9 January, 2010, Red Hill, Victoria, Australia
Thank you Harvey for that lovely introduction.
Ladies and gentleman, hello and welcome, what an amazing afternoon and evening for us to share with Olivia and Ned.
For those who don’t know me, I’m Ned’s older brother Tony, and the fact that I’m here as Best Man today should give hope to any nine year old kid who gets boxing gloves for Christmas, and who keeps the right glove for himself while offering the left to his younger brother by four and a half years for a bit of ‘sparring’. Recalling Ned that day, as he lay on the deck, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth, I remember thinking to myself — I’m probably pretty long odds to be Best Man at his wedding — and yet, I never gave up. And now here I am. Best man. Better than you Weeksy. Better than you Dan. Better than all of you out there. Chosen because, as we found out in that flyweight classic back n 1981, blood flows thicker than water.
(And also because Willy was out of town)
It’s such a great pleasure to be here on such a beautiful night. The bridesmaids, Sally, Sarah and Arbie, have been wonderful. And given we’re on a tennis court, let’s see if we can give the bridesmaids’ toast an appropriate flavour, so if you can please be upstanding and raise you glasses and repeat after me …
Game, set, match, Ned and Olivia,
Thank you bridesmaids, thank you ballboys.
You’ll also note that Ned and Olivia have taken great care with the seating arrangements. Again, there’s been a tennisy theme. And so if you look down, it basically works the same way as tennis. If you’re seated inside the singles court, well done, you were first choice invitees and your spot at the wedding never in doubt. If you’re seated inside the doubles lines, um, congratulations … you got there in the end. And if you’re outside the court proper … well,. this is a very big wedding, and after the RSVPs rolled in … anyway, you’re all here now, and it’s an absolute joy to see so many friends and family.
On the line is in, by the way.
In some respects, we’re a little fortunate that Ned made it all the way to today to marry this special person. A best man should never mention previous girlfriends, and so I won’t … by name … but I will say that my brother, with his own wonderful ability to sum up a situation hilariously and in the fewest words possible, said of one previous flame: — ‘Yes, I may have dodged a bullet there.’
From a personal perspective, I’m glad he got here with body intact. When he was three and I was nearly eight, me and two friends developed a game on our Olympic sized trampoline called ‘quadruple bouncing’. Basically, what it involved was four friends (or three friends and an infant) holding hands, and on the count of three, everyone performing ‘a sit’. Of course just before we did that sit, we’d use our hands to lift tiny unsuspecting Ned that fraction of a metre higher … and well you actually can’t imagine the results.
The first time he laughed … he really did. He disappeared up into the branches of the lilly pilly, nine or ten metres above us, about as high as the top diving board at the Balwyn baths. The next time, we must have unbalanced him slightly, and he didn’t hit his sit quite right, and so it was with considerable concern that we watched him shoot off at 45 degrees, straight over the back fence, just a tiny human cannonball arcing into the ditch that ran beside our house in Belmont Park. And you know what made me proud … that little fella tried so hard not to cry. He so wanted to be brave in front of the big boys.
And you know what made me even prouder? Three years later I look out on the trampoline, and there he is with Dan and John Besley, holding hands with little Pippa, telling her ‘now on the count of three, we want you to do a sit … ‘
There were so many other great games. Olympics … Ned was a tireless competitor … but I made the medals and did the handicapping … and won a fair few events it must be said … Screamers … I offered up my back and Ned and his mates would film themselves taking species … … We did marbles racing … Basically I’d set up courses down the stairs and race marbles over the distance. I was the bookmaker, the starter and the steward. Ned, Dan Besley and Hugh Taggart were the punters, and they all loved a huge, murky chipped old see-through tom bowler called Junk. Junk was always backed into favouritism, just in front of a classier, newer looking Birdcage called Big Bluey. Hugh Taggart loved Junk and Big Bluey so much that he wrote a Uni essay about how marbles racing taught him about gambling. Now he’s the head of some division of Betfair in Australia, and Ned, with the mighty Diplomatic Force, is an actual equine owner – holding the Australian record for least number of dollars invested per minutes of conversation yielded. Marbles racing changed lives, I tell you. If any of you want to get your kids addicted to gambling, honestly, come and speak to me afterwards.
