Mary and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary on the 2nd of August this year.
I first encountered Mary late on an autumnal Friday afternoon in the library of the Royal College of Music. Mary and I were the only two people in the Donaldson Room, a study area with large oak desks, and she happened to be sat opposite me. I think there was an immediate attraction because we kept surreptitiously looking at each other. When I idly chewed my pen to try to hide that I was really checking her out, she caught my eye and smiled at me. I involuntarily bit down on my pen in panicked shyness (I'd been found out!) and split the pen lid while also chipping the corner of my front tooth. I soon fled in embarrassment. Later, I felt the roughness where my tooth had chipped and reflected that it would be a permanent reminder of that pretty girl in the library. For the rest of my life, when I felt the roughness on my tooth, I'd ask myself "I wonder who she was?".
It didn't take long for me to find out.
The following Wednesday, just after lunch, (yes, I have all the dates, times and places recorded in my diary of the time) I returned to the Donaldson Room with a buddy only to find Mary sat at a desk with her friend and fellow cellist, Ellen. I sat down at the opposite end of their table (realising I'd found the pretty girl again) and soon found they were not working on an academic assignment, but goofing around playing the game of hang man.
Mary had a unique tactic... whereas most people do something sensible like start with the vowels or other common letters (to help figure out the skeleton or shape of the word), Mary used the least expected letters. She started games with "X", followed by "Q", then "W" or "Z".
I found this hilarious and, after watching her play for a few minutes, couldn't resist to interrupt and say,
"You really have no idea how to play hang man, do you?"
"Oh yes I do. I'm just choosing to play it like this", was her mock-offended response.
We struck up a conversation, our friends (bored of our flirting) soon left us in peace and we spent the afternoon chatting. We talked about all sorts: science, philosophy, plants, gardens, music, books and many other things. All too soon Mary noticed the time ~ it was 5pm and we had spent three hours in deep joyful conversation. Time just flew by, but Mary was late for a rehearsal.
I'll never forget how we parted.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to go to my rehearsal," she said, "but I'd much rather be talking with you."
That was it.
Over the following weeks and months we got to know each other, talked a LOT and eventually shared our true feelings for each other in the spring. It didn't take much longer for us both to realise we'd found our life-long soulmate and by the end of the year we were announcing our engagement. A couple of years later, only a few weeks after Mary graduated from the RCM, we were married. She was 22, I was 23 and we've been an "us" ever since.
Meeting Mary was the most important moment in my life. Living life's journey with Mary has been my life's greatest privilege and full of wonderful moments - the most important highlights being the arrival and growth of our three beautiful children, Penelope, Sam and William.
To celebrate 25 years of sharing our journey through life together, Mary and I have decided to make another (symbolic) journey together. We're going to walk over 170 miles, during the Easter holidays, along Offa's Dyke, a 1300 year old earthwork barrier created by Offa, king of the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. Nobody knows why the dyke was built, but the modern Welsh/English border roughly follows its path and it passes through some of the most beautiful parts of Wales and England.
We'll start in the south and walk an average of 15 miles a day, staying in bed-and-breakfasts or hotels along the way. It being April we expect fresh showers, but hope for sun to encourage spring flowers.
We're not the first to have had the idea of an April journey:
Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur
Of which vertú engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye,
So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.
We expect our adventure to take us 12 days.
Over the coming weekends we'll spend our time training by rambling similar daily distances in the rolling Northamptonshire countryside that surrounds Towcester. We'll also blog each day of the journey as a memento of our progress - we both suspect our adventure along Offa's Dyke will be something we'll want to remember.
If you're at a loose end in the weekends before Easter, get in touch, come visit and share a walk with us as we prepare... we forgot to mention there are many wonderful pubs on our local rambles, and we'd love to share their hospitality with any of our friends who happen to be passing by.
Happy new year for 2022 and here's hoping you find fulfilment and flourish over the coming 12 months.