First of all, I want to thank you all for coming to my daughter’s wedding to Shane, although I must stress that I’ve had nothing to do with organising it! I know some of you, like Jayne and myself, have come a very long way to be here today, which is a testament to the strength of your friendship with Rosie; but I particularly want to thank all Rosie’s Australian friends and (as I can now say) relations.
From her arrival on your shores you have all made her so welcome here. I distinctly remember that the first time she flew back to the UK on a visit, she talked of “going to England”, and when the time came to return to Australia, she referred to it as “going home”. I think that says it all, really.
I am the only person here who has known Rosie all her life, from the moment that she burst into this world taking the midwife completely by surprise. Luckily, the midwife managed to catch her before she shot off the end of the bed. But even knowing her as I do, throughout her childhood and beyond, there are still things to discover. For instance, I never realised the strength of her obsession with Mr Kipling’s Fondant Fancies!
All of you here who are parents will agree, I’m sure, that you learn a lot from your children. From my older daughter Lizzie, I learnt to sail, and a lot about music. From Rosie, I learnt a lot about horses and about how to communicate with animals.
Rosie started riding at a very young age, when we acquired two retired riding stables ponies. Hers was a Shetland called Timmy – tough and mean. He’d been over-fed and under-exercised for years, and when we got him and put him on a diet and made him work, he suddenly came to life. Rosie controlled him amazingly well, but he was the only pony I know that could graze whilst cantering, and Rosie the only rider I know who could stay on while he did it!
I can’t say I know Shane very well as yet. The first time we met was on Skype. I was talking to Rosie, and there was a man sitting at the kitchen counter behind her, reading a newspaper. As we were chatting, Rosie suddenly broke off and said, “Dad, say hello to Shane”, so I said, “Hello Shane,” and she said, “Shane, say hello to Dad,” so Shane obligingly lowered his newspaper and said, “Hello.”
He and Rosie came to visit us in England last July. He was particularly fascinated by the fact that we have a sort of glass box built onto the back of our house overlooking the garden, which we call a conservatory, and which we sit in on summer days. He couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do such a thing. Having experienced a British summer, I think he now appreciates the need for it.
As you probably know, the UK is a dangerous place, and Rosie had warned him about stinging nettles - plants that can give you an irritating rash that can last for hours. We also have the adder - a snake that, if it happens to be asleep on a path and you accidentally step on it, can give you a nasty bite, which can make your ankle swell up, and wasps, which may sting you, causing pain for anything up to two hours. Shane took all this in his stride.
We are also pestered by flies in our country – you can have no idea what it’s like. While Shane was staying with us, one actually got into the house and flew around, getting on everybody’s nerves, until it landed on Shane’s bare leg (he was wearing shorts at the time because it was so hot – must have been about 20 degrees). He didn’t react, so Rosie pointed it out to him, and he simply said, “It’s not bothering me, and while it’s not bothering me, it’s not bothering anyone else.” I can’t help feeling that a man with that admirable philosophy must be the ideal companion in life for my daughter.
As I say, I don’t know Shane very well, but I have seen videos of him riding, and as someone who has been a horse rider myself, I know that to achieve the very high level of horsemanship that he displays in those videos, there has to be complete trust and respect between horse and rider. Shane is a quiet man, and I know Rosie has always liked quiet men – maybe they remind her of her father – but I get the impression that he is quiet because he doesn’t bother wasting words, and that he thinks much more than he speaks. I am extremely proud of both my daughters, and what they have achieved in life, and I am also very proud to accept Shane as my son-in-law.
I am therefore delighted to be able to propose a toast – To Rosie and Shane, and to many years of future happiness.
© Chris Gutteridge 2015