|Ordinarily I do not volunteer to stand up and make speeches in front of a room full of people but tonight I already look like a disco ball so I thought sod it. I need to stand up to declare my love for this woman. Who does things differently. And let’s bridesmaids get up and make speeches. Not just the best man.
I know you’re not mad keen on vows to God, Ariane, but I will love you from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health – until death parts us. And I know that you are all here because you feel something like that for Ariane, who puts her heart and soul into absolutely everything, including today.
I feel I have a special bond with Ariane, however, because she and I share a certain temperament. I mean, of course, that we are both batshit crazy. She has traipsed for miles across London again and again because I was not well enough to leave my flat. With us, when things go badly, they go very very badly. And when things go well, we tend to be terrified. Life with Ariane can be like watching a high speed car chase – where you can’t see why on earth she is going so damn fast because no one actually appears to be chasing her. I often think it a mercy that Ariane can’t drive because if she did she’d go from 0 to 60 in a 20mph zone, and she’d like how the road bumps sent her flying into the air.
The speed at which Ariane does things has often left me bewildered. And a bit scared. And we did in fact fall out a few years ago over that. We had planned to spend Christmas together because I really rather desperately did not want to go home and she was without Lily… And then at the last moment she invited some chap I’d never met with the words, ‘You’ll hit it off – you’re of a similar height.’ And at the time I threw a fit and went home because I was not able to cope with strangers, and especially not men. And while I used to tell that story as an example of how Ariane moved too fast and was wrong it turns out she was absolutely right. Because the man she wanted me to spend Christmas with is now my Super Friend. And the all time most awesome person ever. So I just missed out on knowing him for three years.
Ariane does not believe in doing anything because it might be – heaven forfend – sensible. No. Whatever she wants to do. She goes for it. She will do anything from sniffing armpits (which is how we reconciled), to very publicly shagging Jeremy Corbyn, to eloping to Las Vegas. And I sit and I worry about her – quite possibly more than she worries for herself…
I do not know how Ariane ended up being the absolutely wonderful person she is today. A lot of why I think we get on so well is because we’ve had a lot of absolutely rotten stuff happen in our lives – but Ariane’s makes my life look like an absolute picnic.
I do not know how she ended up such an angel. Still that is what she is.
But enough about Ariane. We are all assembled here today thanks to one man. And I think we should pause for a moment to remember him…
Frank was a German and he wore – I’m told, thanks to Ariane’s devotion to oversharing – a pair of very tight red budgie smugglers. On their second date, he arrived at her house with a bag full of tools and attempted to service her… boiler and spent – again I was told – roughly four hours failing to do so. He then announced that he was moving to Colchester and that he would buy her a railcard so she could visit him. When Ariane discovered a seasonal rail card to Colchester cost upwards of £5000 she told him this was much too much at which point he revealed that the railcard he had in mind cost £30 a year and entitled her to a third off all rail travel.
And so Auf Weidersehen Frank.
Then the real hero of our tale stepped in… Our Graham became so inflamed with jealousy at this tight, ineffective kraut … Knowing that he, Graham, was a far better man… Who knew exactly what to do with Ariane’s boiler… Well, to cut a short story even shorter… Almost three months on here we are.
Lots of people might think that going through a bad bout of Guardian Soulmates to married within 90 days is utterly and completely insane. But they do not know Graham – who is as cautious and careful as Ariane is faster than Ayrton Senna. He has been her one constant. The person who has always been there for her whenever anyone else let her down. Who she speaks to every day. And who has – along with her beautiful daughter Lily and her good friend John – helped to make up an unorthodox but very loving family that Ariane has chosen for herself.
