the wedding

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

My adventurous journey to my sister's wedding.

The Wedding

I checked my Post Office box; there was a card from my sister, which I thought was odd, as it wasn’t Christmas or my birthday. I had a strong suspicion it was a wedding invitation, as the marriage equality plebiscite had been passed last October, and, sure enough I was invited to the wedding of my sister and her partner, Quita, in Tathra. I was hoping to avoid weddings and funerals, including my own, but what the Hell. I’d heard so much consternation regarding ‘Gay’ marriage, at the pub, the library, the supermarket and even at the local retirement village where I’d served my six months’ ‘mutual obligation’. Why the elderly should be concerned with what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes I couldn’t grasp; how could it affect them? I could perhaps fathom the attitude of the rednecks at the pub, as it is their knee-jerk homophobia and political contempt toward so-called elites.

“Bloody politicians! They ban greyhound racing and support Gay marriage!” As if the two are somehow linked through some queer, Greenie, animal-rights conspiracy against heterosexual punters. “Bloody politicians! They’re all Poofters!” Whilst I strongly disagree with their sentiments, it is at least consistent with their echo chamber political discourse; I did try to point out to them that if it wasn’t for homosexuals they’d have nothing to whinge about, as homosexuality seems to be their perennial subject matter, other than all those supposedly rich city-dwellers who live off their menial labour, the feminists, teachers, Greenies, the unemployed, indigenous Australians, migrants, people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. It’s a very long list that includes nearly everyone other than red-neck Anglo-Celtic alcoholics who’ve never read a book. It’s about social unity, basically. Us against them; this town is so heteronormative and phallocentric it’s not funny. Monty claims we’ll have a gay Prime Minister some day, but he is a closeted gay misogynist, in my opinion, and my friend Emma’s opinion as well.

“There is an old rumour that Prime Minister Billy McMahon was gay,” I explain to him.

“What, openly,” Monty enquired.

“Of course not! In 1972 homosexuality was a serious criminal offence. It wasn’t decriminalised until 1985.” Jesus, some people are so ignorant, but I suppose I have the advantage of having lived through that period of Australian history, and, unlike him, I am literate. I still drink a glass of wine every November 11th to toast former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam and to maintain the rage over his controversial sacking in 1975. I know a lot more history than Monty, who for some reason hates the Labor politician Penny Wong.

“Why? Because she’s an Asian lesbian?” I ask him. “No. I love Asian lesbians,” he replies. There is no hope for him, honestly! He turned up at the shack one day, after he received a text message from Emma, accusing him of being a misogynist.

“What’s a misogynist?” he asked me. I should have directed him to the nearest mirror. “Don’t you have a dictionary?” I asked. Apparently not. Fortunately, I had a Concise Oxford English Dictionary handy that I’d bought in Wagga Wagga recently for five dollars. What a bargain!

“Let’s see; misogynist, noun. A man who hates women, from the Greek, misos, hatred and gun?, woman.”

“I’m not a misogynist. I love women.” Well, there’s his thoroughly ironic epitaph, I thought. 

I checked my road map of NSW to determine the best way to get to get to Tathra on the far South Coast of New South Wales between Bermagui and Merimbula. Public transport was implausible, so I decided to hire a car in Wagga Wagga. The Snowy Mountains Highway appeared the shortest route and I’d driven from Bermagui to Yoogali with a woman named Theona some years ago. There was a lot of snow when we negotiated it, but we got through. The chaps at the pub who own white utes tried to dissuade me, claiming that there would be metres of snow, as well kangaroos and brumbies to dodge, but as the wedding was scheduled for mid-April, snow was highly unlikely.

