Let me take you back.
Back to our holiday, in fact. We spent a lovely ten days in Fuerteventura with only one major blow out argument that left us not speaking to each other for a few hours, which proved difficult to sustain because, despite our stubbornness, we had two little ones who needed looking after. Once we returned home, I brought up that fact that during those ten days, barely a cross word was said, which in itself was a small miracle.
“We’ve been together ten years next year,” I said. “Don’t you think it’s about time we got married?
“Yes,” he said, with his usual ‘I’m not being serious’ glint in his eye.
And that was all I needed. I ran with it. In fact, I ran straight to our local Reverend with it.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Woah! Woah! Woah! Calm down! He agreed to get married and the next day you found yourself seated on the sofa in the Reverend’s house?
Well…yes, but no, but actually, yes, but it’s not like what you’re thinking. Honest. We had also recently been talking about having our son christened, so when I called the Reverend about a christening, I just thought I could kill two birds with one stone.
So, there I was. Sitting on my own with the Reverend asking about christenings and wedding dates.
“My partner couldn’t come,” I explained. “He’s looking after our children.”
I could see what he was thinking: not only is this lady a mad woman booking a wedding on her own, but she’s living in sin as well.
He wasn’t thinking that at all. In fact, he simply opened his diary, grabbed his pencil and asked me what date I wanted from January 2017.
“Erm, I can’t book anything now,” I needed to stall. “I can’t book anything without my partner being here because
he would kill me we haven’t discussed it at length ourselves yet.”
The smile left his mouth as he asked me if I was the local cat lady he had heard about who had been seen wondering around local churches booking phantom weddings…Actually, he explained me to me that the church only held approximately twelve weddings a year so I should be able to get what date I wanted.
That was not what I expected to hear.
It was suddenly becoming real; I was finally going to be a bride. For almost ten years, I have felt that my relationship has not been as strong, solid and genuine as my friends’ relationships because we have never said ‘I do.’ I thanked the Reverend and told him that I would call him again in a few days to book something.
I never did call. And I still haven’t.
When I returned home, I explained what had happened to Teaching Dad. He wasn’t mad at me. However, he told me that if this were to happen, then he wanted to buy me an engagement ring first. A lovely gesture that I saw as a huge ‘STOP’ sign because within the week, we returned to teaching, to dropping our children off at various places on a morning, to ballet classes, to swimming lessons, to food shopping, to cleaning, to marking and to real life really – a world away from being a bride walking down an aisle.
Then October half term hit and it was on…again.
“Let’s go into Leeds and go shopping for engagement rings,” I suggested on that first weekend of the half term.
“No,” he plainly refused.
Not one to be defeated, I called up the one person I know who would not turn down a shopping trip.
“Muuuuum! Will you come into Leeds with me?”
Seconds later, I smelt the distinctive smell of burnt rubber and then the door bell rung and there she was. So, off I went into Leeds with my mum to look for engagement rings. How romantic. First stop was the new John Lewis where we looked at some rings and because I was squirming in my own awkwardness and because it was clear from my Weetabix stained outfit that I couldn’t really afford one of these rings, my mum asked the assistant if she could try on a few. As the assistant was taking aim with the ring towards my mum’s finger, she grabbed my hand and thrust it towards the woman. And there it was: an engagement ring on my finger. It was lovely.
But, it looked weird.
It felt weird.
I felt that we were going all about this the wrong way. We left the shop and Mummy Dearest and I wandered off to another – a beautiful little jewellers called Argent. When we opened the door, a flicker of recognition flashed in the owners’ eyes.
“Ah, hello again,” she greeted my mum by her actual name! “How can I help you today?”
My mum explained that this time, for once, she was not the one buying the jewellery despite trying on three rings, a pair of earrings and plumping for buying my daughter a £25 necklace for her birthday. As this was going on, I was quietly trying on rings by the counter and feeling a little lost.
Next stop was Goldsmiths. Now, this was not my first choice. I wanted bespoke. I wanted it to be unique. I wanted extraordinary. (Cough splutter ahem BRAT!) Therefore, reluctantly, I walked in. The woman behind the counter looked confused by our browsing of the engagement rings.
“Can I help?” she asked, not knowing which one of us to address.
“We are looking for engagement rings,” my mum said.
“What style have you both been discussing?”
“I’m her mum, not her partner!” my mum explained.
The assistant eyed me closely. “Does your partner know, or is this a hint?” she asked. “Or are you some crazy cat lady who shouldn’t be allowed within three feet of an engagement ring” (Okay, so maybe she didn’t say the last bit, but she did ask me if my other half was aware of the choosing of one’s own ring.)
“Of course he knows!” I said incredulous, while at the same time hiding my cat key ring behind my back…
But, within minutes, I had found it. Well, I had found two actually and we ordered them both in the sizes closest to my ring size (there were only a few left in the country – see I told you I wanted unique.)
Next mission: Get Teaching Dad into Leeds.
A few weeks passed and it was a cold, dark Thursday evening. I had taught five back to back lessons followed by a Year 11 revision booster. The thought of me getting my sparkling ring was the only brightness in an otherwise dull day. The grandparents were looking after the children and Teaching Dad and I had colluded to meet outside Zara in Leeds City Centre.
Standing in the warmth of the entrance of the shop, I glanced around for my knight in a shining blue PE kit. Five minutes passed and I couldn’t see him. Suddenly, there he was, in his shorts, walking towards me.
“Where have you been?” he asked, frustrated.
“Standing underneath this massive ‘Zara’ sign,” I said.
“Zara’s over there,” he pointed towards a smaller shop across the road.
“That’s Zara Home!” I said. “That’s not the proper Zara.”
“It says Zara on it!”
Like I said earlier: only one argument on holiday was a small miracle.
Once we were finally in Goldsmiths, I tried on the two rings I liked. I ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ while Teaching Dad played ‘Angry Birds Pop’ on his phone and after fifteen minutes or so (because I was reminded every minute that a minute had gone by) my decision was made. Teaching Dad paid for the ring, but it still wasn’t in my possession as it had to be resized.
“Let’s go to to ‘Five Guys’ to celebrate,” he suggested.
Twenty five pounds and two burgers later, we swore never to go to Five Guys again. See, it’s mutual decisions like this that make me know that we will be together forever.
Last Saturday, the 19th November, three months after the initial ‘let’s get married’, we finally drove into Leeds to collect my ring. In my mind, all four of us would leisurely stroll around Leeds, call into the shop to collect the ring and then go for lunch with champagne afterwards. In reality, Teaching Dad jumped out of the car and I drove around the Leeds City Centre Loop with the kids in the back of the car so that we wouldn’t have to pay for parking. After driving past the bus station three times, I finally saw Teaching Dad standing outside Queen’s Court on Lower Briggate. I pulled the car up, jumped out, he shoved a yellow Goldsmiths’ bag in my hands, he took the driver’s seat and off we drove to The Roundhay Fox pub.
“Let’s have a look,” he said as we parked up.
I handed him the box.
“Put it on then,” he said.
“You’re putting on my my finger,” I explained.
Rolling his eyes, he put out his hand and lifted out the most beautiful, sparkling ring.
“Will you marry me…chubbs?”
He placed the ring on my finger to where it got stuck at the knuckle; I finished the job myself.
We then went for lunch, had a Peroni (which I actually like a million times more than champagne) and then took the children to a very wet Tropical World.
It may have not been the most romantic proposal in the world, but it was mine.
And, I had waited nine years for it.