Kristina & Ilya
KRISTINA: I found that video, and I played it, and I realised that was him.
ILYA: I have to do something really really crazy, to catch her.
KRISTINA: That was, the most romantic thing in my life, and it’s still the most romantic thing in my life.
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. This week, a film-worthy meet-cute that kick started Kristina & Ilya’s relationship. Now living in London, these two met in Estonia.
Just a head’s up, there’s a little swear in this episode.
KRISTINA: My name is Kristina.
ILYA: My name is Ilya, I’m a Software Developer, er my partner is Kristina, so she’s also kinda er UX Designer, Web Developer…
KRISTINA: Er, we’ve been together for 10… oh, oh actually it’s gonna be 11 years errr next month, ummm I can’t properly remember the first time we met, actually because it was at uni and it was my second year, and it was really stressful… and...umm I was actually going through um, a very difficult phase in another relationship [laughs] um so um yeah, I probably didn’t notice when we first met.
ILYA: I can’t forget er the first time I met her, er that was in university, er that was 2007 I believe.
KRISTINA: I just remember like, some flashes when um I’m at uni, at the workshop or something and we share the same desk and I think, oh ‘this guy looks sexy! But concentrate on um statistical analysis Kristina!’ [laughs] um, but I guess first time we ever interacted properly and er had a chat was… um… so I was late for one of the lectures, err as I always was at that time. And er, I was running, and I tried to make as less noise as possible, so of course I fell over. And um my bag opened up and all the stuff I had in my bag, it was spread across the lecture room. Erm, of course everyone looked at me, and um, I was apologising and trying to collect all my stuff [laughs] erm and one guy just handed me my diary over.
ILYA: I helped her to pick up all her stuff, because some stuff er rolling under my table. She looks quite friendly, so er that’s why I didn’t hesitate to start a conversation with her, especially when I er, saw a small ticket of a concert, er that pulled out from her bag. And the thing is that I also attended this concert, that was er concert of one metal band, it’s called Amatory but today they don’t play metal anymore.
KRISTINA: So, I thanked him, and um, he whispered -
ILYA: “Did you attend this concert?”
KRISTINA: And I was like “what? Oh right”, because in my diary I kept all the tickets from all the gigs I was um going to, so, and I said “yeah yeah yeah, I was at that gig last week, right yeah” and like “oh that’s cool I was there too” “yeah cool cool, amazing” err, and after the lecture the guy handed me um a piece of paper and asked me for my MSN address… if anyone remembers that social network! [laughs]
ILYA: So that was the first topic that I, well, we start a conversation about. And er, yeah I understood that we have the same err… we like the same music.
KRISTINA: That night, I added him to my MSN, and I saw his erm avatar picture, and on that picture he had a photo camera, and the name of the band on his hat… exactly the same band that was a week ago. Um, and then something clicked in my head, because exactly a week ago, I was at that gig, and I saw a guy taking photos in front of the stage, and he was dressed exactly as that band, and I thought he’s with the band, because he like, everything was proper merch, with the band name, the hat, and um a t-shirt, and thought ‘that guy looks cool!’ because he was taking pictures and in the meantime he was er headbanging, um, so I took a video of that photographer, and so while I was chatting with Ilya over MSN I found that video, and I played it, and I realised that was him.
And I told him “Sorry to look creepy but, look at this video” and I sent it to him and he was like “oh shit that’s me!” [laughs] I was like “oh, I noticed you a week ago” [laughs]. So yeah, we decided to maybe go on a date next week.
Um...so yeah as I said before I was going through a difficult stage in my previous relationship, um so I was about to break up with that guy but he received a notice to go to the army. Um so I thought ‘I don’t want to be that person, to just dump him before he goes to the army. So, so ‘ok, it’s just eight months… and we’re not going to see each other too often so… I’m gonna wait until he’s back.’ [laughs]. So, erm, so he went to the army in September, and he was about to come back in July, erm and it was March when I met Ilya and went to that gig, so I was already planning my speech… and then I met Ilya and I guess I decided to speed up the break-up process [laughs], uh it sounds awful I know, but yeah I couldn’t… I couldn’t help myself because I already fell in love.
ILYA: I should admit that, that wasn’t like a love from the first sight. Er, she was attractive, she was pretty, but erm, you know I started to talk with her and I understand that she’s a very interesting person. So er, of course later er, when I really understand ‘ok I love this person’ er that was very balanced decision, so er, I really loved not her, er like er, her body, her face, I really love her as a person. And er when I started to speak with her, I understood, ‘ok I would like to be with this person’ because we have the same interests in the life, we have the same attitudes and approaches in this life. And I really wanted to spend some time with her.
KRISTINA: So I guess we met at uni erm almost every day at different courses and just in the meantime between courses we just had a walk around, it was quite warm. It was beginning of April… erm, so we just talked about different subjects and different courseworks and about life in general, just walked around the campus... but I guess the first proper date was er two weeks after we met... He decided to take me out to my favorite place in Tallinn so it's just outside of Tallinn, there is like a folklore museum, um so with wooden houses near the sea, and like, I don't know, like stone constructions around and a stone maze and swings.
So we went there and it was sunset and we were walking around, [sighs] this sounds really cheesy but [laughs] we started to walk inside the maze and... I was the least shy person, so when we met in the middle of the maze, I just decided to kiss him [laughs]. Um, it was quite awkward because at the same time my Dad called me, and what my Dad wanted me to do is to go to the shop after my date and buy toilet paper! Yeah, it's not that you want to say to your date right?
So… er but that's not the end because while we were awkwardly laughing and going back to the car, er, Ilya’s roommate called and asked him to buy toilet paper! [laughs]
So we went to the shop together on our first date... like first time kiss like an hour ago... buying toilet paper and walking out of the shopping mall with er, two packs of toilet paper [laughs.
Um, at the end of May he received a notice from the government to go to the army!
ILYA: In Estonia we’re obligated to go to the army for one year, and I wasn't an exception. And unfortunately, when I was 23 years old, I received [laughs] an invitation to the army and that was mandatory. Yeah, and at the same time, I met Kristina, and I double didn't want to go to the army, so you understand me? Er, but I didn’t have a choice.
KRISTINA: So lucky me! [laughs] Um, so yeah, and unluckily, it wasn’t eight months’ service, it was 12 months’ service, so.. Um, of course I decided that ‘yeah I wanna be with that guy, I'm gonna wait for him’ again.
ILYA: When you communicate with a girl, so you met her ,you know each other for three months, and you start to come on “can you wait for me one year” and of course she's young she's pretty she's attractive person and er, she won't wait for you for this such a long time. So ‘I have to do something really, really crazy to catch her’.
ILYA: So [laughs] I was a student ,I didn't have a lot of money, so I had a temporary work and I earned… a little bit of money and I decided to purchase Apple iPod... and I spent all my money for that, for this Apple iPod.. do you remember that 10 years ago this was iPod with the wheel joystick and 10 years ago that was like the best player ever, with the best music quality and stuff like that... and I also decided to write a song for her. And my plan was er to give the gift of the iPod having only one song song. The song created for her.
Er yeah I remember when I returned back, well we had like a dating, and I returned back to my student hostel... I just picked up my guitar and started just playing, and er you know that was probably only one moment in my life when I had a pure inspiration. You know I can't say that I’m a very talented musician but specifically that time, er that song just appeared from, from me... I can't expect it.
So I didn't wrote this music, this music was created by itself... and er you know, I don't have a musical education, so er, but I know, you have to write down this music because on the next morning when you wake up, you won't remember anything. So what I did I pick up my phone so at that time I didn't have a smartphone, I had a Sony Ericsson... but it has a... like a voice recorder and I played, recorded this music without any words just like a ‘nah nah nah nah nah’. Just to remember this music the next morning. And the whole day, the next whole day I repeated this music and... well I wrote the lyrics again very fast, and I decided to write down so I had a computer… er you should understand what is a student hotel, that is very old building. So if you do something, er the whole floor is listening to you.
So there's not really a problem how to write down the guitar. But how about the singing, how about the vocal? So what I did, I pick up the, just a blanket… I put to myself, and inside this blanket I tried to sing to the microphone, and that is only one solution...how, well [laughs] could afford… and yeah I created this music and I uploaded to this Apple iPod.
The plan was the following: er, one week before I er, go to the army we decided to have together a trip.