I don’t want to give the impression that Ned was a victim throughout childhood. He was also a hero. In this era where smacking has become taboo, I don’t want to paint Mum and Dad poorly by saying they were smackers. Always open hand, didn’t hurt, ner ner ner ner ner! For special occasions, however, Mum would pull out the wooden spoon, and attempt to land flailing blows on bare backs of legs as she chased us upstairs. Suffice to say, the wooden spoon was her go-to threat. As Florida has the electric chair, 3 Highton Grove had the wooden spoon.
Picture this then. Ned does something bad. Mum yells. Ned yells back. Mum tells Ned to stop yelling or he’ll get the wooden spoon. Ned keeps yelling and tells her that the wooden spoon doesn’t even hurt, ner ner ner ner ner! Mum dives for the utensils drawer, and within a heartbeat, they’re both running. By this stage, Sam, Pippa and I have gathered at the top of the stairs, the best viewing platform for watching Christians get torn apart by lions. And we’re loving it. Mum’s flying, taking ground with every stride. Ned’s going fast too, circling the downstairs rooms before deciding on whether to tackle the stairs. And then he does, but Mum’s seen that move before, and she’s on his hammer, and she’s got her arm raised, and she’s really mad, and then CRACK!
The crack is so loud that for a moment, we think that Ned has been dealt the mother of all wooden spoon hits. But then we look and see the glorious truth. Ned is still flying up the stairs and Mum is standing there, staring at a broken shard of wooden spoon handle. It’s dead. Ding Dong the Wooden Spoon is Dead! Ned runs past us and into his room, already giggling, and all three kids follow, and we raise him onto our shoulders, and hail him as a hero, for that is what he is.
Our celebrations were soured somewhat during the next supermarket shop when Mum bought a new wooden spoon, but that’s beside the point. For 24 hours, Ned had led us out of Egypt and into a Spoonless Promised Land.
Before I go too far with that analogy, Ned has none of Moses’s knack of handling locusts. Back in 1998, Ned and Stewie White, now just known as the celebrant’s son, were heading to Boots Staunton’s twenty first — a long hot drive into the sun, and Ned was behind the wheel. About half an hour from Camperdown, God got jack of some of the language they were using in the car, and beset a plague of locusts upon them. Suddenly there was zero visibility. Stewie remembers the moment as terrifying – one minute they were driving along enjoying the sunset, the next, totally blinded by tens of thousands of hungry insects, swarming the car. Fortunately, the windows were up, but what added to Stewie’s stress was that Ned didn’t decide to pull over. No, instead he chooses to drive on, his big fluffy head lowered below the level of the steering wheel, steering blindly into the plague, hoping that what he couldn’t see couldn’t kill him.
It’s not a bad adage for his life, because Ned can’t see plenty. He’s not alone on that front. We Wilson kids have a royal flush of eye defects — long sightedness, astigmatism, amblyopia — when Ned first texted me and told me about Olivia, and how she was one of the most beautiful girls he’d ever seen, I texted back and said: ‘Make sure you find out what others are saying.’ Yes, that’s our Ned. Big, blind and vague. The man who’s right eye wanders off to do it’s teeth and get into its jarmies half and hour before he does.
Even with these considerable sight handicaps, Ned was actually a pretty decent footballer. In his last year at Camberwell Grammar, he was under consideration to be captain of the First XVIII, and his coach, Ken Schwab, decided to hand him the reigns for the pre-season lightning premiership. He led the boys onto the ground, and did it with aplomb. Good clapping, from all accounts. A spring in his step. He took the boys through the warm up. They’d never been warmer, never looked sharper. Then, he trotted over to the umpires for the coin toss. The other captain tossed and Ned called. He called loudly, and he called correctly. He jogged back to his teammates, chest out, formulating the words that would have the boys cherry ripe for the first bounce.
‘Let’s go fellas! The season begins now. This is a lightning premiership. If we’re not switched on from the first bounce, the game will be over before we know it.’
The boys were behind him. ‘Come on Wellers. Good one Neddles. Let’s go boys.’
Stewie White can’t remember if it was him who asked the question. “Ned, which way are we kicking?’
It was met with a long, contemplative silence …
‘I don’t know.’
