I don’t know if trips themselves can have a horoscope, or if they can have their own Mercury in retrograde, but we have struggled mightily against basic equipment failure. It took me two days to figure out British internet, the London Underground didn’t seem to like where we were going, and I’m pretty sure my PCMIA port zapped my SD card. In layman’s terms, that means all the pictures I took of the wedding and the castle no longer exist.
Oh yeah, and my sweet wife dropped my camera in Yorkshire, sending nasty little metal bits thither and yon, thus ending its brutish, short life. So as I write this blog, I’m simply going to describe the picture you would have seen, and you have to pretend you see it.
The wedding itself was a culture clash for the ages; not only did the thought of a Texan doyenne marrying a Lord make the gossip pages of the Daily Mail, it spilled over Stateside as well. Loraine and Adrian had met 23 years ago this week, and found each other again in February – by last Saturday, they were standing together in the Crypt Chapel underneath the Houses of Parliament exchanging vows with a pew of Texans on one side, and a pew of Brits on the other.
Here you would see a picture of Tessa, her mother Sandy, and me dressed for the wedding under Big Ben. Tessa’s wearing a fabulous midnight blue number with a red cloche hat, Sandy has on a sleek black/gray dress, and I am wearing a chocolate brown tux and have, as always, stupid hair. It is sunny.
About the hats. All the women wore them, which is how it is done in fancy daytime nuptials in Britain, and they were fabulous. Peacock feathers, two-foot brims, entire birds – it was awesome. The woman sitting in front of me hit me in the face every time she talked to her neighbor.
Imagine seven older ladies talking to each other at the reception, their various hats all touching.
Tessa gave the first reading at the ceremony, the “wither thou goest, I will go” line from Ruth. Of course, Ruth was talking to another woman, a fact that was not lost on Westminster Abbey’s pastor, who admitted there was very little in the Bible about weddings. Almost zero, in fact. The only real mention is Christ’s visit to the wedding feast at Cana, but even that is tangential to the plot.
Tessa in her hat, smiling, looking to the left. Above her is the ceiling of the Crypt Chapel, adorned with the martyrdom scenes of various saints: St. Catherine at the wheel, a woman being boiled alive (St. Martina?), and other greatest hits. Photography is not allowed in the ancient church, so I had to be very sneaky.
After the ceremony and reception, most of the Americans were herded onto the train at King’s Cross for Manderston, a few miles past the Scottish border. Words fail the grandeur of this old, huge house – more like a castle – and we were shown our rooms by a butler who had worked there for forty years. As we plopped down our bags and looked around the exquisite, haunting hallways, I turned to Tessa and said, “We are a long way from Los Angeles.”
Imagine this staircase, the only actual silver staircase in the world, with me and Tessa on it, trying to look like we belong.
The next day, some opted for tennis, some opted for the fox hunt, but I opted to sleep in. The energy required to keep me at my best behavior is exhausting, lemme tellya, and the formal dinners tested my abilities. According to my sister, I usually have rotten manners, so I sat up straight, used all the correct cutlery, and didn’t say anything unless spoken to. I haven’t done that in twenty years.
Lucy was staying in a little inn about four miles away with Sandy, and after two days of not seeing her, we were jonesing hard. Finally, she came to Manderston and spread her love to the bride and groom.
Imagine Lucy in a little red skirt and petticoat, delighting in the gravel of the immense driveway, with the estate sprawled out in the background.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong – there are not only second acts in American lives, but third, fourth and fifth ones as well. Loraine, in perhaps her fourth act, is no longer Ms. McMurrey. She is The Lady Palmer, and will be addressed as such wherever she sets foot in the United Kingdom. As we drove off – on the wrong side of the road – we thought how her buoyancy, love of adventure, and unending thirst for the next horizon has taken her to every continent and now, as befitting her vast personality, the lady is now a Lady.
Imagine a picture of The Lord and Lady Palmer sharing a secret cigar as they plan the next few years.