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  • Stephen R A'Barrow

A Lamb to the Slaughter

This week saw another Gringo-Latina couple walk down the aisle. That makes seven, since my wife and I tied the knot. Female friends of my wife`s and male friends and colleagues of mine, who have all jumped without having to be pushed and none of the ladies were even up the dough! It appears Gringo lads and Latina lasses are a good combo, opposites attract and all that.

No doubt Latin girls think their Gringo boyfriends will be better behaved (meaning they`ll be more likely keep it zipped up) and Gringos believe Latin girls will remain more sensuous, feminine, family orientated and less likely to take them to the cleaners! Of all the seven couples I mentioned that have tied the knot, we are the only ones that opted to live in Brazil. Men are still very much expected to be the bread winners here, and as Gringos are notoriously shite at learning foreign languages (not least one as difficult as Portuguese) and as no one wanted to spend the rest of their working life flipping Bobi Burgers (the Brazilian equivalent of MacDonalds), they`ve all headed back to Gringolandia. But only after the Brazilian girls got their big fat Brazilian wedding at home (Brazil weddings I`ve attended have often had 500+ people at them).

Visiting Gringos and their families are wined and dined to death, whilst the groom is kept assiduously away from any Brazilian lads who might seek to explain to him what he`d be entitled to on a traditional Brazilian stag night! (That`s a batchelor party for any American readers). I did all in my power to enlighten the Gringo about his entitlements before they fitted him with the ball and chain but in true stiff upper lip fashion he was having none of it. He walked down the aisle with the certainty of a sleep-walker. Ignorance is bliss and perhaps it`s better not to know. There is, after all, always the risk that you`d develop a rash that could turn into a third testicle, which would be hard to explain to your wife on your wedding night! At least the couple had a better vicar than the one my wife picked out for our wedding. My fairer half wanted a truly multicultural wedding and had gone in search of an English-speaking multi-denominational priest; and in that endeavour she really hit the jackpot.

A week before the big day we met with the chosen one. Walking into his house I felt as though I was entering a lost world, something akin to King Solomon`s mines or Indiana Jones`s lock up. It was strewn with the religious symbolism of all the world`s religions; living and dead. I was expecting Howard Carter to walk out of a side door at any moment. When instead, the chosen one, suddenly appeared from behind the beaded curtain – arms outstretched to greet those bearing the next pay cheque. Our master of ceremonies had an uncanny resemblance to Chemical Ali, Saddam Hussain`s right hand man, number three in the US`s deck of cards, the Jack of Clubs!!! I hasten to add this was March 2003, in the run up to the second Gulf War. We actually arrived in Egypt for our honeymoon on the day hostilities broke out and I spent the rest of the cruise down the Nile looking out the window to see if there were any men running alongside our boat shouldering a bazooka! My suspicions were further aroused when he greeted us in a broad Middle Eastern accent. My curiosity had me at bursting point and I just blurted out;

`So you`re not Brazilian then!?`

`Oh No, no, no no no. I`m from Iraq.`

Bugger me! I thought! I wonder who else is in the basement!? My wife did not seem to see the funny side. I then proceeded to explain;

`My wife is Catholic and I`m lapsed Church of England, my Dad likes talking to Jehova`s witnesses and is currently considering his position on religious matters, my Mum was a member of the Dutch reformed church, the rest of the Brazilian family have a spiritualist bent and as for the rest of the Brits coming they`re a bunch of agnostic pissheads and sodomites. What is your religious background?`

Chemical Ali`s twin replied; `Well, I was born a Muslim, En shalla, but I later became a Christian but I`m now a Buddhist.`

Well that should cover it I thought. The Soddomites will have to entertain themselves… The Chemical brother then went on to explain how the ceremony would work. He`d conduct it in English and Portuguese. He gave us our cues and we then thanked him, gave him the first instalment payment (everything in Brazil is paid in instalments) and left, not to see him again until the big day.

The day of our wedding was hot as hell. The wife was in a nice off the shoulder number and I was sweating my nads off in a shirt, tie and suit. I naturally walked down the aisle first to await the first bars of here comes the bride. As I got to the front to join my best man, and assorted family and friends, I wondered where Chemical Ali was, when suddenly he appeared from beneath the altar looking like a cross between the Ottoman Sultan and the last Byzantine Patriarch. The group behind me started to snicker and the tone was set for the rest of the afternoon! As the music started up, I looked across the aisle to where the bride`s side of the family and friends were seated. Unlike the Gringo side, which barely made four rows, the bride`s side of the hall was full and stretched back as far as the eye could see. Scanning their faces, the Italian and Lebanese origins of many were plain to see. There were more than a smattering of Godfather look alikes and quite a few that could have auditioned for the Sopranos. My radiant bride arrived and the Sultan went into in an epileptic frenzy of activity showering us with every piece of religious symbolism that had entered the world since the time of the Ark. First I was showered with rice, then grain, flower petals, holy water; from somewhere under his robe he produced Frankincense and Myrrh and then started swinging the incense chalice around his head. We had to duck more than once, when he miscalculated his swing.

It was hot and the sweat was pouring down his face. The exertion of expressing all the world`s great faiths in one ceremony was beginning to tell on him. Bemusement in the Gringo rows behind me had begun to transform into barely suppressed explosions of raspberry laughter. Angela, my wife, looked radiant throughout and did not crack a smile once. She managed to look thoroughly serene to the end. I on the other hand was turning purple from the heat and from trying not to piss myself laughing! Finally the big Sultana came to the point;

`And do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?`

`Yes` the bride said dutifully.

`And do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife.?`

`Oooh Yes` I said. Whereupon I could see that he was going to launch into another performance, at which point I added.

`Oh God Yes, thank you so much for a wonderful ceremony.` Turned on my heel to the audience and shouted.

`Toast the bridesmaids – and to the bar.`

Our friend`s wedding was a much larger affair, with a bigger Gringo turnout. The poor sods had to sit through a ceremony entirely in Portuguese, whilst trying not to look bored out of their minds. The groom delivered his lines in the local lingo impeccably, having no idea what he was saying! The bride had no doubt written the vicars script, as I distinctly remember the lamb agreeing to; ` my wife never putting her hand in her pocket again, never leaving the car with a full tank of gas and to honour and obey his mother in law!` I always find it amusing when a fat middle-aged bloke who is not allowed to get married and is probably a kiddie fiddler, gives an hour-long sermon extolling the virtues of married life. It`s like a vegetarian promoting a steak house.

Throughout this long service I could see ever more people looking longingly towards the Caipirinha cocktail bar in the adjoining hall. It was torture to have to watch people make wonderful ice cold caipirinhas, whilst we were listening to a Vicar, dressed as the Pope, make a case for the virtues of celibacy. Judging by the shape of him he was not averse to a few of very sugary alcoholic beverages the Brazilians are so found of. After the negro spiritual `Amazing Grace,` a bit of Beethoven`s 9th (choral) Symphony and giving the traditional obligatory traditional Roman Catholic `Heil Hitler` style salute at the end of the service (all very weird), we were finally free to follow the bride and groom to the adjoining room and the gathering crush at the cocktail bar to enjoy rocket fuel with lime; just what you need on your wedding night!

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