Long Live the King and Queen!

 “What sign are you?” It’s a question that we’re asked remarkably often. When we reply, “Leo and Leo,”  the response is: “How does that work out?”

Anecdotally, we can confirm that Leo & Leo is a partnership which, in our case at least, works out pretty well. But, as our shared birthday weekend has just ended, I trawled through the online astrological literature to see what it has to say about Leo-Leo compatibility.

It seems that relations between natives of the same sun sign often have more good than bad aspects to them. But, the bad ones can be almost impossible to get over, simply because each Leo shares the same flaws.  However, there is a secret to success. And that secret is compromise.

Compromise is important because – of all the sun signs in the zodiac – Leo shines the strongest. Not surprising, given that Leo is governed by the Sun itself, at the centre of the system and so fully deserving his or her title of “King” or “Queen”.

What this boils down to is that a Leo-Leo relationship can be excellent – provided that you always remember that the Leo next to you feels the same need as you do for compliments, admiration and simple adoration.

In other words, you have to give as much as you expect.

The fact is: that shouldn’t be too difficult. Because, just like you, your mate is passionate and ardent, full of ideas and wanting to live life to the full.  Every Leo knows that what they do is refined, what they buy is stylish and what they think is bright. In a Leo-Leo relationship where each respects the other, each of us have found it remarkably easy to discuss what we do before we do it, what we buy before we buy it and what we think before we say it out loud and to company.

So how does this feed into our desire for more than a royal throne. How do we reconcile this apparent deference to each other’s views with our fascination with the power that we expect  to come with our regal position.

For us two Lions, our love story resembles that of a king and a queen. A great love, but sometimes a great rivalry too.  If you know how to offer each other enough power of decision and respect, this royal relationship is based on equal terms. We share the same elegant taste and refinement, the tendency towards hosting celebrations and parties, the love of going out together. As befits a royal household, neither of us are particularly good at administering money – so it’s a good thing we both know how to make it.

As Leos, we love being in love, flirting and paying court to each other. Each of us has finally found a partner who feels the same way as each other. Even now, we still pay court to each other.

Of course, there are some warning signs that the astrological experts are keen to bring to our attention. A Leo-Leo relationship, they say will certainly not lack for optimism. But, this means that we have to make an effort to remember to think about the future, too. You know, all that stuff about savings and long-term planning. Being extravagant and liking to spend a little on the good things in life, it appears, has a downside: it’s called tomorrow.

What they say about the Leo Man…

“He doesn’t attract the usual, the mundane, and the ordinary. To succeed in a relationship with him, you have to be somewhat eccentric and willing to forego numerous conventions. You also have to dress well, appreciate good food and be heavy on the compliments. This man is romantic and somewhat egotistical. But much of the time he’s worth an extra effort. No matter how exasperating he may be, he is likely also to be proud of you.

“He loves to see you laugh, as long as you are laughing with and not at him. The Leo man demands attention. He is fiery, romantic. He can be an easy victim of the green- eyed monster, too. He can also be offended and aloof if he feels you regard him as anything less than the centre of your universe.

“The Leo man likes the theatre, but dislikes theatrics. The Leo male admires beauty but not the obvious kind; he prefers the subtle. He is repelled by women who use too much makeup, by women who cry openly, by women who laugh too loud and – most importantly –  by women who steal the spotlight. He believes in equal rights for men and women, but expects you to accept the concept that he is just a little superior. He’s also affectionate and lovable.”

What they say about the Leo Woman…

“If you are pursuing a Leo woman, compliment her and tell her she’s beautiful…and she will be. She has a flair for the dramatic. Let her have the spotlight. But, maintain an air of mystery. She loves to hear about herself: read her palm and check her horoscope. She demands that you be aware of her. A touch, a gesture, a secret signal, something special. That’s the way to woo and win the Leo lady. Your own manner should he regal. She wants to be with someone who is admired by others. In more intimate moments, she admires tenderness: a caress more than heavy- handed overtures.

“She is sexy but she wants you to want her for more than physical reasons. She values herself and doesn’t give herself away. That is, you must court her; thoughtful gifts mean more than their cost.

