Nothing like a wedding to stir things up in a family, is there! And if it’s royal, or a near-royal wedding, then all sorts of juicy titbits will be grabbed with glee and spread to an eager world.
We are a long way from Britain down here, and there are more important and parochial things to report in newspapers and television, but Pippa’s wedding, as it was referred to in the British press, certainly grabbed the headlines there.
A couple of weeks back, Pippa Middleton, 33, married multi-millionaire hedge fund manager James Matthews, 41.
Pippa is the gorgeous sister of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, who is married to Prince William, second in line to the throne after Prince Charles.
So despite it not being a royal occasion, it was pretty close, and the media made a meal of it.
There was the wedding fruit cake with icing, for example … one reporter called it decidedly uninteresting. She described it as “FOUR TIERS OF FRUIT CAKE!!! – a long- time wedding tradition, one that needs to be phased out immediately, followed by the garter toss, of course”.
She continued: “Considering there’s a whole world of infinitely more delicious cake options (mud cake! cheesecake! carrot cake! red velvet!) it’s almost rude, if not straight-up hostile, for couples to inflict fruit cake on their beloved guests. Let alone four tiers of it.”
She went on: “Even Pippa’s big sister Kate, a fully-fledged royal, offered a second option – guests at her wedding reportedly had the choice of fruit cake and chocolate biscuit cake. Be honest; which of those sounds more appealing?”
And another point of view: Fruit cake is the worst part of Christmas – why ruin another special occasion?
The best man’s speech is another tradition and Pippa’s wedding wasn’t short of crude, bawdy and cringe-worthy jokes. (Chiel thought high society weddings didn’t stoop that low.) Justin Johannesson was that person and did his best to raise a cheap laugh by suggesting the happy couple might spend their honeymoon at Bangor, in Wales.
He and James are best friends and the pair are very much into adrenaline sports like ultra-marathons, mountaineering and ironman events.
Johannesson is a triathlete and mountaineer whose achievements include the Marathon Des Sables, climbing Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro. He was also part of a six-strong rowing crew who broke the world record for the fastest Atlantic crossing in 2011, completing the 4800km course in just under 32 days.
It was reported that he stepped up to the mic in the glass marquee erected in the Middleton family’s back garden at 11.30pm after a five-course dinner. (Phew! After how many glasses of bubbly, Chiel wonders.)
One report said his speech involved a series of references to buttock clenching, lads’ weekends and gay bars before he apparently said: “Now to the love of James’ life: beautiful, energetic, loyal, soft-mouthed, comes on command, great behind. But that is enough about James’ spaniel, Rafa, I’m here to talk about James’ love, Pippa.”
Oh well, boys will be boys!
And then there is the groom’s glamorous mother, 69-year-old Jane Matthews (nee Parker), who grew up in Harare (Salisbury then), the capital of Zimbabwe, where she enjoyed a privileged childhood.
Her father, Robert “Spenny” Parker, was a sports-mad architect and something of a wild child who passed on his bohemian attitude to Jane and her siblings, Pamela and Paul.
Sporty and popular, she was voted rag queen by fellow undergrads at Rhodes University and rode through the streets of Grahamstown on a gold throne atop a motorised float.
Aged 21, she graduated in Fine Art and won a scholarship to the Rijks Academy in Amsterdam.
When her ferry stopped in England, she hopped off on a whim — and ended up staying for good.
She met Dave, recently divorced, who had spotted an old photograph of her in a yearbook belonging to his sister-in-law, Lu, another Rhodes graduate. He got her number, turned up to meet her in a Ferrari Daytona, and that was that.
They married in a low-key registry office. A celebration in Zimbabwe followed, where her father turned up two hours late, riding a donkey. James, their first child, was born in 1975.
Super-stylish, impeccably groomed and with a penchant for pricey designers, Jane is well used to mingling with the rich and famous. So she’d have felt quite at home when she and Dave were introduced to Prince William and Kate over dinner at James and Pippa’s £17-million London home.
Well, how’s all that for a bit of background to Pippa’s new in-laws … and what’s more, with an African background too.