Thursday, August 15, 2013

275 Days: He asked. I said Yes :)

I moved to Leicester 18 months ago to be with Jim while he studied for his Phd for 3 years. Some people thought I was a little bit crazy - I didn't have a job to move to and had only been to Leicester for short family visits, but in my mind not moving wasn't an option.

A couple of months after I moved I was due to be volunteering with a local arts organisation, so got out of bed extra early to fit in a Couch to 5K run, only to return home to a text message saying they didn't need me.

Jim took the day off Uni and I suggested we go into town as I needed to pick up some birthday cards for my parents. I guess I did have weddings/marriage on my mind as it was the 28th February and a few of my friends had joked that morning I should propose to Jim the next day as the leap year tradition dictated I was 'allowed'.  Also two of our best friends Paul & Jen had gotten engaged a few weeks earlier  

On the way in and half in jest, I tried to drag him to a jeweller shop window to look at engagement rings. Jim quite firmly told me to wise up and continued walking. I felt pretty embarassed and internally vowed not to mention it again.

We picked some cards, wrote and posted them then Jim said he had to drop bike lights back to his friend Neil. I said I would go with him, but he reminded me that on his bike he could nip out and be back at our house quicker if he went alone. I felt very strange, like he was not being completely truthful, and I didn't want to go home without him, so suggested I'd grab a coffee, have a browse in Topshop and he could meet me back in town.

A while later he returned, 'bike lights delivered' and we headed home. We still had most of the day ahead of us so Jim suggested a trip to Bradgate Park. Bradgate Park is gorgeous but it was a pretty grey day, I'd been for a run already and I just fancied snuggling up on the sofa with a book and some tea but was persuaded when Jim promised me juice and flapjacks and that he'd let me take some pictures of him where he wasn't pulling a face.

So off we went. I managed not to get lost on the drive there, we parked and began our climb to a stone memorial at the top of the hill. 

We got to see some deer really close up and  sang a bit of Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush as we tramped up the moors.

When we reached the top Jim unpacked our juice and flapjacks and I sat admiring the view.  I'd found a folder of saved text messages on my phone the day previous. They were lovely messages Jim had sent me when he had moved to Leicester and I was back in Northern Ireland considering the move. I told Jim, and he asked me read them to him. Unfortunately that phone, a relatively unreliable Blackberry is now defunct, but the general tone of, and meaning in the messages were exactly what made my move to England so easy, secure in the knowledge that I was moving to be with the person who loved me most in the world.

Jim suggested he take a picture of me on the memorial.

If I'd had any clue I was getting engaged that day I would have selected my outfit a bit more carefully and probably considered applying some make up before we left the house!!

After he'd taken the picture I said I would take one of him, and as he walked back he got down on one knee and said something along the lines of 'Not before you answer a question. Will you do me the honour of becoming my wife.'

I said 'Yes' immediately, no hesitation. I was shaking a little.  I didn't cry but had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I was shocked more than anything.  We sat, Jim with his arm around me, looking out on Bradgate Park for what felt like hours but was probably about 15 minutes. Neither of us had spoken, we both sat there with stupid grins on our faces. I was still holding the box with ring in it, and Jim finally said ' Well? Are you going to try it on?'

It was the most beautiful ring I'd ever seen.  I love it so much and looking back I'm glad Jim chose it for me as I couldn't have picked anything more perfect.
Happy People in a tree

As we drove home I tried not to be distracted by the new sparkles on my finger.  Jim had cleverly already booked dinner in a restaurant that evening, so we got ready to head out.  For the first couple of hours, as we walked around the house on cloud nine with our exciting news still a secret, it was nice that the moment was just between us.  Then the madness began.

Over a glass of champagne (pink, of course) we called our parents and grandparents first to let them know, then contacted our best friends and other family, before putting our phones down and heading out for dinner.

The whole day felt like a dream, I'm still not completely sure half the memories I have are correct!  Over the next few days and weeks we received messages and cards from family and friends.  We knew this was a special occasion for us, but just couldn't have imagined how many other people would be as excited as we were by our news. We'd been together 10 1/2 years at that stage and friends from all different times in our lives got in contact. We are still so touched by how much our engagement meant to other people and how many people wanted to wish us well.

I know we'd be together forever, with or without an engagement ring.  Jim is really the best person I know and I'm well aware I'm the luckiest girl in the world getting to grow old with him at my side.


