The videotape we’ve never dared play

“DARE you,” breathes Jane. “Daaaaarrrrre you.” The temptress is talking about something we never talk about; something we certainly never look at...

Almost 20 years ago, on a grey and drizzly afternoon – January does what it says on the tin – we pledged our troth. Neither of us over-much remembers making the arrangements, though it all came together on the day. Mind you, it wasn’t an extravagant “do”.

Unlike friends who got married later that year (wisely waiting for the sun to emerge) we didn’t shell out for an expensive country house, nor float away on honeymoon by helicopter. We did have a rather nice church wedding – close enough to home to pop back for a cup of tea and a breather between ceremony and the reception in a traditional Suffolk pub.

Not ones to slavishly follow trends, we didn’t engage anyone to film our nuptials but, a few days before the event, a friend offered the use of a video camera (in those days the size of a bazooka) and an obliging nephew (then a schoolboy; now the proud father of an eight-month-old) volunteered to do his Steven Spielberg bit.

All went swimmingly. We had one night at a country hotel – a Cotswold honeymoon was semi-sensibly scheduled for what turned out to be a soggy June – and the next night I remember staying up until 5am, watching the New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills by a point in American Football’s Superbowl. Who said romance was dead?


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A few days later we plugged the camera into the video recorder (readers under 10 should consult an encyclopedia) and transferred to tape the record of our day. It’s gathered dust in the bookcase ever since. Why? Partly because life speeds by and you’re busy with nappies and mortgages. Partly because looking back at ourselves will be like Dr Who looking at previous incarnations: seeing nearly, but not quite, you.

For Jane, there’s the reminder of an accident a few days earlier when, as a pedestrian, she came off worst in an encounter with a BMW. Clever make-up disguised the shiner well. For me, there’s a reminder of how crass I can be: in my speech, saying I’d keep the marriage certificate as a receipt in case I needed to return damaged goods. No, life and marriage is about today and tomorrow – not yesteryear. Jane goes up to bed . . . I ease the case from the shelf and slip the cassette into a prehistoric VCR that hasn’t turned a spooler for years. A whine; a clunk. The tape has snapped and is wrapped round the gubbins. There: gadgets . . . simply not as robust as memories.

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