South of the River – What’s Love Got To Do with It?

Compass-SouthComment logo 2I had to give a speech this week. I don’t really enjoy speaking in public, but I had plenty of time to prepare for this one – thirty years to be precise!

It was my Other Half’s and my 30th wedding anniversary – that’s Pearl, if you were wondering – and we threw a bit of a party for our friends and family. We realised some weeks ago that at some point in the proceedings we would have to say a ‘few words’. So I found my daily meditations in Middleton Woods as I walk the dog turning to what are the most important things about our marriage.

Do you know how some – what shall we call them – broadcast moments stick with you? It might be a news item or an image, or an interview. I don’t mean the iconic moments that are endlessly repeated so even if you didn’t see the first broadcast they are instantly recognisable – the tank in Tiananmen Square, Kennedy or the moon landings.

For me these moments seem to be mostly radio moments. I don’t know if that’s about how my memory works or about how radio forces you to engage your imagination. They say the best pictures are on radio. Anyway, I clearly remember an interview with the Minister for Tourism from Western Australia when the remains of Skylab crashed into the desert in 1979.

“This proves” he said, “that Western Australia truly is the State of Excitement.”

I assume this was their current advertising slogan and I thought how brilliantly cheesy to cash in on something you have no control over. This memory always makes me laugh, but’s got nothing to do with my marriage.

The broadcast moment I mentioned in my speech was an interview with Britain’s oldest, or possibly longest married couple. They had clocked up something amazing like 70 or 80 years of married life. The husband was asked what the secret of a long marriage was.

“Oh that’s very simple,” he said “Just two words: yes dear.”

I got a laugh for that, so encouraged I went on my second point: I was lucky enough to marry my best friend and we are still best friends. Both points talk about flexibility, but the second one, I think, is crucial.

I got a lovely message of congratulations from a friend who referred to 30 years of ‘wedded bliss’. I think, I hope, they were being tongue-in-cheek. Marriages are not a ‘bed a roses’ you have ups and downs, problems to overcome, fallings out. If the relationship relies solely on a one dimensional love – you know, the lovey-dovey bit – it can easily break under those stresses. Friendship gives it a different kind of strength and the flexibility to withstand the bumps in the road.

Don’t get me wrong, I was absolutely head-over-heels in love when we got together. But we were friends before that so we had common interests and common experiences. I guess you can build that friendship within the relationship if you start from love at first sight. Either way you will need it because the early passion, like the wedding champagne, will go flat eventually. It re-ignites of course but it’s not all-consuming like at the start of a relationship.

I could now say that I left some space for my Other Half, but ‘forgot to mention’ is probably more accurate. Luckily she filled in the gaps with her speech. It’s also about the people around you.

Our children have grown up into wonderful young adults that we are very proud of (how did I forget to mention them?). This proves we must have been doing something right all those years, despite our uncertain parenting skills. We have also benefitted from good friends, families and work colleagues. There are sometimes things that you can’t talk to your best friend about and you need other friends to share problems with.

You get to share the good things too. There was plenty of dancing on Saturday and I gather the bar did quite well too. We’re planning another party – make room in you diary in November 2044.

I’ll be back in next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.