Monday, August 12, 2013

278 Days : A post from Jim. The day we got engaged...

... was unexpected by most.  But why so?  Amy and I have been together for more than 10 years, are very much in love, and hopelessly committed to one another –  that our friends and family should be in any way surprised might seem odd.  However, those close to us (or me, more specifically) will probably have endured a diatribe or two on the state and religion, and in the institution of marriage we find the toxic entanglement of these two pernicious poisons.  Yes comrades, I’m an anarchist, and in the popular imagination anarchists are far too busy smashing Starbucks windows to even consider getting hitched.  In fact, they’re probably pointing out the historic role of marriage in the sexual division of labour (for the benefit of capital), the indoctrinating role of the family unit (for the benefit of state and church), and the subjugation of half of the world’s population (for the benefit of the bepenised half).  And I wholly concur!  The institution of marriage, like all institutions, is deeply flawed.  So how was it that I ended up on top of a windswept hill on bended knee with a sparkly rock (/small stone)?

(Previously ignorant readers might now understand the surprise of our friends and family.  And our friends and family are probably rolling their eyes at yet another Jim-rant.  Don’t worry, it lightens up – keep reading folks!)

The institution of marriage is horrid.  Fine.  But it would not have been tolerated for so many hundreds of years if it were not based upon some worthy kernel.  I’ve been lucky enough to have some special people show me the real value of companionship, deep mutual understanding, love, and how an expression of commitment bolsters all of that.  (Also, a wedding is a great excuse for a massive fucking party.)  This is the nail on which the institution of marriage hangs all its oppressive baggage.  The trick, as far as I see it, is to liberate the positive attributes of marriage from all the nonsenses that cling to, and eventually choke it.  For helping reveal this to me I thank Emma Goldman, Paul and Jen Michael, and (though she may be surprised to read it) my mum.  Amy has already explained a lot of the details of our wedding planning, and how we’re disposing with the negative aspects of tradition while preserving the most meaningful (and FUN) parts.  For me, put simply, our wedding day is an incredibly personal expression of love and commitment that we want to share with our friends and family – and I’ll be damned if I allow the state or church ANY interference in that.

(If you’ve stuck it out this long, well done.  You can have the gossipy goodness of the actual proposal now.  Hurrah!)

I decided to ask Amy to marry me after I had emigrated across the Irish Sea.  I missed her madly, and (after a month or two) she had shown massive commitment by moving to England to be with me.  2012 was a leap year, so I thought I might d├ętourne convention and propose on the 29th of February (traditionally when women are ‘allowed’ to propose to men) – but the tedious obstructions of work schedules forced me into shifting to the 28th.  Despite having to do some creative ducking-and-diving (which Amy will fill you in on), everything was set-up - ring in hand, restaurant booked, and father-in-law duly noted.  That’s an ostensibly tradition-laden approach, which I probably ought to defend.

  • The ring.   I like the symbolism of the ring – an unbroken band to be worn ‘til death (apart from when kneading dough), though the price-tag was a tough compromise to swallow.  Ouch.  I had picked out the ring at a place called Robinson’s, because Amy’s surname was above the door, obviously.  I’m not much of a jewellery aficionado, but I had an idea of the styles that Amy might like, and in the end there was only one ring that really caught my eye – seems to have done the job!

  • The restaurant.  Any excuse for a good feed really.

  • And the call to the father-in-law?  It may stink of a vestige from the bad old days of wife-as-property, but I intended it as a mark of respect to Amy’s parents.  Fuck-the-law – yes; piss-off-the-in-laws no.  Seriously though, having Neil’s support meant a lot and actually telling someone about my proposal plan made the whole thing seem suddenly very real.

All I had to do was get Amy to a suitably lovely spot, on some false pretence, and go for it.  My two thoughts for question-popping places were: Bradgate Park, a very nice place indeed with some very ancient trees and free-roaming deer; or the top of a quite high slide in a nearby play park.  The logistical difficulties of persuading Amy to the top of a slide made the choice easy....  It was a greyish, cold day, and it took some exuberance to persuade Amy to drive us out there.  We marched up the hill with our cargo of flapjacks, juice, and a concealed diamond ring.  I was quite giddy with nerves, and still not exactly sure how I might ask the question.  Fortunately for me, Amy unearthed some aptly soppy texts I had sent her over the previous few months and read them out to me – probably to check I still meant it!  My gushy proclamations of love set the mood perfectly.  Once we were ensconced on the memorial at the highest point of Bradgate Park, I took my chance.  I readied the ring in my pocket, and stepped back to take a photograph, then whipped out the box, opened it, and said something to the effect of, ‘Would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?’  (Cleverer readers will have deduced this already, but...)  SHE SAID YES!

Organising the wedding day has been really fun, but the part I’m really looking forward to is spending the rest of my life with the person I love most.