"Why don't we put on the wedding video?" asked Ken. After years of reaching for my scarf and gloves at such moments, I was rather surprised to hear myself joining in the chorus of approval. Yes, indeed. Let's look at the wedding video.
Part of my enthusiasm was aroused by the drab prospect of spending another hour talking to Geoff about e-commerce, but a rather greater incentive was the knowledge that I would play something of a starring role in this particular production. I had not only been the best man at Ken and Jenny's recent marriage, but had also made an affectionate and witty speech which I believed had gone some way to make up for the priest's singular inability to remember the name of either the bride or the groom and for the ominous crack of thunder that echoed round the church after he had formally declared "Mike" and "Julie" to be man and wife.
My first on-screen appearance occurred when the priest indicated that Ken and Jenny should kneel before him and the camera swings round to catch me dutifully attempting to adopt a similarly pious position a few feet to Ken's right. It was all over in a second, but the close-up shot made it perfectly clear that I lurched dangerously as I performed the last part of my ceremonial knee-bend and might well have shot forward into the nearest vase of narcissi if Ken hadn't reached out a steadying hand.
Although I have a small collection of personal videos made during the years when I was something of a late-night fixture on Open University programmes, this was the very first time I'd had an opportunity to see myself engaged in everyday activities such as walking, drinking and eating. It was not a reassuring sight. Not only did I appear to have acquired a significant stoop, which gave me the appearance of a deranged botanist searching for a lesser celandine, but I also seemed incapable of consuming a glass of wine without leaning heavily against a wall to support me. And on several occasions I looked as if I'd developed a motor inability to place one foot in front of another. (There was a particularly chilling shot of several dozen guests waiting patiently for me to catch up with them on the 500-yard walk from the church to the reception.)
By far the most worrying aspect of my performance was the overall lack of animation. However much my fellow guests seem to be enjoying themselves, I can still be seen hovering in the background looking about as lively and engaged as a dead policeman. No sooner has the camera captured my utter indifference to the cutting of the wedding cake than it's swinging round to capture my identical indifference to the sight of the bride and groom waving their last goodbye as they set off for a fortnight in the Maldives.
It was only when the video was over and Ken had gone in search of more cheese biscuits that I realised there had been no extract from my speech. Surely that would have atoned in some way for the fact that, in the rest of the proceedings, I might as well have been replaced by a large lump of salt? After the rest of the guests had left, I raised the matter gently with Ken and Jenny. "Yes," said Ken, "we were sorry to cut that, but Jenny's mum thought that everything you said about us being a tremendous couple was rather marred by your final toast." "My final toast?" "That's right. The moment when you asked everyone to raise their glasses and drink to the good health and future happiness of Mike and Julie."