KRSTINA: I decided to take him on a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, because my best friend was living there and I really like this city. Erm, and he’d never been to St. Petersburg properly… maybe like as a kid. Erm, so I decided to show him my favorite city at that point of life and erm, drink wine and sit on the rooftop and watch the sunset or something like this.
ILYA: St. Petersburg is very beautiful city and it’s very romantic. So you can just walk in the streets the whole night return by home at seven o'clock and everybody’s so happy. Oh, that is really, really amazing. And my plan was erm somehow to hide this player in our bag... and to move to the flat. So we lived in flats together with our friends. So there were five students all together in one small flat, and er, I wanted to hide somewhere this gift so er, yeah, the biggest problem that I didn't know anything about the flat and I didn't know how to hide this gift. And another problem that we had only one common bag, and I didn't know how to hide this gift in the way that Kristina shouldn't, shouldn't find it. And another problem: that's when you cross the border… er the tall officer should inspect your bag… and if you’re staying together so potentially the officer could open this gift just to inspect what it is... but actually everything was fine and I successfully moved the gift uncovered [laughs] to the flat... and er the whole week I tried to find any secret place where nobody could find the gift beforehand... and actually, well quite embarrassing but, there was under one place... in the toilet.
So in the toilet there was like a shelf, probably no one opened this shelf at all and I hided this gift in the shelf... and yeah, on the D Day we moved to the bus station, just to arrive back to Estonia and Kristina wanted to stay a couple of days more in St. Petersburg. And I secretly wrote a very small note and er... that was quite romantic morning and we decided to, to make this farewell very quick… because otherwise, we both would be crying. And er, we just quickly kissed each other, very quickly, er didn’t say anything to each other.. Just “see ya”, “see ya”, and I just gave this note her, she turned, er she didn’t read it, she just turned and went back to the metro station. Yeah. So I didn't see her reaction.
KRISTINA: When I waved him goodbye, he handed me a letter... And while I was watching erm, him going away, erm, I started to read the letter and apparently he erm, have hidden an iPod, which he bought for me erm somewhere in my friend’s flat and on the iPod he had a song that he has written for me. So I rushed home, I was crying all the way on the tube there, and when I found um, a gift, I locked myself in the bathroom and I was listening to that song... and that was the most romantic thing in my life it's still the most romantic thing in my life.
He was somewhere, there on the road, going to serve the country for 12 months and I'm here listening to his voice, erm a song about me, erm, so yeah I was crying out loud for probably a couple of months after that [laughs].
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and a special thanks to Kristina and Ilya.
Often love stories are in fact, stories of only the start of love, and as we all know, any good tale has an ending. Sadly, since recording this episode
Kristina & Ilya have separated, but they have given me their blessing to share their story, and so I thank you both very much, and wish you the very best.
As always, there’s a brand new piece of art to accompany this episode. This week, a humorous interpretation comes from D L Parker. Head over to equalpartspodcast.co.uk to give it a look, and find links to more of his work.
The website is also the place to go if you’d like to take part in the next season of the podcast. I’m looking for couples, and artists to get involved.
Next time, taking your date to see a play about eggs. I mean, who hasn’t been there?
ELLIE: When Lucy laughs you can hear it… she’s having the time of her life.
LUCY: Thinking about it, the reason I kind of, like, I knew she was very very cool, and I knew we were gonna get on was that this show… 9 times out of 10 a person would have been like “what the… is this?”.
Liam & Jess
JESS: You have to like, wade through quite a lot of like, very posey people who are obviously trying to put their body and their face first.
LIAM: I was already a bit nervous, and I was like, I thought ‘if I’m first here it’ll be ok’ but I was late and I had to like get a sort of dad run on.
JESS: With him I was like “oh my god this could go somewhere”.
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. This week: dating in the digital age, what happens if you approach tinder as a social experiment, well… you might just meet the one.
JESS: I’m Jess, I live in Manchester, originally from Cambridge, er my partner is Liam, and I’m Head of Communications for a small digital design agency in Manchester.
LIAM: My name’s Liam, my partner is Jess and we both live in the Northern Quarter.
We’ve been together for around… a year and…. Three months I’d say… officially. There was a three month period of the dating, the dating period.
JESS: So I, had actually just, not just, like six months’ previous come out of a really long term relationship, erm so I’d been single for a little while, and then, I’d seen obviously all my friends in the world of online dating, and I have to say I was a little bit envious. Because it always looked so fun from the other side! And none of them were like making the most of it.
People would be on it and they’d be like, oh you know, “there’s just no-one good on here, I’m not matching with anyone good” and you’d just think like “it’s because you’re not looking in the right places, either you’re too, er strict on who you think is perfect, or who you’re looking for based on a picture”, obviously that’s just, that is the world of online dating but I think people become quite methodical about it and they just go for the same people, and then, not happy with them. You think “it’s because you’re going for the same people, you have to expand your, I suppose your aim of it”.
It can’t always be about meeting ‘the one’ and looking you know, into the future, it should be about maybe you can just meet friends, you know, you’re obviously on a dating app for a reason, but maybe if you actually take it from that bass level of, maybe I’m just going to meet a nice person, that I can then hang out with, and then take it from there, that’s much more natural than jumping straight into thinking ‘am I going to marry this person’, ‘am I going to have babies?’ etc etc.
LIAM: I think the experiences of Tinder is always sort of hit and miss for everybody isn’t it, it’s just, but I’d say that’s sort of the same thing for all dating, you know it’s hit and miss, it just depends who you meet on it.
JESS: So I was like right dammit, I’m just going to jump straight into it, I’m gonna see what it’s all about, see who I can meet, just about expanding erm you know, where I was at that stage of being in Manchester, and after being in a relationship for so long, you do become quite dependent on someone else and your social circles completely get splintered after that.., so yeah it was an interesting point in my life for me to then meet someone who I connected with so well, erm, after a relatively, yeah, short period of time, which is really exciting.
I was actually on holiday at the time, and me and my friend had gone away for like a long weekend, erm, and we’d been delayed at the airport, and I was like ‘right, this is the time, if any, gonna download it now, see what it’s all about’, erm obviously I was in a foreign country so it was completely skewed everything when I got back as well, erm but it was just interesting, it was an interesting way of meeting people.
I work in a very small company so I don’t have that option… you know a lot of people you work in a business of 150+ people you’re bound to meet someone you know, a friend of a friend, that kind of thing. But I’m working with two people, both in long-term relationships, both of whom’s friends I’ve known already, so it’s like, that pool is not really there. Erm so yeah it was just interesting to see the different kinds of people out there, different you know things that people are doing with their lives, where people are going. Why people are in Manchester, why people aren’t in Manchester, erm, yeah it was just interesting. Bit like a social experiment. To be honest I probably didn’t see it as a dating app at first, probably went into it with quite like a, yeah, psychology mind to it, kind of trying to analyze people a little bit too much, but kind of added to the fun.
LIAM: I was actually a lads’ night out in Liverpool, er with all my mates for a, I think it was someone’s birthday, and I was flicking through and the first picture I came across was Jess like stroking a dog. I just went, ‘right yeah, points for that, you’ve ticked all the boxes there’, straight away looked through her pictures and was like ‘yeah, definitely’.
JESS: I can absolutely picture the pictures he had on it. Erm, and I remember when we matched and, I don’t remember his profile word for word but we had both definitely mentioned The Simpsons. Because I had The Simpsons in my profile, and I’m pretty sure the first thing he sent me was a gif of Ralph Wiggum waving, erm [laughs] very true to my heart.
LIAM: We are like, really big erm Simpsons lovers. Especially like, between seasons 1-10 any quote, that’s it like, we know what we’re talking about. She’ll mention something in passing and I’ll be like [clicks fingers] I know it.
JESS: He just, looked like a genuinely nice person. Obviously on dating apps you have to like, wade through a lot of, epope, holding fish… that seems to be a really big thing on Tinder… yeah you have to like wade through quite a lot of like, very posey people who are obviously trying to put their body and their face first. And obviously, Liam’s very attractive, but, he seemed like he had a personality to it as well, he had pictures of him and his friends, pictures of him and his dog, which obviously is a selling point.
