Laurel Colless and Pekka Lintu

                   Pekka, Julia, Laurel, Olivia

                                     at home in Washington

            Words spoken by Brian Colless

          at their wedding celebrations in Tokyo



This is the traditional Maaori greeting for acknowledging the presence of guests.

“There you all are”. Teenaa koutou katoa. So, here we all are. But why are we here?

To celebrate the marriage of our daughter Laurel Christina Colless and Pekka Lintu.

This is my wife Helen, and I am Brian Colless.

As Father of the Bride (am I an oldish Spencer Tracy or a youngish Steve Martin?)

I have a number of pleasant tasks to perform.

First, a special gift-presentation

Second, proposing a toast

Third, supervising the cutting of the wedding cake, after dinner

                                            THE FIRST CEREMONY

A great company of friends and relations is assembled here in Nippon/Japan:

fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews,

many having travelled from Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand.

And it is a colonial tradition we now enact: presenting a gift to the bride-and-groom, in this case a horseshoe. The shape of the horseshoe is the OMEGA, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, a sign of completion and consummation.

The horseshoe is thrown over the shoulder, I understand, for good luck (I think it’s the luck of the Irish we are talking about here). You can use a horseshoe as a weapon, and hurl it at your adversary, or even your partner (when marital bliss becomes martial blitz).

And a horseshoe is like a boomerang (the original picture-sign that gave us the letters G and C, and that is why I was not at the wedding in Finland, because of my work on the origin of the alphabet and my teaching duties at my university). The boomerang can be a weapon, too, a lethal object. King Tutankhamon had a collection of ivory boomerangs to use against his foes, and Australian aboriginal hunters obtained kangaroo meat with theirs.

This is what the boomerang shape says today, for the couple to declare to each other:

“Wherever I go, I will always come back to you”.

And here to present the “award” are Adam and Amanda Colless.

                                        THE SECOND CEREMONY

And now, the TOAST (lightly done, I hope).

As Helen and I have been traveling from Palmerston North and Wellington in Aotearoa/New Zealand, via Sydney in New South Wales, the wedding cake has aroused a lot of interest (we each carried a part of it on our knees). I have told people that we are going to a progressive wedding. It is like a progressive dinner: you have the various courses in different places (Finland and Japan).

First, the ENTRÉES.

That is what the happy couple had for starters; all the nibbles they had (of each other), never mind the occasional niggles. This was the period of  “engagement”(not as in ”this means war!”), where they explore their respective tastes, find out each other’s likes and dislikes, and it’s try before you buy, and do not damage the merchandise, and do not squeeze the fruit too hard.

And there’s the soup: they reach a point where they are really in the soup, like being in the sauna together, all stripped and laid bare, a duck soup, and there’s no ducking it.

Second, the MAIN COURSE

It had to be Scandinavian, smorgasbord, as the English characteristically mispronounce it (and everything else, including sauna). It had to be in Finland to give it the *Finnish touch, and the *finishing touches.

But no one said: “This is the *finish”, as in “Let’s call the whole thing off” (though I have been told that there were some cold feet, literally, the night before the wedding, even though it was the height of summer; but that’s Finland for you).

Third, the DESSERT

Here is the nice sweet part, in this case the wedding breakfast. The *dessert section is where the two parties to the marriage (yes, they certainly are having two parties in this progressive wedding) take this appropriate vow: “I will never *desert you, I will never cast you out into the *desert”.

So, this is where the happy couple get their *deserts. They deserve our acclamation.

The Maaori greeting for all occasions (and we can use it for the toast) is KIA ORA, “Live! Be alive!”.

                                                CUTTING THE CAKE

The first thing to say is: this is a very Freudian ritual, poking a .... No, let us draw a bridal veil over this connection.

Notice the cake has two *tiers, and indeed in the preparation of this culinary work of art and of this marital conjoining many *tears have been *shed; and that reminds me, I should mention that Pekka cleaned up the *shed for the wedding reception. Blokes in sheds, that’s the Australasian way, too.

Consider further, it has four *pillars, suggesting the *pillow talk that the intimate couple share, rather than *pillow fights.

