When I first saw him, I had been out of a nasty, violent relationship for a few months and had decided I was never going near a man again. I had tons of baggage, tons of issues and tons of hurting.
He was totally the opposite to ‘my type’; he had a blonde, shoulder length mane of hair and twinkly blue eyes..and great calf muscles from climbing.
I got chatting to him at a gig at the dog and partridge. Nothing special, not much flirting then after a stop off at our mutual friends’ house he offered to walk me home. Now the thing about him is he is very literal. The walk home was not loaded with parallel meaning. It was just walking me home. On the way he pointed out the milky way, I was at this point fairly smitten. He, was thinking about a climbing trip he was going on the next day. I invited him in for a coffee, he declined. I felt a bit stupid. I resigned myself to there being no interest on his part and carried on with life.
Behind the scenes, two mutual friends of ours, Helen and Paul, were doing their best to matchmake us. They made sure that phone numbers were exchanged and we were both aware that one of us needed to ring the other. None of that social media and mobile phones shenanigans in the 90’s.
One day, my friend Helen C.( a different Helen!) and I were leaving the gym when I had what I can only describe as a Disney film moment. We were going down the stairs and HE was coming up. The sun was shining through the window and hit his cascade of blonde curls and the blue of his eyes and I turned to my friend and said:
I’m going to have his babies
Back in the real world however, we made chit-chat pleasantries and went on our way.
I believe at least a month passed before I got the message that he had rung and so I gathered myself together and dialled his number. When he answered I invited him to the pub for a drink and he accepted my invitation in his usual non-committal manner.
I did of course decide to take my sister and her then boyfriend as chaperones incase it all went horribly wrong. It didn’t and they left. We drank cider and I smoked Marlboro and we chatted til closing time. He offered to walk me home again and I was a little uncertain what he meant by that after the last epic rejection on my doorstep. This time however he agreed to come in for a cup of tea and we continued our conversation. This is where it all got a bit weird:
When I was younger and HAD to visit my father in London, he lived in Bow in Tredegar Square with my stepmother, in a tall house full of pianos and empty of emotion. They are Jazz musicians apparently. Anyway over the other side of the square lived two doctors; Jim and Susan and their children Luke, Oliver, Sophie and…..WILLIAM. In fact they were quite good friends and visited each other for dinner and drinks and stuff. In the middle of the square was a little park with a playground where WE would all play together. Yup, it turned out that Will and I had known each other as children years and years before he moved to Sheffield to do an Art degree. Once when I was really poorly I vaguely remember his dad, Doctor Hardiman, coming over to take my temperature and prescribe aspirins and bed rest.
Equipped with this weirdness I was even more certain that we were destined to be together. It was absolutely fate. However my father had since told his parents that I was a reprobate so I had a lot of redeeming myself to do. I wasn’t a reprobate but I was a rebel and the majority of reasoning for that was my father anyway so I was totally excused.
After this revelation we spent 3 solid days together, talking, sleeping and a tentative brush of each others hands. Absolutely nothing else. I had never experienced anything like this before and I know how cheesy this sounds but I knew he was..
But crikey did he resist, it was like trapping and ensnaring a giraffe with commitment issues. The next couple of months were blissful and we spent all our spare time together but he would make no sign of how he really felt. He was scared of having a girlfriend and just wanted climb rocks. He was also slightly hung up on his ex who cheated on him and had a shaved head. It came to a head one day when we were out for a walk and I made him decide. I was impatient with digging for declarations and I told him I was in love and if he wasn’t then he needed to get over himself and say so as after all I had been through I was looking for 100%, full on, glorious, Technicolor devotion. I can’t actually remember what he said but it must have been positive because then he moved in. Then he moved out. Then he decided to go to Chamonix for 3 weeks to climb mountains. I meanwhile was going to Italy for a few weeks to work a youth camp in the Gran Paradiso mountain range.