LIAM: When I was a kid erm, we never like had a dog, so my Dad always had like Jack Russells and stuff like that and we were always like pressuring him “please can we get a dog”. We managed to convince him. Soon as we got one, when I was about… 14, I’ve been like in love with them ever since, they’ve always been amazing. But Jess is the flipside, she’s never had a dog.
JESS: I’ve always wanted a dog, like I’ve literally wanted a dog since I could write a letter to santa, it’s always been on my list, always been on my Birthday list.
LIAM: She looks after a dog for one of her friends on a Monday, she takes pictures with them and all sorts.
JESS: I think at that time, I think on my Tinder profile, I probably had a picture of me and three dogs… none of which are mine, all of which belong to friends. And I had to put like a disclaimer on it to say like “none of these dogs belong to me, please don’t match with me if you think I have a dog”.
I think it shows a lot about a person if they like animals, and dogs are just the best to me.
LIAM: It was definitely a big ice-breaker.
JESS: Erm, quite quickly arranged a date in person, which felt, yeah it just felt natural, the way we’d been talking, it was very erm straight in, to being like “how was your day”, just genuinely interested in each other, and...yeah it just kind of then moved onto “let’s get a drink and you know see how things are” there’s no point carrying it on forever online and never meeting up. You have to do it at some point and see whether the spark’s there or not.
LIAM: After a couple of days of texting we met up at The Gas Lamp. I was already a bit nervous and I was like, I thought ‘if I’m first here it’ll be ok’ but I was late, I was running late, so I was like running down the road, but yeah first time I walked through the door I was like ‘oh god’ I was like in a complete and utter fluster.
I completely lost track of time, so I was getting changed at work and er like someone mentioned to me, like “oh have a good, have a nice time” I had to like run to the toilet to get changed and make myself look like, at least presentable. I think I was wearing a dark jumper, and I was wearing my red jacket and black skinny jeans. I can’t remember what she’s wearing… which she’s going to kill me for.
JESS: I don’t remember what he was wearing at all. I was very distracted by his eyes it has to be said, that’s what I was kind of focussed on that whole date.
LIAM: I thought ‘I don’t want to like, I don’t want to get there too late, I’m already 10 minutes late, so I had to like get a sort of dad run on. But by the time I got there I was like, there was like a bead of sweat rolling down, I was like ‘oh my god no’ but… yeah a bit rushed, but hopefully she didn’t notice that about me when I walked in, because I was already looking around the room when I walked in so… I didn’t want to appear the creepy guy who’s sweating and [laughs] but, hopefully not.
JESS: Erm, I remember I was really early, because I thought I was going to be really late, and I remember being in the down- ‘cause you go downstairs, basement bar, back room. And I remember telling my friend that I was gong and she was like “there’s no signal down there, you can’ go, it’s really unsafe”. And I was like “I don’t think it’s unsafe, there’s plenty of people around”. And then I went in and there was no one there and there was no signal, and I was like “oh no’ [laughs].
Erm, and then I ordered a drink, and I sat down and then I felt really guilty because I hadn’t bought him one, but then I panicked about buying him one in case I bought him something he didn’t like, and I was like really flustered by the time he got there and I was like apologising straight away, and he was like “stop” [laughs].
LIAM: So, er she was in the very back rom at Gas Lamp, and I walked in and there was a couple of people already in there, and er she has two phones, like one for work and you know, a personal one, and they were sort of resting on top of each other. And erm, I don’t know if it was from nerves on her part, but she kept like checking them, and I thought “oh my god, I’m completely falling apart in this date, I’ve not kept any interest at all” but I think she was still working, or still on the clock, I thinks he was like, checking like Facebook and stuff, you know like to do with her work so, but I didn’t know that at the time, so I was like “oh my god, I’m terrible, she’s checking both phones, why’s she got both phones, is she some sort of dealer, what’s going on?”.
JESS: I have a work phone and a personal phone, I had both of them on the table, which is really bad manners, and something I completely regret doing on a first date, but it probably did give him quite a good insight into who I am. And I had both of them on the table, and I had to answer work emails at the same time, all that kind of thing. So we obviously talked about that, erm both in jobs that we’re quite passionate about, so that always helps, it wasn’t erm, yeah a case of like “what do you do”, “well I live for the weekend” kind of thing, we’re like, both quite committed.
LIAM: I think we were talking about holidays and stuff.
JESS: Where we’d been, where we’d want to go.
LIAM: We, er bonded over the fact that both of us are terrible flyers.
JESS: He was going away for a few days with a friend, a couple of days after, which I thought was really nice, just spontaneous trip away kind of thing, which I think is something you have to look for, like that spontaneity, and willingness to just travel and be with other people as well, you can’t be someone who depends solely on your partner, you have to have an extended reach of people, and an extended community.
Erm, I brought up, ‘cause Simpsons is something we have in common, erm I brought up this exhibition I’d been to.., one of the things they had to do, one of the activities was you had to draw Milhouse from memory. He’s one of the hardest characters to draw. And I brought it up, like because of just rambling, I didn’t know what else to talk about… so he did it on the back of one of Gaslamp’s menus [laughs] and for like every date for about two months after that, every time we met he drew me a Simpsons character on the back of a menu, which I thought was really cute.
I’d love it if they had it framed, that would be really nice [laughs].
LIAM: I think I walked her home, about… hmm close to midnight, so I was wrecked but I was trying to hide it, erm but she lived in the same, or she lives in the same building that like the guy who sits next me in work lives in, and I was like, that was my first thing, I was like “oh my god, Tim lives here” but I was like ‘shhhh, shut up, be cool man, be cool’ [laughs]. Erm, so erm, but yeah I think once I got home I was like “hope you had a good night”. I think, I think I text that.
JESS: I remember it was the next day. I remember getting it at work. Because I work with two boys as well, so it’s like a very exciting thing to happen and then you can’t really react to it because they won’t care. Well they’ll like care but they won’t really get it at the same level, so you’re like… got the text, and I had to text my friends really subtly being like “oh my god he’s text me, this is really exciting”.
It was one of the first dates as well that I’d been on that actually felt it could go forward. Like, I’d been on a couple, and they were really nice guys, but it just didn’t really feel like it was going to go anywhere, so it’s like ‘yeah, fair enough’ like it’s been an experience, but with him I was like “oh my god this could go somewhere”. I don’t really know how to behave, I don’t really know what the next step is...so yeah, I definitely text my friends and was like, I think it’s like “what is my next step, what’s the next move, who texts who first”, all of that really lame stuff, but yeah it was fun. It’s a fun moment, that first time you like have that experience with someone, or have that spark and start seeing it moving forward.
Because he was going away for a few days afterwards as well, we had to have that time where we couldn’t see each other, which I think was quite good… it meant we were still chatting erm everyday, by text, but you couldn’t have that like, constant face to face interaction, we didn’t like fall into spending all our time together, which I think again is important that you’re not committing to someone that you’ve only known for, you know a few hours on a date kind of thing.
LIAM: She was late for the second date.
JESS: I made him go to erm [laughs, I asked him to go to Salut, which is the wine bar in Manchester, and he doesn’t really drink wine, but I was like “oh I’ll show you, it’s really exciting”.
LIAM: So I was waiting there, and she was like 20 minutes late and I thought “oh my god I’m being stood up… what’s going on?”
JESS: I was really nervous when I first saw him, because I didn’t think he recognised me! [laughs] It was really embarrassing!
LIAM: And she turned up and she was like “I’m sorry, I was looking after a dog”, and I was like “right, you’ve won me over, it’s fine, all forgotten”.
JESS: And that was really nice because obviously he’d been away as well so, he had lots of stories from that which made it a lot easier than just talking about work again, yeah it was like a whole new raft of things to discuss. Yeah, and then we went just like bar hopping across Manchester basically [laughs].
LIAM: She was like “I always felt really bad, you know like I’m really sorry that I was late” and I’m like “I was fine, but I really thought you’d stood me up!”.
JESS: After the second date, he like didn’t text me until 7pm, and I had to text him first. I remember that, because he left me hanging, for ages [laughs] and I’ve told him off quite a lot about it. And yeah, turns out he was just trying to play it cool.
LIAM: The year before, I’d gotten out of a, like, a relationship. So for the like, following few months that I was just like you know keeping it casual. When I met, as much as we really connected I didn’t want to like, rush into it or anything.
JESS: We had a conversation about erm… not going on other dates. We had a conversation about that, about a month, 4-6 weeks after we first started seeing each other. And then about a month after that we were ‘official’.