“She is romantic and needs to be needed. She is likely to be attractive and she expects to be jealous of you, but doesn’t want to be reprimanded for her own flirtatiousness. Make yourself a fascinating challenge. Involvement with a Leo woman can be fatiguing, but you will learn about life and living and love. Her nature is fiery; she is passionate, giving and generous. If you win her, the prize will be a great one. She is stubborn, but she is usually trying to work out what is best for you. Recognise her good qualities, which are numerous. In being amorous, avoid being coarse. Sex, for the Leo lady, is just one part of love. It is the rhythm of life but to be a part of her life you must first earn her admiration.

“She abhors the humdrum, routine, and stupid. She revels in the creative, in excitement. She could be an addict of the theater and she will share the spotlight if she feels you really have something others would admire. She’s unusual, complicated, and opinionated but she can be one of the most beautiful experiences in your life.”

As two Leos who are together, each of us feels that our relationship is based on trust, honesty and loyalty. Each of us knows that we need to avoid competing with each other and to complement each other, making room for each other to share in the spotlights we crave.

Together, as two Leos aware of both our strengths and our weaknesses, we are more powerful than two lions wandering alone. We have respect for each other. We have the ability to take pride in each other’s achievements. We have a love forged in the heart of the Sun.

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Speaking to the truth

The speeches. There are books written about how to make a speech at a wedding. There are hours spent agonising over the choice of the best words, the most appropriate tone and the etiquette of exactly when the speeches should take place.

As with everything else we planned for our day, we first of all decided whether or not we wanted speeches at all. And, fairly quickly, we decided that we did: it was an opportunity to speak about the meaning of the day and the beauty that lay at the soul of the occasion. The next decision was about timing; when should the speeches take place? We toyed with the idea of spreading them throughout our wedding feast, perhaps between courses. Finally, we imagined the day, saw it take place in our mind’s eye and – as it unfolded before us – knew that the speeches would take place after the main course and before we got stuck into the vast array of desserts that would be available.

Melinda’s speech came from her sense of bringing a dowry to our marriage, which she has already written about beautifully in this blog. For my speech, I wanted to talk about what the day was all about.

The speech begins...

This is what I said, leading up to the toast:

Today is all about love.

It’s about love that Melinda and I have for each other and that we have shared with you today.

It’s also about love in so many other ways.

It’s about the love that Melinda has put into each and every stitch of the beautiful quilts that are hanging in this room and the runners on our tables.

It’s about the love that our celebrant Alison Orchard put into helping us to draft the service today.

It’s about the love that Sine Nomine – the choir – put into the singing of our chosen madrigals and sacred music.

It’s about the love that our chefs Christophe and Nigel have put into the wonderful, wonderful food we have eaten today for our wedding feast.

It’s about the love that Malene and the waiting staff have put into making sure that our day has run so smoothly.

And it’s about the love that Phillipa has put into helping us to build the labyrinth that we hope you will all walk with Melinda and I this afternoon – joining us on the first steps of our journey into a life of married love.

Today is also about the love that you have all shown by joining us today as we celebrate our marriage.

It’s about the love that Susan and Sheldon have shown by accepting our invitations to be our bridesmaid and best man.

And it’s about the love that all of us in this room have for those who are close to us. Those who are with us today. Those who we see all the time. Those we see rarely but think of always. And those who we miss and wish we could see again.

So, for just a moment, I’d like all of us to think with our hearts.

Close your eyes if you want to and reach out to all those who you love: husband, wife, partner, lover, brother, sister, mother, father, friend. The loved ones who are far away, the ones who have left this world, the ones you cherish most.

Bring all of them here – into this room – so that they, in turn, can reach out to the ones they love and bring them here too.

And so, for just one moment, let this room be the focus of all the love in the world.

 

Now, take some of that love with you today. Keep it in your soul. And whenever you need it, take it out and let its light shine on you.

 

The toast, then, is quite simple. Please, raise your glasses and your voices: to love.

...and a gratifying response

My best man, Sheldon Bayley, had the unenviable task of giving a speech that – traditionally – has to be funny, poke fun at the groom, thank the bridesmaids and juggle a lot of emotions. He was nervous before the event, as this photo by our friend Steve Chamberlain shows.

