On a black and white Saturday afternoon precisely 45 years ago, in a parish church half a mile outside London, my Mum and Dad got married. It was a very typical wedding, by all accounts. The bride was radiant in white, the groom wore a smart but unfamiliar suit, and friends and relations came together to spend the entire day smiling. Photographs of the event show aunts and uncles looking impossibly young, cousins looking unbelievably cute and fashions looking frighteningly dated. A special day for all concerned, so I'm told, and it's become increasingly special with each passing anniversary. Thousands of couples were married on that same Saturday in 1961, but not many of them have made it to celebrating 45 years together.
I used to believe that I grew up in a normal family with normal parents. I've since come to learn the error of my ways. During my childhood my parents were calm, sane and cheerful. They enjoyed rather than tolerated one another's presence. They worked well together as a double act, especially working their horticultural magic in the garden. They created a safe and supportive home environment within which my brother and I had every opportunity. Sure they had the odd argument (doesn't everybody), but never for very long. They were, indeed still are, the happy couple.
It wasn't until I got older that I discovered not everybody has parents like this. Quite the opposite in fact. Some people have parents who moan and gripe, others who argue and intimidate. Some have parents who spoil them rotten, or who let them run riot. Some have parents who don't care, or who don't care enough. Some have parents who pretend everything's fine when it isn't, or who've split up because they recognised things would never work out. Some have parents who they've never met or, even worse, who never want to meet them. Dysfunction in all its many forms turns out to be the norm, and my contented nuclear family is, alas, in the minority.
I'm enormously grateful that I grew up in abnormal normality, and I couldn't have picked two better parents if I'd tried. So I'm off up to Norfolk today for a celebratory meal, because surviving 45 years together is an anniversary well worth commemorating. It's a lovely day for it, and it's also a lovely day for the thousands of couples who've chosen this afternoon to get married or civilly partnershipped. Good luck to you all, and I hope that some of you reach 2051 still together... and still smiling.