Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Context: My brother, Andrew, is bald. Port Elizabeth is a small town in South Africa where we grew up.

I’d just like to say how incredibly beautiful the bride’s maids look today. And I’d also like to specifically point out how beautiful the married couple look, especially Alicia, from her dress to her hair, and Andrew as well, from his suit to his… to his suit.

First off, I should probably be mentioning that this is in fact my second time as best man for Andrew and Alicia, the first time being at the commitment ceremony we held in Port Elizabeth. I thought they would’ve learnt their lesson as well but apparently not.

Which leads me to suspect that maybe my mike wasn’t on last time or maybe no one was really paying attention.

Anyway, I’d still like to start out here like I started out then by saying that today is the ultimate expression of love and to celebrate that love with Andrew and Alicia, I’d like to invite you to lean over and hug the person nearest you. Today’s a special day and everyone deserves a hug.

Now slowly start to caress their neck and lick their ear.

That’ll be the last joke I carry across from then but not the last story.

In the beginning…

Andrew’s basic approach to life can be summed up by an experience he had when he was young, driving with my father. He refused to stop trying to play with the car cigarette lighter and eventually my father pushed the lighter in and when it was glowing hot, took it out, showed it to him and said “Look Andrew. Hot.”

And of course, Andrew went “tshhhhhh” (sticking his finger straight into it)

Which just goes to show that experience is the best teacher as to the best of my knowledge, Andrew has never purposely stuck his finger into a cigarette lighter since then.

This is just one example of my father teaching valuable lessons to young children.

When it was my turn to learn a valuable lesson, my father called me over and told me he wanted to see how strong I was. So naturally I, excitedly, asked him how I could do this. He said “Put your fist in front of your face like this and try and keep it there, I’m going to try pull it away” Bearing in my mind that I was probably around 8 at the time, I managed to knock myself onto the floor when he let go. 20 years later, if thinks I’m going to do something stupid, he still says “Or you could put your fist in front of your face.”

That story didn’t feature the groom but it does give you an idea of prestige and the fine stock he comes from. It also allows me to say that Andrew is not putting his fist in front of his face and Alicia, I can promise you that you aren’t either. Instead, you have put your hearts in front of your faces, and as long as neither of you let go, no one will end up on the floor, crying for their mother.

And that is the worst metaphor anyone’s ever used in a wedding speech.

Another example of Andrew’s character shone through when, one day, Andrew and John, who’s sitting over there at table 9, were delivering all the left-over booze from their last high school dance to John’s father’s liquor store. I wanted to go with but there wasn’t any space in the car. So I said “I’ll ride on the roof.” Keep in mind, we grew up in Port Elizabeth, so this seemed like a perfectly valid idea to me at the time.

The trick to riding on the roof of a car is to dig your fingers into the gap between the door and the windows on either side and to anticipate which way the driver is going to turn. We came to a four-way stop and I expected my brother either to stop or to go straight through it, bearing in mind how young and stupid we were at the time. Andrew, turned right. I, carried on forwards.
I remember making eye contact with a young woman who had stopped at the stop street and noticing that the ground was coming up to meet me rapidly and I remember thinking to myself that this is going to hurt. It did. After I’d finished sliding across the gravel, bumped into the pavement and rolled into the stop sign, bleeding with great vigor, the young woman got out of her car and, instead of immediately offering me first aid, said “I hope you’ve learned your lesson” which was a justifiable thing to say but I of course unleashed a verbal tirade upon her that would’ve made a sailor blush.

Several minutes later, John in the passenger seat, turned to Andrew and said “I don’t think your brother’s on the roof anymore.”

He took me home and put me in the shower and managed to get me bandaged up eventually. We told my mother I’d fallen off a skateboard and we kept that lie going for around 15 years, up until she heard me tell this story for the first time at the commitment ceremony a few months ago.

Which just goes to show that Andrew’s the type of guy who’ll let you ride on the roof of his car and then bandage you up and lie for 15 years for you, when you fall off.

To keep with tradition, I’ll now share another story that she doesn’t know about.

The first word I learned to spell was my name, Iain. And as children do, I liked to practice writing my name, normally with crayons or black marker pen, on various items throughout our home and it took me a while to figure out how they always knew it was me but I did eventually, which is why the second word I learned how to spell was Andrew, which I practiced in toothpaste on the back of my father’s favourite chair.

So, for his suffering, he deserves to marry a woman as beautiful and wonderful as Alicia.
Andrew and I had a life filled with many remarkable adventures growing up. And now he’s embarking on the greatest adventure of all, with Alica. And that, my friends, is beautiful.

Andrew, it’s an honour to have served with you and I couldn’t wish for a better brother, Alicia is a very lucky woman and the only person as lucky as her today, is you, because of how truly wonderful and beautiful she is in every sense of the word and I look forward to calling her my sister.

There’s time for one last story and this is the latest story I have in my Big Book Of Andrew and it’s fitting that I close on it.

Someone came up to me after the commitment ceremony we had in Port Elizabeth and said “Iain, you can see by the way Andrew spoke about Alicia that they really love each other.” And I said “I know.” And they said “No, like really –really- love each other” and I said again “I know.”

Enjoy your happy life together because it will be blessed, beautiful and full of love. This, I, and anyone who looks at you, know.

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