A nervous pre-speech best man. (Pic: Steve Chamberlain)

But, as I knew he would, this talented and sensitive man delivered a speech that – simply, eloquently and powerfully – spoke to the truth:

Firstly, on behalf of Melinda and Steve, I’d like to thank John and Susan for their wonderful readings earlier, and as is the tradition, to thank Susan for carrying out her duties as bridesmaid so well. I’d also like to thank everyone for coming on this happy day to celebrate the marriage of Melinda and Steve. However, I do have to point out that not everyone is ‘over the moon’ with the situation as my eight year old daughter, Lily (who has had a long-standing crush on Steve) is devastated – but was soon consoled by the fact that he’s marrying Melinda who she describes as “beautiful, like a real-life Princess”.

When Steve asked me to be his best man, my first feeling was obviously one of honour to be asked to take on such an important role. However, this soon gave way to feelings of trepidation. After all, it was always going to be a hard act to follow a man who writes for a living. 

A man who writes very well for a living. And writes very well for pleasure too. He’s written slogans for top advertising campaigns, he’s a published journalist, he’s written film scripts that have done the rounds at the Cannes Film Festival and he’s written touching poetry that breaks your heart to read. And he’s just written that speech. In fact, there have been moments where I’ve toyed with the idea of employing a freelance writer to do this speech for me – but the only one I know who’s any good is Steve!

I first met Steve some seven years ago at The Custard Factory, a kind of business center for creative types in a traditionally industrial area of central Birmingham. I had just moved in, but Steve had been there since day one and had become something of a stalwart in the community, organising events like The Creative Circle where residents could get together socially and create the kind of vital contacts that the careers of freelancers live or die by. It wasn’t long before Steve took me under his wing (as he had done with so many people beforehand) and we found out that as well as both being ardent Liverpool fans, we had something of a shared history in the Birmingham scene. We had both been music journalists and had both worked in the media industry for many, many years. We knew the same people, we’d even been at the same gigs (most of which Steve had actually organised during his time as co-promoter of the infamous Click Club music night) but we’d never actually met until that moment. Ships in the night if you like. We struck up an instant and enduring friendship and over the next few years, Steve became many things to me: my best friend, my confidant, my work colleague and an inspirational figure in my life.

Let me explain that a bit more. Around this time, I had been through a difficult period in my own personal life, and on more than one occasion when I had poured my heart out to Steve, I detected that all wasn’t well with him. The thing is, Steve doesn’t do unhappy, he doesn’t do feeling sorry for himself, he’s an incredibly positive person who meets life’s challenges head-on and unapologetically enjoys himself. He always makes the most out of the situation he finds himself in and that unswerving self-confidence was what inspired me so much. Despite this, I couldn’t help but feel that Steve had come to a crossroads with his personal circumstances and that there was something fundamentally lacking in his own life. Still, he went his own way, buying a canal boat to live on, remarking that he should change the name of the vessel to “The Mid-Life Crisis”.

Then one night everything changed. The first I knew about it, was the next morning when he came to work at The Custard Factory and knocked on my door. I opened it to a different Steve Coxon. I knew immediately that something seismic had happened. He was bursting at the seams to tell me about this amazing woman he had met at The Spotted Dog the night before. Her name was Melinda, and he had been introduced to her by our mutual friend Nicky Getgood. Melinda was an artist who worked predominantly with fibres to create some truly interesting work (some great examples of which you can see around you today). Steve described one of her pieces in great detail, which was being exhibited in the pub itself. As he continued to recount the previous evening, I could tell that this Melinda had made a deep and lasting impression on him.

Over the next few weeks, I watched as Melinda and Steve went through what I can only describe as a proper courtship. Because Melinda lived in Devon, they communicated by every means they could. This involved numerous telephone calls, emails, video messaging and unusually in this day and age, writing letters. Sending things to each other that helped to confirm that they had both met someone of true significance in their lives. And of course, the trips to Devon became more and more frequent until they actually became trips back to Birmingham.

I finally had the pleasure of meeting Melinda in person at our Freelancer’s Christmas dinner in 2008. She was everything Steve has described… and much more. Melinda was charming, elegant and genuinely interested in everyone she met that day, and in turn, everyone was intrigued and impressed by her. She made quite an impact on our little scene. This was, to use a cliché, the perfect couple. 

They turned up, arm-in-arm, dressed-up-to-the-nines and it was obvious to everyone who was there, that this relationship was something that was meant to be, and that it wouldn’t be long before it was cemented by marriage.

