Paolo and Alison Wedding Speeches Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to our Wedding Dinner! I am glad to take up today this honoured English tradition of making speeches at a wedding and this time as a bridegroom myself! Yes, because in 24 years as a minister, I performed an average of 80 weddings with the corresponding sermons! You might think that by now I should have been tired of them, but no, I wanted to have another one of my own! This is really morbid you might say. In fact, as a Latin proverb (attributed to the poet Seneca) says: 'Errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum' (To err is human, but to persevere in error is diabolical.) At least this time we have spared you having to listen to a vicar ...well, not really, because there are ministers in disguise in our midst. Watch out! It seems that you will never be able to avoid them! Anyway, you are not going to listen to a sermon from me today. I hope you will come one day to listen to one in my own church, if, as I hope, I will get one in this country in the near future. What I would like to do today is rather the also most important task to thank heartily those who have contributed to this wonderful event, this wedding celebration and, for those who do not know how it came about, to tell you briefly how Alison and I met the first time: two points not three as the traditional sermon is usually divided... My first thought, then, goes to John and Marion Bailey, or better, Sir John and Lady Marion Bailey, rather intimidating titles, conveying to me the idea that they are very important persons indeed, since the Queen herself wanted to honour them. They are indeed important, not only for the contribution they gave to this nation, but what matters the most for me because they are the parents of Alison, which I have the honour now to call my wife. They can be really proud of having raised such a wonderful person as Alison, whose human, intellectual and spiritual values, as I learned to appreciate during these last four years, are really priceless. Thank you, John and Marion, for being Alison's parents and, in this case, for having generously provided for the wedding in this Club and for the honeymoon. John and Marion! As the Bible says: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not selfseeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (1 Alison and Paolo Wedding - p. 1 of 7
Corinthians 13), and I hope and intend, with God's help, to provide Alison with such a love, so as duly to honour your daughter. I want also to thank Paul Rochester and his wife for having accepted to being our witnesses. Paul is indeed a special person indeed, not only because he is a friend and a Christian pastor and brother, but also because he is Alison's accomplished boss! This is also a bit intimidating, but I know that Alison is doing a good job for him in their department and that they are contributing to the wellbeing of this whole nation, and this is certainly not a small matter! Furthermore, I want to thank all those who contributed to this celebration, under the skillful supervision and organisation of Alison herself. She is a member of this Club and because of her, I have also had the privilege of being admitted here, of availing myself of its resources and participating in some of its events. This is a wonderful and exclusive place, typical of the culture of this country. The institution of British clubs was for me before something about which I read in books, never ever dreaming of being part of one. It also reminds me of the international character of British history and influence, something which led me, partly through the Beatles songs too, from when I was a teenager, to learn and appreciate the English language and culture. It’s not the luxuries and trimmings that makes this wedding so enjoyable for Alison and me, it's being able to celebrate surrounded by our friends and families. So thanks for coming everybody! I do not want to forget, last but not the least, also Alison's little bridesmaid. Thank you, Roberta. It is very nice to have you with us today. Now as for Alison. All the hard work getting Alison ready for today has been worth it. She looks even more beautiful than she does normally and I hope that I will be everything she could ever hope for in a husband. If there is one thing I have learnt from her, it is commitment and patience and today was worth all the waiting. Let me tell you something about how I met Alison for the first time, and I really thank God for having lead us to meet each other. A famous cartoon you might remember, portrays Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy, sitting on the top of his dog house with a typewriter, beginning to write a novel, perhaps the story of his own life. He writes: "It was a dark and stormy night...". Rather typical opening lines of a novel, aren't they? Mine are different. It was very hot evening in summer in Padua, and I was beginning to prepare just for myself, in the kitchen of the theological school in which I was then residing, my usual meal (it was pasta, I think). I had gone to Padua, Italy, that summer of 2004, enjoying a four months paid "sabbatical", a privilege pastors have in Switzerland after 10 years of service. It was a very difficult period of my life, but I chose to take Alison and Paolo Wedding - p. 2 of 7
that opportunity not only as a welcome period dedicated completely to studying and updating my favourite subjects, away from the usual pastor's life, but also as a getaway for awhile from my family problems. I could have chosen, instead of Padua, to go to Philadelphia (USA), where I could go ten years before, but I thought that, in this particular instance, it would have been better to be not so far from home. In that case, I would not have met Alison! Anyway, in that theological school, as it was summer, I was practically alone, except for the presence of the director, Prof. Bolognesi, and the Center's caretaker with his family. I had the whole school library all for myself. Nothing better for a reader like me. That very day, nevertheless, Prof. Bolognesi announced to me that a guest had arrived to the school: an English woman that would spend there a week or two of holiday or so, as a convenient base for visiting the area. It was Alison. He asked me if I could, eventually, sometime, accompany her with my car to see places, as she had no other means of transport. I would eventually also have had to prepare and