I had a wedding booking yesterday. It was an agency booking, which are usually very straightforward. The contract said:
“Fulham Palace for ceremony. Arrive by 11:30am to start at midday.”
Given that it was the woman’s finals at Wimbledon and I was heading that way I thought I’d leave plenty of time for traffic and faffing. Thank God I did!
I arrived at Fulham Palace at 10:30am, feeling very relaxed (if slightly hung over.) I strolled over to the front desk to find out where the ceremony was taking place. I was met by an old lady who really hadn’t a clue about a wedding and after some poking around I came to a marquee in the garden. There I found the events coordinator for the day and he checked his folder and told me that actually, the wedding was at All Saint’s Church, which is on the far side of the Fulham Palace grounds near Putney Bridge.
“How long will it take to walk?”
“Ten minutes or so.”
I can’t be running around a garden with a harp in the heat so I jumped back into the car and decided to drive round.
Well, traffic was bleeding mental! It took 20 minutes to travel one mile! Still, I arrived at 11am, calm as anything with plenty of time. I might even sneak in a little practice.
The ladies at the church were delightful! They brought me water and chatted away. I also had a nice old chat with the community service gang who were sweeping the footpath. One man in particular, Paul, was a lovely fellow. I set up my harp, hid my travel covers, had a wee practice and was ready to go at 11:30am. I had a chat with the priest and then the groom came in looking very shocked.
“Wow! A harp! Do they have harps at this church for every wedding?”
“No, I’m just playing for yours.” I thought it rather a strange question.
“But we didn’t book a harpist.”
I told him that maybe it was a surprise, which happens from time to time, but asked to see the order of ceremonies just to be sure. I read through the booklet and went pale as a ghost. These aren’t the right hymns! That’s not the bride’s name.
“Fuck! Jesus! Sorry! Oh God! Sorry! Gah!”
“What’s wrong dear?” asked Father whatever his name was.
“I’m in the wrong bloody church! Sorry!!!”
I started packing up the harp like lightning, the groom helping me, the Priest ringing around all the other All Saint’s in London to try and find where I was meant to be. I rang the agent who booked me in a panic and she was as surprised as me!
“What?! Let me just check my correspondence. I’ll ring you back!”
HOLY FUCK!!!!!!! The wedding I was meant to be at was starting in 30 minutes and I had no idea where I was supposed to be!!!!!
I raced out to the car with the harp - the priest and the little old lady caretaker in tow carrying bags and still calling churches on my behalf!
My agent rings back.
“They’re sending me the address now Tara. Don’t panic. It’s not your fault. All the correspondence says “Fulham Palace so I don’t know what they’re up to! I’ll text you the address in a moment.”
Right! I’m in the car waiting for the address. My phone beeps, I copy and paste that shit into Google maps and go tearing out of the church grounds!
15 minutes later I pull up next to a Tesco!!! I call the agent back.
“The address is for a bleeding Tesco!”
“What?! I’ll get the best man to call you!”
I’m waiting. A traffic warden comes. I’m double parked so I have to start moving again. The best man, Joe calls.
“Just walk up to Tesco and I’ll meet ya.”
“Yeah Joe, I’m in the car right now.”
“What, you drove here?”
“Yeah, I’m bringing a 6ft harp Joe.”
(Come one Joe!!!!!)
I Park in a side street, pay £8 for parking (ken ‘el!) and race up to Tesco with the harp. I’m met by Joe and his 6 year old son Charlie in suits. They lead me to a church that looks like a big ugly brick wall with a tiny door. No wonder I missed it! I hurtle up to the front of the church, un pack the harp, stuff the covers in the confessional booth and start playing just as people are coming in to sit down. I’m sweating and puffing and must have looked a wreck.
Father Patrick comes over to introduce himself and says
“Now before I say the wedding prayer it’d be nice if ye could do a fanfare. Just sing: Allelujah Alleujah, this is my commandment, love one another as I have loved you. It’s in the Gospel.”
“You want me to just, make it up?”
“Sure just sing it to yer own tune now.”
“Ok Father. If you say so.”
(Well that’s a first!)
The bride enters and is one of the lovelier brides I’ve seen for a while. Her bridesmaids looked typically trashy as seems to be the way these days. I’ll never understand false eyelashes for real life. They belong on the stage or in the bin!
Next were the hymns, which I was to lead the congregation through. Half way through ‘All things bright and beautiful’ Father Patrick started talking into his microphone. We still had three verses to go! The congregation looked to me for direction. I put my head down and plowed through. The congregation followed with equal determination. We were getting to the end of the hymn if it killed us! ‘Amazing Grace’ was fine, though the lyrics really go downhill after the third verse. They should have quit at three.
After the singing it was the usual Catholic pomp and ceremony that seems to take forever. I wasn’t the only one feeling the hardness of my wooden seat. The flower girl decided she’d had enough too and ran up to the alter, climbed inside and started playing her D.S. I’d have left her there quietly doing her thing, but one of the bridesmaids went up to grab her. That’s when she kicked off and went running round the church whilst mum, dad and bridesmaid all tried to catch her. I’ve got to hand it to the little thing, she was nimble! Eventually the rogue flower girl was captured and removed. The whole scene certainly made Father Patrick’s Homily more interesting!
I sang my fanfare, which was received by some very strange looks from the congregation. I put on my best “I’m-a-professional-and-I-know-what- I’m-doing” face but I clearly wasn’t fooling anyone.
The rest of the ceremony went over without a hitch. Father Patrick clearly liked my fanfare because he asked for me card.
“Tara! Ah I knew you’d be Irish to sing and play like that!”
“Well I’m Australian actually but…”
“Tis all the same. You’re of Irish decent, with a name like that. Good Irish girl ye are.”
I hauled my harp out of there as fast as I possibly could. I’d had enough of Fulham for one day. It was only 2pm and I was ready for bed!
That should have been the end of the story. I went home and crashed on the couch, had dinner with Sam and went to bed with a splitting headache. But wait! 10:30am this morning my phone rings.
“Hi Tara. It’s Paul, you know from All Saints? I asked the ladies to give me your contact when you left but they wouldn’t because, well you know, I’m doing community service and all that, but I wanted to speak to you, so I typed “Tara’ and “harp’ into Google and found your LinkedIn. Hope that’s cool?”
What does one say to that?!
“Anyway Tara, I play piano myself and I’m producing music at the moment and thought maybe you could save my number and then some time if I need a harp for something I might give you a call?”
“Sure Paul. No worries mate”
What else do you say? Classic!