Eventually, through a process of elimination, the ends were sorted out, and Ned’s, eventually brief, captaincy career was underway.
When our sister Sam’s second son was born, controversially, also named Ned, my brother greeted the arrival of a new Ned with the statement, ‘’I’ll have to give him a Neducation.’ A Neducation, for those who don’t know, are lessons preparing you for a life of being a Ned. Ned’s have to be big. Ned’s have to be affable. Ned’s don’t have to talk very much, but they have to say quiet, funny things that everyone laughs at, and remembers as the highlight of the night. Neds have to watch heaps of TV, you’ll recognise a sofa that has been used by a Ned by its Ned-shaped wear marks, and Ned’s must have an almost polar bear capacity to hunker down and sleep through times of adversity, like party clean-ups or other such unfortunate group endeavours. Neds have to be smiley, friendly and kind. Neds have to be proud of being Neds, unless they get to Scotland and find out that ‘Ned’ is slang for juvenile delinquent, in which case an upstanding Ned will insist that his friends call him ‘Lance’. And it’s not widely known, but most Neds are naughty.
Our Ned is quietly naughty, and persists in being so because he always seems to get away with it. To give an example, on one trip to Adelaide casino, Ned and a group of friends were playing roulette. The game was proceeding as normal – people who don’t understand the concept of independent variables writing down numbers, the croupier doing his dramatic hand wipes and ‘no more bets’ calls – when suddenly a spanner was thrown into the works. ‘Where’s the ball?’ the croupier asks the table. Nobody replies. The croupier peers into his wheel, unable to believe his eyes, groping into all the nooks and crannies to locate a ball that has suddenly become invisible. A minute and a half later, Ned opens the pocket of his jacket, and with a big, ham-acted ‘shhhh’ gesture, shows the boys exactly where the roulette ball has gone. Yes, Neds might not be delinquents, but they are naughty.
Amazingly, the roulette ball is not even the best ‘light fingers’ story we have in the family. Ned’s younger sister Pippa once managed to steal a live lobster from a tank at a Chinese restaurant. How do they manage such sleight of hand, such conjuring skill. The truth goes all the way back to their childhoods. They were trained by one of the greats, a master illusionist who went by the name of The White Magician. The White Magician was a magician who could take on the appearance of any person in the world. Miraculously, he chose to take on my appearance. He always wore white pyjamas, my white pyjamas, and he could do magic tricks like fusing two matches together, turning his eyelids inside out, and locking a door from the other side that didn’t have a lock [mouthed: you hold the handle]. Ned loved the White Magician, and would happily report back to me the next morning that ‘the White Magician had visited again last night. ’Tony Tony, he came, he came!’ Sadly, after a year or so, he confronted me with the truth. ‘The White Magician is you … isn’t it. I know it is.’ Reluctantly, I confessed. The game, it seemed, was up. Except Ned wasn’t done yet. ‘I want in,’ he said excitedly. ‘I want to be a magician too.’ And so for the next few months, the White Magician appeared to Pippa and Pippa alone, and he had a new sidekick, ‘The Purple Pantomime’ who could take on the appearance of any person in the world, and who had chosen to take on Ned’s appearance. Pippa bought it. In fact I think we got tired of the game before she did. Indeed it’s entirely possible that Pip is currently in a state of shock over there. He’s not real, Pip. The Purple Pantomime is actually Ned.
It’s now time for telegrams, and we’ve got two – two actual telegrams that were delivered by Rolf from the Sound of Music and had STOP written in words at the end of each sentence. The first one is from Jamie Carter, a long-time friend of Ned’s and Olivia’s who now lives in the US.
Hi Ned and Olivia,
I would like to wish you both a very happy day and a very rewarding future together as a married couple. I would like to do this, but I can’t.
See, as many who witnessed the service would know, today Ned married my ex-girlfriend. Olivia and I may not have had relations, and if memory serves, we may not have even kissed, but I’m pretty sure we held hands, which was pretty fricken intense for a couple of love-sick 12 year olds.
We had our ups and downs, and we decided to take a break. A break, Ned!! I turn my back, in swoops Ned, and now we find ourselves in this awkward love triangle.
