Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Article excerpt

Early on Friday morning I flew from the north of Iceland to Reykjavik, from Reykjavik to Heathrow, then I hopped aboard the night sleeper from Euston to Glasgow Central to attend the wedding of Catriona's eldest daughter, held the next day at the Winter Gardens of the People's Palace on Glasgow Green.

Three years ago, Catriona separated from her husband after a 30-year-long union. The separation was not amicable and is as yet unsettled. Apart from a glimpse at a graduation, the wedding was the first time they had been in the same room for three years. I was invited to the reception but not to the ceremony. As the new man in Catriona's life, I imagined I would be a cynosure when I walked through the door that evening. And because they are labouring under the misapprehension (understandably enough) that your correspondent was the principle cause of the marriage's breakdown, I also imagined I would be the object of his and his wider family's hostility.

I had brought with me from Iceland a suit and clean shirt, but no shoes. I possess shoes, obviously, but nothing respectable enough for a society wedding, and I am in no position, this month, to afford to buy any. So I put the word out that if anyone had a half-decent pair of size tens they could lend me for the day, I'd be glad. And the groom, Andrea, from Como, kindly came forward and said that he had a spare pair and that if he could find them I was welcome to them.

It was typical of Andrea that, in spite of all the other things he had to think about, he made my lack of credible footwear his concern. The only problem was that the shoes he was offering were in fact Catriona's former husband's shoes. The symbolism of my attending his eldest daughter's wedding with his ex-wife on my arm and his old best rhythm and blues on my feet would doubtless be considered by him, and by other hostile parties present that evening, as taking my colonialism a step too far. My simply being there was going to be difficult enough for him. For me to be there literally in his shoes might be a provocation too far.

But saving myself fifty quid on shoes was more important than any symbolism, whether deliberate or unwitting. Andrea located the shoes and showed them to me. The style was hideously conservative, designed exclusively, perhaps, for the Pentecostal-pastor market. …

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