This month, I would’ve known my Brit four years.
It’s hard to describe how much I love this wonderful man, and really give tangible justice to the journey we have had to come to where we are now: getting freakin’ married. Next week!
We have a unique story, and had you told me four years ago that I’d just met my future husband I would’ve said you’re an idiot. We lived in different countries, we had completely different lives, we were strangers passing in the night.
I was 28, and very much in a place where I wanted to be single, was throwing my life into backpacking and work travel, my book publicity and my career. It was my time. After what seemed like continuous heartbreak over the years, I really just wanted to do the stuff I wanted to do.
So I took a few years off from looking and dating or being interested in anyone. ‘Dating’ just seemed like hard work anyway. Just another thing I had to put effort into, so when I found myself face to face with this Brit, I wasn’t thinking beyond that week, nevermind the future. And that’s what appealed to me at first. He was deliciously not South African and his life and background were completely different from mine.
So, without trying making this too trite or trivial, here is our journey:
April 2009: The morning of the Homebru Awards. My book had been shortlisted for this, hosted by Exclusive Books. Was delighted. I wore red heels that day to mark such an occasion.
I work at an international internet company, and people from other offices come to ours from time to time. Today, we had a Brit and a German visiting from our Europe offices to do some shit in Johannesburg.
When he first walked in I noticed how perky and fresh he was, and how chilled: funky trainers, jeans and a t-shirt. That’s his standard attire. For a geek, he looks effortlessly cool.
Didn’t take much notice over the coming days, perhaps a glance here or there over the office scanner. As is customary in this small office, we always take people out for dinner and show them around. Jozi is scary for visitors who are from other places sometimes.
I remember thinking I must like this guy a little bit after this happened. My spading skillz were clearly a bit rusty given I was chatting to him about fucking tapeworms.
I ended up spending a lot more time with these guys than most who visited, taking them to a braai, having them over at mine for drinks, and generally getting to know them.
Here’s the other thing: the Brit was younger than me. A few years, which was the first thing that made me think that whatever happens this was going to be fun, but this would never work, or even be serious, for boundless reasons, so really, it was ideal.
We kissed each other and I stayed over on his last night. He left his watch in his room. Which I kept for him on the chance I was going over to the UK office. Which I did at that time once or twice a year. But it was a kind of, “Cheers it’s been fun, have a nice life!” after he went. I missed him though. I went to Berlin on a jolly with the Dove, and we texted each other. We kept in touch over the next few months on and off.
June 2009: I went to London and Istanbul for work. He said I should stay, I wasn’t so sure. Didn’t want to get attached or anything, but agreed I’d stay for a night at his flat in Putney. Return his watch. Which smelled of his aftershave, not that I was smelling it or anything.
He picked me up from the airport and made me dinner at home. We went for a few drinks at a pub on the river, I ended up spilling red wine. Twice.
It was a very fun night.
Once again, I returned home, with an, “OK then, this has been fun again, but hope you have a lovely life.” I was now a woman of international affairdom. I rather liked that.
We kept in touch, now Skyping each other regularly, but again, not really sure what this was or what it was to be. It wasn’t easy trying to separate everything.
August 2009: We decided we should meet. Go on a holiday somewhere. I liked the idea of going somewhere impulsive on holiday, it felt a bit mad and crazy, and hell, why not? Where would we go though? Egypt was an option, as were other places. We settled on Rome.
September 2009: We met in Italy. From the moment I got there until the end of our 6 days, I can safely say it was one of the romantic holidays of my life. Rome is more romantic than Paris. Trust me. We ate the food, drank the wine, did the smooching in public, basically just forgot that the real world existed for that time. Leaving was horrendous. Suddenly I had to just carry on?! Pretend that it was a moment in time (which is what I told myself I’d do) and kind of just continue? It was unbearable leaving each other at the airport.
November 2009: By now we were fully in one of those long distance relationships, involving Skype calls and technological contact. But where to from here? I had been wanting to move for a while (one of the reasons I wanted to work for this company), and had my sights set on London for a long time. But it was still too early. And God knows I didn’t want to move for a man. My career, life, everything had to be well in place for this to happen. That stuff was paramount, first and foremost.
I had to go to Ireland for work next. He also had to work there, so I flew via London and we headed over together with a few others. We took a road trip from Dublin to the west coast, all the way down to Killarney. It was fabulous. I remember thinking in the car, “Shit. What the fuck have we got ourselves into. I am in love with this man. Keep yourself buttoned up, and may he never know.”
That night a bunch of us went out for drinks, and he looked a bit distressed. “What’s up?”
