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Pole to Pole

Day 49: Rhodes to Limassol

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAfter what is certainly the longest shave I've ever witnessed we all walk through the village to the church. I fall into conversation with the best man's wife, who turns out to be from Kent. She married her Cypriot husband after a holiday romance. They had a thousand guests, 'but then I didn't want a big wedding,' she explains.

At the church Polycarpus's bride arrives, dramatically attired in white with her pitch-black hair swept up through a band of flowers and spilling out in a mass of carefully disordered curls. She looks wondrous, like some Edwardian actress, tall, very slim, with a strong face and a long, straight nose. Then three priests, in no particular hurry begin a long recitation of the liturgy. A professional video recording is being made and the director, a man in a yellow jacket which clashes with everything, rushes about amongst the priests moving sacred objects and generally getting in everyone's way. The church is far too small for all the guests and people come and go as they please. Only the old widows - the 'blackbirds' as they call them - follow the service intently, their lips moving in time with the priests' words. Polycarpus and Ariadne remain standing heroically throughout this curious mixture of the spiritual and the secular until the moment comes for them to be linked with white ribbon, take communion and then process in a circle around a Bible.

But their work has hardly begun. At the wedding feast, held in the huge courtyard of what was once a monastery, they sit for three hours receiving guests. I am told that it is the custom on being received to slip the happy couple a small financial gift, and by the time I get there Polycarpus's pockets are stuffed with notes, of which he is occasionally relieved by one of the family.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 49
  • Country/sea: Cyprus
  • Place: Limassol
  • Book page no: 109

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