10 March 2006

Hay-on-Wye, Town of Books, Town of Love

We met on the internet. It was my mother who suggested I try. I thought she had gone mad. She said, ‘A lot of young women do it nowadays, it seems to be the new way to meet people, you should give it a go.’

Believe it or not, four months later, carrying out my first New Year Resolution of 2003, I was subscribing to datingdirect.com, paying a fee for three months and starting to get obsessed with meeting all these interesting men.

Internet dating – I was the first among my friends to experiment with it, and I was the first to be successful, too. I never looked back. I have not had to go back on the site since meeting the man who turned out to be The One. It is quite incredible. One of my friends made me realise, the day I told her he had proposed, how extraordinary it had all been. She said, ‘I want to have a love story like yours!’ I had never quite appreciated how fantastic my love life had indeed been. We met, we moved in together five months later, we bought a house a year after that, we got engaged six months later, and now we’re getting married! (Don’t know about babies yet – see ‘Motherhood’ post below.)

Monsieur l’Anglais, for lack of a better nickname, loves books as much as I do. However, he reads ten times faster, so although he possesses around 250 books, he has read every single one of them (except for the last six he bought on Sunday), while I have about 600 books (I haven’t actually counted them – I suspect it could well be more) and have only read... 100? If that. This is because I’m a bookshop-aholic. I can’t get into a bookshop without buying at least one book. The dilemma is that I can rarely just buy one book – so in fact, I can’t walk into a bookshop without coming out laden with plastic bags full of books.

It is my only sin, though – am I forgiven? It’s a nice fault to have, I think (except when I panic because I have too many books dying to be read... [see ‘To all writers’ post below]).

So when Monsieur l’Anglais turned up at our first meeting holding a Waterstone’s bag (not full to bursting with books, but it was the easily recognisable black plastic bag nonetheless), I knew things would go well. It was a very good sign.

So what better place to ask me to marry him than Hay-on-Wye, when we went in July last year? We had done a car boot sale in June and had decided to use the profits to go to Hay for a couple of days. My then-friend and now-bridesmaid had told me so many times, ‘You really should go, you would love it!’ – and we were finally going! But I would never have guessed that Hay would become synonymous with (hopefully eternal) love and would mark a new episode in our lives.

On the Saturday evening, we went for a stroll around town after our meal. It was 10.30pm and Monsieur l’Anglais was getting a little anxious (so he told me later) – many bookshops, books, drinks and hours after our arrival, there still had been no perfect moment to propose... until we went through a kissing gate, in a field close to the river Wye. It was there, after a brief bisou, that he popped the question.

I was so shocked that my English got all muddled and for a few seconds I thought he’d meant ‘Will you...’ in the sense of ‘Some day in the future, will you...’. There had been no getting down on one knee, no telltale sign that something like that was coming, so I wasn’t ready in any way for this kind of question. But it then dawned on me that he had actually just asked THE question, silly me – and of course, I said yes. As I did, he produced a ring between his thumb and forefinger, as if out of nowhere. Like a magic ring. It was so sudden that, again, it took me a second or two to fully comprehend that it was a real ring and that he really was asking me to marry him – NOW! Not for the future, not as a joke... but NOW, and with immediate implications! He slipped the ring around my finger, and it was the perfect size. Clever and Opportunistic Monsieur l’Anglais had taken to the jewellery shop the ring I normally wore every day but for some reason had left on my bedside table for the past few days, a ring that only fitted on this symbolic finger (a gift from my parents), and he managed to find a beautiful solitaire that was exactly the same size. I was very impressed with his sneakiness!

Today, we’ve only got four months and a bit to wait before we say ‘I do’. I hope I won’t get my tenses confused again and won’t say ‘I did’ or something daft like that. What’s for sure is: I can’t wait for our big day!

1 comment:

Helen said...

That is beautiful! It brought a tear to my eye.