It was a very special day. On 16 July ’16, Nury, Mary, Peter and Anuradha held our joint anniversary party at Hedgerley Wood, welcoming all of you to celebrate 30 years of joyful and fulfilling marriage.
Nury and Mary’s wedding
Nury and Mary were married on 23rd August 1986, with a formal service at Our Lady of Muswell Hill, an impressive Roman Catholic church. Mary looked more stunning than ever in her long silver wedding dress, and Nury pioneered his distinguished Nehru look.
Their reception was held at Western Road, East Finchley, the home of Nury and Anuradha’s indomitable mother, Hariyanti Vittachi. The house and garden brimmed with family and friends. Hariyanti took firm charge of the reception food, the wedding cake, and sewing the bridesmaids’ sugar-pink broderie anglaise dresses.
Soon after their wedding, Nury and Mary cashed in the small fortune that they had saved up for a deposit for a flat (well, it seemed a fortune in those days, though it wouldn’t buy much more than the broom cupboard now), and blew it on two round-the-world tickets.
What a wonderfully daring move! Well, they explained, it was sensible really, since it was best to do one’s travelling before settling down with a family. After all, you can’t zip around the world once you have a family, can you?
We all expected that round-the-world trip to take a good year, since it involved longish stays en route, where Nury would be working at newspapers to supplement their cash: a couple of months in Sri Lanka, ditto in Hong-Kong.
But in Hong Kong they paused for rather longer than they had expected… In fact, it’s where they still live to this day! So that one year round-the-world trip has so far taken 30 years – and it still isn’t complete. We’re hoping they will come back to the UK one day, so we can see more of them, but it’s not yet clear when that day might be.
In the course of those years, they’ve had an eventful and fascinating life: teaching drama and producing plays at the Island School; unravelling the strange tricks of the media trade at Hong Kong University; founding an Asian Literary Festival and hobnobbing with world-class authors; producing a ton of newspaper columns, hilarious Facebook entries and a topplingly high stack of imaginative books, including the smash hit Feng Shui detective series, doing stand-up comedy…
They have also been deeply involved in their faith community. They organize a lot of the music for their church, especially for the children there.
And speaking of children, they became devoted parents to Jem, Kelci and Lexi…
Here’s a clip from Mary’s and Nury’s speeches at the anniversary party.
They haven’t changed much, have they, from 30 years ago? Except you can tell Nury loves doing stand-up now – and Mary’s comic timing seems just as nifty.
Peter and Anuradha’s wedding
Peter and Anuradha didn’t have a ‘real’ wedding. On 7th June, they eloped – as Anuradha’s parents had.
The Registrar at the Wheatley Register Office was clearly uneasy about how seriously this wedding was being taken. She saw no sign of the three-tiered wedding cake, nor the vol-au-vents, nor the chicken a la something. Nor of a bride in a voluminously-skirted white court gown, following the lead of that supercool trendsetter Queen Victoria.
There was someone twirling around in a summer frock with flowers in her hair and a small picnic basket on her arm – and was that the groom in jeans?
As for the vast entourage of relatives in varying shades of pastel crepe de chine, with hats, where were they? The puzzled Registrar could only find two dubious characters claiming to be the witnesses. One, with his Colombian tan and black moustache, was obviously taking time off from negotiating with FARC in the jungles. The other looked even more intimidating: a large, formidable American, with braces holding up his trousers – and a genuine Rolex. A Mafia boss? Had this sedate Oxfordshire village been turned into a ‘hood?
The Registrar stopped the proceedings altogether when the bride and groom burst out laughing in the middle of her oration. They hadn’t meant to be disrespectful, they explained contritely, they’d just caught sight of each other’s smiles, and that had set off an irrepressible outpouring of happiness and delight. (Still happens.)
And after these informal formalities, they all went punting.
Peter took the helm (aka punt pole), while Anuradha dispensed the wedding breakfast (aka wedding picnic) of strawberries and cream from the basket. It was simple and lovely.
