Dashing Priest


It’s John and Mary’s Silver Wedding. Ordinary names but special friends; we are honoured to be invited. But another couple have asked me to marry them that afternoon, four miles distant, round nine corners and across the A140.

Drinks in the village hall; I finger my watch. Grace, and soup. I finger my watch. I dare not linger; apologising to my table (I have cornered the end seat) I dive out, sprint to the car and slam into gear for a different kind of cornering.

At the other end, all is ready; bellringers, organist, ushers...I simply have to arrive and take it from there. Full speed on the main road, then back to the corners. With one to go, I see them. Clop, clop, clop; two shiny black horses trotting towards me along the valley road. In the coachman’s seat, a dignitary with whip, topper and blanket; behind him, sparkling in the sun, the bride and her father.

We are both making for the same turning. Will they give way, or even recognise me? The bride might, if she has nothing else on her mind – but the driver? He breaks his trap into a canter. I step on the gas. My winker should tell him; my brakes certainly do, as I screech into the lane just yards in front of the hooves. Phew!

I have a good two-minute start on the bride as I slide in beside the lych gate – mustn’t be hemmed in by horses. The photographs are mercifully brief; afterwards they can do what they like. The key players expect my last-minute appearance; here come the Rector and the Bride together.

I move things along, trying not to rush. We sign the registers. As Mendelssohn strikes up, I prise open the ancient vestry door, glad I had checked that detail because it hasn’t been used for years, and the grass outside was six feet high – until Thursday.

Race to the car, corners, main road, park, into the hall…the plates for the main course are just being cleared. Except mine, delivered on cue, piping hot. By coffee time I have caught up.

"What happened to you, then, Rector?" "I went to a wedding. To keep in the mood."



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