Capturing the castle

Tuesday 28th June 2011

KIRI bath, betel leaves, Kandyan drummers and Ashtaka chanting. Through the windows to my left, the broad sweep of Wensleydale. Iron Age tribes lived here when the Poruwa ceremony first became popular in Sri Lanka.

In 1379 Sir Richard le Scrope was granted a licence to crenellate the building that would become known as Bolton Castle. In more recent years the owners have been granted a licence to hold weddings.

What would the former courtier to King Richard II make of it all? Would he too smile, as we do, when my sister holds up a plate from which her daughter takes a spoonful of milk rice and pops it into the mouth of the man who is in the process of becoming her husband?

Periwinkle, mallow and clary are to be found in the gardens, where I walk after the two ceremonies. A noticeboard details the medieval hierarchy of hawks, noting the social ranks to which each bird was considered appropriate: peregrines and gyrfalcons for lords and monarchs, sparrow-hawks and kestrels for lowly priests and servants.

In his delightful speech, the Sri Lankan groom tells us the latest Test score. Mexican waves sweep the length of three banqueting tables. My Rochdale-born niece glows with happiness, playing with the ring on her finger. Over a cigarette in a draughty courtyard, I converse with friends of the newly-weds, who have shared their long years of medical training.

Stone steps spiral between the floors. Here men-at-arms once escorted the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots. Today’s guests negotiate the narrow stairs in high heels. You go through the shop to get the loo.

Blankets are available for those feeling the chill of a north Yorkshire evening. Blackjack and roulette tables attract some younger guests, but my Chinese daughter-in-law and I prefer the cheeseboard and slices of cake.

Countless cameras capture the celebrations. I watch, absorbed by histories ancient and modern, before joining my daughter on the dance floor: an activity in which I have not participated for years.

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