Sunday, 2 August 2009

Silly Waiter

We were invited to a wedding at Down Hall in West Essex.

I'm sure the name itself means nothing to you, but if I say it's the place where the terminally ill Jade Goody got married a few months ago, you may recall hearing about it before.

Whatever your views on Jade Goody and I have my own, Down Hall is a beautiful country house set in a 10 acre estate near Hatfield Heath.

Many people belittle Essex and it is the butt of many jokes. However, Essex is a very large county, stretching from the Thames up to Felixstowe on the east coast. Many think of Essex as the stereotypical Essex boy and girl, Darren and Trace, with the estuarial accent, Ford car with furry dice and who do their shopping at Lakeside, near the Dartford tunnel.

I always remember working with a "Trace" some years ago, who when asked where she was going on holiday, replied "I'm going Cancun".

Essex has many faces. It is not just the flat, featureless, industrial landscape that you see near the Thames. The border with Hertfordshire is very hilly and North Essex has farmland, market towns, open country and local accents quite similar to the Suffolk accent.

Down Hall is a very pretty venue and although not far from Stansted Airport, is surrounded by picture postcard villages, parish cricket teams and pretty pubs and churches (the two always go hand in hand).

The wedding was a lavish affair.

Every feature and move had been planned to perfection. More like a military manoeuvre than a wedding. The knack with weddings is to make them look relaxed, carefree and flowing, whilst underneath the surface, there is a metronome dictating every move.

The marriage itself was a registry office "do" in one of the beautiful drawing rooms, which had been licensed for the ceremony.

After the civil service, guests funnelled out on to the lawn for drinks.

As we passed through the hall, there was a crash and commotion. One of the waiters had dropped a tray of drinks and was being helped, hobbling, by two of the ushers, out into the garden.

The waiter, who was a "Bobby Ball" lookalike was obviously in pain and was making a great deal of noise. When he got out on to the regal, covered porchway, the ushers released him and he went over again, down the steps.

Was he drunk on duty or just a mental patient who had escaped ?

The Master of Ceremonies (MC), resplendent in his red jacket, tried to collate people for the photographs in the grounds. The silly waiter re-appeared and started running up and down like a human sheepdog, shuffling and berating people. He picked on the pretty tattooed blonde girl, making comments about her dark roots and Essex girls, he picked on the old man with the lamb-chop whiskers and Meerschaum pipe, confusing the smell of Kentucky Gold tobacco with Kentucky Fried Chicken. The MC was clearly irritated with the shouting and interfering of this irritating little waiter. As the photographer started organising his subjects in to order - tall people at the back, children at the front !   the silly waiter suggested that it might be better if the ugly people stayed at the back, shouting the mantra of "if you can't see the camera, you won't be in the photo - might be a good thing for some of you".

The guests' faces started to relax. What started out as a rogue waiter about to ruin the brides special day, became a prank set-up, designed to amuse the guests.

The silly waiter went on to appear between each course of the meal, blackened and charred after cooking the main course, covered in cream after preparing the dessert, dragging pre-arranged targets up to carry out silly Men in Black and dance routines, much to the delight of the bridge and groom, who got their revenge on those friends who took advantage at their respective stag and hen nights.

Mark Howard was the silly waiter. In reality, a professional actor who has worked for many famous people, as well as receiving accolades from the great, late Jeremy Beadle, who employed him for his daughters wedding.

The question is, would you dare to let the Silly Waiter do his stuff at your daughters wedding ?

It certainly needs a degree of trust, but the Silly Waiter pulled it off superbly and the guests were suitably warmed-up when it came to the dancing in the evening. I've never seen so many people on a dancefloor at a wedding !!!


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