At Carey we had a code - no person may date, consider dating, or even look at a girl that was once the romantic interest of a mate, even if the romantic interest fizzled in the 80s. We called this — the “Peter Busse Principle”.
You broke this principle Ned, shame on you. But you went Camberwell Grammar; you lack a Baptist’s fortitude and moral fibre.
So here we are on your happy day. I am Eric Clapton to your George Harrison and Pattie Boyd; I am Jason Donovan to your Michael Hutchance and Kylie Minogue. And it hurts, hurts like hell. But I will move on with pride and dignity. I will channel my hurt into creating classic rock songs, while avoiding drug binges and crap London musicals.
In my more secure and happy moments, I am thrilled for both of you. Knowing both of you for as long as I have makes me begrudgingly confident in how happy you both will be together. You’re both wonderfully intelligent, modest, kind, and fun people, and I’m not surprised that you found happiness together. If I promise to bury my hurt deep inside, I hope you’ll let me continue to be a part of your lives for many years to come.
Ned, you win, you got the girl. Olivia, I want my pocketknife back.
This one comes from Chris Williams, who would have been best man had he not been in japan for his own pre-nuptials.
Firstly congratulations Ned & Olivia. Olivia, I’m sure you look beautiful. I hope you have an amazing day, but I’ll come back to the nice bit.
Firstly I would like to talk about Ned. Ah ‘The Fluff’. I have known Ned since Sergy the red pen famously broke vaulting record after vaulting record over the ruler in Year 5, some 22 years ago. Since then we have been through a lot together — from weekend camp-outs at Tenno’s, to the Merricks slater-bug massacre, to learning lessons travelling around Europe — like if you are drunk enough to join a Spanish conga line, be careful of your wallet. And don’t ever join a round with Glen20.
So I was very keen to be at Ned’s wedding, but alas, it is not to be. The reason being that I beat him down the aisle by about 10 days. This is just one of many victories I have enjoyed over Ned over the years. If I were to go through all the others (like the time I beat Ned in this year’s DreamTeam Grand Final) there would be little time left for anything else this weekend, so I think it’s probably better I go through the couple of occasions Ned got the upper hand. It is his wedding after all.
The first of these occasions involves an over I bowled to him during Captain’s Cricket on the extremely undersized and then cordoned off JTO, where a 12 year old Wilson, who was the same size he is now (if anything he has possibly shrunk since 1989) managed to hit around bowling off normal sized year 7s pretty well. Well, we don’t want to dwell on this story but the over I bowled to him went something like: 4 6 6 4 un-rebowled wide 6. Moving on…
The other story that gets told more often than I wish to hear it is the time when the Nintendo 64 was new, and a game called WWF Attitude was my main leisure activity. (I thought this story may appeal to the many fans of 1990s video game wrestling in your wedding audience.)
Anyway, the plan was to play the game by myself for “x” number of hours until I was pretty damn awesome. The key was remembering button combinations and once I had those down, then stage 2 was initiated – invite the button-mashing Wilson round for a hiding. He took the bait – the fly was in the well spun Williams web. We set about creating likenesses of ourselves to wrestle with. What hope would The Neducator have against the Penultimate Warrior? Well actually, not much to start with, so we played a few exhibition bouts so Ned could get his bearings. I wanted him to have a few small successes in a controlled environment to make sure he would agree to a title fight.
It worked – I had filled Ned with enough faux confidence, and Ned being the arrogant sonuvabitch he is, agreed to fight me for the title. The bout started, and things were going largely predictably but slowly, yet the Neducator, after amassing an okay amount of offence, just could not contend with the power moves the Penultimate Warrior was executing. So eventually, after an epic 40 minute war of attrition, the Neducator finally dwindled down to the dark red, meaning he was ripe for the pin as soon as I next knocked him over. Meanwhile I was still in the yellow, with still orange to go until red (It may sound like its not important, but it is). What was to happen next was one of the great miscarriages of video game justice ever. The Neducator pulled off a meagre body scissors from which the Penultimate Warrior should have expected to recover, especially with the amount of Yellow I had left in my “Attitude Meter”.
Then the Neducator hit the wrong button and made an accidental pin.
Then the referee somehow made it to a 3 count.
Then the Neducator was having his hand raised in victory followed by his belt presentation!