eat with her some evening meals, as there was none else in the centre at night. Since I always want to be helpful to people, I said OK. It could have been for me also a good opportunity to speak English, as I had always enjoyed that. My first reaction, nevertheless, was: "How is she?". I did not mean "physically", as such a question could also have meant that in Italian. I realised that I had not posed the question in the right way (he laughed at that) because I meant "What sort of person is she? Could you tell me more about her?"). Then, after a while, Prof. Bolognesi added an astonishing remark: "This woman would be perfect for you"! I was really shocked at a statement like that, even ...offended! I had never met this person and nor had he! I was suffering, in fact, in those days, from a very difficult home situation and I wasn't certainly looking for a new romantic relationship. Nothing could have been for me farthest from my mind. Prof. Bolognesi knew everything about my situation as I consider him as "my pastor", but I would have never expected from him this kind of remark. Anyway, I thought, "he likes to joke about things" and, even if that was hardly appropriate, I did not take that seriously. I came eventually to realise that his remark and all the events that followed, were, in reality, part of a mysterious plan I believe designed in heaven intended to lead together two souls which are made one for the other together. I could not wish anything better. Anyway, that night, if I recall well, we had together a little supper and from the day after, almost every day, I took Alison, with my car, visiting wonderful places in the Venetian plain and lagoon, villas and museums, cultural events and restaurants. We were not always alone as we also went along seeing places with other people from the Padua evangelical church (which also met at the school premises), but I was really enjoying Alison's company. We not only found we had many interests in common, but I found in her a good listener as I shared with her "all my troubles", as we say in Italy, somebody really caring and sympathetic. I was beginning to appreciate all the wonderful qualities, which gradually, I came to value and love.
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Since that time in 2004, I never almost stopped one single day having long conversations with Alison on all kind of subjects, mostly through the Internet (audio and video), the telephone and, a few times in a year, also personally as she or I saw each other, crossing the Europe, in Switzerland or England, flying or with the train. I loved every single minute of those conversations at a distance, but I realised only afterwards how I often called her also in inappropriate times as she was sleeping, resting or doing house chores. I think that only a couple of times she complained that I was taking her precious time from more important things! Sorry for that, Alison! We will not need to use the telephone or the Internet to contact each other now! ...unless, because of habit, we speak to each other through the Internet me sitting with the computer in one room, and her with another computer in the other room! I am coming now to a close: I don't want you to complain because ministers usually speak for too long! I want to thank everyone for sharing this day with us. But most importantly, I want to thank my kind, committed, affectionate bride, Alison. How did I get so lucky? I love you with all my heart. To Alison's family, many thanks for raising such a wonderful woman. To our wedding party, you've been a part of our lives either separately or as a couple, or both. I can only hope that our bonds will grow even stronger. Now will everyone please raise their glass and join me in a toast. First to Alison's parents.... "Alison's parents" I can't wait to begin the rest of my life with you. I love you. "To Alison!"
Paolo Castellina 20 December 2008
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From The Bride: Should we still hold out for old-fashioned romance? One wonders whether brides are allowed to speak even today, to have their own thoughts, to make speeches? So my instincts said "no" but Paolo's speech has made me say â€œYesâ€?! And one thing that Paolo and I share is a strong streak of conservatism, with an undercurrent of radicalism. Today, I would like to also remember my father's sister Aunt Margaret, and her and our friend Barbara, who are very much missed, but for whom, I think, Emma, our budding film director, is making are making a video? We are so grateful that Paolo's sister Antonella and Elena have travelled her today from Turin inspite of the weather and the sad demise of AliItalia. I, too, have very much in mind today, my dear friend and great support in disability, Deanne, in Sydney who sent us a bouquet of blooms from the Western Australian desert. Next, I want to thank my parents and I want to make two observations about the things that I really appreciate about them. First, I want to praise my mother's uncanny ability to research and identify cures to diseases that defy all medical experts. My mother not only had the original idea on how to help overcome my almost incurable illness through diet, but she also alleviated her own terrible eye condition, by research and sheer courage. Through what she learned, she has been able to help a well known novelist, to help her move towards regaining her life and sight. We are both extremely grateful to her. Candia McWilliam says she is going to "immortalise" her with a short story. If that ever happens, she deserves it. Secondly, I see part of my father's legacy as gearing up people to overcome life's inevitable and sometimes unjust set-backs. His galvanising, stiff upperlip, Rudyard Kipling phrases, "Just keep going. Don't give up" and his favourite phrase of all when in a sticky situation: "Just look for another job" stuck in my mind - and they worked. I commend them today. Indeed, I never know when I might need them again myself. Third, I want to tell my side of our story. It started in 2004 when children's writer, Carol Mathison who is at her mother's bedside today, slipped me a Sunday Telegraph article in July 2004 during Sunday lunch, just at the time that Paolo was deciding to go to Padua. This article by Catherine von Ruhland said that if you are over forty and still want a holy husband, go abroad. Well, this oddly coincided with something I had written on a table napkin a day, previously.