I caught the bus into Wagga Wagga to pick up the hire car. I hadn’t driven since I attended a funeral in Canberra a few years ago, which turned out to be a bit of a debacle, as I recall, but that was because of Delphine. Jesus! What was I thinking? Anyway, I figured out how to drive again, eventually. The bloke in the hire place must have thought I was a complete dill, but I was paying the car hire and I had a licence. So, I headed off down Hammond Ave and onto the Sturt Highway. This was going to be fun, I decided. Forest Hill looked as uninviting as ever, but maybe I’m being overly judgemental. I took the turn to palindromic Tumut where I stopped for a cigarette and drove straight through to Talbingo, the former home of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin, author of My Brilliant Career. I’d been through before with Theona years ago, but she didn’t want to stay. It was dark and the beauty was hidden. It is spectacular looking out over Blowering Dam. Poor Miles Franklin’s farm is under it somewhere. They have no respect for heritage in this country. My cat writes under the nom de plume Tommy Talbingo, although not many people believe me.

I just loved Talbingo, which is why it is always wise to travel alone. How could Theona have missed the beauty of the place? I wondered. Of course, she’d never heard of Miles Franklin, and thought she was a he, but then she is a New Zealander. (I’m not suggesting that New Zealanders are any more ignorant than Australians, but the Miles Franklin Award is our premier literary award, and there is a female literary award known as the Stella Prize, as Miles Franklin’s full name was Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin. I don’t recall what the New Zealand literary award is called, so I’m as equally ignorant in that respect.) After a stroll around and a quick cigarette, as I don’t smoke in hire cars, I got back onto the Snowy Mountains Highway and headed towards Bega. It was such a joy to travel through this country.

I drove through Kosciusko to Adaminaby, which is where Patrick White set his first novel, Happy Valley, which is about a town where no-one is happy, the main pastimes are drunkenness and adultery and the only way out is in a box. He could have set it in Coolamon judging by that description. Of course, Old Adaminaby is under Lake Eucumbene now. White was also the first recipient of the Miles Franklin Award and a Nobel Laureate. There should be a literary trail in this part of the country, of the drowned townships that once inspired our greatest writers. Incidentally, The Man from Snowy River came from Snowy River which is not far to the south of here. Cooma is the next town, but I’ve never liked Cooma much. Besides, Charlie Cockhead lives there with his mother, or rather did, as he dropped dead not long after my journey. One less flea to hold a grudge against.

I picked up the Monaro Highway to take me to Nimmitabel. This is my favourite stretch of highway in the state. Just stunning! The plains stretch out toward the mountains to the south and I saw a lyrebird by the side of the road. I’d never seen one before. I was glad to be out of Coolamon. I should get out more often. Nimmitabel is a nice-looking town with colourfully painted weatherboard shops, but I’d stopped there with Theona to take some photos a few years back. Why people stop to take photographs of everything so they can put them on Facebook to impress their friends is beyond me? Why can’t they live in the moment? No wonder we were late getting into Talbingo. Oh well. No point in whinging about the past. I had to negotiate Brown Mountain to get to Bega and through to Tathra back on the Snowy Mountains Highway.

I located the street almost instantly and parked the car outside their lovely residence set in the bush. It was good seeing them again. They’d been through a lot recently. Quita, my sister’s partner, had had a heart attack and Liane had to administer CPR for half an hour and wait for an ambulance to arrive. Freaky! And then they almost lost their house in the recent bushfires. Their next-door neighbour kept the fire away from the gas bottle in the back yard with a garden hose. The house over the road was lost in the conflagration.

Liane and Quita had arranged a pre-wedding supper and I got to meet my future in-laws who were all very nice and as they are from a remote island in the Bay of Plenty near Tauranga in New Zealand’s North Island they were slightly overwhelmed by how big Australia is. Well, it is the Big Country after all. They had a lot of tricky questions about Australia.

`“What is the difference between a State and a Territory, Craig?” This is hard to explain, as New Zealand has a unicameral parliamentary system as opposed to our bicameral system (they don’t have a senate, like Queensland) and they don’t have states. They have provinces. Hmm!

“The six States elect twelve Federal senators each, whereas the two territories only elect two, and the States have Premiers, whereas the Territories have Chief Minsters.” Clear as mud, really. Maybe I should have been a constitutional lawyer, but then I’d have ended up in Canberra instead of Coolamon, which, when I think about it, would probably have been better in the long run, even though I love the tranquillity of my current shack. I also told them that the States used to have different rail gauges and you used to have to change trains at the State borders, because before Federation in 1901 all the Colonies were like little fiefdoms. In 1917, apparently, you had to change trains six times if you wanted to travel from Perth to Brisbane. Hilarious!

