August 9th, 1997. 25 years ago today. It feels like aeons ago; it feels like only yesterday. It was the day Heather and I got married. So today is our silver wedding anniversary.
Do you remember August 1997? Puff Daddy and Faith Evans’ I’ll Be Missing You and Will Smith’s Men in Black topped the UK charts during the month. Tony Blair was still in his first few months as Prime Minister. At the start of the month, Jeanne Calment, the oldest person ever, died at the age of 122. At the end of the month, Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car accident in Paris.
On August 9th, 6,500 miles away in Malaysia, Heather and I got married. Truth be told, the day was a bit of a blur. I can remember little vignettes: images, faces, fragments of conversations. But much of the day swept over me, as if it was happening to someone else or I was observing events from outside my own body.
I do remember that it was incredibly humid and 37⁰C which, at that time, would have ranked as the second-hottest day ever in the UK. It wasn’t a day to be wearing a dark suit or a wedding dress, for sure. (The dress wouldn’t really have suited me anyway.)
Looking back now, my brain latches on to sensations more than events. The salty stickiness of a tropical summer’s day. The sweet and sour tastes of food at our post-ceremony lunch and evening reception. That heady mix of joy and relief at the end of it all.
My factual memories are patchier, often less vivid. I met my father-in-law for the first time ever on the steps of the church, but I cannot recall anything we said. I can remember little about our reception but can recollect the conversation in the hotel bar beforehand with our small group of friends who had travelled from the UK. I’ve forgotten the names of half the members of my extended Malaysian family who congratulated us during the day, but I do remember seeing on the TV news that Damon Hill had somehow put his underpowered Arrows third on the grid for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Needless to say, 25 years on, a lot has changed.
We were the first couple in our social circles to marry. Since then, we’ve had the privilege of attending many friends’ weddings, followed by their children’s christenings. Some couples are no longer together. A small but increasing number of individuals are, sadly, no longer with us. We’ve made new friends and drifted apart from others.
In 1997, little did we know that it would take over 10 years to have our first child. Now we have a 14, 12 and 10-year old.
We’ve travelled the world. And been to Butlin’s with the kids 11 times.
We bought our first house together nine months after our wedding. (How big and overwhelming that seemed. Buying a house was something only proper grown-ups did!) We bought our third house ten years later. 15 years on, we’re still here, albeit now we are a household of five rather than two, and the house doesn’t seem quite so enormous any more.
So much has changed in our lives over the past 25 years.
The one thing that hasn’t changed, though, is us. Okay, we’ve changed individually. Receding (and greying, sigh) hairlines; expanding waistlines. Instead of going to bed in the small hours of the night, I’m now more likely to wake up needing the toilet. The joy of growing up listening to 80s music and Britpop on Radio 1 has been replaced by listening to the same music on Radio 2 and Heart 80s and complaining that all current music sounds the same.
The one constant in all this remains Heather and me. Our relationship has evolved over 25 years of marriage (and 30-plus years of being together). The journey hasn’t always been smooth. But there has always been more that unites than divides us. She’s still the one person I want to grow old with.
We promised each other that we wouldn’t go overboard with presents for each other. We both took today off work to go out for a rare child-free lunch. She bought Suzanne Vega concert tickets. I bought a new Scrabble set and dictionary, harking back to our pre-children days when we used to play it all the time.
The Commonwealth Games have been taking place in Birmingham over the past couple of weeks. It occurs to me that, as a family, we’re like a mini-Commonwealth. My family is from Malaysia and I was born in England. Heather’s dad is Australian, her mother was English. Our children have always embraced their multi-cultural heritage.
Today, our 25th anniversary, may be a day traditionally marked by silver, but I still feel like I’ve won the gold medal.
The last 25 years have been quite a ride. Here’s to the next 25.