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I thought I would try a bit of "logic" though I now wonder if it was “logic”? Believe it or not, I had worked out by mathematical probability – you know, those "subsets" you learn about in modern maths, that the man I was looking for was middle-aged, Italian, Protestant and above all, has a strong sense of humour. I did not dare to ask that he should be musical too! So I reckoned that I needed to put myself where I could meet such a man (if such a man existed - which I deemed a vanishingly small probability) as I had never met or perhaps even heard of, an Italian Protestant. Then, I read an article in a Church newspaper which I never usually bought about staying near Padua for £10 a night. "Padua" meant to me “the Shakespeare Cities”. Since William Shakespeare has major therapy to me, nothing could stop me signing up. I went thinking I would be alone in Padua. Professor Bolognesi (not "Bolognese") met me at Padua Railway Station, but he never told me about Paolo. That afternoon, I wandered round Padua's Renaissance marketplace and collapsed under umbrellas outside a "stage set" church, in blistering heat. I was looking unbelievably unkempt that boiling August night, when I encountered in the kitchen this tall, dark man, in a perfectly cool, sharplyironed blue shirt, nonchalantly sipping Italian coffee, who was kindness itself. I realise now that Paolo must have been had been keeping cool in the library all afternoon. I've also only just found out, through Paolo's speech, that he was obeying "orders" in being kind to me, though he assures me that he would not have done it, if he had not enjoyed it! I, too, recall our car trips around romantic Venetian towns and villas. I recall something "clicked", when after being stuck going round Padua's ring road, for nearly an hour, I suggested "praying" to get off it. He laughed but it worked! Looking back, it was Italian hospitality, that civilised, warm, caring, people-centred, sun-filled courtesy that oiled our eventual romance, as well as fate, providence, destiny. We, of course, prefer another name: "God's grace". Years ago I thought I would eventually marry, and it might be a Frenchman (“after everyone else got married”). Well, the more I hear of Paolo's Piedmontese the more I think it is French. In addition, to being "almost French", Paolo is pastor, academic, free computer helpline, social worker, music lover and verbal wit - keen as he is on traditional English humour. It struck me, from the very start, that Paolo is witty, in both English and Italian. We used to climb Alpine mountains passes, listening to his tapes of sketches by Rowan Atkinson. Another vote of thanks goes to "Ryan". Who is Ryan? Well, he is "Ryan" of "Ryanair", now no longer as attractive due to higher costs and climate change, must have done as EU Councils for European unity than all the EU Councils and treaties put together. Being part of a wider Europe and the (shaming) ability of others to speak fluent English means that you, O British, can access someone abroad! Alison and Paolo Wedding - p. 6 of 7
Of course, if you have seen “Four Weddings and Funeral” you will know that romantic love is not always happy in its eventual outcomes. There are many pressures on relationships today. But I think that we should still stick with romance and refuse to give up on it because : • compatibility in a person with common interests, is well worth waiting and holding out for and it can happen at any age. Even at 80! • it is worth working to find, because, as Hugh Grant's character says in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" - "It's not easy to find the right person to marry". • It is worth taking huge risks for, because our struggle to find it is not just for ourselves, but for someone else - to make them happy too. Despite all its risks, it is worth making sacrifices for, because, as my friend Deanne says, "Life is really about relationships". We tell this story of our meeting to show that Paolo and I could so easily have missed meeting one another : our meeting hung on very delicate timing indeed and apparent co-incidences. But I think what Paolo and my story “means” is that the “best” thing is to find someone who shares our deepest interests and way of seeing things but that it may be so difficult that we may need “outside help” to do it. As Shakespeare says: ”There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will” or as the Bible puts it: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16.9).
Alison Castellina 20 December 2008
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