A Grand Relaxing Day

“I don’t believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did, I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you
Oh, not to touch a hair on your head
Leave you as you are
If he felt he had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms”

Into My Arms / Nick Cave

How the hell is it Friday again ???

I gave a talk last week at the wonderful free therapy event that is TenX9, some of you may be familiar with a version of it, but here it is in all it’s nostalgic glory.

A Grand Relaxing Day

We first went out on a date when we were 16 , and apart from  the odd interruption, joining the priesthood, moving away to London, dating other people , moving to Galway, we were together pretty much consistently and got engaged when we were 24 , and then we took a very relaxed approach to actually getting married, finally getting around to it when we were 30.

When I told a work colleague that we were getting married he said “Congratulations, I didn’t know Eileen was pregnant, when’s she due ?”

“She’s not pregnant.”

“Really ?” he replied “How posh !”

We were living in Kildare, but we wanted to get married at home in Monaghan, the True Centre of The Universe. So we did. Traditionally the couple gets married in the bride’s home parish, which would have been Monaghan Town itself, the actual centre of the True Centre Of The Universe, but for reasons I can’t recall we decided to get married in Tydavnet , my parish.

We booked our wedding reception in Cabra Castle, in Kingscourt. The manager there asked how many people we were inviting. Ours was a small wedding by Monaghan standards, an intimate gathering of 196 people. The manager reassured us that , generally , 25% decline the invitation due clashing holidays/commitments, or acts of God.

We were relaxed either way…which was just as well , as we actually had 198 people show up.

Eileen organized her dress , the flowers, the ceremony, the band, the menu, the hotel reservations for guests, the honeymoon, the invitations, and the cake. All I had to organize were my own shoes. This was no problem, as I worked in the shoe trade, I was the Irish agent for Skechers at the time and dealt on a daily basis with the best shoe shops in the country, any one of whom would have been only too delighted to  send me any shoes I desired from any brand you can imagine. So I was very relaxed about getting them. So relaxed in fact that I forgot, and ended up buying anything I could find in my size the day before. A minor detail.

A few days before the wedding we left our house in Kildare and went home, Eileen spending the next few days in her family home, me in mine. Visitors called with well wishes. On the night before our wedding all of our friends gathered in The Squealing Pig and we thought it would be an awful shame that we missed out on the craic, so we joined them.

Many people commented on the fact that we shouldn’t be meeting the night before our wedding, but we were very relaxed about all that. I think Eileen left the bar at midnight-ish , I went home with my brothers at 2.00 am. The wedding wasn’t until 1pm , so naturally we stayed up and played pool and drank whiskey until 4.00am. The next morning I was rudely woken at 11.30, but then had breakfast in bed and a bath.

Got dressed leisurely , and headed over to the church for 1pm.

We were to be married by two priests, Fr.Joe from my parish, whose church we were getting married in, was the co-celebrant, and Fr.Larry, who was the parish priest from town, Eileen’s parish. Fr.Larry is now the bishop of Clogher, and yes, before you ask, it was as a direct result of marrying us…I imagine.

My brothers John and Stephen were my best man and groomsman and we entered the empty church and proceeded to the altar where we ran through again where each of us was to stand at various points. My brothers were more nervous than I was. Fr.Larry came out and told a few jokes to put the boys at ease, and we were all relaxed and having a good time when it happened… I looked around and saw a church full of people smiling up at me.

“Oh Sweet Divine Jesus, this is all real ! This is all happening now !”

I felt myself wobble, I needed to sit down.

I took my place in the front row, John and Stephen sitting either side of me, telling me I was going to be fine. My head was resting on the handrail, I was concentrating on breathing. Mam and Dad were sitting behind us, getting concerned. They passed forward a packet of Throaties…I ate 5 immediately. I looked around to say thanks to Dad and he immediately said to John and Stephen, “Get him outside now before he faints!”

I’d only ever fainted twice before, as a child, and oddly both times at mass, once in this very Church. I’d always joked that it was a low boredom threshold , maybe God was punishing me now for those jibes…She can be funny like that.

I was helped outside by Dad , John and Stephen. I sat on a small wall beside a side door, my head between my knees, breathing heavily. Stephen went to the front corner of the Church so that he could keep an eye out for Eileen’s arrival. John and Dad kept saying soothing words, I think, I just kept hearing a rumbling noise in my ears which changed slightly in pitch as I breathed…

“She’s here ! Get back in !” Stephen shouted as he ran back towards us. I snapped to attention and regretted it immediately. Everything was brighter, pleasantly so for a second then blindingly so…and then…And then somehow I’m standing at the front of the Church facing Fr.s Joe and Larry , holding on to the handrail in front so tightly that my knuckles are white. “Nearly there “ John whispers.

“Don’t faint, don’t faint, don’t faint, don’t faint…” I mutter under my breath. I step out into the aisle. 

“Don’t faint, don’t faint, don’t faint, don’t faint…” I continue.

Eileen kisses her Dad on the cheek and then turns to me.

“Jesus !” she whispers.

She holds my hand.

“Don’t faint, don’t faint, don’t faint, don’t faint…”

She squeezes my hand, as we sit down.

“Don’t faint, don’t…” Wait , I’m smiling, I’m OK.

I gradually calm down. We make it through the readings, Fr.Larry’s homily, charming and about us…This guy will go far , I think.

And then we’re standing to make our vows.

Fr. Larry is holding the microphone to his mouth “Do you Paul, take Eileen to be your lawfully wedded wife ?”

As I lean forward to the microphone to answer, he tilts it towards me and “I DO!” booms around the church. “There’s no doubting that answer” Larry quips, there is much laughter….he’s a bishop now you know.

Eileen says she does too.

We kiss.

Larry says , Ahem loudly, we stop kissing.

As we sit down everyone can hear my sigh of relief. We hold hands. I relax.

Communion, signing the register , applause, photos, photos ,photos.

We’re in an old car, a vintage car no less, on our way to Cabra Castle…very , very slowly. This delightful old car will not cross 30mph. We don’t care, we’re married and we have the world’s tiniest bottle of champagne. We relax.

The car starts to make loud disconcerting noises, our chauffeur, curses loudly. Our guests start to overtake us. It starts to rain. The single tiny windscreen wiper makes it halfway across the windscreen and then stops. Our cursing chauffer pulls over and gets out with sheets of newspaper and mops the screen. He gets back in, we drive another mile and he pulls in again, to clear the screen. I am no longer relaxed.

Eileen squeezes my hand “Relax, everyone’s having a drink at the hotel, as long as we’re there by six and they get fed they’ll all be fine. We’re not in any rush.”

And we weren’t….which was just as well, it took us another hour to get the 10 miles to the hotel.

We got there eventually, everyone had just assumed that we were getting photographs taken and hadn’t missed us at all. My brother John was actually hoping that we’d changed our minds and gone straight to the airport, so he wouldn’t have to make his speech. He looked even worse than I had in the Church. I gave him the last of the Throaties and told him all will be well.

The photograph shows how well his speech went.

He relaxed.

We relaxed.

Everyone relaxed.

We went to bed at 5am….we were the first ones to leave the bar. It was a grand relaxing day.



Author: paul

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