“I’m just, I don’t know. Do you want to be with anyone else?” We had had way too much wine at this point, so were both a bit stressy.
Me: “No, I don’t, you’re great, but what are we really doing here? I mean, this is crazy.”
Him: “Well I am madly in love with you.”
He said that. I am madly in love with you.
“So it turns out, [Big breath] I am madly in love with you too.”
He took me to Oxford for a dirty weekend before I went back home.
More long-distance technological contact ensued. We planned our next meeting point. But it came with angst. Where would this end up? We lived in completely different hemispheres, nevermind countries. We both thought long and hard. I started to look for jobs in London.
December 2009: I went to the UK, this time to spend Christmas with the Brit and his family. Meet his clan, see where he grew up (Hampshire), and get acquainted with his nearest and dearest. By now, I was in the recruitment phase of finding a new job and we had no idea if I’d find something that I would be happy to move into, or if I could even go. I could only try.
January 2010: We went to Mexico together on holiday. Two fabulous weeks of tacos, Caribbean coastline, and hardcore backpacking. We decided to...change our relationship status on Facebook. As ludicrous as that sounds. We didn’t even live in the same place, and din’t even know if we ever would.
I started looking into immigration. A whole other awful affair I won’t get into here. I needed to get a work permit, and it was NOT an easy thing to get.
March 2010: I came over to London for a month. I had applied for a job at the company, but this time in the press/PR department. Something I loved, something I know i could do, and I would work with the media again. It was the perfect job for me. I just had to get a work permit and, well, the job. I worked out of the London office, stayed with the Brit, and did a load of interviews.
At the end of it, we went to France for a week of skiing. While on the trip, I learnt that I’d got the job. It was actually happening. If I could get my work permit, it would mean by June/July I would be working at my company, in a new country, in a better job for me, and be with the man I loved.
We celebrated. A lot.
April 2010: The visa rules changed. I had been waiting for this day since forever. I no longer needed a Masters degree to get my points (it was a points system), I needed a Bachelors. I got my permit. I was going to be moving to London. I wrote about all the change here.
May 2010: We met again, on a work trip, to Paris. It was fabulous as we knew it wasn't long until we'd be together.
June 2010: I started packing up my life in Jozi. The World Cup was in full swing, so the Brit came over for a week to celebrate, be with each other. We went to the bush for a long weekend, where he braaied his first boerewors. Bless. It was amazing to know that this would be the last of our teary, awful goodbyes at the airport. The goodbye at airports was just awful. Now we knew the next airport experience would be when I landed in London. To live.
July 2010: Arrived in a full-swinging British summer. We decided not to move in together straight away. I wanted to find my feet, get settled and actually properly, like, date each other. Go for meals, stay over at each other’s houses for while, and me get to grips with a totally new [really tough] job.
August 2010 - May 2011: It wasn’t easy, I shalt not lie. I am really independent. Sometimes to my detriment. The Brit and I had to get used to each other. Our cultures, our lives, me completely shell-shocked with the London rat race. Luckily Poen, one of my best mates, still lived here at the time. But it was hard, we suffered a lot of ups and downs. No matter what though, we seemed to get through everything. The Brit had to learn all my South Africanisms and I had to learn to fit in with his life too. He bought me two guinea pigs for Christmas - Wayne and Dwayne are still a big part of our household.
May 2011: After looking for houses together for a few months, we found our first home. Terribly exciting - we both moved in, bought furniture, painted it, it was ours and we were together.
Again, it took a while to learn to live with someone again. I’d lived in my own flat in Joburg for two years. Our place was small, but it was ours,
May 2011- until now: We've built a little life together. The Brit did a lot of trips with me, as I still just wanted to explore much of [some places many Brits don’t want to go] Europe, to be fair. We went to Vietnam and backpacked from north to south. We travelled a lot together; and it was always good. We went to our first four day festival together and glammed out in the mud listening to beats, and while we lead pretty hectic lives, throughout it all, there’s been no doubt in my mind that this is man is just perfect for me.
In May 2012, we planned to go to Japan in September. Huge bucket list trip for us, and to top it off, we got engaged. Cue love hearts pulsating from my eyeballs.
And cue lots of organising, gym workouts and saving to bring us to...our wedding in 12 days.
Four years later, April 2012.
He has the biggest heart I’ve ever known in a person. He is so full of love, with such a wonderful sense of humour. I am so lucky. It’s amazing to think how it all started, and how safe and wonderful he makes me feel. I want to be a good wife to him, he truly deserves it.
He is literally the most precious thing in the world to me.