Douglas Murray’s diary: My gay wedding dance-off with Julie Burchill

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

The pilot refuses to get going until everyone is seated and quiet. When we take off there are raucous cheers. I am on a midday budget-airline flight to Ibiza. Louder cheers welcome the drinks trolleys which are noisily ransacked. Along from my seat a gentleman is reading The Spectator. It transpires we are heading for the same occasion.

The ceremony takes place on a raked clifftop amphitheatre on the beautiful and quiet north side of the island. Boiling sun, cliffs and glittering sea boast the backdrop. Assembled friends and family swelter in the full lamp glare of the sun. I keep my jacket on. Though this may sound like sunstroke, the ceremony is conducted by Benedict Cumberbatch. As he explains beforehand, he is a longstanding friend of the grooms and they have asked him to act as celebrant. Though he remarks that this may spell the descent of his acting career into doing children’s parties and bar mitzvahs, what follows is serious, poignant and beautiful. The couple have gone through a civil partnership in London before heading here for the public ceremony. The grooms’ brothers escort them in. There is music, a speech and two readings, including one from Walt Whitman by the deeply beautiful and pregnant Louisa Clein. Then Cumberbatch leads the couple in the vows and exchange of rings. At the post-cocktails dinner both families speak, as do both grooms and best men. There is a message from the Chancellor and not a dry eye as the mother of one groom, and then the father of the other, welcome a new son into their respective families.

I respect some opponents of gay marriage. But it has always seemed to me that once you accept that homosexuality exists, there is no decent non-religious reason not to permit equal civil rights, including civil marriage. Some have credited me with influencing the Prime Minister’s stance on this matter. I do not know if this is true. But when the present government passed the equal marriage act last week I certainly became one of the few people remotely likely to swing Conservative because of it.

Not that this augurs well for the Tories. In this space six or seven years ago, I told of my switch to Labour because of the Iraq war. One of Tony Blair’s ex-ministers said afterwards, ‘Well, better one sinner that repenteth and all that.’ Or as one Labour MP put it, ‘Great, we lost millions of voters and we got you.’ I expect the Conservative reaction to be even less warm, but am used to coming in swings of one.

After the wedding dinner there are more drinks and a disco. At a late stage I have a well-oiled dance-off with Julie Burchill. The effort finishes me for the evening and I retire a sweaty mess. We reconvene the next morning by the pool. Hardier than me, Julie is having a two-martini breakfast and doing her Hebrew revision. When I first met her, having bonded over being two of Britain’s few philo-Semites, Julie boasted a Hebrew speaking ability of a five-year-old. She says she has now reached that of a child of six. This puts her Hebrew six years ahead of mine — and, I realise later while trying to direct a taxi, about four years ahead of my Spanish.

A taxi-full of us try to find our way to an after-party at a villa rented by the brilliant Ivan Massow. We are dropped on a remote and dusty track. Soon doomed for the airport, I am lugging my bags and, finally defeated, my jacket. Just before suffering what is known as a ‘sense of humour failure’, we get some phone reception and find the villa. I have a last swim and drink overlooking the glorious Ibiza sunset before sadly catching my midnight budget flight home.

Now that I am safely back in England I intend to stay put. There is nowhere in the world I prefer. Some friends recently gifted me their old bicycle. The scorching weekend before last, three of us cycled 30 miles across country together, visiting five or six spectacular Norman churches on the way. Stopping at the top of a valley for a picnic (prepared, slightly Enid Blyton-like, by the girl in the couple) we spotted a perfect English village beneath. The sound of a fete carried across the wind. We freewheeled down the hill. The fete was in the vicarage garden and cost a pound to enter. It had teas, a tombola, a book stall, a coconut shy and much more. As we entered the garden a three-man band was quietly playing and children were soaring on a huge swing hung from a tree. I felt slightly faint, as if I had seen a dead friend at a party. Neither of the friends cycling with me could quite believe we had found it. I could, because I have found such places before. There are still parts of our country that no one has screwed up. But you have to go ever further to find them.

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Douglas Murray is a contributing editor to The Spectator, and blogs at spectator.co.uk/douglasmurray

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Show comments
  • Sarah Inge Parker

    Lovely blog of a special day! I trust BC will have time to do kid’s birthdays (hopefully including his own children’s) and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s of his friends’ children. He might even be persuaded to reprise Smaug for them! But perhaps in addition to and not instead of his day job! Finally! The correct spelling of one of the grooms goes into print. Mr Cumming must be mildly relieved. Us lawyers hate typos. Obviously far too many lazy journos who don’t bother to check source material, ever.

