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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Victoria Mary Clarke: 'Me and Shane McGowan are getting married... it took a while, 32 years to be exact'

REAL-LIFE FAIRYTALE: Shane and Victoria pictured together on Sandymount Strand, Dublin, in 2008. Photo: David Conachy
REAL-LIFE FAIRYTALE: Shane and Victoria pictured together on Sandymount Strand, Dublin, in 2008. Photo: David Conachy
The happy couple ahead of their big day tomorrow. Photo: Olan Clarke
DESTINED TO BE TOGETHER: Victoria and Shane in the early days of their love story
Shane and Johnny Depp, who will play guitar at the wedding; bottom, the happy couple ahead of their big day tomorrow. Photo: Olan Clarke
DESTINED TO BE TOGETHER: Victoria and Shane in the early days of their love story, pictured here at La Stampa in 1993. Pic: Dominic Ledwidge O'Reilly

Victoria Mary Clarke

Me and Shane are getting married tomorrow. It took a while. Thirty-two years, to be exact. Marriage is a scary business, a big commitment. You might know that you have met 'The One', the minute you lay eyes on them across a crowded bar. You might have been mesmerised, enchanted, and entirely convinced that you couldn't live without them. But you have to be certain.

We met for the first time in London when I was only 16, the minute he walked into the pub. Admittedly it was a very quiet, suburban pub but Shane was unmissable, tall, pale and skinny, with jug ears and missing teeth, sporting a mobster Crombie and an air of monstrous arrogance.

I was awe-struck by him. I became consumed by the thought of him. He says that he felt the same way, that we were destined to be together. But ours were not to be easy, uncomplicated lives and ours was not to be an uncomplicated love affair.

We grabbed hold of each other, became glued together and hung on for a ride that took us through a world of glamour and fame, creativity and ecstasy, drink, drugs and crazy, wild sex and on to madness, self-destruction and despair, violence, death, betrayal, rage, separation, and sadness and on and on towards revelation, renewal, compassion and hope for the future. Our real life together makes the Fairytale Of New York couple from Shane's Christmas song seem tame and orderly.

When you meet 'The One', you have a choice. You can dive in, marry them while you are infatuated with each other and hope for the best. Or you can wait until you are sure that the honeymoon phase has worn off and you are seeing each other in the light of having lived, no longer young, beautiful and indestructible.

When you realise that for every characteristic that attracted you, and intrigued you, there are things that you loathe and despise about each other. There have been times when you have wished each other dead - you see each other as flawed, nasty, fragile, maybe even hideous.

But when you get there, if you still look into each other's eyes and laugh at the sheer joy of each other's existing; if you still see each other's faces and know that these are the most beautiful faces that you have ever seen and know that this person is the one you would chase to hell and back, then I think you are on the right track.

Marriage is a ritual that can trigger you. I generally hate even going to other people's weddings. There are all kinds of ideas and images of how it should be, the fairytale wedding. The blushing, beautiful, virginal bride in the big white dress, the handsome, dashing groom who will carry her over the threshold of their perfect home where they will live their perfect life and have their perfect kids. And the huge, fabulous wedding with hundreds of guests, rivers of Champagne, cakes, page boys and flower girls and endless speeches.

It is hard, when you have to face the fact that you may not be that perfect couple, and you don't even know if you would want all that stuff, when the thought of a huge white wedding terrifies the life out of you.

It can be embarrassing, even, when people want to make a fuss on your behalf and you would rather be sitting quietly at home, watching the telly. And that's not even mentioning the agony of choosing who should be invited, and realising that your big day is inevitably going to alienate some of the people that you love, because you simply can't have everybody there.

Shane and I are both introverts and we decided that the only solution was to just elope together to someplace that we know nobody and nobody knows us, and keep it a secret. Which is what we have done. There will be a tiny civil ceremony in an anonymous City Hall, there will be no white dress, nobody will be 'given away', there will be no flower girls or page boys or matrons of honour. We haven't even got wedding rings.

But I have discovered something about weddings that I had not realised. People really, really want to show that they love the people that they care about. And no matter how awkward or introverted you are, the love that they have for you finds a way to smash through the walls that you put up. And when it happens, it is a magnificent thing.

We all want as much love as possible, and we mostly all try to manipulate people into loving us by making ourselves as attractive as possible. But some of us don't know how good it can feel to just be loved for who you are without having to be anything other than what you already intrinsically are. And sometimes we hide from love because we are afraid that people will see us as we are. But people can surprise you, the ways they get through to you.

So, much as we might have liked our wedding to be a non-event, and because we have found it impossible to keep it a total secret, a few of our friends and family have elected to make it a tiny but beautiful thing.

Some of them have helped with the paperwork and planning (I don't know how I ever passed an exam, I am allergic to paperwork). A few of them have travelled from far-flung places to be with us for moral support. My nephew Olan has cut short his holiday to be Shane's best man.

We have a Breatharian friend who has come all the way from Thailand to have dinner with us, even though she doesn't actually eat. Bella Freud has given me a beautiful red dress which is perfectly unfussy. Johnny Depp is going to be the wedding guitarist. My nieces are going to do my make-up. And my mother and sisters are bringing a cake and flowers.

It will be weird, but I think it will be lovely. We may even have a speech.

Sunday Independent

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