First of all on behalf of the bridesmaids, I’d like to thank Dave for his kind words about them. Not only have they gone a great job today, they look great as well.
Of course they say the best man’s speech is the groom’s worst five minutes of the day. Leigh, however, has a longer wait for her worst five minutes of the day. I guess that will come much later on tonight after the disco has shut.
I have to admit I know very little about Dave’s childhood despite knowing him for so many years. In a brief chat with Dave’s mother earlier, however, I managed to find out one interesting piece of information. Apparently Dave was a bit of an ugly duckling when he first came into the world. So much so, Mrs Austin starting getting morning sickness AFTER he was born. Only joking Mrs A.
As for the rest of Dave’s childhood, I can only speculate. I imagine it would have involved a lot of sports playing and watching and learning from an early age how to talk as loudly and to as many people as possible in cricket club bars and pavilions. As a number of people in this audience will know, this is a skill he has really perfected later in life with the assistance of several bottles of Budweiser after a cricket match.
Dave and I have played for the same local cricket teams for pretty much the last 12 years, to the extent that we now don’t enjoy a match unless we’re both playing in it. We performed, particularly in the case of Dave, without any great distinction for a village side, Chop Gate, for the best part of ten years. We did, however, became a bit of a double act, taking the mickey out of each other at every opportunity both on and off the pitch. When I changed clubs a couple of years ago, I thought I’d finally got rid of him. No such luck. Two weeks later he persuaded me to make an introduction so he could play as well.
Academically, I assume Dave can’t have been particularly bright in his younger days. None of Northern Ireland’s higher education institutions would take him after he finished at school so he ended up on the same degree course as me at Teesside Poly, widely regarded as the UK’s worst Polytechnic at the time, and also the place we first met. The only distinction he got during the course was getting a lower grade than me at the end of it. That is some achievement, I can tell you.
Dave and I were never really friends of any great significance during our days at the Polytechnic, but at the end of the course I ended up taking him in as a tenant in my humble terraced house in Middlesbrough town centre. At the time, we realised we had a lot in common. We were the only two people on our course who didn’t have a job to go to.
Not surprisingly Dave and I were rather skint during those early days of sharing a house and the search for jobs, with the economy in its worst recession for many years, was a nightmare for two lads who, at the time (and even now a few of you here today would say), had very little on paper to commend them. There was a major upside though. It was during this period that Dave and I became great friends with a mutual love of cricket, football and Sonic the Hedgehog and, despite our very different backgrounds and personalities, an uncannily similar sense of humour. I also warmed to Dave’s many endearing characteristics such as falling asleep during Coronation Street and, in the process, knocking over overflowing ashtrays precariously balanced on the arm of his chair.
As our job search continued into a second calendar year things were tight, especially for Dave, as most of his cash went in my pocket to pay his rent and bills. He kept his head above water by living off 10kg bags of potatoes accompanied by economy frozen pies from the local supermarket. This obviously wasn’t great for the figure, and it’s a figure he’s kept pretty much up until now. Even today, Dave still believes a well balanced diet involves having a quarter pounder with cheese in each hand.
Whilst I have remained something of a waste of space since those early days in Middlesbrough, Dave actually went out and found himself a career in accounting in the NHS, a decision he has had no cause to regret, not least because he met the lovely Leigh in the workplace.
I know Leigh is a very special lady. She managed to convince Dave that there’s more to life than watching sport on Sky TV, playing cricket and only ever going out on a night time to fetch a takeaway from the local Chinese. Maybe she could work her magic on me some time.
Dave’s lack of adventure is mainly due to the fact that he has still not learnt to drive. In a crude calculation earlier today I worked out that I alone have given him lifts totalling around 13,000 miles in the last 12 years. We’ll be discussing a mortgage to pay off this taxi fare in the bar later. With his lack of mobility, Dave was obviously over the moon when Leigh passed her driving test a few years ago. Imagine his dismay when she managed to clock up 12 points on her licence for speeding within months of becoming a driver and was off the road while she waited for another driving test under the new laws. Enter, Mr Mark Lane, unpaid taxi driver once again.
I know I have taken the mickey quite a bit during the course of this speech, but I have to say it has been an absolute pleasure chauffeuring Dave around over the years and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We are great friends, have always enjoyed each other’s company and without fail manage to make each other laugh. If I had to be stuck on a desert island with a friend it would definitely be Dave, and I hope he would say the same thing about me. We’d be happy as Larry if the island also had a Chinese takeaway, a Sonic game cartridge and somewhere to plug a Sega Megadrive in.
Joking aside, it is a great honour to be Dave’s Best Man and it honestly gives me great pleasure that Dave has got married to Leigh, not least because I like Leigh a great deal too.
Dave and Leigh, a nicer, more perfectly suited couple you could not wish to meet. Could I ask you all to stand and join me in a toast. To Dave and Leigh, may they have a long and happy life together.