I couldn't face Ken's wedding reception this evening. Not at first. I turned up at the venue round the back of Waterloo in my dark suit, but couldn't see him there so walked out again. I haven't been good with other people's weddings for a few years now. I hadn't been to the service at the temple in Taplow either. I stood still outside EV for a bit, putting things out of my head and then went to see if anything was going on down by the river.
At Waterloo Bridge there were things in the distance and people up lamp-posts. But nothing was moving. What was about to happen would often halt, it transpired, and I don't know if this was because things were breaking down or blowing up, or because people were in the way, or because they'd lost the music or simply because someone had decided that it was better if, occasionally, everything halted. But after the first three seconds of about twenty different tracks the false starts stopped and things got moving. And most of these things had people inside.
The Bolivians were the first to pass. Then Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" sounded and teetering puppets of King, Queen and Caesar bore down on us, frowning but friendly with big, flat hands flapping, patting, petting, all that. I followed them down the hill to the viaduct at Butler's Wharf. A lot of people were dancing now and at the brow of the hill you could see smoke.
Ken is a Buddhist. We'd won medals for acting in Kuwait and when we'd go fishing in the Gulf he would always whisper to his catch before releasing it. And whenever an insect appeared in our room he would always trap it under a glass and then let it go, but only after he'd kept it there for twenty-four hours, during which he might whisper to it. And whenever he chanted it sounded like the washing machine downstairs. We bumped into each other again in the street last month, just outside the Dungeons. I hadn't seen him in four years. A fire alarm had gone off and I was dressed as a corpse. "Simon!" he said, and we hugged, "You're looking well."
Someone blue was sweeping the road now with a maritime flare to prepare the way for an elephant made of pink light. I've never been to a carnival before. These are details. Chiefly of course the parade was made up of dancers - or rather people dancing - every age and shape of person adorned and bared and providing their own light. And lanterns. And the music that we danced to we'd be dancing to every day if people hadn't got so bloody excited about Britpop. And a very good and very loud argument was being made for the Thames as a conduit for all countries that had ever displayed a talent for making something out of paper and mirrors.
A cyclist passed dangling lampshades and behind him... Luke! Dressed as a cherub, riding a bike, with two doves perched on his wrists: "Simon! I'm freezing! Do you know where this ends?" Then the final phoneix ducked to get under the viaduct, scraped its beak, and the fireworks started. Along the South Bank and along the Embankment and along every bridge we all watched. And I watched, thinking myself the only one there on their own, as I always do at these things. And I thought "This is great." And it was. I went back to EV and I found Ken this time. He was sitting outside beside his bride, Yuki: "Simon! Y-..." He was smiling so much that he could hardly speak. So we shook hands. For quite a while.
I was part of the festivities yesterday. Sofas were laid along the apex of Southwark Bridge and I sat in a hairnet and yakuza blue suit clutching a bunch of daisies and a yellow copy of Alfred Jarry's "The Supermale", glancing at my watch for eight hours. It was packed. I left no trace. Just a tiny slick of spirit gum in the apple-bobbing barrel. But what they did tonight was much better.