|Koh Phi Phi|
I would just like to say that I am delighted to be back in Jamaica again. It’s great to meet up with some old friends again from my last visit: Grandmother Amiel with whom I stayed on my last trip, the entire Amiel family, Gavin and the Johnson family, Ursula, Pascal, Ray and his nephew…
This is the first Christmas which our family have had away from home. When Jean and Michael were in India and Indonesia, Mark often stayed at our house in Switzerland for Christmas, so this is in some regards our payback. In fact, Mark ingratiated himself to such an extent during those visits that my mother now refers to Mark as her second son and he has an open invitation to stay with us. I mention this merely as an explanation to the Amiel family for the obsene amount of grovelling I will be doing later on.
As you know Mark and JiNee were married in Penang in Malaysia in November, and so I have already had the privilege to make a best man’s speech for Mark. It would take a brave, talented and gifted individual to make two original best-mans speeches, so my apologies to those of you who have already heard this.
The wedding in Penang was a melting pot of nationalities and cultures. I think about a dozen countries were represented. To add to the global feel of this wedding, Jean and Michael have arranged this second reception here in Jamaica to introduce JiNee to her new family, which is of course on the opposite side of the world from Malaysia. The ceremony itself was a Bahai wedding, and as such was my first tea-total wedding. Apparently, this is to be recommended, according to Mark (I’m still not quite sure how to interpret this). The ceremony also mixed in other elements such as the Jamaican Candle of Unity and a Chinese tea ceremony. Mark also rather cunningly used the confusion created by this mix to his advantage, by persuading JiNee that it is tradition in Jamaica to take two dozen of your friends with you on your honeymoon. Of course for the second honeymoon next week in Negril, Mark has stuck to the strict tradition and will only be inviting one dozen people.
Mark and JiNee organised the wedding party appropriately to make best use of respective talents of the guests: we had a charming and beautiful Malaysian MC, a fantastic 8-course Chinese banquet and for the next day, a global football team. My hope is that I was chosen as best man due to my Swiss organisational skills and English charm, rather than the reverse.
As I mentioned, after the wedding many of us honeymooned with Mark and JiNee on the island of Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. This was most thoughtful, as it allowed the other guests to have a practise run at a honeymoon without the stress and expense of the marriage first. We spent a heavenly week on that paradise isle, with fantastic seafood, and the company of long-lost friends.
As this was the largest amount of time Mark and I have spent together for a while, I was reminded of a few of Mark's traits during the two weeks in Asia. Firstly, that not one factual statement from Mark could be relied on, which as you can imagine for the best man can be problematic. Most importantly, the civil wedding (the morning of the wedding, the day after an impromptu stag party) was at 12 O’ Clock and not 2. Also the airport duty for foreigners to leave Thailand was not 50 Baht but 500. To redress other certain inaccuracies from the trip, I would like to clarify, JiNee, that THIS is six inches.
As best man it is traditional to tell an embarrassing story about the groom growing up. Now, I thought really hard about a suitable story I could tell about Mark and I getting into mischief when we were younger, and in fact I consulted some of the other guests here too, but I just couldn’t remember a time when Mark and I really misbehaved. Some of you in the audience may find this particularly hard to believe, and to those of you I would just like to point out my mother.
More honestly, I suspect that “Mark Stories” are few and far between because of the second of Mark’s traits; that he has always been blessed with extraordinary good fortune, and so has always been able to avoid trouble. It is this trait which has earned Mark countless undeserving victories in everything from tennis to tiddlywinks. He has an annoying habit of keeping his nose clean, for example;
Mark and JiNee met four years ago whilst working together in KL. They shared a house together too, so as both collegues and roommates, this relationship has already been properly tested. At some secret point in time, this changed from just room-mates to romance. In the strictest of confidence, though I can tell you that by the time of my first visit to KL, they certainly appeared to be an item. On my first night, we ended up in the Hard Rock Café, dancing on the tables. My actions can be explained by jet lag and alcohol, but in JiNee’s case this was her pure Joi-de-vivre. It is clear to me that since then, JiNee has had a positive influence on Mark:
To Mark and JiNee!