LIAM: You know we had the conversation of whether we should be ‘Facebook Official’ or not, and er, yeah I think that we put it up, and we had a bet on how many likes we’d get on Facebook, and I think er, I think she won that one actually… I think she won that bet.
I know there’s always sort of like a perceived stigma, about like Tinder and stuff like that, especially with an older generation. So if like my mum says like “oh how did you meet” it would be like that sort of cautious, should I be honest, should I sort of said, but I think I just sort of said it… except to my Nan.
Me Nan’s always got this thing where like, because like my Nan’s like a 1000% more Scouse than I am, erm she does this thing she’s like “how’s your Judy?”, and I’m like “her name’s Jess”, and she’s like “no, I know her name’s Jess but that’s the term - Judy” and I’m like “hmmmm alright”, so erm when
I like tell her, she’s like “how did you meet again?” so I just have to be like “oh yeah, we met in the pub”, that’s literally just like that’s it, there’s no more questions. If I brought up like phones and all sorts you know I’d be spending like another 25 minutes explaining stuff so, it’s just easier to be like “yeah, pub”.
Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and to Jess and Liam.
As you must know by now, each episode of Equal Parts has an accompanying piece of original artwork. Graphic designer Daniel Brown created the piece for Jess & Liam’s story, and you can see it and find links to more of his work at equalpartspodcast.co.uk
Next week, small coincidences and grand gestures.
KRISTINA: That guy looks cool, because he was taking pictures and in the meantime, he was head-banging.
ILYA: I have to do something really really crazy to catch her.
MARIA: Now, I want to ask a little favour of you. Remember Davide & Nick from a few weeks’ ago? A condensed version of their story is up for a competition, and I’d love your support. Please search MyRodeCast, that’s R-O-D-E, MyRodeCast, and vote for Equal Parts, thank you.
Becky & Jay
BECKY: He had like his green Fred Perry on… the glasses, so like I remember noticing that and just being like… ‘you’re hot’.
JAY: We were sitting on the top deck next to each other and you’re sort of sitting there, going ‘I’m not sure what to do here’ do you do the cheesy arm over the shoulder?
BECKY: He actually said, "“please don’t tell anyone this, ever.
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. This week, a noughties retelling of the classic waitress in a cocktail bar scenario, and a mod-tastic customer who keeps coming back, again, and again, and again.
Just a head’s up, this episode contains one mild swear towards the end.
BECKY: My name is Becky Hodges, and my husband is Jay Hodges.
JAY: I’m Jay, and I am now married to Becky, for...coming up to two years this year, so in all that’s about nearly 10 years together.
BECKY: He is honestly the kindest, most generous, thoughtful person ever. He’s not very erm vocal with it, so, I’m, I tell him I love him about 1000 times a day, and expect the same as well, whereas for him, he shows me he loves me through like acts of service, so he will always make me a cup of tea, he you know, looks after me so well, and that’s how he tells me he loves me. He’s cool, he’s still to this day way too cool for me.
JAY: I’ve probably gone from being this sort of shy, fairly removed sort of kid, er head down in my sort of work, very male orientated sort of vibe like ‘I’m a man’ sort of thing, to being a lot more softer, a lot more, hopefully more accomodating, moldable I suppose, to more of a person that someone would want to be with, that’s probably thanks to Becky in that sense.
BECKY: He was a lot more quiet, then, compared to now. I think he’s had no choice but to, if ever he wants to say anything now he just has to jump in, because otherwise he won’t get a chance.
JAY: Er, but I like to think I have influenced her in my own way.
BECKY: He’s made me such a better person… I was a real cow [laughs].
So, I worked in a pub.
JAY: Called The Camden, and erm, not in Camden, and my friends used to frequent it quite a lot.
BECKY: A really old man’s pub, not a cool pub at all. And my friend was the landlord which is how I got the job there, because I’m a terrible barmaid [laughs]. Erm, so I was working in the pub, I think it was just a regular evening or whatever, and this guy walked in, and he was mod-tastic. I actually remember the exact thing that he was wearing the first time I ever saw him.
He had, this really lovely white shirt on, a pencil thin blue Fred Perry tie, with a Fred Perry pin in it as well, really tight suit trousers, way too tight, erm quite pointy shoes, and he had this like, mod, bowl haircut, thick black glasses, erm, and yeah he just walked into the bar and was so out of place it was hilarious. And erm, walked towards me to be served, and my friend who was the landlord, said to me randomly, out of nowhere, “oh you’re gonna marry that guy” and then walked off, and then like left me kind of startled to serve this guy. And so we didn’t have conversation at all, I just served him and that was it. And then… he kind of kept coming in.
So he only ever really came in with two friends who are now really really good friends of mine, but erm, he would come in with Mike after badminton, which is not the sexiest of looks when you’re really trying to like, pick up a chick [laughs] you know, “hey where have you been?”, “er at Badminton with my friend Mike” [laughs]. He literally, he sounded like a 65 year old. Erm, and not the most athletic either. And then his other friend Darren who he would go out with had a long-term girlfriend Louise, who is also a really great friend of mine now, but it was just the three of them, because the pub was situation, erm, just across the road from a train station, so everyone would go there before they were going on their big night out, so I would kind of see them all come in and have loads of fun, then not quite be able to work out what the dynamic was?
Erm, so, yeah I didn’t really know them very well, but yeah I think they were all sort of starting to take the piss out of him, kind of keep coming to the pub that he wanted to see the barmaid at.
JAY: I think they worked it out after a while, because I often spent most of the time at the bar talking to her and leaving them in the corner but er [laughs] yeah I’m sure they’ll er be pleased that they allowed me to do that.
BECKY: And every time he came in I would notice him, and kind of be desperate to talk to him, but not really know what to talk to him about, and we… that kind of went on for a little bit, and er, it turned out that there’s this one evening, we were both, I don’t know, hanging out in the bar and, I remember he had like his green Fred Perry on again with the bowl haircut and the glasses, and actually I think that was the first time that I saw that he had, erm a tattoo, because his arm was out, so like I remember noticing that and just, being like ‘oh my god, yeah, you’re hot’, and he had very tight trousers on back then, which was really helpful because he’s got an amazing arse.
JAY: And then it come to a point I think when we was in there one day and either she’d finished her shift, or, she was with her friend Nancy from memory, and me and my friend were sitting down, and they had one of these digital jukebox things, where you would just mess around with the songs, and I think weirdly enough we both went up at the same time and was gonna choose the same song.
BECKY: We ended up putting the same song on the jukebox, they had this big erm, electronic jukebox, you know that they’ve got in most pubs, and we both selected a song…
JAY: Called I think ‘My Generator’
BECKY: I think it was ‘About Your Dress’
JAY: By The Holloways.
BECKY: By The Maccabees… I think… you might have to fact-check that.
JAY: I haven’t listened to that for a long time, but yeah, and it just happened to be that was the first sort of initial, face-to-face introduction that we had.
BECKY: And erm, we both realised that we’d both put it on and had a bit of a conversation, and it was all like [squeals] ‘oh my god, the only other kind of, cool person here’.
JAY: We spoke with my friends and her friends for a few hours and then we parted ways… errr, and then.. That’s… To be honest I sort of forgot about her in a way, for a bit, er as you do, erm and it happened to be that we was in one of these cheesy clubs that we used to go to when you was younger that, it’s been a long time again since I’ve been somewhere like that.
BECKY: We then ended up in a club, in The Venue in newcross, very classy. On the indie floor, because it was 2007.
JAY: On the upper floor was like the ‘alternative/indie’ floor so we’d always be up there.
BECKY: We just kind of bumped into each other, and it was so serendipitous because I had no intention of being there, I wasn’t with you know my regular group of friends, I don’t really think he was, or if he was then he wasn’t with them, and er he just kind of said “you’re the girl from the pub”, I was like “you’re the guy from the pub”.
JAY: And it seemed like the night flew by, ‘cause we ended up just being at the bar talking for hours, er I think I alienated her friends that she was with for the night, because I took all her time up [laughs] away from them, and it was pretty much, which is quite impressive for me being the shy person I was at the time, sort of went in for the kiss at the end of the night, got in there, thought ‘whey! I’m in’ er and being the desperate person I maybe was at the time, I thought straight away, “when are you available for a date?”.