  • monkey for sale

    Really enjoyed reading this blog post.

  • Theobald Wallingford

    Will you be Godparent for the resulting children? Oh wait … it’s an infertile union. I really must update my OED. I’m just so behind the times!

    • TimFootman

      So a heterosexual marriage in which the participants can’t have children or don’t want them is… what, exactly?

      • Theobald Wallingford

        … not pretending to be something it never can be. The gay marriage issue is nothing to do with love … we know that because if it was about love then we would legalise incest. Two blokes can never have kids naturally, so marriage is unnecessary. They can rent a womb, procure a child and pretend to be a family, but that doesn’t constitute a marriage.

        • TimFootman

          “The gay marriage issue is nothing to do with love … we know that because if it was about love then we would legalise incest.” That makes no sense whatsoever. And if it did it would invalidate all marriages.

          Also: two infertile straight people “can never have kids naturally”. Is their marriage “unnecessary” as well?

          • Theobald Wallingford

            The point about incest is that there have always been restrictions on who can marry based upon the realisation that marriage is about procreation and preserving the natural order.

            The marriage of two infertile straight people is not unnecessary … it recognises the natural order, even though it may not be fruitful. Now the marriage is more necessary than ever as they are precluded from entering a civil partnership.

          • Baron

            Theobald, sir, you will never win a rational argument in an increasingly narcissistic, decadent, epicurean society run by emotions rather than sagacity; man’s folly, when he loses sanity, knows no bounds. It will be Nature that will reclaim the proper place of sex, you’ll see.

          • Nancy

            Baron, Théobald, are you boys gay or unhappy with your personal lives? If so, you can change that. No need to hate on others. 😉 God loves everyone.

        • Dan Grover

          If the worst thing you have to say about something that makes a lot of people happy is that it’s “unnecessary”, I think it’s probably OK that it exists.

          • Nancy

            Well said Dan! Well said. 🙂

        • Richard Riaikkenen

          This is about the right of two consenting adults to marry. This is not about the right to marry someone who legally cannot consent to marriage. Yes, this is about love. Marriage is a contract between two consenting adults and their dedication to each other, not a contract to make a family.

        • Gigi

          Incest is illegal, for obvious reasons. Homosexuality is not. I’ve met same-sex couples who were together for 20-30 years before they were able to be legally wed. Most heterosexual couples have divorced and remarried long before then. You don’t keep a relationship going as long as that and still want to get married unless there’s a great deal of love. And more. Love might get things going early on in a relationship, but you’ll need more than love to keep it going. Your argument about kids and marriage is moot since procreation is not required to obtain a marriage license.

      • Baron

        a marriage because it’s between a man and a woman. Why is it so hard to figure it?

    • Nancy

      The planet is currently overpopulated and underresourced so there’s no need for more children.

    • Gigi

      Yes, your are. It probably speaks to your advanced age. Most of us 35 and under support both gay rights and same-sex marriage.

  • zanzamander

    Please keep the name of that village a secret. Its like not disclosing sightings of rare visiting birds.

  • Chris Marker
    • jjjj

      Ah…those lovely Arabs who rape, butcher and pillage their way across half their world. What’s not to like, Adolf?

  • Baron

    Murray at his best: “…once you accept that homosexuality exists, there is no decent non-religious reason not to permit equal civil rights, including civil marriage.”

    Baron at his: “…once you accept that blindness exists, there is no decent non-religious reason not to permit equal civil rights, including the issuance of a driving licence”.

    • Noa

      A true equivalence.

      • Gigi

        False equivalence.

    • Ian Tremblay

      Save for the fact that driving is a privilege, not a right. Doesn’t quite square, does it? Honestly, you folks with your ridiculous slippery slope arguments are sounding dumber by the day.

    • Gigi

      Logical fallacy. Good job mate!

      Two gay men in a relationship harms no one. A blind man driving a motor vehicle – great possibility of harm, both to himself or others.

      • Baron

        Good point, Gigi, but what kept you?

        • Gigi

          I’ve been busy. Thanks for asking.

  • Modest Male

    “Some have credited me with influencing the Prime Minister’s stance on this matter. I do not know if this is true.”

  • Nancy

    I love you Douglas Murray and you deserve every happiness. Also I cannot wait for the day where homophobia and misogyny are considered as serious offences as racism.

  • immaculatezulu .

    Douglas M should stick to serious discourse on Islam and such…attempts at light banter don’t suit him…leave that sort of thing to Julie B