Over the years I’ve ticked off most of the public speaking formats. I’ve enjoyed after dinner speeches, panel discussions, debates and events of all sizes. Last week, I ticked off another category of performance by conducting my friends’ wedding.
The only other time I’d been as surprised at a suggestion was when the proprietors of this newspaper asked me to take the editor’s chair, four years ago. On both occasions I said yes, of course, and prepared to jump hurdles and cross bridges later.
My dear friends, Jason and Leanne, wanted an Italian wedding but couldn’t face the Italian bureaucracy. They took care of the legal side of marriage in a swift and secret ceremony at home in Jersey and then went ahead with the ‘real’ wedding in Tuscany last week, complete with assembled guests, music, readings, ushers, vows, rings and a ‘sermon’ from yours truly. It was one of the most wonderful honours and privileges of my life.
To be able to perform such a role for one’s friends and to have been entrusted with such a sacred and significant occasion was at once uplifting and humbling. Congratulations to the happy couple.
Big reads for the beach
My matrimonial duties in Italy were preceeded by a week in Corfu with my entire family, during which I devoured two remarkable books.
Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff is a heartbreaking and forensic account of 9/11, told through the stories of hundreds of individuals from office workers, air traffic controllers, family members and emergency responders. It is an astounding piece of work.
Appeasing Hitler by Tim Bouverie is a staggeringly good account of the build-up to the Second World War, focusing on the rise of Nazi Germany, the intense efforts at home to avoid war and on those who disagreed with the policy. It is gripping, dramatic and revelatory.
If you can fit either in your luggage this summer, take them with you.
A word from the wise
Despite the rail strike and a little bit of rain we enjoyed a tremendous day at Royal Ascot on Tuesday. This was in no small part down to City A.M.’s racing tipster, Bill Esdaile. With his characteristic charm and insight, Bill revised his earlier tips on account of the weather and talked our table through his picks.
Bill’s expertise saves a novice like me from placing bets on the basis of a horse’s name and, having followed his advice to the letter, we left comfortably up on the day. Ahead of the first race, a request came in via Whatsapp from a City grandee in a very grand box, asking for advice. Bill’s wisdom was relayed, and champagne corks were soon popping for this financier’s guests. My £10 flutter on that race was well rewarded, so I expect those with deeper pockets had even greater cause for celebration.
Some of the City A.M. team spend the entire week trackside, but for me one day is enough: have a great lunch, wave at the Queen, try not to slip into the red and back to London.
A tribute to a true gentleman
The most heartwarming emails I receive are the ones thanking our distributors, the men and women in blue jackets who get our paper to our readers. I was therefore deeply saddened to learn of the death of Michel de Dadelsen, who supervised our London Bridge distribution for the past five years.
I’m told Michel’s father, the poet and author Jean-Paul de Dadelsen, worked in de Gaulle’s provisional government in London and was a wartime correspondent for the clandestine French newspaper Combat, edited by Albert Camus.
In this tradition, Michel spent many years working for an international press agency covering economics and finance, and took up with City A.M. in his retirement – rising before dawn each day. He was a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and used his fluency in four languages to offer translation services. He was committed to charity, to his friends, and to his family – who described him to us as “a gentleman with old-fashioned good manners.”