BECKY: We swapped numbers, and literally had our first date the next day.
JAY: So I even text her and said “are you around the next day to go for a drink?” which actually ended up being the case.
BECKY: I remember everything. It’s ridiculous because Jay probably remembers nothing. But he text me, and I was in my parents’ house, I was painting garden furniture, which is very ‘rock ‘n’ roll, er trying to get over my hangover probably. And he text, and it was in Blackheath, and it was at night, and I remember I wore like a red dress, and it was in The Railway pub in Blackheath and he, er there’s no signal there because it’s a complete dead spot, so I was like, ‘how am I going to find him?’, but of course, like, he was just there.
Straight from work, like looking really smart and dapper because in those days he was really… erm, I was about to say ‘into looking good’ but that’s so not what I mean [laughs], he just had a very different look, he’s a lot more casual now. But erm, yeah suited up and all the rest of it, and the stand-out thing that I remember is that he was drinking Fruli, which is a strawberry beer, which like the Jay that I know now who’s like craft beer fanatic, brews his own beer and all the rest of it, for him to be drinking strawberry beer, I think he’d rather die than do that now. Erm, so yeah I like to remind him of that.
JAY: Erm, I remember I got there first, had a drink, she always took the mick out of me because I think I was drinking that Fruli, like fruit beer at the time, erm, but yeah she was late, I think she was, I always remember her saying her Dad dropped her off, so I’d dread to think what she was telling her Dad, or where she was going, or who she was seeing… it was a Monday night which is really weird, people say that is really weird, but erm, it was quite nice for me because I worked in London so I was coming home, so I was being a bit selfish asking her because I knew she was a student, erm but yeah it was a really nice night.
You just know sometimes when conversation flows so easily, and you’re not umming and ahhing about what to say, it’s just naturally, you’ll talk irrelevant stuff, it could be pointless stuff, it could be anything, but it seems to be that no silent sort of stages which is, which is a big thing I think in couples. You don’t have that lull, that sort of boredom or struggle to sort of create a conversation, and that’s a big thing yeah.
BECKY: We just sat and chatted, and there was - probably because I like to talk and Jay’s a good listener - but there were no dead points, and not at one point did I think ‘oh hope I see this guy again’ I kind of thought ‘I know I will’.
JAY: Took her home, being the gentleman, the person I like to think I am. I always remember because we got the bus back, being the tight days [laughs], I was still only training at that time, in my job. So I remember we got the night bus back and I walked her back to her house, and it was that weird moment, when we were sitting on the top deck next to each other and you’re sort of sitting there, going ‘I’m not sure what to do here’ do I make a move in them cheesy sort of er, you know schoolboy sort of feelings, you’re like, do do the cheesy arm over the shoulder? What do you do?
And we just kept talking really and the bus ride flew along, I bottled it in terms of doing anything. I thought ‘right it’s the first date, I don’t know her that well’… even though we’d already kissed in theory, but we were both drunk in fairness… but er, just wasn’t quite sure how to make that first step, and that was always my problem growing up, you can ask my friends that. And it was just again, walking her to the door and that awkward, “great night, goodbye” type thing and do you go for the kiss, nope no, you just say goodbye and weirdly walk off on your own, so errr [laughs] but yeah you quickly message each other as you walk off saying like “great night, let’s do it again” type thing and then that was the case. Erm, and just got really positive vibes from the first thing.
And then it was just that gradual process of, talking to each other, texting to each other, trying to meet up as much as possible, and I think we actually saw quite a lot of each other in the first few weeks, which is quite common I suppose, but it was always, er my feeling at the time, again going back to this shyness, it was always the next step up, could I pluck the courage to try and go in for a kiss sober? Because I’ve not got the sort of er, the confidence of the beer in me, so er it took me a few weeks to get to that point.
And I’ll always remember I think I left her house one night and I was dropping her off, and she said like “you are allowed to kiss me you know” and that was the first point at which we, sort of went “sod it” might as well go for it, and that was er the point from that point onwards, there was plenty of kissing involved. Enough said on that point [laughs].
BECKY: We dated, like a lot, and actually Jay was probably the first guy that I went out on proper dates with? Erm, you know and Jay’s got a real like, I don’t know what the term is… Champagne thinker, beer drinker? Kind of tastes, so, he really sort of wined and dined me, which was really lovely. He probably racked up loads of credit card bills [laughs].
May 17th is the day that Jay officially asked me out, it was very sweet. He erm played me a Ramones track… called… ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ and I honestly, I think I just died a little bit when he did that, it was the cheesiest thing. He actually said “please don’t tell anyone this, ever” so I’ve really really broken that promise [laughs]. Erm but it was honestly the sweetest thing, yeah it was just, it was gorgeous. So yeah, you can’t really say no after that.
JAY: You should ask Becky about the first time she met my parents.
BECKY: [laughs] Oh my goodness. I’m so embarrassed about this even now, because they will not let it lie [laughs]. Erm so the first time I met Jay’s parents, I was staying… so we’d been going out for quite a bit, and erm, oh god it’s so embarrassing… I was working at the pub still, so it was after a late shift, so I must have finished at like midnight or whatever. And we went back to Jay’s parents’ house because, aforementioned 21 year olds.
And he was turning off the lights and getting some water or whatever it is, and said “just go up to the top of the stairs, and turn left” I was like “ok, cool”, like creeping around the house in the pitch black, and… went upstairs, and, kind of just like crept into this room… and you know when like it’s really dark and you turn the lights on before you actually walk into the room? WelI did that only to be greeted by his two parents bolt upright in bed, because I had walked in on them, in bed. And was like “oh my god, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” and like, backed out of the room and closed the door as quickly as humanly possible… and then was like ‘oh my god’, and had to re-open the door, and walk in and go “I’m really sorry again, I’ll just turn off the light” [laughs] and then exit the room and was just dying. I just wanted to leave, I was like “oh my god I’m so sorry”.
So ended up staying the next, and woke up in the morning and his Mum and Dad were so so gracious, and lovely, and cooked me breakfast, and really welcomed me, and were great. Erm and then they went out shopping, or did whatever they were doing and Jay and I had plans for the day. But his parents have this beautiful roll-top bath. So of course like having a shower, and getting ready for whatever we were doing that day, and we left, and I don’t know, we were out and about.
And Jay got a call, from his Dad. Being like “um, did you guys have showers?” and Jay was like “yeah of course we had showers, like get ready in the morning” and his Dad was just like, “um, I don’t know what’s happened, but I think Becky might have flooded the living room”. I was like “oh my god”.
So it transpires, because I’m quite.. I talk with my hands anyway, but I’m not really used to showering in a roll-top bath, like you had to sit down in it and shower, it’s really awkward, and there’s no shower curtain or anything.
So in the process of me showering, I had managed to get water absolutely everywhere in their bathroom… and not even notice it, because it was down by the sides of like the corner in the bath and all of that sort of thing. And Jay’s Mum and Dad had got home, and noticed that [laughs] on their kitchen floor was a puddle… and they looked up and it was coming through the light. And there were like “oh my god, there’s a burst pipe or something”.
Jay’s Dad had been trying on his new suede shoes that they had been out buying. So he took it upon himself to stand on a chair and take out the lampshade in their kitchen, only to be completely covered, head to toe in water, by the water that I had flooded their bathroom with earlier that morning. So…. [laughs] yeah, I was mortif- I had to buy them flowers, you know, the whole, the whole thing. They were, they were amazing and still really laugh about it, but erm yeah no I wanted to die. I really wanted to die [laughs].
Jay’s mum gave me a plastic glass to use at their house for years because I smashed so many of her glasses, because I’m so clumsy. So once they kind of knew that about me, erm they just expect it from me. Their house is really full of ornaments and stuff like, it’s beautiful but I’m, I’m just not built for it, I’m just so clumsy.
I think he thinks Pete saying that I was going to marry him before I’d even met him is a load of shit [laughs].
JAY: Becky always talks and I’m sure she will about how as soon as she see me she knew, and I’ve told her this, that wasn’t me, I didn’t know. But it was just that real connection that you have in terms of having fun with someone and that was what I was willing to explore more.
