So I thought, seeing a few people have asked, I would share the story of how I met the wonderful man who will be my husband in 40 days.
I moved to London in July 2007, and while I was beyond thrilled to be here, it took a while for me to find my feet. In all honesty, it was a bit of a nightmare at first. Job hunting, flat hunting, having to deal with all sorts of other issues that I really didn't need.....it was an incredibly stressful and frightening time. I don't know how I got through it really, because I was so on edge that I barely ate, slept or thought rationally during that time. There was one moment, I remember clearly, where I was sitting in Hyde Park, crying, thinking about going back to the flat I was dossing in, packing my bags, and getting the first plane back to Australia. I didn't want to do it, but it felt like it was slowly becoming my only option. Nothing seemed to be going my way, at all! But finally, after about a million flat viewings, a successful job interview, some tearful conversations with the few people I felt I could be honest with, and a lot of vodka, everything sorted itself out, as it always does when you're where you're meant to be, and I began to feel so much more at home.
And so I'd been in London for nearly two months, and one of my oldest friends from Australia, who happened to live here and had been my lifeline since arriving, was having a birthday party one Saturday night - in fact, I think it was her third birthday related celebration that week! It was a beautiful, balmy evening, the first day of September, golden and sun-flecked. The party was at a bar in Notting Hill. Well, we'd started at a very expensive and exclusive place in Notting Hill, where the cocktails cost about what I was earning per hour in my job. The Aussie dollar exchange rate at the time was absolutely shite, it made me quiver in my boots. Everyone says not to think about the exchange rate, but I couldn't help it! Even though I was earning the pound, I worked out I'd spent the equivalent of $70AUD on just two drinks (the exchange rate was about 2.7 dollars to 1 pound at the time). Yikes!!
We moved on to a more moderately priced bar a few blocks away, where I sipped the cheapest beer I could find, trying to make it last because I was now going to have to live on pitta bread and cheap Tesco hummous until my next pay day. It was about 10.30pm and I was wondering how much longer I could make my beer last, and then make my excuses.
Tom, in the meantime, was in a flat on the other side of town, with his sister, who had been invited to this birthday bash. He'd come up to London earlier that evening to crash with her that night, as he was starting a new casual job (to earn extra cash) the next day. She lives in a part of London where public transport isn't particularly reliable. He had a car, and so she asked if he would mind driving her to Notting Hill to the party, and if so, he should come along as well, you never know, he might meet someone nice......Tom wasn't keen, as he'd been as lucky as I had in the romantic stakes, ie: not at all! But his sister wasn't going to take no for an answer and he was eventually coerced into putting on another shirt and a splash of Gucci cologne, and driving her to the party.
After finally getting a parking spot about 3 blocks away from the bar, Tom and his sister walked up and attempted to enter the party. There was a bouncer on the front door, and as it was after 10pm it was now £10 each for them to get in. Tom, as mentioned, had come up to London to start a casual weekend job in addition to his full time job, so he didn't exactly have £10 to spare and wasn't impressed! He said a few choice words and then goodnight to his sister, and headed back to the car.
He'd gone about a block when he heard someone running behind him. Convinced he was about to be mugged, he turned around.
It was the bouncer.
"Mate, was it the birthday party you were coming for?" he asked.
Tom said yes, but he wasn't paying £10 to get in, forget it!
The bouncer gestured back to the bar. "No, don't worry, I'll let you in for free."
And so Tom, a bit taken aback, went back to the bar, and headed downstairs to the party.
At this point in time, I had said my goodbyes to the birthday girl and was literally about to leave. She pointed out Tom's sister, who I had met once before, so I went over to say a quick hello before heading off. I think I'd only said a few words to her when I noticed a very handsome dark haired guy walk over to her (Tom, of course!). She introduced us, we started talking and I knew within a few minutes that my plan of leaving early had gone out the window.
It's hard to explain, but while there definitely were fireworks (!) it didn't feel like a romantic thing at first. It was fascinating, learning all these things about this new person I'd just met, but we chatted so easily it felt like we were old friends. Tom really is the most jolly person, it is impossible not to like him. And I thought he had a wonderful smile, and when he laughed his whole face lit up. I remember us having the most amazing conversation, where it was like everything and everyone else in the room was blurred or on mute. I was just so absorbed in him. I was just being myself, he was just being himself. There were no games, no smoke screens - we weren't trying to impress each other at all. We talked about literature, theatre, travelling, writing - all mutual interests, as it turned out! I bought him a drink when he confessed he was skint and that was the whole reason he was up in London, something he later felt embarrassed about as he felt he should have been more of a gentleman and bought me a drink! But as he told me later, he'd bought more than his fair share of drinks for girls he'd met in bars in his time, who had eventually lost interest and walked away, so he had no reason to believe I would be any different.
Before I knew it, it was nearly 1am and we'd been talking for about two and a half hours! I had no idea how to get home, as the trains were now finished for the night, and I was only familiar with tube routes! Tom offered to give me a lift home, as a thank you for me buying him a drink, and so we left the party to a few raised eyebrows from my friend and Tom's sister (!), and drove through the centre of London, talking all the way, where he showed me parts that I hadn’t seen before at night, like Sloane Square and Chelsea Bridge, and finally we ended up back at my house in Clapham – after nearly two hours, as we got a bit lost! I couldn't give him directions, because I had only been living in the house for two weeks!
I just remember thinking, I can't remember the last time I enjoyed talking to someone so much......I wished I could have stayed out with him all night, I didn’t want the conversation to end! How could it be possible that we'd only met that night, it felt like we'd known each other for years. I was quite disappointed when we eventually found my house. But we swapped numbers and said we should catch up again sometime, but I had heard that many times and so was determined not to get my hopes up. After a chaste but very charged kiss on the cheek, I went inside and into my room, smiling, and thought "what a great guy. I'll probably never see him again, but what a great guy."
But the next day he texted me, and that was when the butterflies and dreamy smiles started! I stalked him a bit on Facebook, looking through the photos of him and saving some of the ones I liked on my computer so I could just look at them whenever I wanted (turned out he had done the same thing with photos of me!!). We sent each other excerpts from our writing projects, and talked every day either via email or text until we finally met up again that Saturday for dinner…which was the best date I've ever had. Tom recreated it when he proposed last November :)
The whole thing was so unexpected, as I had finally decided, for the first time since becoming single, to just enjoy life and concentrate on me. But, looking back, I think the timing was perfect. And, as crazy as this sounds, I think I’ve loved him from that very first night.
I love telling the story of how we met. Everyone exclaims over the amazing coincidental-ness of it all, and we just smile at each other, because it truly was the last thing either of us expected, given what we had both been through in the years before. Most of all, our story reminds me of the magical connectedness of things. Our story is no more extraordinary than the millions of other true stories about a chain of events that concludes with meeting the love of your life, but to us it is extraordinary....because we might never have met otherwise! I've always been fascinated with the "what if..." factor in people's lives and how those lives might have turned out had one fork in the road been taken rather than the other. I'm reminded of that wonderful line by (who else) TS Eliot - "In a minute there is time/For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse." Imagine, if I hadn't gone to the party at all, or Tom had stayed home alone in his sister's flat? Imagine if the bouncer hadn't run after him? Imagine if I had left when I was planning to, instead of hanging around just a few minutes longer? You could never have planned it. And yet, in the impeccable timing of those few precious minutes, there were the seeds of a new life.
And that's why we're getting married on September 1st this year - because it's three years to the day that it all happened, a day that could have been like any other were it not for the magical twists of fate that led us to each other.
And that giant cliché is so true - stop looking, for that is when love will find you.