I have only met Graham twice – but I thought I had him pegged from the first… It was half a decade ago at Ariane’s 31st birthday party (when Lily was a very, very tiny baby) and that evening I felt very sorry for him because to me it was completely obvious to me that he was very much in love with the woman who was then only his best friend. Most men, you know, are not in the habit of compiling a game of 31 quiz questions – as he did that night – without serious romantic feeling. And that evening I felt desperately sorry for him. But today, never mind the scratchcards, he’s hit the jackpot…
Thank you Graham for always being there for our dearest friend Ariane. There is no stronger foundation for a marriage – I’m sure – than a deep and abiding best-friendship of more than twenty years. And today we celebrate both of you and your love. May it now endure – for the next 50…
Copyright - Josh Pulman @ joshphoto.com
In 2014, a year and a half before he finally lost his head, David Cameron threw a rave at Chequers. The Prime Minister danced, in an open necked shirt, to a DJ known as ‘Hard Bitch’, with film stars and a foul-mouthed TV presenter, on a dance floor set up in the Great Hall. A portrait of King Charles I stared down at him and if Cameron had met the glance of this melancholy van Dyck, he might have paused to consider how the mighty fall. Later on – when hestood accused of ‘acts of self-indulgence bordering on decadence’ – perhaps he wished he had. But the party raged on until 3am, as civil war brewed outside the doors.
A year on from the shock Brexit victory, half the nation is still violently unhappy at having to leave the EU. These are people who know how to ski, watch the BBC on iPlayer and agonise on Twitter – while the other half hates their guts. The Establishment is at war with the Peasants Who Revolted. There are fresh skirmishes by the day between those who drink Premier Cru and those who prefer lager. It’s Waitrose v. Lidl, ‘sofa’ v. ‘settee’, avocado on toast v. HP sauce, Eton v. the bog-standard comprehensive, Range Rover Woman v. White Van Man. Or to encapsulate the two sides in all their manifold complexity: Cavaliers v. Roundheads.
This terminology is borrowed from the English Civil War – the bloodiest conflict in British history. War broke out in 1642 when King Charles I declared war on his own parliament. ‘Cavalier’ derives from the Spanish word ‘Caballeros’ meaning ‘horsemen’ and applied to the aristocrats who fought for Charles. The ‘Roundheads’ (whose severe haircuts made their heads look round) fought for Parliament.
King Charles was keen on Europe (in the form of his very French queen), introduced unpopular taxes, manipulated the honours system, alienated the Scots, chillaxed too much and kept picking fights he either lost or failed to win decisively. As Theresa May might put it, ‘remind you of anybody?’
Eventually, Parliament chopped Charles’s head off. Some Cavaliers – like today’s City banks – fled England altogether. Others sulked – such as the ex-Chancellor George Osborne, who sits on the back benches, in an attitude of despair, ‘waiting for it all to go tits-up for Theresa,’ as one of his confidantes assures me it most definitely will.
Many Cavaliers felt frightened that the killing of the King would bring about the End of Days – much as the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, predicts the economic Apocalypse.
The Cavaliers should have made mincemeat of the Roundheads. They had all the money, power and privilege on their side. But they were out of touch with the common people and had no idea how ferocious the Roundheads would prove in battle. Oliver Cromwell, like Theresa May, hadn’t started the war; but rose swiftly from MP to leader of a cavalry regiment to commander of Parliament’s New Model Army. He relied heavily on his allies’ messianic zeal, much as May depends on her special advisors Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, whose ruthlessness helped her survive the Home Office, the graveyard of so many political careers.
Cromwell’s Roundheads were sober and serious and about as much fun as May’s grim-faced Chancellor, Philip Hammond, appears to be. Their rallying cry – for parliamentary sovereignty and individual liberty – is echoed by May’s Brexit ministers, David Davis and Liam Fox.
For a Cavalier to socialise with a Roundhead was unconscionable – and vice versa: the same is true today. Even on Tinder, ordinarily a sexual free-for-all, millennials often state if they were Remain or Leave so they don’t accidentally sleep with the enemy. In real life, it can be hard to spot your natural compadres. Expensive dress is not a reliable indicator. Our Roundhead PM, for instance, has been photographed in £995 gold leather trousers, and owns dozens of pairs of kitten heels. Haircuts are a more reliable indicator. Cavaliers were proud of their ringlets and today’s equivalent pride themselves on their floppy manes (both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, with their blond hair soufflés, reveal themselves as Cavaliers pretending to be Roundheads for electoral gain).