BECKY: I, I think he thinks that I’m romanticising it, but I swear that’s what he said, and it just left me startled you know? But I was, I was so annoyed when I met Jay though because I was 20, I was literally living my best life [laughs], like it really annoyed me that I had met this amazing guy, because once you meet the person that you’re going to marry you can’t unmeet them. So I was, I was pretty pissed [laughs].
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and to Becky and Jay for taking part.
As always, there’s a beautiful illustration to accompany this episode, this time created by the amazing Herfa Thompson. You can find it and all of the others so far at equalpartspodcast.co.uk
If you’re enjoying Equal Parts please show your support by rating, reviewing, and most importantly telling your friends about it.
Next week, proof that spending hours watching your favourite cartoon over and over again isn’t time wasted, when it leads to matching with your significant other.
LIAM: We are like, really big erm Simpsons lovers.
JESS: For like every date for about two months after that, every time we met he drew me a Simpsons character on the back of a menu, which I thought was really cute.
Season 1 (most recent first)
Sarah & Dennis
SARAH: This white cat used to run out, and I would see this man in his dapper suit, squat down and play with it.
DENNIS: I think she came into my office with a, with an agenda!
SARAH: I was so embarrassed, and so surprised... I ran out of the room.
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. This is the final episode of this season, and I’m on the lookout for new stories. If you or someone you know has a romantic, cringe-worthy, or ludicrous story about meeting a partner, there’s info on how to get involved at the end of the episode.
For now, lose yourself in the world of office romances. This is a bit of a special one to round off the season. The couple in question have been married for 31 years, and… just happen to be my parents.
SARAH: Okay, so my name is Sarah Passingham.
DENNIS: I'm Dennis Passingham.
SARAH: We met through work... which was running events for Norwich City Council.
DENNIS: In about 1984, I think it was.
SARAH: 1985…. I think.
DENNIS: I was promoted to head one of the divisions of the Leisure & Community Services Department. Part of my job moved over to a new post, and I was involved in the interviewing. Sarah was one of the candidates... And she got the job.
SARAH: Essentially, he was promoted, and I took over a big chunk of his work.
DENNIS: I thought she was er, spirited, talkative, and interesting.
SARAH: He was very efficient. He was always dressed in a suit, er good looking. Very, very smart. Always the smartest person in the room actually.
DENNIS: I, I thought she was fun, but I didn't think any more than that. And I had a girlfriend.
SARAH: I didn't really want to get involved with anybody at work, anyway. It wasn't on my agenda, I wasn't even sort of thinking about that. Our office was a big open plan corner office with a big bow window… and we could look right down the hill towards the river. And the sun used to go down there. And there were balloons that used to float across the sky sometimes, and you could just see the cathedral and the castle... I mean, it was just an extraordinary viewpoint.
And when I was working out what I was going to do about events, I used to get a cup of tea and stand in that window with glass kind of around me, looking at that view, and thinking how I was going to do things. And I would see so many times this man in his dapper suit or sometimes a black mac, walk down the pathway... I used to watch him, I could see the top of his head - he had very dark, thick, wavy hair. And when he got to the corner of the buildings just beyond us, this white cat used to run out, and it used to almost be waiting for him. And instead of just walking straight past it… He used to just squat down and play with it, and stroke it. And it was obviously very happy to see him. And he would spend quite a little while, longer than just somebody just giving it an odd stroke… erm and I used to think ‘that’s nice… he does that every, every time? And that cat is looking out for him’... I just liked that because you know, I’m a cat lover.
DENNIS: Later on, she came to work in my block of offices, and one evening, after the normal working day, I was in my office and she came in to ask me something.
SARAH: I ran events, and I was out a lot and then when my event was over or I had to come in early before an evening event, er I was often in, preparing stuff, photocopying, making signs… all that kind of stuff that you digitally nowadays… and on this particular occasion I was trying to use the photocopier, and to my astonishment this brand new photocopier had arrived and I got in a muddle with it. So I thought I’ll… see if there’s somebody in the building who actually has had a bit of training using this machine. So I went round all my side of the er, building… couldn’t find anybody at all, and went through into the next section. And the only person who was in there, working away in his office was, Dennis.
He was quite senior to me and I was a bit nervous, he had the door slightly open and I knocked on it and, asked him if he knew about the photocopier, and he didn’t, but of course being ‘a man’ he wanted to come and show me, and work it out anyway… I forget now whether we got it working or not. Probably we did…. And we said goodnight and I went off and did my thing.
Anyway, the next morning, I thanked him very much for erm, staying behind and he said erm, “oh that’s absolutely fine” or something, and then he looked, he had a funny little look on his face and as I was about to turn round and go out of the room he said -
DENNIS: “Shall we go for a drink?”
SARAH: I was so embarrassed, and so surprised... I ran out of the room! When I saw him in the coffee room the next time, I said “I was so surprised when you asked me, I scuttled away, without you being able to say when or where.” And so, we made an arrangement.
DENNIS: We went straight from the office to the pub across the road.
SARAH: We went to the… hmmm I think it's called the Horse and Dray.
DENNIS: And we chatted and chatted and er well, I listened mostly! She was very interesting, and I was living in the city center at the time, so I said, “well, I'm off now, I’m going to get some supper”.
SARAH: “I'm really hungry. I'd like to go for a meal”
DENNIS: “I was going to go take-away, and perhaps you know, perhaps you'd like to have that as well.” And she said “I can do better than that!” You know, “why don't I cook you a Chinese meal?”. So we drove out to her place.
SARAH: [laughing] And I can remember… starting to prepare the meal quite quickly and efficiently… And of course he was walking around, like people do, having a look at things.
DENNIS: I saw all the cookbooks around the bookshelves and in the kitchen and er, thought ‘hmm, this is, this is good... Someone who knows how to cook.’
SARAH: He told me later that he thought he had died and gone to heaven... because he had found a woman who likes to cook, and he liked to eat!
We had our meal, we had our glass of wine... we probably went into my little sitting room and erm, probably took the bottle of wine with us, and drink it all. And this is where I tell people that he never went home.
DENNIS: The next day, I went back and saw my present girlfriend and told her it was over. She wasn't very impressed [laughs].
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and to Sarah and Dennis for sharing their story with me when Equal Parts was just the spark of an idea.
The illustration for this episode is courtesy of Girl With The Radio Heart. You can find all artwork from the season at EqualPartsPodcast.co.uk as well as links to explore each artist’s social media and website.
Producing this season has taken over a year, with interviewing, recording, and editing juggled alongside other work, and... I’ve loved it. But it’s very demanding of time and energy, and… I don’t get paid for it. If you’ve enjoyed listening to Equal Parts, please show your support by making a donation. Think of it as a pay-what-you-want restaurant. You’ve eaten an eight-part, nourishing, romantic meal, and now you pay the bill. Best meal of your life? Lay a couple of hundred down. Think you could have just as much of a good time at the local chip shop? Gimme £2. Whatever you want, whatever you can will be plugged back into my efforts to bring you another fantastic season. Thank you.
OK, one more thing. I’m looking for new stories and new artists to feature in the next season of Equal Parts. If you want to be involved, or find out more about what it entails, please get in touch via the contact form on the website, or through the link in this episode description. That’s also the place to go if you want to feedback on any of the episodes you’ve heard this season… what you liked, what you didn’t like, what you want more of next time...
Oh and rate and review, tell your friends, share it on social media, shout it from the rooftops, [laughs] thank you very much for listening to this season. Bye for now.
Lucy & Ellie
ELLIE: In my mind, she spent the whole date watching the news, over my shoulder.
LUCY: I think we were both exhausted with dating and Tinder.
ELLIE: The start of a great love affair [laughs]. Passionate, passionate kisses were lacking.
MARIA: Welcome to equal parts, a series of true love stories told by the couples themselves. This week, keeping up appearances, the struggle and tedium of presenting your best self time and time again, in case this one turns out to be the one. Just a note, there's a few lights swears in this story.
ELLIE: I am Ellie. I'm from Preston… I suppose, or Blackburn, the Northwest. I'm a Sports Consultant, which sounds more glamorous than it really is, I suppose I help people to build 3G pitches, generally.
LUCY: My name is Lucy, and I'm from London and I work in a restaurant.
ELLIE: So we've been together probably just under a year and a half. We probably moved quite quickly. So we yeah, I say we've been together for 16 months, but we first met 16 months ago, from our Tinder date. Er and we, we've kind of grown together, I suppose. We now live together, which is a big change. And that happened quite early on. It's always been very easy.. we just became, yeah very close and easy and comfortable together.
