The May Queen

The May Queen

May 1st, 1971 was the 121st day of the year according to the Gregorian calendar – Liz’s 21st birthday and the day of our second and third wedding.

Our first wedding, in a Buddhist temple, much to the bewilderment of our relatives, who were uncertain as to its legal status, had passed without a hitch the previous week.

Our second wedding was a register office affair, to which only parents had been invited.

The main event was to be a full pagan wedding, complete with maypole, to be held in the woods that afternoon. May 1st, a day of fertility revels for my own May Queen.

This proved difficult. The preparations turned out to be more complex than envisaged. Nobody would rent us a maypole and no park would allow us to erect one.

In the end, without seeking permission, we chose a clearing in the wood and selected a tree.

Liz’s twenty-first birthday was to be a grand celebration. All our guests were asked to bring food and drink to share and something to perform. We were evoking the spirits of creation. The elemental forces conspired to present us with hurdles to cross but our spirits prevailed against all the odds.

The week before it had snowed. We envisaged a sodden, freezing crowd in the midst of nowhere. It tested us. But we had faith and, sure enough, on the day the sun shone. The day was idyllic.

On the morning of our second and third weddings we rose early and placed the bowls of food we had prepared on the back seat of the car. Simple fayre. All we could afford on a student grant. Plastic bowls of diced butter, diced cheese and sliced French bread. Donning our matching orange and red wedding gear we set off with time to spare.

The old banger refused to start. After twenty sweaty minutes pushing it up and down the road in our costumes, vainly trying to bump-start it, we gave up.

A man sidled up to us and offered to fix it for a sum. £5 was a fortune but we had little choice. The cash changed hands, some tinkering took place and the car magically roared into life.

We were now hopelessly late. Hurtling around the north circular, weaving in and out, trying to make up time, a car pulled out in front of us and I had to stand on the brakes. The diced butter and cheese shot off the back seat. Picking lumps of butter and cheese out of our hair we had our first row while dodging through traffic at speed risking life, limb, our future children and life together.

We arrived at the registrar’s office two weddings late, but still together.

Fortunately for us an old girlfriend of mine was getting married but had forgotten to bring the wedding banns. We slotted into her space.

Arriving in the woods in bright sunshine, our friends had set up a sound system and were gathered together, all bringing food and drink in plenty.

We drank from goblets collected from the local cinema. We were regaled with poems, songs, mime, readings and dance. The magic sun shone upon us and we all held hands in a great circle and danced in the midst of nature as Spring was bursting forth in all its fertility.

Now, fifty-two years later, I remember the butter, the friends, the row, the celebrations, performances and the love.

A celebration. A birthday. A wedding. A magic day.

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