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Best Man’s Speech for my “Little” Brother

So on the 18th June 2022 my little brother, Daniel, married Helena: a wonderful woman who he met at Exeter University. I was asked to be best man, which was a great honour. Unfortunately Covid intervened and both Joe and I tested positive for it the day before it was due to take place. Thankfully, through the power of modern technology I was able to give the speech, albeit as a disembodied voice.

I had to give it a slight rewrite beforehand due to the circumstances, but this is basically what was given on the day. And I’m only posting it because I’m quite proud of it. And hopefully it comes across that I’m very proud of him too…

So obviously this wasn’t how I’d hoped to deliver this speech. But high drama is very much like high comedy, in that it’s all a matter of timing, and it turns out the universe has a heightened sense of perverse timing.

Joe and I are both gutted we can’t be there in person. Covid truly is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it? I’d like to extend thanks to John – who willingly stepped into the breach yesterday and who generously(?) dodged giving this speech, and Simon, and the venue, who went above and beyond this morning to make sure there was a way I could deliver it. And sorry to all the family, new and old, and the bridesmaids who I know look absolutely amazing and I hope we get to catch up with you soon.

So, for now, just try to think of me as the Wizard of Oz. Only for those who’ve met me, just… balder.

So, what is there that can be said about Daniel? He-heh. Well, buckle up folks this is gonna be a long ride.

No, don’t worry I want to keep this brief.

So, for those of you who’ve met us, you’ll know there is a big age difference between Dan and me. For the first sixteen years of my life, I was basically the awkward only child.

I kind of miss it in some ways.

But some of you, I’m sure, can imagine the sense of loneliness and frustration that comes from being the only child.

And yet – somehow – still not the favourite.

But eventually Dad and Shelley got a cat, and when Daniel finally came along the cat soon also discovered how it felt to be side-lined, but at least we had each other to comfort and dribble on.

I should hasten to add that the last bit was largely the cat.

Largely.

But along came Daniel and I’ve watched the little blighter go through all of his life, some of which we’ll cover. A slightly privileged education to start, which he didn’t seem to much enjoy, and then a state one where he flourished and created what I hope – in most cases at least – will be lifelong friendships.

And then of course he went to university. It’s a fact, I believe, that almost all children think their parents and elder family are fools and just simply don’t know how the world works. He probably went off to Exeter thinking just that.

When he graduated, three years later, I like to think he was impressed by how much his family had learned in that time.

But obviously university changes you. It’s an out of the frying-pan moment in anyone’s life, but such a great opportunity that I wish I hadn’t avoided it for the few years I did. But Daniel seized it with both hands.

I can’t say it was a surprise when he signed up for a theatrical society. The Morris males I have known have always had a certain tendency towards the theatrical and a love of playing towards an audience.

And costumes. We’ve always loved costumes. Even from his navy days Dad’s made a career of it so what chance did the rest of us have?

What was a surprise was discovering that Dan could sing. I honestly don’t know where that comes from; I can’t carry a note in a bucket and… well… sorry Dad, but there’s a good reason why plainsong and chanting are preferred in the church.

I only discovered Dan’s talent properly the day I travelled to Exeter to see him as the Major General at the Gilbert and Sullivan Society production of the Pirates of Penzance.

Great production. Very hot Pirate King.

But I realised as Dan made his dramatic entrance that his very first number was that most difficult of G&S constructions: the patter song. I couldn’t watch for the first two verses, and my hands only came away from my eyes when I finally realised: he was doing it well.

And he did it twice. Second time at double speed.

I can only say I was very impressed. Something for which I’ve never entirely forgiven him.

But perhaps most impressively, it was at the G&S society that Daniel’s greatest moment took place. Meeting Helly. Now I don’t know who can take the credit for what happened next: either Daniel is a criminal mastermind capable of inveigling himself into people’s lives, or Helly took one look at Daniel and went “there’s raw material there and given enough time I might be able to mould it into a human being”.

Either way they have become the power-couple we now know and love and I’m glad for it.

Now, obviously, what you want from a best man’s speech is dirt. But there’s limited time. And also, I’m not inclined to dish too much out. Aside from the obvious clutching the toilet bowl or bucket moments that I’ve been privy to, he’s turned out to be relatively balanced – which is amazing considering his family.

But two major incidents do loom large. Now, my philosophy in life is that a friend in need is a friend you could well do without. But Daniel I can happily say is not like that. And it showed up from the very start, when he was a wee bairn, not even able to turn himself over on his baby mat.

Let’s just say there was a fairly heated argument between Dad, Shelley and myself going on after church one day. I forget what the reason was. Let’s just assume I was being a stroppy teenager, because I probably was. And, even at 45, basically still am.

As the recriminations escalated and voices raised and everyone became more of an immovable object on whatever the issue was, I saw something amazing happen.

Dan had been flapping wildly on his mat as the deluded conflict rose to Brexit levels. But as it was all getting out of hand, he managed to flip himself over on the mat for the first time ever and start to try and crawl towards us. I saw this and had to tell everyone they had to shut up now because LOOK AT THAT!

Now I think there have been many times over the years we’ve regretted his path to full mobility, but I like to think that he was so distressed – or simply fed up – with all the anger he needed people to stop shouting and just get on. So, the only thing he could do was… obviously… do something to steal the scene.

We probably shouldn’t have given him the idea it worked because, as we know, he’s been trying to steal the scene ever since.

So… er … Sorry everyone!

But I think there’s something in there that I’d say sums him up. He’s kind and doesn’t want conflict and will try and mediate a situation. These, I think, are good qualities. And I’m sure these are some of the qualities that Helly saw in him.

Another incident sits in my mind, however. And this is one of a few “don’t tell Shelley” moments (I do have others – and if, on a future date, you get a chance to corner me in a bar, get me a drink and I’ll spill). But on this one I got up one Saturday morning, wandered to my desk, checked email, that sort of thing. I then went onto Facebook and found a message from Daniel, basically saying “I think I might be gay”.

Now at this point I suspect I probably thought “I know it’s only seven o’clock, but I think this conversation deserves a whisky”. But I resisted and instead paced a bit and tried to think up an appropriate response. Whilst also thinking “well he does like musical theatre”.

So, in the end I came up with the only response a supportive person could give to their brother in a moment of such obvious personal crisis.

“Let’s talk. But for the love of God, don’t tell your mother. She’ll only blame me!”

Because I’m a role model and influencer, obviously.

As it turns out, Dan had left his phone unlocked and it was all just a prank. We know who sent the message. Luckily for them they also can’t be there today. Because it hasn’t been forgotten, and, relieved though I was, I can hold a grudge to an Olympic level.

But in the end, we’ve all had pranks and drunken nights out, and all told I think Daniel’s a pretty upstanding gay, sorry… upstanding guy. Also, he’s certainly not stupid: I mean look at her.

He’s also kind-hearted, but with enough of an eye for the darkness and absurdities of the world we live in – the latter presumably being why he’s gravitated towards the Civil Service.

But I know he’ll make a devoted and loving husband, as much as you, Helly, will make a perfect counterpoint to any ridiculousness he sends your way. You just need to go a bit Winston Churchill on him from time to time.

By which I mean you need to learn one of Churchill’s most famous phrases: the odd, but grammatically correct, “Up with this I will not put.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, I will sign off now and I hope you have a most excellent evening, but in the meantime, I give you: Daniel and Helena, the Bride and Groom.

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