Which brings us neatly back to today.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… an artist and a writer, images and words, rose petals and slate, the perfect union… please all raise your glasses to the bride and groom – Melinda and Steve. 

 
 
 

Sheldon making his speech

Our bridesmaid Susan Neuville also made a speech that touched hearts with its honesty. We hope to put it here soon.

Beautiful memories

After the wedding, our memories of the day were full of joy and warmth. It was a beautiful day, the sunniest and warmest of the year so far in England. And we were surrounded by friends and family. All at the heart of our chosen home town of Moretonhampstead.


Our wedding labyrinth held in the circle of our closest and dearest friends and family

But, we realised, that for all the beauty of the experience we had shared and the emotions we had felt throughout the day, we had been at the centre of all that had been going on and – as we had planned everything – we knew what was coming next. What had it been like to experience the day from a guest’s point of view?

So, we asked them. We hope others will share their memories and pictures with us in the coming weeks. Here is one memory from Mike and Sue Rouillard – old friends of Melinda’s and new friends of mine. Beautiful words from lovely, lovely people…

Hi Melinda, here are a few clumsy thoughts and words in reply to your absolutely awesome soul wedding.

Firstly to say that both Sue and I felt VERY deeply honoured to be asked to witness your day-it was incredibly moving, sincere and just perfect in everyway. The deep thoughts and planning that you both put into it all was absolutely mind blowing, from the sublime music throughout the day, the soul blessing, the sharing of meat, to the walk between the stones. A big thank you from us both, to you both.

Years ago now, when I could walk on the moor, getting immersed in the vastness of it all and usually ending up ankle deep in liquid peat, I used to think about the giant sponge that the moor is and the journey that the rain took once it hit the heather. Standing silently and completely alone beneath the big sky, I would think on the sight of fallen raindrops that lay on the grass, scattering light in a million random directions. There were pools of mirrors, cloud filled and still,  yet giving the feeling that this was all but an illusion as below in the peaty depths the small things of being stirred oblivious to all that lived in the sun. These same pools fed the rivulets of liquid amber that trickled over the blue granite and wet the cool moss that shone green in the heat of the day. Further down the valley, where the marsh insects danced for life, those small rivulets widened and quickened, sliding and bubbling in turn down their stone filled pathways, whispering past grass and reed to at last join the clear watered moor stream that took all to the sea.

Recalling these thoughts the other day when pondering your email, I wondered if these clunky ideas could serve as an analogy for all of your friends that turned up on your day – those people who are brittle and bright, all those whose personalities are shrouded from glare, individuals whose paths are slow and steady, those who laugh and chatter through life with the sun in their hair, all of us to join your stream that is you and Steve, that you have written about on your blog. It was a superb gathering of friends, a day that will need recalling in time to come, to enjoy again, and to reinterpret.

One last thought – just how did you arrange the weather?


Slow Wedding

Love is about giving each other the space to find what each finds beautiful in the other.

In other words, sometimes it takes time – sometimes – to find the right words, the right pictures, the right tone of voice, to get across exactly how we feel about something.

And when that something is the marriage of Melinda and Steve that feeling is enormous.  For us, the soul wedding especially was an enchanted day in which we were at the heart of a kaleidoscope of images, sounds and emotions.

So, it might take a few weeks or so for us to absorb the enormity of what we have begun. And it might take some time to share the photos and our thoughts…but we will share those images and thoughts with you.  We’ve also invited the family and friends who were at our wedding celebrations to share their feelings, impressions, reactions…anything, in fact, about the days so that we can have our wedding mirrored back to us

We have the most beautiful marriage in the world. We want you to share it with us.

While you think about that, here’s some music about longing and loneliness. It’s wonderful music, but not a lesson in life. Enjoy…and then do something different.

A nuptial melody

While we were on honeymoon, one of the guests from both our civil and soul weddings sent us a poem that she had written in response to our marriage.

She wants to remain anonymous, but said: “Friday and Saturday was like being in the middle of a romantic fairy tale – with the two main characters outstandingly elegant and beautiful.  All your friends were supportive and funny and obviously loved you both. Every minute of each day was so carefully thought through, it literally flowed… I’ve told everyone here how John [Mostyn]’s wonderful voice made the first reading come alive, and Susan [Neuville] made the spoken words of the second reading almost musical – I was aware of the ringing sound of “iron on stone”.”

And here is the poem that our guest sent us:

A NUPTIAL MELODY

The spirit of our love is here

No one can match what we have known today

And as the years roll on you know, my dear,

We can but hope that this is how we’ll stay.

This is no dream – no myth – no lets pretend.

This is for life, this is for life my friend.

As each day dawns,

What a melody.

My heart is light,

My soul is free.

The spirit of our love is here:

It will stretch on into eternity.

This everlasting love you know, my dear,

Enables us to know we have the key.

This is the key, the key to love that conquers all.

As each day dawns,

What a melody.

My heart is light, my soul is free.

My heart is light, my soul is free.

Wanderers return

Two wanderers flying side by side

After the wedding, which we’ll share with you here very soon, we went on our honeymoon to the Amalfi Coast. We wandered there along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, savoured fine food, tasted history and took wing towards the rest of our marriage. This picture of two gulls flying side by side was taken from the Philosopher’s Belvedere on the island of Capri.

He needs a trousseau, too

Trousseau (from Fr. trousseau, originally “a bundle”, n. pl. trousseaux).  Traditionally, a trousseau is the outfit of the bride, including the wedding dress.  From Victorian times till today, the trousseau also has consisted of brand-new outfits to see a woman through her wedding, honeymoon, and newlywed days.  But let’s not forget the groom  .  .  .

The Montreal Gazette - Feb 9, 1971

We went to London last weekend to complete Steve’s trousseau.  Steve had already bought a beautiful grey wool morning suit from Lugets, Exeter’s oldest independent retailer established prior to the Battle of Waterloo.  He had thought of merely renting one for the occasion, but this fine suit will do double or even triple duty at Ascot or the Queen’s Garden Party (apparently the only other places that a man can wear a grey morning suit – according to their sales person extraordinaire Justin).

The outfit was accompanied by a jacket that transformed it from morning suit to lounge or business suit at the drop of a hat. And so, wearing the jacket in order to gauge the suitability of other clothes, we boarded a train and headed for the smart end of London town.

Our destination was Piccadilly Arcade, just off of Jermyn Street in London’s West End. Our quarry: a waistcoat, tie, shirt and shoes.

Piccadilly Arcade

Of course, there are other places where you can find these things. But, probably, not quite so many. Not quite of such good quality. And not all within a stone’s throw of each other.

The first order of the day was to find a waistcoat. Something wonderful in ivory to go with Melinda’s dress. We’d already looked online and found a shop that we had visited once before and been impressed by their array of fine waistcoats. But, memory can deceive and the computer screen can lie and our first choice of shop was a disappointment. Racks of waistcoats and a selection of styles, but none of them quite matching the dream that we carried with us to compare against the real thing.

And so we found ourselves a few doors up the arcade at Neal and Palmer.

Neal & Palmer, Piccadilly Arcade

Wow!  This shop was a veritable cornucopia of waistcoats in every hue and pattern imaginable.


The waistcoat we had imagined was there. Just hanging on a rack alongside it’s fellow ivory waistcoats, waiting nonchalantly – as only a good waistcoat can – for us to wander through the door.

Ivory, with roses embroidered upon it. A good fit too, although not perfect. And so, having fallen for the cloth, we took up the offer of having a waistcoat tailor made.

"The" ivory waistcoat

While Steve was being measured around his waist, across his shoulders and down the length of his back, Melinda carefully arranged the suit jacket, show waistcoat and an ivory tie for a photograph. Around this point, another customer walked in to make some obscure but lengthy point about a wedding being delayed because of volcanic ash and asking for wedding suits to be similarly delayed.

A lot of distraction, in other words. So, when the sales assistant asked Steve if he’d like to buy the tie along with the waistcoat, Steve simply proffered his card and paid for both. It was only a week or so later that Steve realised he’d bought a £48 tie.

But, said Steve, what the heck. It’s a beautiful tie and it will look great on all of our next 48 (and more) anniversaries. £1 a time, or less depending on future usage, makes it a bargain.

Next came the shirt. We found it less than 100 yards away, at Harvie & Hudson,  in Jermyn Street.  Actually, we found three shirts.  Two white ones, one for the civil wedding ceremony and one for the soul wedding ceremony, and a blue one to go on honeymoon and be worn with Steve’s ivory linen suit, possibly to a concert of chamber music under the stars in the garden of an Italian villa.