We met a time when I was, erm I think I was a bit anxious and struggling a bit with London, erm and stuff that was going on with my family and my life, and she kind of, I think she came in at
the right time and called me down, maybe realise that everything's okay. And then helped me to become an awful lot more open, I… as you are when you're not in a relationship, or as I was, you do become very self reliant and erm insular, and she just makes me talk about my feelings all the time.
So [laughs] that's a thing now, we do talking about our feelings.
LUCY: We talked the other day about erm, she said [laughs], she said “it’s good we’re both women” [laughs]. But like, it just sounded so funny because it's like, it's such an obvious thing. I, of course we’re both women. It’s like ‘ah it’s a good thing’... Now we say all the time, because it's like a different level of communicating... It's like, which I don’t, I couldn't, I can't speak for heterosexual couples, but erm, it feels really, erm you don't have to consider anything. You can say anything. And you kind of know, erm because she’s a woman, and because I’m a woman, it’s, there’s a different level of understanding. I think.
ELLIE: So, we met on Tinder, and I don't- I think I must have been, just in my flat and I think it was probably like a Sunday evening.
LUCY: So I was in my best friend’s bed. And we were... watching a film I think? Orrr… yeah, I think we were watching film and I was on Tinder, just like, not concentrating film... And then yeah, I remember seeing her then and I remember talking to her then.
I remember her photos were quite outdoorsy. And, and I always, like when you're on Tinder, you do try and put across obviously, you choose four photos to put across… And she'd obviously thought, well, maybe she wouldn’t... actually probably hadn't thought about that [laughs] knowing her now [laughs]. Erm, but yeah, there was sort of one of her walking and one of her in San Francisco, in her, now I know it as her go-to pose in photographs, which is to just put your arms out as wide as you can with the background [laughs] so many photos [laughs].
Yeah. And I think I remember seeing that she was from Lancashire.
ELLIE: She spoke to me first, which I was like, ‘oh that’s’- weirdly for you know, female relationships... It's still like a bit of a game of chicken of like, the girl doesn't talk first, well that doesn't work does it if you're lesbians [laughs], then nobody’s talking [laughs].
All of her photos are completely different and also they look nothing like her. Well I remember looking at the photos and thinking well I don't know, I don't know who she is because... you know you're really blonde in one of them and then you're really not and then you just… something about the camera and Lucy means that she doesn't look like her.
She made some kind of lefty comments in her bio about 30 Rock and Clement Attlee, because she's intelligent, and you know, people need to know it [laughs]. Also she appreciates Tina Fey.
Erm, yeah, and I think we just talked kind of standard Tinder chat: “Hi, how are you?” And then I remember her saying that she was cooking dinner… And she was listening to the Bend It Like Beckham playlist. And I thought, ‘oh my god’. That's… well first of all: classic film.
LUCY: We talked about favourite films. And I remember she said... she definitely mentioned Bend It Like Beckham, and Billy Elliot, as being like top films ever. And I remember telling my friend this and she was like, “woah, that's cool”. I remember that really vividly.
ELLIE: And yeah, I just, I had this moment of ‘ooh, ok, well, that's a thing’. For you to say that completely unprompted. Erm, yeah, and then we just, I think spoke probably a couple of days and then I disappeared.
LUCY: Radio silence. Erm, and then she came back and she was like “sorry I just got really disillusioned with the whole online dating thing”.
ELLIE: I was like, ‘nah, not doing this anymore. Just meeting people that you have nothing in common with, wasting your evenings, going to rubbish bars and having rubbish wine.
LUCY: It's relentless, that’s the thing about it it's like...urgh. Urgh, gotta do the same… it's like, yeah it's like interviewing but trying to put your best self across, in a way that's sounds original.. Jeez, no thanks [laughs].
ELLIE: So I went away and then that promptly lasted two weeks, and then I came back again. I sent this really blunt message... that just said errr “I’m so sorry”, erm, I think I probably just answered the question that I had ignored… erm and said “sorry it's been a while, I can’t deal with this Tinder anymore, [laughs] it go depressing”. And she's like “ok, ok, yep, erm that’s… good to be honest.”
LUCY: I remember I was [laughs], I was in the loo of The Dove on Broadway market, actually on the loo texting her [laughs] about meeting the following day.
ELLIE: She was like, “ah, should we go for a date? Do you wanna come for a drink?”
LUCY: For our first date, we had arranged to go to a bar in Soho.
ELLIE: We'd been talking about drinks, or drinks that we liked. Erm, and we said we like a negroni. So she picked the, like this, really fancy bar. I think she must have maybe Googled ‘negroni Soho’, I don't know. She was there first which is unusual. I think she was early because she says I was late on our first date, but ah, I'm never late [laughs]. And she looked in the window and they were just these like middle aged men in suits.
LUCY: It just seemed really formal, and a bit spenny and a bit naff.
ELLIE: It looked really intimidating your first, first date.
LUCY: And I was like, ‘nah, I'm not gonna be able to relax in here.’
ELLIE: So she then text me and she was like “ah, I’ve seen it and we're not going there anymore.” I said, “ok, fine. I'm on my way, where are we going?”. We went to this grimy, grimy pub called The Crown and drank shit warm red wine.
LUCY: So, I was at the table with the drinks, already sat down.
ELLIE: I think I was still in work mode a little bit. I remember walking in there and being like “oh god,I don't know where she is”. Can you remember what she looks like given that all of her photos are completely different? Who is she?
LUCY: She walked in and she kind of did this thing I remember where she doesn't really - she didn't really look at me [laughs]. She just kind of, she went “hi, yeah, y’alright?” and then like, just kind of looked above eye level... she was still standing up and I was sitting down. And she was looking around the room above everyone's eye level... kind of at the ceiling [laughs].
Just like... you could feel the erm, awkwardness like it was palpable, so awkward. Erm, because it is, the initial is like ‘ah God’. When you’ve done it before as well, you're just like [sighs].
ELLIE: Yeah so I remember being like, peering at the table and thinking, ‘I'm pretty sure that's her.’ But... you don’t want to make a tit of yourself.
LUCY: I definitely recognised her instantly. And she was quite smiley, but you you could, you know, like a dog can smell fear….I think we were both... we've talked about this, but I think we were both exhausted with dating and Tinder. And so you don't, you like hedge your bets you don't... And I think because she'd been at work, it kind of felt like another... When she walked in I got the impression that it felt like another task, or maybe that's what I was projecting. Because that's maybe what I was feeling because you just think… ‘Don't’… yeah, ‘don't let yourself go... they'll probably be crazy’ [laughs].
ELLIE: I think I'd been somewhere maybe, ‘cause I work out of London quite a lot. I can't really remember… but I was wearing, like business clothes. I was wearing this like, yeah long black coat... I think I was probably dressed all in black. And had my like work backpack on.
LUCY: She had a… er Osprey Rucksack, like mine, but bigger. And, yeah, I think I probably said “ooh nice rucksack” [laughs] like a loser [laughs].
And then we drank seriously bad red wine... and just chatted. A lot. Just a lot of talk.
I can remember bits of what we talked about. It's tricky because I know what she thinks we talked about and I can't remember that…
ELLIE: This is where I can't really remember, and I know Lucy can and I'm feeling guilty now.
LUCY: Erm, I can remember… er we talked about work a lot. And then we talked about sport a lot.
ELLIE: Hockey and tennis, and her having a shit tennis partner. And I was like, “oh, I’ll, I'll play tennis with you”. But I'm really bad at tennis, she now knows that. Erm I was like ‘I’ll’... you know, ‘I’ll edge my way into your life’ [laughs].
LUCY: There was one anecdote she was telling me whereby she was working on a project at work. And she'd been in a meeting where there’d been a PowerPoint presentation, about... it was something to do with football, women, it was something to do with women's football, and one of the slides on the PowerPoint was just a picture of Clare Balding’s face. As if to say like, “and also Clare Balding would be a great selling point.” [laughs]. Which I thought was the funniest thing ever. So that was good. That was really funny.
Erm, and then, like, I know now that she was really hungry. So, so I didn't realise she was starving, but she likes to have three square meals a day. So she bought crisps and inhaled two packets of crisps. Both of them.