But while Cavaliers are ordinarily feckless, spendthrift and the life and the soul of the party -right now they’re in a state of shock. Whilst Roundheads, who tend to be dour, humourless and somewhat unimaginative are, all of a sudden, tremendously pleased with themselves. The clearest signal as to whether you’re speaking to a Cavalier or Roundhead is whether your interlocutor appears astonished and petrified – or smug and self-satisfied. If the former, then you are talking to a Cavalier, unable to believe in this sudden reversal of fortune; if the latter, you’ve unearthed a Roundhead rejoicing in Little England.
The difference between the two factions is most neatly encapsulated in the lives of their leaders: Cameron and May. The son of a millionaire, Cameron, as we know, was educated at Eton (and still demands that the crust is cut off his toast). At Oxford, he joined the Bullingdon Club. According to his arch-enemy Lord Ashcroft, it is possible he violated a pig’s head at a party. After getting his First, he swanked off into the Conservative Party Research Department, and then became a special advisor, before abandoning politics – very temporarily – for a highly paid job at Carlton Television where he learned the dark arts of PR. At every point in his career, he had his path smoothed by significant phone calls to significant people. His rise from stockbroker’s son to Prime Minister was inexorable.
Theresa May, by contrast, thrust herself towards greatness. The only child of a vicar, she won a place at Oxford thanks to her grammar school education. At Oxford, there are no wild tales of Theresa; when I contacted the press office of her biographer Rosa Prince in the hope of fresh revelations I was told, quite cheerfully, that there weren’t any. By all accounts, she worked hard and – in the words of one Old Wykehamist – felt fortunate ‘to meet the sort of people she never would have met had she not gone to Oxford’ – including her future husband, Philip May.
While Cameron is famous for his Notting Hill cabal, May made a few friends at Oxford who remain allies, like the Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green, and the Minister for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, Alan Duncan, but she’s never been a networker. At the same age as Dave was when he drank Bolly in the Bullingdon, Theresa was listening to visiting Tory speakers at the Union. (Certainly, she liked to go back and speak there herself. The Tory grandee Jonathan Aitken vividly recalls her wiping the floor with the hate preacher Abu Hamza in a debate some years before she deported him.) After leaving Oxford, May went to work for the Bank of England – so she has held down a ‘real job.’ She first went head to head with David Cameron in 1994, when they both sought selection for the safe Tory seat of Ashford, and were both beaten – by Damian Green.
The defining Cavalier characteristic is a love of the good life. Crises often hit Westminster during the summer and Cameron’s MPs would complain that the only way to get hold of him was ‘to hire a Cornish ice-cream van and set up on the beach.’ In the summer of 2013, a humanitarian crisis was escalating in Syria. There was no time for chillaxing. And yet that July, an image surfaced of Cameron, on Instagram, fast asleep on a four poster bed with a Red Box by his feet. Earlier in the day, he’d apparently left the same box unattended on a train while he nipped off to the buffet car. That August, Cameron was hoping to persuade President Obama into military intervention but he failed to put in the necessary effort to win over parliament. When the vote was held in the House of Commons, the government was defeated on a matter of war – for the first time since 1782.
But Cameron simply couldn’t resist taking time out to socialise. He loved nothing better than hanging out with his fellow Cavaliers – and has now swanned off into the sunset with them. On New Year’s Eve, David and Samantha Cameron decamped to Burford Priory, the home of the multi-millionairess Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of Rupert, who threw a party that involved ‘an entire theatrical set, complete with revolving floors, an entrance made of flowers, cocktails on tap and roving graffiti artists spray painting the toilets mid-party with guests’ names,’ and reputedly cost half a million pounds. ‘Nobody is not a celebrity,’ Jonathan Aitken told me. ‘[Cameron] is in his element.’ The Camerons’ love of partying in a circle that included the disgraced former News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks – alarmed even their Cavalier friends; Lord Ashcroft’s controversial book ‘Call Me Dave’ labelled them ‘the Chipping Snorton’ set.
May, however, barely socialises at all. She is always at work: even on Christmas Day, when she doesn’t eat her dinner until she’s gone to the old folk’s home in Maidenhead to raise a glass of sherry with the residents. Even at the Conservative Party Conference, ‘when most politicians were out courting newspaper editors,’ the LBC radio host Iain Dale recalls, ‘Theresa May was in Cafe Rouge, having dinner with her husband.’ Aitken recalls inviting May, then Home Secretary,
to visit a charity in Maidenhead called Blue Sky, a rehabilitation scheme for ex-offenders, during the New Year recess in 2011.
