Yesterday, Harry and Grace got married – a wonderful day full of tangible love and magical moments. Martin, Grace’s dad, and I both did speeches to start the reception and this is what I said:
What can I tell you about Harry Baker, when he has told us so much about himself already in his poems?
We know that he thinks pole-dancing is a legitimate form of exercise. We know that he loves the feeling of fleece on his bare skin, so we’re honoured that he’s wearing a suit today and not his dressing gown. We know that he would rather make dinosaur noises than say ‘I love you’, which must make for some interesting tender moments, Grace.
But I can tell you a few things. Since he was a very little boy, Harry has always known what he wants to do, and set out to do it. That hasn’t always been easy and often he has needed to summon courage, which I really admire him for.
Towards the end of primary school, he knew that his days of wearing shorts were numbered because at Twyford, everyone wore long trousers. And so he decided he was going to wear shorts every day of year six. Every day he set out in his shorts whatever the weather – sun, rain, wind, hail, lightning or snow. We have a photo of Harry just after he arrived home from school one day that January, with a huge snowball that he rolled all the way home, bright red knees sticking out of his shorts from the cold, and a huge smile on his face at his sense of achievement. I wonder if that’s what inspired his Edinburgh Festival outfit this year?
If there’s a decision to be made about what to do or how to do it, Harry always chooses the adventurous option; as he says, every day is potentially adventure-y…
When he ran the London marathon in 2015, I wrote him a training plan – which he ignored, of course. He was raising money for Amos Trust, having visited Palestine a few years before. The week before the race he decided that he wanted to run the marathon with a 3m high representation of the separation wall on his back, made from a backpack, bamboo canes and gaffer tape. I didn’t think this was a good idea at all, and told him; running a marathon with very little training is hard enough, let alone carrying a heavy, wind-resistant banner. But he ignored that advice too and did it anyway. The bonus was he was very easy to spot on the way round. He finished the marathon in a great time, and had a huge amount of support on the way round; people were shouting ‘Free Plasticine’ at him all the way. But what I realised afterwards was that taking the crazy, adventurous approach actually made it more achievable, rather than less.
Harry, Jonny and I are so proud of you, because you are such a wonderful human being. You’re funny; you’re clever; you’re tender-hearted; you’re generous; you’re brave; you’re ridiculously creative and extravagantly talented; you always do the right thing. You have made it your mission in life to be true to yourself, to follow your heart, and in doing that you invite the rest of us to do the same, to be our best selves. We’ve heard a lot about toxic masculinity recently; when I look at you, and your brother, and your incredible peers – all of you emotionally intelligent, egalitarian, empowering men who can cook up a storm; and when I look at the magnificent women you are building your lives with, I have hope that another world is possible and is on the way.
And today, we’re here to celebrate you and Grace becoming one.
Something that never occurred to me when I had two little boys, was that one day they would expand our family again and give us daughters. Jonny and I began today with one wonderful daughter-in-law, and now we have two. Grace, it is such a privilege to welcome you into our family. You are passionate about people; you have a heart for justice; you are tenacious, and gentle, and strong, and tender-hearted, and not to be messed with. You have so much in common with Harry and you complement him so well : you bring Marie Kondo’s magic of tidying to his perpetually messy bedroom; you bring ethical food choices to his late-night trips to the Fried Chicken shop; you have the same approach as me to his deep-fat fryer – there’s just no room in the kitchen. Life with Harry means that you will always know what he’s thinking; you will never have any clean towels in the house.
But the two of you getting together has made me realise that we got something wrong all those years ago, Harry, when we were deciding what to call you. When we asked God what name we should give our baby boy, it’s obvious now that we misheard the answer. As a poet, I’m sure you appreciate the beautiful alliteration of your parents’ names – Meg and Martin, Jonny and Jenny. Clearly, we should have called you Gary.
Gary and Grace, may you keep choosing adventure, in Margate and beyond. We look forward to sharing those adventures with you.