Of course I challenged Ned to a rematch, my pride as wounded as my sore and throbbing thumbs. Ned, the mongrel, refused, and so it seemed to me that a natural end to the evening had been reached. Rather than drop a hint by looking at my watch and yawning, I suggested that it was time for Ned to leave, — ‘get out of my house’ were the exact words — which Ned mistakenly interprets as me kicking him out of my house in a sore-loser rage.
So there you go Ned. Congratulations for those victories, and congratulations for today! What a find Olivia is, an attractive young neuroscientist undertaking one hell of an experiment! You compliment each other so well; The way you interact with each other, and little Eliza, is incredibly affectionate. You are both so ‘switched-on’, considerate and funny and it really is a privilege to be part of your lives. I’m looking forward to getting back and exchanging stories and photos (where mine will probably be better than yours). All the very, very best!!!
What a lovely man and what a great friend. I was so impressed with the telegram that I wrote straight back to Willy:
Wonderful telegram. Love it. BTW, did you mean to call Suzie, ‘Eliza’ in the nice bit? Is that your nickname for her?
To which Willy replied:
Ah, good pick up. Eliza is Hank's kid. Big mistake, please can you fix that up!
And so I have. And I’d like you all to tell Willy that I have.
I’ve long considered Olivia Carter to be my sister in law, but today it’s so exciting to see you as a bride and to know how happy you and my brother are together. When Olivia first arrived on the scene, she and Ned had the distance hurdle to get over. She was a neuroscientist at Harvard. Ned, was not a neuroscientist, not at Harvard. Quickly, he assessed that ‘daughter of a Peruvian princess who is also a neuroscientist at Harvard’ was, in the cricket jargon of today, a ball bowled in good areas. He flashed his blade. Again that’s cricket jargon. I’m not saying he actually flashed his blade. And for the first time in his romantic life, Ned was building a memorable innings.
And what an innings it has been. He went to Harvard himself, something I for one never thought Ned would do, and did a double major in long-distance Dreamteam and sleeping. Then, having won the Fluiffamatics their first premiership, he brought Olivia back, and she wowed us Wilsons with her beauty, her intelligence and her friendliness. Olivia’s status in the family was secure by the time of her first Wilson Christmas. But she made absolutely sure of it in the traditional post-lunch cricket game, when she faced up to her very first ball. Tom Nisbet was the bowler, and I’m sure Tom won’t mind me saying that his offies lack turn, and fizz, and drift … I mean the kid bowls pies … but that said, you’ve got to put away the bad ball. And so, with her future father-in-law looking on from a crouch behind the wicket, Olivia danced nimbly down the pitch, one skip, two skips, and lifted the ball sweetly over mid-on. It was a timeless moment. Olivia haring between the wickets. Uncle Ian drunkenly lumbering around the boundary, attempting in vain to stop the four. She was a Peruvian princess, but, as we were quickly finding out, she owned a full wardrobe of tracksuit pants, and had Ponting-esque footwork, something we’ve been looking for in the gene pool for some time.
We’ve also lacked an Eliza in the gene pool - still do in fact. But we now have a Suzie, and what a lovely little baby she is. Of course, for most of her nine months, she hasn’t really liked me, but this morning let me hold her for a record breaking forty-five minutes, which was as thrilling as being allowed into a really exclusive nightclub. I think the thing that swung her around was me whispering to her that under old English inheritance rules, only issue born after the marriage stand to inherit anything. She apparently had no idea about this, and promised to me there and then that she will now be on her best behaviour.
Ned, Dad says that you’re lucky and I guess you are. You invest in a horse and it immediately wins its first four starts. You bump into a friend at the races, who casually tosses over the numbers for four thousand dollars worth of longshot quadrella. You have this amazing group of mates, who I’d attempt to annexe and take for my own mates if I didn’t know how much they mean to you. And now you have Olivia, and Suzie, and a love that is as deep as the many Ned-shaped indents you have left in couches worldwide. A love that makes all of us so happy and so proud. Ned, you are lucky, but I think that good things come to you because of who you are: the sheer pleasantness of your personality, your willingness to have a go, your good-natured embrace of the good things in life. And I’m lucky too. Because I get to have you as a brother.
Well done Olivia and Ned. I hope you continue to have a memorable night.