My sister’s friend Julia had travelled all the way from Christchurch for the wedding, but via Melbourne. It’s a long journey from Melbourne to Tathra. Canberra airport is a hell of a lot closer. We vaguely remembered each other from when Liane and I had a house in the suburb of Addington. We knew the same people – all the Catholic boys from Xavier College, like my friend Jim Small and Flag, who Julia had a child by. His real name is Martin, but he was nicknamed Flag because he could do a human flagpole when he was younger. He also picked me up a copy of Desmond Decker’s song The Israelites when he was in England. Unfortunately, I no longer possess it, which is a crying shame. I miss all my seven-inch singles, but I should have looked after them better. Non, je ne regrette rien, I suppose, although I still really miss the Who Album A Quick One While He’s Away. Irreplaceable! Oh well, I should’ve left them with Graeme, my mother’s partner, for safe keeping. Trust no-one and never forgive.

I shared my tobacco with Julia, who is semi non-smoker. I’ve always quite liked her, but of course she has a boyfriend and I was sharing a cabin with Aunty Ruth for the night, in one of the superior cottages. How posh! I insisted she take the room with the double bed and I chose the one with bunks, as I didn’t really need a double bed. It’s a wedding, not a dirty weekend. The resort where we were staying and where the wedding and reception were taking place is fantastic. The Kianinny Resort, Get Away Naturally, as the signs read. Ruth and I had a cabin at the end of Wallaby Road, which was the best location, I thought. The other laneways in the resort were Koala Ridge, Lakeview Place, Possum Lane, Wombat Close and Goanna Track. It had everything – a secluded location in the bush, a lake with canoes, climbing walls, a pool, tennis and volleyball courts, archery, mini golf, bocce, walking tracks, an oval and a BBQ area. I’d move in here permanently if I could. The wedding was to take place in the Lakeside Function Centre and the reception at the Bush Pavilion.

The supper at Liane and Quita’s house was great; I had some fresh oysters, which are hard to come by in the boondocks. I was drinking very responsibly, although my father thought I’d be too inebriated to drive back to the bush resort. I’d counted the standard drinks of beer I’d consumed and it was less than two, which is sensibly under the limit. Honestly! I had a hire car! I wouldn’t drive over the limit anyway and if I pranged the car I’d be uninsured. He must think I’m retarded. I know his wife, my evil Jewish stepmother, thinks I am the most irresponsible person on the planet, but then I think she is the most judgemental bitch in the universe, so it evens out. I suppose he just worries about me, but honestly, he has no idea. I drove to the resort alone to avoid any further psycho dramas.

Aunty Ruth had a go at Ian, my father, she told me later, telling him that I wouldn’t drink and drive, owing to the tragic death of my brother Guy. A drunk driver killed him in Christchurch when he was only thirteen, something my mother never got over. I suppose Liane and I didn’t either, nor anyone who’d ever met him. He was the missing guest at this get together, as this is the first and probably only wedding of his two siblings. I was briefly engaged to a New Zealand woman a decade or so ago, but it wouldn’t have worked out, as I am impossible to live with according to my former partners, which is why I live alone. Not out of choice, necessarily; I just don’t have any other option. No wonder the rednecks in Coolamon think I’m queer, but then I think they are a bunch of closeted gay misogynists who obviously don’t get enough ‘bum action’ at home from their sad, bitter women. That’s why they construct complex rituals to enable them to engage in intimate physical contact with other men on football fields and get into the showers together after the game. Of course, I don’t mention this publicly as they are bigger than me and tend to resort to ugly violence at the drop of a hat.

The following morning the women went into Bega to get their hair done and I spent some time with Prue. I hadn’t seen her since her partner Al’s funeral a few years ago, but I’d rather not dwell on that too much. I’d finished reading a book called Just My Type the night before, which is entirely devoted to fonts. Well, I found it fascinating and so did Prue when I showed her. She used to be the music librarian at the ANU and as a former faculty librarian, she is interested in similarly esoteric subjects as I am. I used to send her my home-made poetry books which she seemed to cherish. When Guy was killed in 1977 she travelled all the way from Canberra to Christchurch to attend his funeral, which is something I will always appreciate. She has subsequently had a falling out with my mother, but most people do, eventually.

