It is very apt that I should write Blog 25 to mark a Wedding which took place twenty five years ago in Sri Lanka. I did promise we would fly somewhere warmer today. My scarf was bought in America; it’s actually two silk chiffon scarves sewn together. I bought like that. On my return to London after the wedding when I wore the pink scarf, I wrote the following account, lest I forgot any detail. If you are in a hurry, look at photos and skip to the bottom. I have retyped it, not changing a word, though tempted, after 25 years.
“The elephant was very large. As yet, he stood unadorned under the palm trees on the beach. Later he would be decked out in bright trappings, sky blue with Buddhist yellow spots, his noble head and trunk covered in his wedding head-dress of bright green leaves and small pink flowers. His eyes remained wise and all-knowing.
The wedding was planned for eleven o’clock. The dressmaker, her husband and young daughter arrived with the traditional wedding clothes for Clare, Danny and the three bridesmaids, our grandchildren, Amber, Holly and Emily. They had been measured up for these four days previously and there had been a fitting the evening before. Would they fit on the day? Fit they did, but Amber’s sarong skirt was missing and the dressmaker’s husband scurried back to Colombo (an hour away) to find it. The drummers and dancers were cooled with Coca-Cola and Sprite; the dressmaker’s daughter played cards with Holly without a common language; the bride nervously selected the heavy gold jewellery which would grace her hair, forehead, neck, wrists and even her waist. The wedding was postponed for an hour and a half and we waited and waited......
He was back and within five minutes it was magic.
The drummers pounded and the dancers leapt into colourful action. Dark shiny bodies with red, white, gold and silver traditional Kandy clothes and headdresses made an exotic impact, leaping and twirling. By contrast, the bride and groom stepped slowly forward, quiet, dignified, followed by the three young bridesmaids, the total party in cream and gold. Clare was breath-takingly beautiful in a deep cream traditional wedding sarong skirt with matching bodice with a flowing panel over one shoulder, the fabric richly embroidered with gold thread. She wore two tiny white flowered hair adornments, each small flower head individually wired. Her borrowed Sri Lankan gold wedding turned her into an Indian princess, aided by her dark hair, very dark eyes and a two-week suntan. Danny was a great sport, dressed in a lighter cream skirt, long shirt and matching gold and cream scarf. He had rather splendid gold buttons on his tunic top and looked more like a Catholic priest than a bridegroom. The three girls had simple sarong skirts, matching bodices showing just a tiny bit of bare skin above the skirt. We had made head-dresses the previous day from plaited palm leaves studded with temple flowers, but these were discarded in favour of a simple white orchid in their hair.
It took some time for the wedding party to reach the spot under the palm trees where the civil ceremony took place. This was conducted by the Registrar and there was much signing of large pieces of paper by Danny, Clare, Godfrey and myself as witnesses. We were not sure if we were possibly buying a time share in some Sri Lankan holiday resort! We then proceeded towards the beach for the Buddhist blessing.
A young boy sounded the haunting conch shell. Shivers ran down my spine. The blessing was of course in Singalese, but we had the translation afterwards and this is rather beautiful, like our Ten Commandments. There was then some singing by four pretty young Sri Lankan maidens, dressed in white in the same style as the bridesmaids. They all had long black waist-length hair and sang softly in gentle voices. Danny and Clare exchanged rings which were held by Jeff, Dot and Michael’s friend, who with Pauline his wife, added much to the enjoyment of our trip. There were a few anxious moments as the rings would not slip over hot, sweaty fingers. In accordance with Buddhist tradition, the little fingers of the bride and groom were tied with cream silk and holy water was poured over the thread from a little Ali Baba brass jug. The wedding headman then untied the thread, and this was saved in a little silver box which had previously held the rings.
There were a few more calls with the conch shell and the party walked towards a six feet high brass standard headed by a brass cockerel which contained two circular brass dishes full of sweet scented temple flowers, otherwise known as frangipani. On a third circular plate were seven tapers, which they duly lit together (with difficulty because of the sea breeze). This completed circle of burning tapers symbolised their unbroken future life together.
Standing resplendent on a table was the wedding cake provided by husband of the dressmaker, all three tiers of it and entirely fake! Well, there was a tiny real sponge part which they cut and ate, but there was only enough for two! There was another sweet, sickly chocolate cake provided at the reception and thank goodness for the traditional home made cake brought from England. Clare and Danny cut three cakes on the day, and yet another back in London.
And still the elephant waited.
His wise old eyes knew his moment was coming.
The firecrackers made everyone start, including the elephant, but he was calm by the time Clare, Danny and the girls walked onto the beach to greet him. Yes, it made good sense that they had been barefoot all day. The wedding party nervously stood under the elephant’s head for a spectacular photograph as he raised his trunk. Clare’s head was directly under his mouth and I just hoped elephants did not slobber - or fancy white flowered hair ornaments as an hours d’oevres!
And now the moment had come. Would Clare dare mount this enormous animal in that elegant, slim fitting dress? He slowly and very quietly lowered himself on all fours. One expected the earth to shake and rumble and at least a deep sigh to come from that long trunk, but he was patiently silent. His eyes took in everything; he had seen it all before. Clare resisted, but with Danny’s encouragement, she got up with some difficulty and Danny mounted behind her. There was no saddle, seat or anything to hang on to, and he was very big. Up he lumbered, and off down to the sea they went. It looked truly majestic, but by the time they returned Clare’s bodice had slipped off one shoulder and undone at the front. The Jungle Book bride was certainly blooming by this stage - I have never seen her look so radiant - she would probably describe herself as hot and bothered. Danny thoroughly enjoyed riding the elephant. The three children got up together. They are used to horse riding, but this was a lot more scary. I was relieved when they dismounted with a rapid slide down his back.
Yes, he was a very large elephant and we had been privileged to be part of a very magical wedding. I have not mentioned the splitting of the coconut placed on the sand with a burning candle on top. The axe cleanly split it in two unequal parts, the fleshy parts facing up, indicating fertility. Danny and Clare do not talk about having a family, but we shall see!!”
So, dear readers, there you have the scene where I wore my pink scarf twenty five years ago.
And yes, there was a child born. She is now 21 and is my Webpage Designer and Art Editor.
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!