‘The date suited nobody except those who had to be there,’ he recalls. ‘Everyone else was off skiing or on holiday and it was the filthiest day I can remember. The wind was blowing and the rain pouring – we might as well have been in a trawler on the North Sea. All she needed to do was stay inside and say a few words but she spent no less than an hour and a half going round talking to ex-cons, asking questions such as ‘how deep is that ditch?’ And I’ve never seen anyone do it better – there was not a scintilla of artificiality about her.’ When I ask Aitken how May compares to that other Tory Roundhead – Mrs. Thatcher – he says it’s too soon to say. ‘On that day, she was almost like the Queen.’
Cavaliers believe above all, that they are born to rule; Roundheads take advantage of insurrection – mounted by furious plebs. The Brexit vote was, in the first place, an act worthy of Charles I himself. Charles believed in the Divine Right of Kings while Cameron seemed to believe he was entitled to premiership. First, he promised a vote, to appease his backbenchers. Then, when he won an unexpected majority at the 2015 election, he rushed into holding the vote even though his most trusted advisor, Chancellor Osborne, advised him very strongly against it. Privately, Cameron assured EU leaders, ‘we’re going to win – maybe 70-30.’
Throughout his entire political career, Cameron behaved like a cocky undergraduate, so sure he’d ace the test, he didn’t bother to cram until the very last moment. And this technique had worked so many times – most nail bitingly in the Scottish referendum. When he lost he resigned in a fit of pique, allegedly demanding of his aides: ‘Why should I have to do the hard shit for someone else, just to hand it over to them on a plate?’
Certainly, ITV’s Robert Peston caught Cameron on camera outside Downing Street ‘humming a Winnie-the-Pooh style hum as he says goodbye to the cares of office.’ While that other Cavalier ex-PM Tony Blair has returned to urge fellow Remainers to ‘rise up in defence of our beliefs’ Cameron has stayed schtum. Had not his wife, Samantha, popped up to give so many interviews to promote her fashion label, Cefinn, one might have assumed he’d come to as sudden an end as Charles I himself.
Theresa May, it must be remembered, did not want to leave the EU – much like Oliver Cromwell had not wanted to start a civil war. She voted Remain and must now do her best to clear up the mess her predecessor created which she is doing with teeth gritted. Of course, she is helped by the fact that she faces no domestic opposition. She has either purged or handicapped her Cavalier rivals – Chancellor Osborne was dispatched with particular brutality while she has stripped her Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, of his grace and favour home and two of the key responsibilities of his office – forcing him to share both with Liam Fox and David Davis. But she was equally merciless to her Roundhead opponents – she finished off her old enemy Michael Gove and political insiders claim he’ll never recover.
May – like Cromwell – has also been lucky in some of her battles. Labour is currently in an unelectable state thanks to its leader Jeremy Corbyn (who ought to be martialling the Remain-ing opposition but is, instead, making out like a militant Puritan.) Meanwhile, potential Charles II’s – the Tory Tom Tugendhat, a dashing former British army officer, who some fancy as Cameron’s heir – keeps very quiet on the backbenches and Labour’s great Cavalier pretender, the handsome, voter friendly, Tristram Hunt, has surrendered his parliamentary seat to become director of the V&A. In this context, it is perhaps not surprising that May enjoyed a 17 point lead in the spring polls.
Cavalier forces needed to regroup – and urgently – if Remainers were to exert any sort of influence on May’s Brexit deal. But they are too easily distracted by the finer things in life… Cameron’s disappearance, for instance, is largely to be accounted by his need to make money – he had often complained that he’d paid for his love of politics ‘with a pay cut before I even started.’ On standing down as an MP, and not having to declare his income in the Register of Members’ Interests, he hit the lecture circuit hard. ‘His agent told him he’d be the most wanted speaker in the world,’ a gossip tells me. ‘But only until January 20th – and then Obama would be… So he made a whole bunch of speeches for a lot of money but no publicity. He has to, because he does hang out with this group of very rich people. And money is how you keep score.’