I literally felt like my heart was breaking as I sobbed in the toilets of the National Express Station. As he had got on the coach I had given him an envelope with a wooden dolphin and a letter laying my feelings barer and vulnerable.
I went back to student life and my job putting the jam in doughnuts at Fletcher’s bakery. I wrote to him via a collection point at a Chamonix post office. Pages and pages of feelings and I slept in his big wooly jumper every night. I really, REALLY had it bad.
I went off to Italy and had an amazing adventure with a bunch of gorgeous people. Now he had said he would come and see me, but I had taken it as a joke, but one morning as we were all having breakfast in a big tent a round of applause began and there standing in the doorway with a huge rucksack was him. It was the most amazing, romantic gesture I have ever know, He head literally walked over the alps to come and see me and had slept in a cave overnight and eaten measly rations. We had the most wonderful few days together eating ice cream by the lake and spending nights in our sleeping bags by the big rock under the magnificent starry sky. When he left I felt more assured that he felt the same way and he said he would meet me off the train when I got back to London. I didn’t really think he would, plus I had used the mountain air as a reason to stop smoking so was fairly preoccupied, and we spent the journey applying aftersun, sleeping and eating Heinz chocolate puddings straight out of the tin. When I arrived at Kings Cross he was there. All clean and scrubbed and gorgeous and we underplayed our mutual joy at the reunion and made our way back to his parents house. We had a lovely few days just eating food and having baths and all the stuff we had missed over the last weeks and then came back to Sheffield and he moved in again.
We have had some great adventures. I have done things with him that I never would have imagined I was capable of, abseiled, climbed a mountain, spent 3 weeks walking the GR20 Corsican mountain range. He is not romantic as such, for my birthday when we got together he gave me an avacado, but because of him I have seen things I never would have had he not shown me, our first proper date was on Ilkley Moor and he brought cheese sandwiches he had made for me. After the 5 years of abuse and fear I had felt in my past relationship it was as if he had been sent to me, a beautiful gentle soul, to restore my faith. My ex had pulled a favourite necklace of mine from my neck and I had to crawl on the floor collecting all the beads into a matchbox. A beautiful metaphor for me when Will painstakingly rethreaded it. Now before you reach for the symbolic sick bucket, it has by no means been a bed of roses. We have had many testing times. We are totally opposite of each other in many ways and actually share very few interests. My love of garish soft furnishings and his need for stark minimalism often clash.
I proposed to him many times and then one day, we were having breakfast in a cafe with our 6 month old baby Lily, I said I wanted to get married so we could all have the same name. I hadn’t had that as a kid and I wanted us to be a ‘proper’ little unit, and to my suprise he agreed. It was a bonkers wedding and very hectic. God know,what I was wearing, we had a suitably unromantic ceremony in ‘The eggbox’ registery office but it was crammed with relatives and friends. Will had a hip flask full of alcohol and I was breastfeeding so while he was inebriated I was stone cold sober and making cups of tea for our guests at the party in our house. We never had a honeymoon but we did have another baby a year later. He was at both births and was outstanding and they were the only occassions I have seen him cry. I cry all the time. He is practical, methodical and frugal, but in a good way. Our opposites work together.
I am not easy to be with. I have more issues than I can handle but he stands on the sidelines giving advice, offering hugs when I need them and he is my best friend. We have had massively testing times over the last couple of years and on occassion have reached the brink, but we always come back down.
Long term relationships take a crap load of work and compromise. He is a brilliant dad and that is so important to me. I went back to work when my baby girl was 6 weeks old and he was a stay at home dad, devoted and besotted. Later structuring days round walks in the park and making castles out of big cardboard boxes. The difficulties we have had with our son and the system which constantly lets him down makes us pull together and try to take it on. When I lose my ability to fight anymore he ensures he doesn’t. Secretly I am sure he takes credit for our daughters academic ability to his reading her poetry when she was a baby.
I could write more but for now this is it as want to email this as a kind of blog birthday card, so Happy Birthday Will, Love you to the moon and backxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx