Thursday, 7 July 2016

Losing yourself and finding yourself

As the late MP Jo Cox said

“…. we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Victoria Hall, Saltaire, Saturday July 2nd 2016

  • If you were there, thank you for coming.
  • If you were invited and couldn’t come, get in touch soon to arrange a catch up.
  • If you weren’t invited and would've liked to've come, sorry for not being included in the final list (strict budget, ya know, now we’re retired), but please get in touch soon to arrange a catch up (if you like.)
  • If you weren’t invited and wouldn’t've wanted to come anyway, it’s perfectly understandable – we’re not party animals, really.
  • If you’ve no idea who we are, enjoy the pictures anyway. The text below is a transcription of the speeches that were made after the lovely meal by Yorkshire caterers, GFS (click here for GFS information.)
Victoria Hall, Saltaire

What Tony said….

The seeds of our 30th wedding anniversary party were sown in April and May 2015 when we attended the weddings of our nieces Laura to Aaron and Gemma to Ollie. It struck us that getting people together to celebrate was a great idea. Family, colleagues, friends....

When we married in 1986 Sally’s Mum and Dad told us how much we could spend on the wedding (£500) and, if there was any change from the costs of the wedding, we could spend it on furniture for our first house. We therefore had a small “do” back in 1986 – and today’s “do” is to make up for our stinginess back then….

Here today on 2nd July 2016 we have
  • family and friends from two continents in the room – Europe and America
  • friends from Manchester where we met
  • friends visiting from the Midlands and London
  • colleagues from education and the national health service
  • family from Harrogate
  • family and friends from Wakefield and Bradford where we were born.
There are people in the room who have recently experienced fire, illness and floods so we hope, later in the evening, you all follow natural human instincts and set aside troubles by dancing to the The Baby Blues all the way from London….
A big part of my childhood was reading a book in the corner and listening to my Mum nattering about this and that to Auntie Clare or to Auntie Mary; all telling tales about family members, present and past, neighbours and friends, who said what to who and why. Part of my childish mind enjoyed the gossip and part of it relished being a bookworm.
Shakespeare's Complete Works table: Laura, Aaron, Ollie, Gemma, Julie, Jannine, Russ, Marco
I have three older brothers and we four brothers each get more girly as we get younger. My eldest brother is macho and scary; my next two brothers are increasingly feminine and weepy; and I’m probably the girliest of all. My favoured reading was never Roy of the Rovers or Biggles.  I preferred X-Men, Spiderman and Thor or, when I was listening to the matriarchs gossiping, I was usually reading cousin Ann’s copy of Bunty at Auntie Claire’s house.
So when we looked for a theme for this anniversary party, Sally and I went out for dinner last year and tried to choose books that meant a great deal to us, either jointly or individually. Every table was named for a favourite book.
Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby table: Ann, Terry, Lisa, Daniel, Mary C, Albert

  • Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens’s story was the first theatre trip that we jointly thought was fantastic – the RSC touring to Manchester’s Palace Theatre
  • Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons is the story of a middle-aged couple on a road trip reflecting on the poignant everyday details of their lives
  • living in Bradford we each chose a Brontë novel: Sally chose Charlotte’s thunderingly feminist Jane Eyre and I picked Emily’s gothically stormy Wuthering Heights 
  • Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was an easy choice because of its exquisite romance and mischievous comedy
  • I picked TH White’s Once and Future King because it portrays all our hopes and ambitions even when times are tough and life’s journey is a struggle
  • Sally picked Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm, the compassionate but horribly honest medical memoir, which I confess I nearly stopped reading during Chapter 3 because of the graphic description of neurosurgery
  • Shakespeare’s Complete Works had to be one of our choices since so much of my life has been spent exploring its messy bottomless pit
  • And, finally, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird gives us hope that the world can be a better place
Henry Marsh's Do No Harm table: Nick D, Veronica, Angela, Derek, Judy, Steve