Cameron was one of many Cavaliers who came a cropper during the 2009 expenses scandal. (Despite his private wealth, he claimed more than £80,000 on his second home, plus a £680 bill for clearing wisteria.) Roundheads – including, one doesn’t doubt, Theresa May – were appalled. She was one of the very few MPs to emerge almost utterly unscathed. The Telegraph’s report on her was three un-damning sentences long: stating that she’d claimed £15,000 in mortgage interest to which she was perfectly entitled.
But Cameron’s most blatantly Cavalier act was his dabbling with the honours system. He awarded OBEs both to the woman who put his Chancellor on the 5:2 diet and the stylist who picked out his wife’s clothes. One cannot imagine May doing this: she’s formidably trim and chooses her own outfits. Like one of Cromwell’s Ironsides, she knows her armour is vital. Many have sought to gain insight into her personality by examining her shoes. (As Iain Dale observes, it’s quite incredible that ‘after 19 years she’s still an unknown quantity.’) But far more can be gleaned from the state of her fingers. May is adept, tough and entirely self-sufficient: she never goes to a manicurist because she’s learned to paint her nails immaculately herself.
The perception is that she ‘is very middle class,’ as Dale explains. ‘But – anecdotally – she has an appeal for working class voters that David Cameron never had. He always seemed that little bit slippery. But callers to my show say they trust her. Even Labour voters trust her.’ In fact, May has been far more radical than she is perceived – and so suits the Roundhead masses. It was she (not Cameron) who first urged the party to modernise in 2002, telling the Tories that they were unelectable because voters thought they were the ‘Nasty Party.’ She also came up with the idea for an ‘A’ list of potential MPs because she knew how difficult it was for female and ethnic minority candidates to gain selection for Tory safe seats. She helped host a launch party a fortnight before Cameron became leader. (Steve Hilton, then Cameron’s strategist, said it was the first party he’d attended ‘full of normal people.’)
Even last year, May did not win any plaudits for introducing the law against coercive control – even though it was astonishingly popular, thanks to a controversial domestic abuse storyline on Radio 4’s, The Archers. May may not shout about her feminist credentials but she’s always done her bit for the Sisterhood.
She has, though, now reached a critical moment – and Cromwell’s reign, it must be remembered, was exceptionally brief. May was welcomed into Number 10 because of the reputation she had built as Home Secretary as ‘the safest of safe pair of hands.’ Yet all of a sudden – in January – her right one was grasping the tiny hand of Donald Trump – horrifying pretty much everyone. No one knows what kind of deal she’ll manage to cut with the EU.
Most famous for claiming that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ she is also fond of the phrases ‘negotiations are negotiations’, ‘you will see what we publish when we publish it’ and ‘I gave the answer that I gave.’ Chequers, under May, will never – but never – witness another rave. But this summer it is likely to be used to host something far more ruinous to any Prime Minister’s reputation: a politician who transcends all historical precedent or description – President Donald Trump.
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In post-Brexit Britain, the walk of shame is now a thing of the past. Now that we live in a romantic minefield, we run all the way home screaming. Last summer, half of us voted out of the EU, the other half wanted to stay and we are still in guerrilla war over the result. You can’t tell just by looking at a person if they’re Leave or Remain so to our horror, we have found, we’ve been sleeping with the enemy.
Tinder used to be a sexual free for all but in 2017 even a hook up is hopelessly fraught. No Remoaner wants to sleep with someone utterly repugnant (aka a Brexiteer.) Your date could be hot as heck. He might buy you dinner – proving he’s solvent. Smell heavenly – proving that he’s washed. He might love all the same films as you and all the same books. You should be feeling butterflies. But all you can think about is grabbing him by the lapels to demand: ‘Damn it, man, I need to know: exactly how did you vote in the EU referendum?’
A new dating app called Hater allows people to match up according to what they can’t stand. Its data shows that a staggering 88% of its users matched up according to their mutual loathing for Leave or Remain. In the current climate, that’s understandable because for the millennial Remainer-female there’s nothing worse than discovering, in the cold light of day, that the eligible bachelor you went ahead and slept with (who proved a delight in the sack) has Leave paraphernalia plastered all over his bedroom walls.
