Thursday, 20 October 2016

Poker Face

God, weddings can be the most boring and drawn out things in the world, particularly the speeches. I nearly lose the will to live when I see the microphone being passed to a nervous father of the bride with an inch thick stack of paper before him. All that changed the day of Bridie and Eamon’s wedding.

It began like any wedding with a fine breakfast followed by a the actual ceremony and far too many photos. I'm sure weddings all over the world are a bit different, but in Ireland we tend to sit down for a meal with the wedding party on one long table at the top of the room, while the rest of us are seated at tables of ten or twelve. Sometime you get to chose where you sit and then there are the times the dreaded table plan appears. Those are the extra special occasions where you end up sitting beside people you’ve never seen before and will never see again. Its not so bad if you're a couple but at Eamon's wedding I was that awkward single workmate thrown into a pool of lifelong friends, relations and neighbours. It was like feeding a live mouse to a room full of snakes.  

Eamon, the groom, worked in the same lumber yard as I did and he is a sound guy. After five, we got called in for the meal I scanned the table plan and found my name allocated to table thirty-two, right at the back, but at least it was near the bar. I wandered over and pulled out a chair. To my right were two old women who turned out to be spinster sisters which lived across the road from the bride. They were lovely in a sipping sherry kind of way. Then there was an older couple who seemed to be fighting and didn't even acknowledge me when I sat down, but thank God there were two younger couples at the table as well.

Grace was said, and the and meal started. As the courses vanished, it became clear that Brian, one of the younger men, was determined to be the centre of attention for the night. He already had a good few pints under his belt and was dominating the conversation at the table as his much younger girlfriend tried her best to set a world record for free wine top-ups.

The other dominant force at the table was Fiona, who clearly knew Brian. Fiona was gorgeous and bubbly if not the sharpest chisel in the box. Fiona's boyfriend, Tony, smiled in all the right places, laughed at all the right jokes, but seemed a little distanced from all that was going on. It was around the desert time I found out why.

It seemed that Brian and Fiona had a short lived relationship while they were in college. While they seemed comfortable with this, Tony clearly wasn't. Fiona wasn't helping the situation when she laughingly touched Brian's arm to stop him recounting some tidbits from their sex fulled past.
As tea was served, a hotel manager appeared behind the best man with a microphone in his hand.

"Oh Lord, the speeches are starting," I said out loud with impending doom.

"Great stuff!" said Brain and reaching out to pull an empty wine glass forward. "Are yea all up for a game of The Groom Thanks."

"What's that?" I asked as Brian rifled through his wallet for a note.

"It's easy," said Brian waving a tenner in the air. "Everyone puts money in the glass. When the groom starts his speech, every time he says the word Thanks the glass moves right one person. Whoever the glass is sitting in front of at the end of the speech wins the money."

It sounded like a bit of fun so I said, "Count me in," and I pushed a note into the wine glass along with Brian's. Fiona had her tenner in like a flash, the warring silent couple said nothing but the man stuffed a twenty in. The spinsters had a quick discussion among themselves about the evils of gambling but still added a tenner between them and they would count as one person. Tony reluctantly put his money in. Brian's girlfriend's head was swiveling around like an orange on a toothpick and she had no idea what was going on.

"Don't mind her," said Brian dismissively as she slumped against his shoulder.

We had to endure the priest, the father of the bride, the father of the groom, Aunty Peggie who ever the hell that was, and the best man before it was time for Eamon's speech.

"Here we go," said Brian gleefully pulling the glass in front of himself which caused a giggle of excitement to emanate from Fiona. Tony gave a sideways glance at her, as even to my ears, the sound was vaguely sexual.

"Why does the glass start off with you?" asked Tony.

"I was the fist to put money in the glass," said Brian snooty.

"I'm not sure that is fair."

"Fair me arse. Anyway, it's where the glass ends up that counts," said Brian getting a bit tetchy.

"Now comes the moment you have all been waiting for, let's hear it for the man himself, Mr Eamon Ryan." said the best man passing over the microphone and causing a burst of feedback in the process.

"Jesus," said Eamon when the screeching died down and glanced over at the priest glaring at him from the end of the top table. "Sorry, Father." There was a rustling of paper while he got his notes in order before he raised the mic to his lips and said "How yea," in a thick bog accent that got the whole room cheering. "Thanks for coming," he said.

