It’s still not clear to me to this day if Big Dave has actually proposed or not. However, he’s asked me to be one of his best men in Beijing via Whastapp.
‘I get three best men at this wedding. You’ve all made the cut. Well done.’
Awesome. This is amazing. Thanks Dave. I’m really looking forward to this but with just three weeks notice I do have a few questions, pal. What do you need? What are the customs of a Chinese wedding? What do we wear? Seriously, Dave, you actually have to throw us a bone here. I mean, come on, man.
‘I haven’t got a clue what you have to do other than help me steal Becca’s shoes. We’re just gonna have to wing it.’
Dave is as relaxed as ever.
‘Becca does have a crazy Aunty who might try and ruin the wedding. You will have to rugby tackle her if she goes crazy.’
I have the impression that this wedding is going to be a little different.
Gili Meno is a gloriously quiet beach island off Lombok. There is not one single land transport vehicle with an engine. It’s horse-drawn cart, bicycle, or you walk. After two days of travelling from the beach, landing in Beijing is a shock to the system.
As British passport holders, it’s possible to get a free 72 hour transit visa. We must prove where we’ve come from, where we’re going and we must apply to get out of the airport. It’s 2am and the night staff seem very scared of letting anyone in that they shouldn’t. Rules. Rules. Rules.
This is very different to where we’ve been. There weren’t any rules on Gili Meno. I cant remember the last time I saw a copper. Here, there’s loads of ’em. They wear flashing red-and-blue-lights and cruise around in golf buggies with massive machine-guns making sure everyone is complying with the rules.
On leaving the airport there’s a choice:
A) really expensive taxi
B) expensive taxi
C) cheap and shit taxi
We opt for C. The Minzu Hotel on Fucking Men In The Street (Fuxhingmen Inner Street) is a full thirty-two kilometres across the city. Option C means that our car is not as shiny and our driver, Ching, isn’t wearing a gilded sash. In the Leeds taxi world, gilded sashes mean diddly-squat. In Beijing, a gilded sash enables you to command as much as 300% of the actual fare. Remarkable.
We’d have paid slightly more for a less ignorant driver. Ching spends the entire journey talking in dulcet tone to a large group of cartoons on an app on his phone while dodging midnight lane-drifters at 120kmh.
Disappointingly, there are no open air displays of homosexuality on Fucking Men In The Street when we arrive at the Minzu. We check in with a girl who must be no older than seven. She’s terrified of us and makes photocopies of everything.
Room 510 is wonderful. Our single beds are divided by a fixed table on which sits a pair of TZL30 foil fire escape masks and a rechargeable torch. They’ve thought of everything. We have paper glue, three bulldog clips and some wooden combs. We get some shut-eye ready for the big day.
At 8.45am the phone rings in our room.
‘Lord Boydell’s room.’
‘Argh, Lord Boydell’ It’s Big Dave in the Situation Room. ‘Come and get your robes.’
Becca’s cousin, Yuki answers the doors to the Situation Room – Dave and Becca’s suite. It’s all systems go. There are at least four thousand people in here. Becca is being made even more beautiful in the far room.
‘Where is the big man?’
‘In here, Big LID.’ Dave refers to me using my parentally diagnosed medical condition of Lanky Idiot Disorder.
Wow. Dave looks amazing. That is some seriously loud, golden-embroidered, Chinese, robe-y get-up, dude. What a total hero.
‘Here’s your robes, LID.’ Dave hands me a hangar. ‘Get back here in ten minutes with that on.’ This is clearly going to be one of the greatest days of anyone’s life.
Ten minutes later, me, Dave, Andy (Dave’s brother) and Ben have formed a Chinese man-band called Fourplay. We’re making our first music video. Dave is dressd like an emperor and we’re his underlings. We look ‘just like that Neeeoo fella frum oota that May-ter-ix.’ We have to throw red envelopes of cash at the tracking paparazzi and gyrate, cock-to-ass with Dave. It’s so much fun. I quickly realise that English wedding are shit.
The main event is a speedy, red, loud and perfectly choreographed extravaganza of Hutchinson-Song. Say it fast in a Chinese style. Hutchinson-song. It’s funny. It’s prime time here at the Minzu and this is the grand final of China’s Got Wedding. It’s like an inflatable fun-Christmas.
The Eastern, bespectacled, fan-laden and cone-haired Ryan Seacrest M.C. introduces the rapidly mutating short segments. His voice shifts in tone. He’s energetic and builds apprehension before suddenly solemnizing to become reflective and philosophical. The DJ swiftly flips the soundtrack to maintain relevancy for the current mini-episode.
Arguably the most talked about mini-episode is where Dave enters from the back of the room. He’s put a red bag over Becca’s head and he’s dragging her in with a red rope. Together, they navigate the cylindrical felt bridge and the hot coals before he proceeds to repeatedly poke Becca in the face with an annoying stick of poke. There is much excitement, fuelled by sweets, 50% rice wine and Yanjing Fresh Beer. There’s no waiting around for a boring ceremony to finish with priests or anything. It’s choc-a-bloc right from the start with lights, camera, action. You just tuck into the grub and booze straight away. It’s only 10.30am.
It’s a non-stop mega-deluge of cultural fascinations, laughter, joy, love and endless mountains of alarming food items. Robb and Ruth pontificate over sea cucumber and shark fin. There are cross-sectioned goose heads, chicken beaks, pork-y stuff, langoustine and crab. Being specially catered for as vege’s, me and Collette are astounded at every possible manifestation of fungus. Plate after plate. But who can possibly eat all of this? How big do Chinese people think Europeans are?
Food in general is a wonder here. Whether you’re after provocative beef, millet pepper love cockerel, Mao blood flourishing or dry pot squid must be, it’s all covered. For the vegetarians there’s coincidence with okra and you can have sugar on your potatoes.
We are looked after fantastically. We are incredibly grateful for the hospitality and the experience. Such amazing people.
On day two, we head out to the Great Wall. I photo-bomb as many people as possible. Not a lot of people know but the Great Wall of China was made by Donald Trump in 1966. It was designed to keep out marauding Geordies and it was paid for by Alan Shearer’s parents. Prior to the day after Dave and Becca’s wedding, only one Geordie had ever breached the wall. Jimmy Nail. He ultimately escaped in a toboggan.
In an attempt to disguise herself as a non-Geordie, Dave’s mum, Dot, bares a Chinese flag during our ascent. The ruse is successful. No one suspects her at all. We all eventually escape to safety together in the same taboggan that Jimmy Nail’s very own crocodile shoes had once graced.
We all love Becca and Dave. We all love the Hutchinsons and the Songs. We all love Hutchinson-Song and the newly legitimised union of beautiful souls that occurred here. What a lovely time. Thank you to all involved for everything that happened. What a wonder.
Dave and Becca, we wish you a happy life together, with love. I’ve attached a poem below which I wrote recently for the wedding of a friend. It’s perfectly relevant to share again, with you, now.
Much love to you both. And all. We had a blast.
Thanks for reading
With Love. A poem by Peter Boydell. Click here.