The women finally returned and I left Prue with her daughter Melissa, who still has the shits with me for taking Delphine to Canberra with me when I was attending Al’s funeral. I’ve always pointed out to people who make odious suggestions, that it was a funeral, not a dirty weekend. Honestly! I have as great a sense of decorum as anyone else, and besides, it was bloody Delphine! The mad bitch from Hell! I’ll probably never live it down, but who cares? They’re Coolamon retards anyway.

I headed out for some fish down by the beach, as good fish is hard to come by in Coolamon. It is inevitably frozen, so it was imperative to consume freshly caught seafood whilst on the coast. I wasn’t disappointed. When I got back the guests were arriving and the festivities were about to commence. I had decided to dress formally, as I am a chronic exhibitionist and poseur. I can’t help it – it’s just my nature, and besides, if I get dressed up in Coolamon, the rednecks resort to their usual narrow-minded homophobic insults. Apparently, I talk like a poofter too, as I can enunciate roughly grammatical English. Always a tell-tale sign in Coolamon. When this accusation arises I usually retort, “Which poofter is that? Molly Meldrum or Ian Roberts?” Naturally, they are unable to grasp my irony and sarcasm, which they also consider to be gay, apparently. It’s a full-time job being a homophobe in Coolamon and they spend every waking hour obsessing about the sexual orientation of the other residents. There are potential poofters everywhere, apparently. They should have psychotherapist in Hopelesstown to administer to the town’s chronic homophobia. They’d make a fortune before collapsing from the burden of overwork after about a fortnight. A month at the most.

The wedding was finally about to take place and the guests assembled in the function centre. I made my way straight to the wine waitress’s table and asked for a glass of Shiraz, which she duly poured. Things were looking up! So many people, I thought. I’m sure if I was getting married, not even the bride would turn up. I mingled and Liane asked me to introduce our friend Richard, who we’ve known for close on fifty years, to my father. When we were living next door to Richard in 1969 my father was in Europe, having done the hippy trail across Asia and through Europe, and they had never met, which surprised me. I hadn’t seen Richard since Al Walker’s funeral in Canberra several years before, and this was a much happier circumstance. Liane asked me later if I’d introduced Richard to Ian, to which I replied, “Yes. Richard, this is Ian, the token homophobe.”

“You didn’t!” she exclaimed. “No. Of course not, but I was tempted.” I can’t help being a shit-stirrer.

The ceremony finally got under way. They looked fantastic and really, really happy as they made their way along the lakeside toward the ramp leading down to the platform on the lake, where Quita’s brother, the best man, Melissa, the maid of honour and the celebrant were waiting. A tear or two welled up in my eyes as I was feeling strangely emotional. What happened to the old cynical bastard I’d always considered myself to be? I must be mellowing. The vows were exchanged and there was an overwhelming feeling of joy amongst the assembled guests. We continued to drink and carouse in the function centre until the reception. Richard, Prue and Aunty Ruth were gathered with me and Richard began to reminisce about how he met our family all those years ago, when we lived in Kirribilli, before it became outrageously expensive. Of course, Guy’s name came up, as he was always such a character and far more down to Earth than I have ever was, or have ever been. He’d have been fifty-four now if he was still alive, but I felt he was there in spirit.