Three months later, when they felt reasonably secure that the marriage would take, Peter and Anuradha invited their friends and relatives to a blessing at Hedgerley Wood. Don Cupitt composed a part-Christian, part-Zen Buddhist blessing. Bill Nicholson wrote and performed a dazzlingly rhymed epic poem, Tarzie Vittachi (Anuradha’s dad) made the guests cry with a speech about Kindness, a guitar quartet played in the woods, Tom Hemsley sang Schubert leider, and fairy godmother Patricia Lacey organized oodles of food (including two whole just-caught salmon from Brighton, transported in her suitcase, wrapped in foil and protected by her voluminous nylon nighties).
Rollercoaster, action-packed years followed. Peter and Anuradha didn’t produce any more children since they already five formidable offspring – Andy, Franny, Devi, Daniella and Boo – unless you consider OneWorld and OneClimate their babies.
Here’s a little of what Peter and Anuradha said at the anniversary party:
Thank you, everyone!
So 30 years later, Nury, Mary, Peter and Anuradha reconvened in Hedgerley Wood on 16th July 2016, surrounded once again by the love and goodwill of our family and friends.
More and more of you came to Hedgerley that day, travelling from far and wide, to gather together under the summer trees. We wanted to thank you all for making the journey here. Still more of you had wanted to come too but just couldn’t, because of distance or illness, but we felt your presence and your love – thank you.
And thanks too to everyone who brought or sent such beautiful and generous presents! We were completely taken by surprise by your generosity. We weren’t expecting any gifts, and were so touched by your thoughtfulness.
Thank you too for the pictures you sent of the party. The most poignant picture of all was that of our beloved friend Rosi. You can tell she’s an art student with her blue nail varnish, the coolest colour for nails this season.
She’d dived bravely into doing an art degree at the age of 74 and had just heard her brilliant finals results. A few days after the anniversary party, Rosi had a major stroke – and a few days later still, she died, reminding us that in the midst of life, the torn edge of every moment is inked by the shadow of death.
From sorrow to healing. Special thanks must go to Jane, Mary’s niece, for remedying that lack of a three-tiered cake at the Wheatley wedding by kindly baking an exquisite cake with impeccable white icing. (That’s the yellow and white cake on the right of the picture, of course – not the one on the left that looks like Dennis the Menace’s dog Gnasher after falling into a tub of ganache. We made the two bottom layers of that one. The amazing top layer, with extravagant chocolate curls on chocolate mousse and chocolate genoise layers, was made by chefs – of whom, more below.)
As even two three-tier cakes cake wouldn’t have been enough for all the guests that day, the wonderful Nadia Benamid from Didier’s Patisserie organized their brilliant chefs to make 10 spectacular, handmade, unique, French dessert-cakes, in a range of gorgeous flavours. And they were extraordinarily generous in that they baked them especially for us, since they don’t usually bake cakes for individual customers. We can’t thank them enough for going out of their way to make our celebration so special. Here’s their delicate and sumptuous pear and almond dessert-cake.
Frank and Geeta of Signature Curries made the aromatic lunch. Out of their brightly-coloured tent emerged plate after plate of delectably-spiced, homemade Indian food. Apart from the rice and dahl – of course – there were spiced vegetable curries, and a chicken curry with 20 layers of spicing – as well as potato cakes with a yoghurt sauce, and a refreshing beetroot and tomato salad. And if you had any space left, unforgettable kheer and rasmullai for dessert. We wished they would move in next door, so we could eat their food every day.
Another highlight was the music provided by the fabulous Polka-Dots. Rather than attempt to describe their performance, here’s a video of them in full swing:
Our thanks must also include everyone who worked for days or weeks – sometimes for months – to prepare Hedgerley for the festivities that day: especially Phil, Stephie, Jo and her fellow Gardening Girls, Roos… and also everyone who helped out on the day: Maya, Christel, Kyra, Zoe, Franny and Adam – not to mention the day after, notably Daniella who washed up for hours, and Coll driving for miles… and countless others who lent a hand because they always do, out of the kindness of their hearts.
And finally, the very, very best thing of all about the anniversary party for us four was that, for the first time ever, all 13 of Peter and Anuradha’s grandchildren, and all 3 of Nury and Mary’s children (who are about the same age as P and A’s grandchildren), were present under one roof. The new generation – the future…
And here they all are:
Thanks to all of you for making this such a wonderful and unforgettable day!
With lots of love, from Nury, Mary, Peter and Anuradha xxxxx