They remind me of “the seven pillars of Wisdom” in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible. That was the title of the book by T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia. In the movie the part was played by the lanky Peter O’Toole, so that Lawrence could sit tall in his saddle on his camel. I am reading the authorized biography of Lawrence, and I find he was worried about his shortness, and yet he was the same height as I am. That is one of the reasons I feel comfortable in Japan: I don’t have so many people looking down on me.

When we look at this noble upstanding pair we observe that there are two sizes, one being bigger than the other. I am talking about the cake, but I noticed when Pekka was embracing Helen last night (he hadn’t seen her for a year, you must understand) she was really looking up to him, as I have done with Laurel (and my two sons Michael and Nigel also) for many years.

Looking now at the vegetation (not on my face but on the top tier), the colors are red, yellow, and white. There are two species represented: red is for rowanberry, much loved in Finland and flourishing there at the moment; yellow is for wattle, Australian acacia, and Australia was where Laurel was born, in an obscure town in the state of South Australia, named Victor Harbor.

Fluffy is the word that comes to mind, a piece of fluff; I am referring to the wattle flower; under microscopic examination, every piece of wattle pollen is shapely, but does have some sharp hooks which can  irritate, and can really get up your nose, like some Australians you may know, unfortunately.

The flowers, berries, and leaves form a diadem, a floral crown that the bride could wear. It could have been a *laurel wreath, but that might imply that the girl from *Victor Harbor was a winner in a contest. (Writing several years after this event, I note that she has named her second daughter Julia Alexandra after two great conquerors: Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great.)

However, one thing about the bride wearing a wreath around her head is that it is easier to find in the grass than a finger ring. After the wedding ceremony, the bride’s ring was *mislaid in the vast lawn, but some would say that is what weddings are about: getting a *miss laid* by a mister. After being religiously matrimonified by a *minister in a *minster, they become *mister and *missus (“mistress”). Indeed so: Pekka often says, “I *mister* when I was away on diplomatic business”; and Laurel says, “I *missus* having dinner together,

Sadly, with some couples it’s “I miss you all the time, but my aim is getting better”, and “I miss you, and I feel so miserable it’s just like when you are here”.

One squabbling couple declared a truce, and gave each other a present; she gave him two neck-ties, and so he put one on and came down to dinner, to be greeted with the reproach: “Oh, so you don’t like the other one”.

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in mutual love.

(Laurel gave me two ties and a scarf, but I played safe and wore one of the bow-ties Pekka gave me.)

That brings us to the foundation of the cake: the wooden board at the base. Pekka’s name Lintu means “bird”. I’m sorry, but when I think of Pekka, the bird that pops up is the wood-pecker. Pekka is a great lover of wood, particularly the great forests of Scandinavia, and especially the birch branches  in the sauna.

On reflection, later, I am shocked by the scene in the Kalevala [Runo 2, 257ff] where the forests are felled and the trees are burned, in the interests of agriculture, for growing Osmo-Kaleva’s barley and oats:

    Väinäimöinen, old and steadfast, ground his ax-blade edge to sharpness,

    and began to fell the forest, toiling hard to clear the country;

    all the beauteous trees he leveled, sparing but a single birch-tree,

    that the birds might rest upon it, and from thence might call the cuckoo.

We have mighty forests in New Zealand, too; the trees are the children of the god Taane. And there is a special trade deal with Japan: give us your old cars, we say, and you can have our old trees.

Speaking of wood, there is a Japanese custom whereby the wedding guests all receive presents (perhaps this why so many Japanese couples choose to get married in New Zealand, where this is not required). When you are departing tonight. you will receive two gifts. One is a kind of puzzle made of rimu, a native tree of New Zealand.

But Laurel also lived in Italy for quite a while, and there is an Italian custom of giving sugar-coated almond lollies. Watch for them, tastefully gift-wrapped in bridal cloth and ribbons.

Finally, we rejoice tonight in the glorious knowledge that the knot has been tied.

As they say in such circumstances: What God has joined let no man put asunder.

But that does not apply to the cake. Carve it up and share the pieces around!

AROHANUI (Great love)

Brian Colless  (27/09/2006)