By the time we are back at the hotel the groom’s Mum has reduced the driver to a quivering, whimpering wreck. He tries to explain it is just the Norwegian economy. He tries to explain that he has nothing to do with the oil barons of the North Sea. He tries to explain it isn’t personal but there is no escape from the tongue lashing from Toni, especially on this of all days; her son’s wedding.
The 5 minute ride still comes in at £30 but Toni gets out feeling slightly vindicated as the terrified driver does a hand brake turn and peels out of the driveway.
The whole Christian thing has caused a slight dilemma amongst the Zambia Diaspora contingent. The wedding is to be held in the couple’s church with the nuptial dinner in the church hall. There is to be NO BOOZE. Consternation!
‘Didn’t Jesus turn water into wine?’ someone wails.
‘How long can a Zambian go without beer?’ Worries another, wide eyed.
‘What the f** shall I do with the bloody champagne I bought?’ growls his sister.
All of us formulate highly strategic hipflask experiments but in the end behave ourselves and stash it all back at the hotel for later.
The groom’s mother, sister and I have dressed more prudently then usual with the religious element in mind. I had, in blind panic bought a ridiculous blue number from the end of bin sale at Debenhams. Between the changing room at the shop and the hotel I seem to have got some perspective back and realise the dress is disgusting. Luckily I have my job interview dress which, although from behind makes me look like a wardrobe made of jelly, looks from in front vaguely presentable. Also, it isn’t black. T and T also dress sombrely, mother in blue African print and daughter in dark blue shirtdress.
However, at the church we find ourselves dwarfed and over shadowed by endless contingents of tall, willowy blonde Norwegian women in designer wedding dresses some of which end coquettishly at the thigh or sweep elegantly all the way down to their designer 4 inch heels. . As more and more of them trip trap across the parquet T, T and I begin to resemble a posse of hobbits among elves.
Actually, considering the profoundly evangelical belief of this particular church community, the church service is brief and sweet with lots of religious pop music sung live from the stage. No one talks in tongues or handles rattlesnakes. The Zambian contingent meet briefly in the gaps and check each other for religious conversions but there are none.
A couple of us are evangelised briefly over the dinner. The funniest attempt being on the groom’s adopted uncle Mr. M.
‘Have you found Jesus?’ asks a huge bosomed woman in a black and silver chiffon number, grasping his hand tightly and stroking his palm. She is, apparently, the church architect.
‘There is a place even for you in Jesus’ heart. .. ‘,begins the woman just as the bell is sounded for coffee.
‘Ah,’ says Mr. M, extricating his hand. ‘Perhaps we can talk more of the saviour after cake?’
The church service and after dinner speeches are translated concurrently by a ridiculously beautiful Norwegian doctor and his wife. Everyone is polite and loving whilst keeping reserved and sensible. (This is possibly due to the lack of booze)
However, after a marathon 7 hours I am wilting. Everyone is wholesome to the point of Stepford Wife. I feel like I am in some kind of promenade theatre. I begin to stop believing them. The sweetness level is so high that the groom’s insulin dependent cousin starts checking his blood sugar twice an hour. I am finding the smile on my face keeps sliding and I actually walk away from the man trying to show me scenes from bible study on his camcorder. Previously he had insisted on showing me nearly 15 minutes of the wedding which I had just sat through.
Back at the hotel we all gather around the stash of champagne and compare taxi bills. The couple are toasted until we are all toasted and a very merry day, it is agreed, has been had by all, (except perhaps that poor taxi traver…)