Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Mayor's Son's Wedding and the Gurkha Welfare Trust

It is remiss of me I know but I simply haven't had the time to update the goings on since last week.
I've had two serious engagements - the first at the wedding of the Mayor of Mosna's son and the second a two day conference of the Regional Committees of the Gurkha Welfare Trust. I think I averaged about 4 hours sleep a night for the last week.
I drove to Luton and stayed the night as I needed to check in about 4am on last Friday. I can never sleep properly when I know I have to be up early - I tend to doze.
By the time Alin collected me at Cluj airport and got me to Medias the wedding party was already at the BinderBubi waiting for us. The party was already starting and ended up about 3am. It was in the best Lear traditions of doing everything BEFORE the official do - much more fun.
8am saw us in our wedding clothes and walking into the Mayor's house in Mosna, to have liqueurs and wine pressed into our hands and cakes of all sorts. The photographer was there too, and took enough pictures to fill several albums, along with a solid video which, by the time he finished will run for something like 28 hours. There's a nice touch in that the under-priest, if such a thing exists, gives a blessing to the parents of the groom and their house, and reminds the groom he should thank his mother and father for all they have done for him. We all trooped to the bride's parents house, where the scene was repeated. As part of tradition, the bride is prevented from leaving by children and the path can only be cleared by throwing money for them to scrabble for.
11 am saw us at the Medias town hall for the official wedding, and 12:30 at the Medias Romanian Orthodox Cathedral for the blessing. I was one of the candle bearers ( prestigious appointment) but I was somewhat discomfited by the fact that my candle broke and drooped. No one seemed too bothered.
So by 2pm we were on parade at the BinderBubi again, and waiting for the guests. You may say surely they would all be with us - but no. The wedding party itself is largely immediate family and friends, in this case about 20 people, with a further 200 odd for the lunch. Champagne was drunk and glasses smashed to drive away the evil spirits.
I say lunch, but most of the people didn't appear until 4 and the eating and drinking went on until past midnight. There were Romanian songs and dances, and some of the best dancers could only be described as hugely overweight, yet twirled and whirled like dervishes.
The menu was the same as it always is, with the obligatory chicken noodle soup, but in this case two extra courses - Poire Belle Helene and an extra meat and potato course at midnight.
Fortunately, the Mayor and his wife were sitting quite far from me as I was on the top table, and the parents of both sides sit in the main guest area, so I was able to avoid most of the alcohol.
The thing I enjoyed the most was that there were so many people there I knew - many more than I would have known at a wedding in Glasgow - from senators and deputies, various mayors and chiefs of police, but also the town hall cleaner and local farmer.In the strangest way it was totally egalitarian, yet each level having respect for each other and entirely as it should be.
The bride was stolen and I ransomed her for 2 bottles of whisky and a crate of beer - cheap in the circumstances - and then the envelopes with the cash started coming.
I have no idea how much was gathered in, but at a guess well over £25,000. There were a lot of very well connected people there.
The next morning Alin and I managed to do some business before the after lunch lunch started at 1pm in Mosna village hall. I had to leave by 4 pm to drive back to Cluj to catch the early flight to Luton, and again hardly slept as I had to be up around 3 am. It was a wonderful couple of days and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.
I drove from Luton to Salisbury, and checked in to the White Hart hotel. They took the money off my credit card. There were 17 delegates and they did the same for everyone.
Except the Trust had already paid for the rooms and where horrified when I told them about it later.
The Trust did us proud with excellent food and drink ( elderflower cordial in my case) for the next two days. Despite getting into bed by 11 pm each night, we all had homework and position papers to read for questions the next day, hence the lack of sleep.
Two particular things struck me.
Firstly, DFID has been partnering the GWT in a water project in Nepal on a £ for £ basis, to the tune of £1.4million each annually. DFID announced they were pulling out of it last month, for the year starting 1st April. The Trust, because they are slightly more honourable than the Government, have decided to shoulder the whole cost, as it is a good for the whole community. The second was the method whereby the MOD always paid all the costs of GWT operations ( as opposed to charity) in Nepal, and this is written in a legal document governing the recruitment and medical requirements of Gurkhas throughout their lives. At the same time as scrapping the water project, they cut their contribution to these operations by 25%. Really honourable people,the MOD. Naturally, the GWT has taken on these extra expenses.
At the conference,Nepalese curries were consumed with great gusto, and much good work was done. One of the most interesting lectures was a series of slides showing Nepal ten years ago and now - the most obvious changes were the gigantic mud and mountain landslides that change the geography and destroy man's puny efforts.
I left about 2pm on Wednesday and went to visit my old Maths teacher who lives just outside Salisbury. We spent a happy hour chatting ( I wish I could say we swopped mental arithmetic problems and giggled furiously at them) and then I set off for the long slog back.
And of course I couldn't sleep when I got to bed just before 1am...

1 comment:

Winchester whisperer said...

What a party! Welcome back