Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Love Story - Joan and Malcolm's wedding

I've been writing about people's relationships for thirty years but no story has pleased me more than the one which envolved during the past two years for my friends, Joan and Malcolm.

 My part in this started fifty years ago when a tall curly haired man became my much loved teacher, Mr Sutherland. I was ten and he was teaching the top class at Tow Law Junior Mixed and Infants. I didn't see him again after I left school until a few years ago when he was retired and I was a writer and he asked me if I would speak at an organisation to which he belonged. Barrie introduced me to his wife Joan and we had dinner.

A short time after this Barrie died and Joan was left on her own.  I wrote saying how sorry I was and she came over for coffee and we sat and had a good moan about how hard being widowed is and how little appreciated we felt. Joan's earlier marriage, when she was very young, had ended in divorce.  We went out and about, we had lunch, we went to concerts and she introduced me to other people in Durham.

Malcolm's wife,Gwen,died of cancer and he too was left alone. He too had had an earlier marriage but his second marriage, like Joan's had been very successful and happy. I don't think either of them thought they would find somebody else, I don't think either of them thought they would fall in love again.

The first time I met Malcolm he was trying to help me. I can't remember what it was with now, but something in the house.Malcolm is six foot six and has bright blue eyes. He is the kind of man who blots out the world when he hugs you. He is funny, kind, and is the sort of person who can put up fitted cupboards, very capable and organised. He's good at making friends.

  Joan has this same capacity towards other people. It is a rare gift. Joan always laughs at my funny stories. There aren't many friends I can say that of. We have lunch on Mondays, a great way to start the week.

I don't think it was a big surprise to people that they decided to get married but even so there is something wonderful about getting married when you are in your sixties and in Malcolm's case seventy ( only just! ). There is something optimistic and wildly romantic and big about accepting the past while going forward confidently into the future.

Joan and Malcolm were married last Saturday at Crook Hall in Durham. If you haven't been to Crook Hall you've missed a treat. I go there to walk through the gardens and sit by the fire and write. The people who run it have done a great deal of work on the twelve gardens which open one into another. The house itself is partly 12th century medieval hall and part Georgian. It sits above the city and you can see Durham cathedral through its front windows.

This is the medieval hall where they were married.  We gathered outside to drink champagne and came indoors for cake. Then people wandered about the gardens and halfway through the afternoon we sat outside under the copper beeches in the shade because the sun had got out and we had tea and scones with clotted cream and jam. It was the perfect way to spend a summer's afternoon.

The gallery above the medieval hall. 
The garden in front of the house which looks out towards the city.


  1. Malcolm owes you a big hug for this and so do I. It was wonderful that you came to share our celebrations with us. Falling in love at our stage in life is unexpected (impossible to believe if you are a 20 year old) but marvellous when it does happen. How many people get to have their 7 grandchildren at their wedding! Crook Hall certainly is a beautiful place in our beautiful adopted city of Durham.

  2. Thanks for that, Joan, I do appreciate it.

  3. What a lovely story and an equally lovely wedding.Great photos Liz - love the blog

    Avril x