I suspected that there would be minor complications regarding the presence of three sets of parents, who would have to be seated at a secure distance from one another at the reception, due to years of acrimony and resentment. Fortunately, I was able to be seated with Alan and Helen, my step parents who I have no biological link to, which always helps. My mother, as previously mentioned, is a complete nightmare and my father’s wife, Sarah, considers me to be the scum of the Earth. An indolent alcoholic with no prospects, unlike her son Gary, the Golden Boy, who, like his wife is a psychologist. They own a house in Lilyfield in Sydney’s Inner West. Similarly, Martin Fryer, Graeme’s son, who was fortunately absent, is a very successful pharmacologist with a house, a wife and a child, is also a Golden Boy. Liane and I have always been regarded as the B Team, despite the fact that she has a Master’s Degree in Sociology, a house in Tathra, a lovely partner and a job as a Social Worker in Bega. If that’s the B Team, there aren’t enough letters in the English alphabet to describe my rank, which would be about ten hypothetical letters after Z. Oh well, charm goes a long way in opinion, and the fascist judgementals are surely lacking in that department

Helen, my lovely step mother, who is married to Alan, spotted me and gave me a huge hug. I hadn’t seen her or Alan for years, but I try to stay in contact, although they live in Bunbury, south of Perth. I was so glad I got to be at the same table as them. I was best man at their wedding in Tauranga on the North Island of New Zealand many years ago, although I did get drunk and behave rather poorly, but I was young and reckless back then. Now I am merely reckless, but I am better behaved now.

I looked over at the top table, which for some reason I have never been invited to sit at when attending even the most Bogan of weddings, as it where all the important people are seated. After the meal Quita’s brother gave a magnificent speech in Maori, which he translated into English immediately afterwards. It was stunning and like nothing I’d witnessed before. Liane was marrying into a fine family, in my opinion. Fuck the Golden Boys! These people have far more Mana than they ever will, and they are now my Wh?nau, which for Australian speakers means that they have greater prestige and are now part of my family, or hopefully, I am now part of their family. One day, Quita and Liane will probably return to Aotearoa and reside on the family’s island in the Bay of Plenty. I hope they’ll let me visit. It sounds idyllic.

More speeches were given, after which Quita sang a song playing her acoustic guitar. The tables were cleared and stacked, as the highlight of the evening was about to commence. They had hired a DJ and there would be wall to wall Gay disco to dance to until midnight. Of course, I was rather inebriated by then, but it was a wedding after all. The boring old farts retired and the dancing began. If only those boring dead-shit rednecks in Coolamon could see me now. Monty would be so jealous, I reckon, but he has no idea at all. There’s a book in Wagga Wagga library called David Bowie Made Me Gay, which I’m sure was written specifically for him. I danced like a maniac, as I am a maniac, I suppose, and consumed more alcohol. I hadn’t had so much fun for years, certainly not since I moved to the Riverina and definitely not in Coolamon.

Midnight finally rolled around and the DJ packed up his things. It had been a great evening and an auspicious weekend. I slept very well and when I got up the next morning, very much worse for wear, I could barely walk as my legs hurt so much, but it was worth it. I’m getting to old to dance until midnight. I stayed for breakfast and eventually farewelled everyone. It had been glorious. Eventually I set off on the return journey back to my tedious existence in Coolamon to listen to their small-minded opprobrium.

“Did you go to a gay wedding, Poet?” the rednecks asked me on my return. “I went to my sister’s wedding. Is there anything wrong with that?” They continued their red-neck rhetoric and mockery; I just ignored them. After all, they have no idea. No idea at all.


Submitted: June 08, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Craig Davison. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Mike S.

Read only several paragraph, due to my crossed eyes making reading difficult, but you're absolutely right, Craig, anything to do with gays sets of the right more than any issue, except guns--excellent!

Mon, June 8th, 2020 6:52pm

hullabaloo22

Brilliant, Craig! I'd say this is your best so far. Great descriptions, humor and absolutely fantastic human observation.
Misogynists - yeah, I've come across a couple on here!

Mon, June 8th, 2020 7:31pm

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Reply

"I'm not a misogynist. I love women." Monty.

Tue, June 9th, 2020 2:22am

Craig Davison

You are too kind. I still think you are a far better writer than I am. You lack my innate cruelty for a start. It's getting miserably cold at night now. Minus one Celcius last night. I'm an old man and will be lucky to get through this winter, and I have lost the will to survive, alone and loveless as I am, and have been for years. At least I have Tom Tom, my obnoxious cat. He is funny.
All the best,
Craig.
P.S. I'll write a song about you, eventually.

Tue, June 9th, 2020 10:55am

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