The cannier Leave voting male, of course, conceals the evidence, as a 23 year old former colleague of mine, who has a very sexy beard, admits: ‘I cut out the iconic Spectator front cover advocating Brexit to pin it up but it quickly dawned on me how catastrophic this could turn out to be when inviting someone back. I hastily moved it inside a wardrobe door.’
Romance expert Tiffany Wright frowns on such deception. But she insists it is fine to have had it off with someone whose voting proclivities you find offensive: ‘If he’s hot, why not..? But if he voted Leave, and every time you think about this it makes smoke come out of your ears, then he’s not right for you. Don’t continue jumping between the sheets unless you’re both on the same page.’
It is, of course, very disappointing to discover that the man you have the hots for is fundamentally incompatible with you. But Leavers lurk in the most unlikely places – even on Guardian Soulmates which you might imagine would be a utopia for raving EU enthusiasts. ‘I went out for a date with this guy who looked like Daniel Craig,’ says the comic Ariane Sherine. ‘And I was telling him all about how I was writing my MP to ask him to vote against the triggering of Article 50. And then he tells me he voted Leave! I was gobsmacked at the time but I’m so glad I found out. My flatmates are Bulgarian, Swedish and Romanian – so how could I have ever have brought him home? We’d have had so many arguments.’
Many Leavers, who’ve suffered such knock backs, now advocate a strategy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ – which used to be the official policy of the US military when it was illegal to be homosexual. .
And it’s not just single people facing romantic difficulties thanks to Brexit. ‘In London everyone our age thinks: if you’re sane, you voted Remain,’ explains a 28-year-old Leave voter (who like almost everyone else I spoke to in my researches) insists on remaining anonymous. ‘One of my friends had an Austrian girlfriend who worked at a big City bank. She couldn’t vote in the referendum but just assumed he was a liberal Remainer. He slept over at hers the night of the vote, having secretly voted Leave, and then had to feign a lot of upset, and console her in the morning, when the vote went his way. He justifies it because she never explicitly asked him how he voted – not absolutely point blank. But they did eventually stop seeing each other. She’d started getting suspicious.’
If your penchant is for privileged, upper class men then beware: the posher your totty the more likely he is to be Eurosceptic and very right wing. One friend, whose other half has political opinions that make her howl, explains: ‘he’s suffered a very white, rich, male upbringing and is lacking the understanding of what it feels like to be a minority or oppressed and therefore the impact that voting a certain way has on other people.’ Last November, she was aghast to realise that he was nursing a crush on Donald Trump. ‘I emailed my Dad asking him if he thought I could break up with someone on these grounds. He said no but that it’s a good excuse for an argument. Now my boyfriend and I have political conversations in a bubble bath. Perhaps it just feels like a safe space to have a political debate. He believes it’s harder to lay into someone when you’re both naked.’
In private, most will tolerate aberrant opinions in someone they otherwise adore. But airing those views on social media? Even my forgiving friend won’t tolerate it: ‘My boyfriend commented on a Facebook post about a woman who divorced her husband of 30 years because she found out he voted for Trump. He wrote that we had a massive row about it but then we both grew up. And I was so embarrassed, I wrote beneath: “I didn’t grow up, babe, I still hate you.”’
Hostesses now forbid all mention of politics at dinner parties for fear of a pitched battle being waged on the tablecloth. ‘Brexit came up once when we were with some Danish friends,’ adds an Oxford PhD student. ‘We were all drunk and the wife just started screeching, “I can’t believe I let a Brexiteer into my house!”’
But there is hope… Marriage is flourishing thanks to Brexit. Mainly this is for the begetting of passports – either British or EU. But there’s one couple who are getting married this summer despite all their friends and family falling out spectacularly over the vote in Montague vs. Capulet-like proportions. They wouldn’t speak to me, for fear of jinxing their union, but I do have a Whats App message full of hysterical exclamation marks from the Remain-voting bride that reads: ‘it does sound like us!! Modern day Romeo and Juliet ha without the suicide.’ Our sex lives may now be unbelievably complex. But even when it comes to Brexit, love conquers all.