And, for those who don’t know, sitting on our table is a special friend from America, Kerry Madden-Lunsford who has (literally) touched Harper Lee. And has written a biography of that great lady. So in the not too distant future we hope to get a tour of the Monroeville courtroom which inspired the setting for To Kill A Mockingbird. Make friends with Kerry and get yourself invited!
Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre table: Jane, Kevin H, Alison, Kim, Ben, Sarah, Gail, Kevin B
Reading has given us great pleasure over the years and is a key part of our lives now and in the foreseeable future. I love the expression – “you can lose yourself in a good book.” I have come to think that you “find yourself” in a good book too. In the same way you can “lose yourself” in your family and friends and “find yourself” there too.
Thirty years ago I lost myself in Sally, but that’s where I’ve found myself too. Our best achievement has been producing our two daughters, but for now, I want to thank Sally for the details of what you are seeing and experiencing – 99% of everything that’s good about today has been arranged tirelessly by my Pearly partner, please raise a glass to Dr Sally!
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice table: Juliet, Mark, Jack, Amy, Tom, Caity, Adam

What Sally said….

When we got married 30 years ago next Tuesday (July 5th) my dad (Ray) made a short speech. Tony spoke. And then a good friend, Meera, looked me in the eye from her spot near the ‘top table’ and said “you next, Sally.” I replied “I’ve got nothing to say” but that was wrong, because those who know me well know that I always have something to say! I’ve regretted that moment in a small way since then, so here’s my chance to put it right.
Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons table: Graeme, Nick S, Sue, Brian, Emma, Tim
I’ve never been much of a party animal, more of an outgoing introvert, but seeing everyone here today is so wonderful, I get why people have big parties. It’s so amazing to see all the people we love, all the people who’ve been important to us in our lives – family, colleagues and friends – all together in one place. Thank you all for coming. I hope you enjoy yourselves and please dance later.

This might be a bit of a downer, but will you all join me and raise a toast to absent friends and family? For me, I’ll be toasting my brilliant Mum and Dad, and Tony’s lovely Mum!
TH White's The Once and Future King table: Jo, Marion, Becky, Marc, Chris, Teresa, Mick, Jess

What Graeme said….

I think that if we were to do a quick poll of all the people who know Sally and Tony, asking what was the most important thing to them, we’d get a pretty unanimous response of “Family.” So for those of us here who don’t have now, or haven’t had at some point, the surnames Allard or Johnson, I like to think that today we can call ourselves honorary Allards or Johnsons.
Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights table: Emily, Alex, Harriet, Basit, Janet, Michael, Amy L, Matt B

When I think back to when I first met Tony, we were both being interviewed for what we believed to be the same job…. But that’s a whole other story! Anyway he was a fresh-faced young man of not much more than 30 (and I still had some hair!) – and he was just returning to full-time work having spent a year at home looking after baby Emily in order that Sally could establish herself in her career as a doctor, soon to be a popular GP.

Anyway I knew this was a friendship that was going to last, as we shared so many beliefs and ideals. So it wasn’t long before myself and Nick met all the family and we have, like so many of us here today, not just been passive observers over the years, but have felt like part of the Allard-Johnsons. We’ve watched Emily and Harriet grow up and become the wonderful, intelligent, socially adept, politically astute young women that are here now. And we have been involved in their lives in so many ways – personally and professionally – in the same way they have been involved in ours.

One of my measures of friendship is who I would call in an emergency…. I hope I never have to make that call, but your numbers have been at the top of my speed dial list for a very long time!
I think that you all exemplify something that the recently departed Muhammed Ali once said:
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven’t really learned anything.”
You lot redefine the distinction between family and friend and maybe this is because these words of Charlotte Bronte’s from The Professor are the maxim by which you conduct your relationships, both with family and friends:
“Let respect be the foundation, affection the first floor, love the superstructure.”
And it is because of that respect, affection and love that you have shown all of us here over the years that I’m going to finish with yet another nicked quotation, this time from Maya Angelou (after all, these women say it so much better than I ever could!):
“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.”

So Sally, Tony, thank you so much for today for this act of kindness and, Sally, I do hope that it is proving to be the perfect day that you were longing for (and I’ll try not to spoil it by making too much of an ass of myself on the dance floor later!)
Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird table: Tony, Sally, Maggie, John, Michele, Mary S, Kiffen, Kerry

Cheers, to Sally and Tony, and to one and all!