that I was indeed raising the prospect of a betrothal. Unfortunately this took rather longer than I had expected.
The old city of Damascus as a wide variety of market areas; defined by various Souks. We had by chance wandered into the area that sells pots and pans as well as buckets and mops. Wendy, suddenly understanding that I wished to propose to her, understandably objected to this setting. The one of her oldest friends Sam, known to some as Sandra, recently gave her a very appropriate tea-towel it says: 'Instead of cleaning the house, I just turn off the lights'.
I needed to find a better place.
It's hard to describe the main Souk in Damascus. Imagine the Strand Arcade in Sydney, twice as wide and running for half a kilometre, with the shops on either side pouring out into the arcade with clothing and haberdashery, bridal dresses tablecloths, interspersed with jewellery stores. It's the longest of five souks that criss-cross the old city.
This seemed just the place.
Wendy was carrying the inevitable plastic shopping bag. She put it on the ground for me to kneel on. I ostentatiously went down on one knee held her hand gazed up into her face and asked the question: would she marry me? Out of the corner of my eye I realised that we had attracted a curious crowd. They formed a circle as if there was a fight; or someone was suffering a heart attack.
Wendy said: 'yes, she would love to marry me'. I stood and kissed her.
There was an audible murmur of horror from the crowd. We had engaged in a disgusting public display of affection. Fortunately there are no stones to throw the grand Souk of Damascus. Apologetically we made our way along the Souk and past the Great Mosque to find a good place to have a celebratory dinner that evening. The food is excellent in Damascus.
And so we started to plan a wedding. We looked at number of venues. The one we liked the best we quickly realised to be too small. The potential event was getting bigger than Ben Hur. We decided to go the other way – ultra small. We would just go to the registry office with a witness or two and have a party afterwards. But there are only two registry offices in Sydney; and the Parramatta one would not be convenient. The other is in a seedy part of town near Central. What to do?
Wendy suggested we might think of a hotel.
This turned out to be a great solution. I booked a well appointed suite at the Intercontinental and we chose a celebrant. We invited Wendy's parents and our various children with their partners to be witnesses.
After some celebratory drinks in the suite we ended a very pleasant afternoon in an excellent restaurant; where it was delightful to see our children, now members of our extended family, getting on very well together.
Wendy's parents held the table agog. Joan impressed us with her encyclopaedic knowledge of politics and sport. And Neil, Emily's partner, learned a great deal about brick laying and fighting the Japanese in New Guinea from Ross.
And so here we are today to celebrate this event with our friends.
Our children are now dispersed across the planet. Emily and Neil are in Spain and had just made me very jealous with pictures from their current skiing holiday there.
Julia and Anneke are here tonight.
Consolidating our extended family has been one of the greatest achievements of this new strengthened and partnership. In particular we are about to become grandparents for the first time. Heath and Jo are expecting a little boy next month.
We will keep you posted on the website.
Penultimately, I would like to acknowledge Claire and everyone who has brought something to the feast today. And, of course, all of you for coming to share this with us.
And finally I wish to toast my beautiful bride. Wendy! May the next ten years be even better than the last!
If anyone would like to add some observations of their own now is the time to do it.
The Flowers and Cake...