What better way to spend the last Bank Holiday before Christmas? Brighton is a fantastic place, perfect for a short break. There's a really laid-back quality about the city that makes it most un-English in a way.
My brother (no.2 ) lives there, too. So as it was him we were going to see, Grimsby would have been a daft idea.
Now, I know that Philip Larkin will accuse everyone's Mum and Dad of all sorts of things. They indeed may not intend to do what they end up doing. Clearly, when he wrote those words, he'd already spent a number of hours in a Honda Accord on the M25 with his parents. By about 3.30pm on Friday, I was sharing his pain.
The car was parked up for the weekend. After several Guinness's with brother no. 1, I was feeling vaguely human again and ready for the sophisticated drinks party at the flat of brother no. 2 and his partner.
It is of course a huge and lazy stereotype to claim that gay men are automatically going to be great with interior design; that they can effortlessly furnish any space with good taste and an eye for detail. Well, call me huge and lazy then. Everything was just right. But of course, we are still family, so conversations soon reflected our shared heritage.
"Please tell me that's not a real Barcelona chair."
"God no, it's homage. Do you think I'd let Dad near it with a glass of red wine in his hand if it was the real thing?"
Matters of taste and design will always come second to the worry generated by our parents carrying liquids that would stain.
Saturday morning dawned bright and warm. A noise like a million bi-polar wasps greeted us. This was to be our transport to the Main Event:
Don't laugh. This takes six people and a driver/pilot and comes complete with wifi and a 17" TV. It was a hoot, although left-hand bends introduced rather too much lean into the equation for me as I was sat on the open side, being berated by passing motorists.
And we ended up here - Brighton's famous Royal Pavilion:
This is a completely mental building, built at the request of King George IV when he was the scandalous, drinking, gambling and womanising Prince of Wales before his coronation in 1820. Mad as a badger (a bit like his father George III), but brilliant.
I'm no photographer, but here are a couple of my efforts:
Who'd have thought it? Clear blue skies on an English Bank Holiday weekend!
The ceremony itself took place in the Red Drawing Room. If you thought the Pavilion looked otherworldly from the outside, then, well you get the idea.
I accept that some reading this might have differing views about the whole Civil Partnership concept. That's OK, I'm all for inclusiveness, I'm even willing to let you carry on reading this posting (but don't forget to get back to your Daily Express before it gets cold). But all I saw were two grown adults standing up in front of friends and family, expressing their love and making certain promises and commitments to each other. It was beautiful and moving. It worked for me. It certainly worked for the two people involved.
Plus I've now got an extra brother.
Then onto the reception. More stuff to get Major Farquhar (ret'd) choking on his wheetie-bangs - a cake with two grooms. Priceless.
My brother gave a speech where he spoke eloquently and passionately about how we should be thankful that we live in the here and now. We may complain about stupid things like speed limits and rubbish collections, but in this country today it's possible for people to receive official legal recognition of their love, regardless of their gender or sexuality. Even five years ago, what we'd just witnessed wouldn't have been possible. I'm not even the most "right on" of people - although I have a rabid mistrust of all politicians - however I'd never really given it any thought before. It just struck a perfect chord with me.
I don't think I've ever been more proud of my brother than I was at that moment. I will tell him this one day, but you have to understand our relationship has a fairly high proportion of piss-take (we are brothers first and foremost) so I guess I'll have to choose the moment.
Don't worry, he did manage to get some smut into the speech, too.
The evening - a flawless night sky, the full moon casting a perfect reflection on a millpond sea. And there we were in Legends, surrounded by lots of chaps throwing shapes to Kylie Minogue. Sorry, another stereotype. My mother loved it, though, and the clientele loved her too.
Back home yesterday - more hassle on the M25 meant that I had to achieve a significant fraction of light speed to make up time on the way home. But it failed to cast a pall over a great weekend - that's one more brother hitched, just brother no.1 to go (and that happens later this year).
I'm knackered, though.