"And were off," hooted Brian as he moved the glass to his right toward me.

"I never thought I would ever see the day ..."

I have to admit I started to zone out for a bit but then Brian thumped me on the shoulder.

"What?" I asked.

"He just thanked some ould bat who taught him in primary school. Yea got to pay attention and move the fecking glass around on every Thanks."

"Oh, I missed that one," I said, shoving the glass toward the two spinsters who eyed up the money like hungry dog eyes up a steak. So much for the evils of gambling.

"I want to thank the bridesmaids for looking ..."

"Whoop! There is another one! Move it on girls, come on now," teased Brian as a sad looking spinster shoved it in front of the grumpy looking man sitting beside them but the glass had hardly stopped when Eamon said, "I don't know how Bridie would have done it without yea, Thanks."

The grumpy man shoved the glass in front of his misses and gave her a filthy look as if she had somehow cheated him out of something.

"I want to thank Father Tom for ..."

The glass moved on again.

All through the speech the glass moved with every thanks that was uttered and I have to say it was getting very addictive. We all hung on Eamon's every word and when that golden nugget fell from his lips a low cheer and a giggle ran around our table. Even the spinsters were getting in on the act but it was Brian and Fiona who were leading the charge. People were starting to notice something was happening and were watching.

"I th...." What ever Eamon tried to say was blotted out by a burst of feedback but he powered through. "as she searched every shop in Ireland for pink roses for the centrepieces, so thanks a million."

The glass moved in front of Tony, but Brian shot out his hand and grabbed the stem. "He said thanks twice there, it's got to go to Fiona.

"I only heard one," said Tony trying to pull the glass back in front of him.

"Nope, there were two. One just before the static then one at the end."

"Hang on a minute, he only got a T out there, it could have been anything."

"What else could it be, for flip sake."

"Think, threw, timed, tempted, tits, who fucken knows!"

"Nobody says tits in a wedding speech," said Brian, deliberately not seeing Tony's point and moved the glass.

Reluctantly Tony let the glass go, but the mood on the table was very much darker from then on. Tony didn't join in with the cheering as the glass moved which seemed to make Fiona even more determined to make up for him.

Ten minutes later, and a thousand thank's, Eamon was drawing to a close.

"So to finish, I want to raise a glass to my beautiful bride and thank her from the bottom of my heart for having me." Everyone in the room stood, and our table was on tender hooks because the glass now rested in front of Tony who smiled for the first time since the barney with Brian. It looked like he was going to claim the money.

"Right so, the bar is open, and the band is ready to go so let's have at it, have a great night everyone and Thanks again."

Eamon put the mic down on the table, and with a half-sad face Tony moved the glass in front of Fiona which caused Fiona and Brian cheer at the top of their voices, and lots of people looked in their direction including Eamon who thought they were cheering his speech. Sure enough, he picked up the mic and smiled, "Thanks, Lads!"

Another huge cheer from Brian as he grabbed the wine glass and held it aloft like a conquering hero.

"Ah hang on, that's not fair!" said Tony sitting forward.

"He said Thanks!" said Brian waving the folded money in Tony's face.

"The speech was over."

"No it wasn't, but it is now."

"And that other thing earlier, if that were any other word besides thanks, the glass would have ended up in front of Fiona not you!" said Tony his eyes beginning to blaze.

I knew trouble was coming.

"Come on guys, it's only a game," said Fiona.

"You stay out of it," snapped Tony. I saw the shocked look on her face as she glared at her boyfriend.

"I beg your pardon?"

"You've been drooling all over this moron all evening, I'm sick of it. Just because you let him shag yea in college," snarled Tony. I knew he'd crossed a line and pulled back from the table.

"What did you say?" said Fiona coldly.

"What did you call me?" demanded Brian at the same time and getting up from the table and in the process, he dislodged his drunken girlfriend who woke for the first time since the speech began.

"I said you SHAGGED HIM!" yelled Tony pointing an accusing finger at Brian while glaring at Fiona.

From nowhere the slurred word, "Bitch!" rang around the table and a fine haymaker of a puck landed Fiona on her arse while a drunken, jealous girl flailed at her.

Well there you have it, that was how the battle began. It took two squad cars and a half dozen bouncers to bring order back to the place. I never knew what happened to the money, but I do know this, if I ever get married, there will be no bloody table plan, that's for sure.

No comments: