Sunday was the fifth anniversary of the day the Prof and I became a couple. These photos are the first we ever saw of each other, on a dating website.
Both of us led busy, active lives, though quite different ones. I had been single for years and so had he, though not as many as me. I had dated a little on and off over the years, but mostly didn't bother. In fact for many of those years I barely went out socially. I was a single parent and spare money was mostly non-existent. Added to the mix was the fact that when my son was eleven he left school to be educated at home, so life was busy and there wasn't much spare money for me to have a social life of my own. Even when I went back to work, there was barely enough money to cover the bills, so I didn't go out very much. Meanwhile, The Prof had an active social life. He was in the fifth year of his part time BA in History, as well as working full time. In his spare time he did a lot of historical re-enactment and belonged to an art group, as well as having lots of friends, but he had never met that special someone.
A friend of mine persuaded me to join a dating site. This site was unique in that your profile had to be written by a friend, not by yourself. I remember being quite flattered by what my friend Darren said about me, though I wasn't sure what to make about his 'Debbie is as scatty as a box of coathangers' comment. I'm still thinking about that one.
It was his photograph that made me contact him. He looked kind, funny, open, honest, all those things I now know he is. Despite the fact that his profile said he was into historical re-enactment and architecture and that he wanted to meet somebody creative, I sent him a message. I was completely uninterested in the first two and quite alarmed by the last! I spent the first few weeks of our relationship worried that he would find out I wasn't creative. Of course, he says I am and I will (now, after trying a few things and forgetting to be so hard on myself) concede that I might be, a little bit. He says that as soon as he saw my photo he knew he was going to like me.
We sent each other messages through the website for a while, then exchanged email addresses and eventually telephone numbers. Several emails went back and forth, we both had a similar sense of humour and I know I looked forward to his replies very much. There was an alarming few days when I didn't hear from him, until he realised he had got my email address slightly wrong and had been emailing me and thinking I wasn't replying to him. We used to text back and forth a lot too, I remember I would always get a text from him as I was waiting at the bus stop at 7.30 am to go to work and used to think it so sweet that he was thinking of me first thing in the morning. We became quite good friends before we even met.
After a few weeks we arranged to meet, locally to me as I don't drive. I chose a local pub and we met at 6pm, knowing it would be quiet, one Sunday evening at the end of May 2008. We spent four hours together that evening and got on extremely well. We agreed to meet up again, but during the next couple of months events conspired to keep us apart. Both of us were ill, various things came up, but eventually we saw each other again in July, and after another couple of evenings together, we were an item.
The five years since have been interesting, to say the least. In those five years the Prof has had a cochlear implant operation, redundancy followed by 16 months unemployment, two graduations (BA History with honours, MA Medieval History with merit), five days in hospital with septicaemia following a wisdom tooth extraction. I've had two bouts of severe anaemia, years of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a diagnosis of arthritis, I've sent my son happily off to University only to have him come home again a few months later less happily.
We've had several lovely short breaks away. We've had too many times when there was too much month at the end of the money. We've spent many a contented hour driving through the countryside of Essex and Kent and many more contented hours just sitting together at home. A hundred cafés have seen us doing the Telegraph general knowledge crossword and we live in hope that one day we might have enough general knowledge between us to finish one.
We had a wonderful Humanist wedding ceremony that we wrote ourselves and I still mean every word.
We have a wonderful life, he's a wonderful man and it's been a wonderful five years.
Happy Anniversary, Philip. I love you.