ELLIE: I think as, as a kind of attempt to… share them with my date, I opened them all the way out, but then just immediately inhaled the whole packet [laughs].
It’s like “yeah Lucy, um interesting about your life, yes. I just just need to finish my salt and vinegar first” [laughs].
LUCY: She opened them up like she was going to share them but... I did not have many [laughs]. And then, I remember I tripped on the way to the loo. That was cool. Didn't properly trip. I was like trying to get out of the table. She didn’t even notice. So it’s fine. I think I then said, “oh I just tripped”, she was like “huh?”.
ELLIE: I think, in my mind, she spent the whole date watching the news over my shoulder. She says no, but I think I was quite conscious that there was a telly over my shoulder. And [laughs] it just kept flashing. Lucy’s quite easily distracted, so...maybe she can't remember anything. She just knows exactly what happened in, in the world that day.
LUCY: So then we didn't go on somewhere. We just walked to the tube, and I think we just hugged... just a hug.
ELLIE: The most awkward hug goodbye.
LUCY: We definitely didn’t kiss.
ELLIE: I think she just suddenly got really nervous. She’d seemed so cool and relaxed and like taking everything in her stride the whole evening, and then she got to the tube and she was “oh god”. There should be some sort of public display of affection, but I don’t like public displays of affection.... So what I'm going to do is just kind of really awkwardly hug you then push you down the stairs [laughs]. “Off you go, bye.” Erm, yes, so then I was like ‘oh, ok. Is that? Did that go well? I was having a nice time but I’m now beginning to question [laughs] erm that we were on the same page.
LUCY: And then I texted her really quickly with like no game, and was like “I've got no game that was really good fun.”
ELLIE: The start of a great love affair [laughs]. Passionate, passionate kisses were lacking.
So second date, I think I was like well, she organised the first one, let’s be equal and fair about this, I’ll organise the second one. And because Lucy works shifts, erm at the pub, so she had the Sunday off. So I said, “let's go for Sunday lunch”, which I now realise... it's quite a lot [laughs]. I thought ‘ah great, I love a roast’.
Erm, she's got Sunday off... Sunday evening that's a bit weird, because in my life that's, you know, Mondays you go back to work... I've now realised that's not the same in Lucy’s life but erm, I didn't really think about it.
I asked my cousin, who lives in Islington “like do you know any good places to eat?” and she said “you should go to The Pig and Butcher...but you can't book”. So, I was like, ‘ok fine... I'll get down there a bit early’.
LUCY: We met about midday I think and then they didn't take bookings, so we got our name on the list and then we did like a small erm, bar crawl. There’s loads of pubs round there, so we just went for a little walk and found some pubs. Erm, and I remember her ability to navigate was
Staggering… um ly awful [laughs]. Just to like, literally, we were at Pub A and Pub B was round the block and it was like, a Herculean task. I remember that really vividly.
ELLIE: I didn't know London at all, and I really didn't know Islington, and I have a terrible sense of direction. So I got my Google maps out. And she called me out on it so early. She's like, “Ellie, that's, first of all, that's really lame, that you’re looking at your Google Maps. And second of all, it's literally around the corner.”
LUCY: We went to two, we first went... I think it was a pub called The Albion we went to for a drink. And then we went to another one around the corner called… The Draper's arms. And then… and then we went back to, I think it's called The Pig and Butcher… for lunch. It was a very nice meal. Proper roast.
ELLIE: Yeah, it was lovely. I think we just talked about our lives and ‘cause you don’t - when you meet somebody on a dating app, you don't know anything about them. You have to learn from
day one, so you're kind of like invested romantically… you know, where you both want it to go. But also you’re starting from you know square one.
LUCY: And then we went in search of I think coffee, but it was a Sunday night. So it was like everything was shut.
ELLIE: I think ‘cause we just didn't wanna go home, we wanted to stay out and be together... carry on the date. So we went to this bar and we had, I think we had like a coffee or something.
LUCY: It was disgusting. Erm [laughs] but it was fine, it was funny, we laughed about it.
ELLIE: And then Lucy had parked her bike not far away.
LUCY: And then we got to my bike. And was like, “right, well this is me”.. and then -
ELLIE: and then we had our first kiss
LUCY: We kissed.
ELLIE: Which was, which was great. But then Lucy was unlocking her bike and I didn't know what to do… I was like ‘do I just… do you just go? That's weird. But now I'm just like, hanging around watching her unlock her bike… pressurising her and being creepy and weird.
LUCY: I think during that meal, I realised I liked her.
ELLIE: And then I was like, almost kind of skipping home, that was so...like you just didn’t think about where the time went. And it was so nice. Easy, very easy. Our third date was less easy.
LUCY: And then we had the worst date ever! [laughs].
So the third date was the worst date ever. Um, for reasons that are pretty serious, um but that weren't disclosed to me, until very near the end of the date.
ELLIE: So first of all we went for dinner, at this… just [laughs] not great place in Soho with zero atmosphere and no lighting, so I couldn’t read the menu because I've got rubbish eyesight.
LUCY: There was something awkward about the seating... Down to everything, it just felt really like we've gone back a step.
ELLIE: I was in a really weird mood. But I was like, really trying to be like, ‘ok get it together, get it together, you like this girl, and be with it and fun’.
LUCY: And then we went to a comedy show at Soho Theatre which was actually brilliant…
ELLIE: We went to... a comedy show. So weird. Like, it was funny and Lucy thinks it's the funniest thing that's ever happened. I thought it was funny, but also surreal and really strange.
LUCY: And actually thinking about it, the reason I kind of, like I knew she was very, very cool and I knew we were going to get on was that this show that was like, nine times out of 10 a person would have been like what the ___ is this? Like, this is bizarre.
ELLIE: So the comedy show was… [sighs] I can't remember what it was called. But it was basically a woman dressed as an egg… she, she was a chicken but she was dressed as an egg, so that makes no sense [laughs] and she was laying children... laying eggs.
LUCY: It was a real egg. It was in her, she was wearing like a unitard, she so she must have had eight or nine eggs in her unitard.
ELLIE: And every time she had to decide whether she was going to keep this child-egg to become another chicken-egg, erm and like try and help it grow... or eat it, so, so that she could be... stay alive?
LUCY: It has been in Edinburgh… and I just... and I wanted to go see Hannah Gatsby before Hannah Gatsby was Hannah Gatsby. And I was like ‘ah that would be so good’ but obviously sold out.
ELLIE: And anyway, Lucy was laughing louder than anybody else in the whole place. When Lucy laughs you can hear it... her laugh is quite distinctive. So, if you go to a comedy gig where the room’s a bit tense, but she's having the time of her life, it’s just laughing so loud.
LUCY: We saw Alison Steadman she was there... but anyway that's a different story, we were both like “oh my god it’s Alison Steadman” [laughs].
Anyway, so weirdest comedy show I’ve ever been to... but also one of the best, one of the funniest. And then afterwards we had a drink and she was just like in another realm, and wasn't… we were back to kind of like, I felt like I was working. She was like not communicating.
And I was like “what’s going on?”.
ELLIE: I couldn't hold in what was going on in the rest of my life… it's another weird one where you meet somebody you don't know them, but you’re kind of trying to share yourself with them, but also you don't want to share too much of yourself because that’s a whole lot... and it's not very organic at all.
But I'd had, erm, a hard day. So my mum had just had surgery that day. She was quite ill and, that's why I was all over the place.
LUCY: I was like “well, what are we doing?” Like, “what are you doing?”, just like, you know? And this is the, like, urgh. Urgh. It was so much! [laughs]. So I was really shocked that she’d even entertained the idea of coming out that night, I was like, “what, why” you know, “babe, like, uh-uh, look after yourself”.
ELLIE: I was like, “look, I'm really sorry. Erm, I’ve had a really hard day, I know I'm not really being super fun.” And she was like “ok, that’s oof, ok”. But she really took it in her stride and that's a kind of, a quality that she’s shown time and time again. I'll be getting het up about things... or things which are quite dramatic happening in your life, and she puts them into perspective. Or says, you know, “it’s really rubbish, but you’re gonna be fine and, we'll, we'll get through it”. It's always 'we’, “we’re a team, we’ll get through it”... and, and that did kind of put me at ease, it was like ok, so she hasn't run away. I've told her this big thing about what's been going on in my life for the past year.
LUCY: Yeah. That was a big like, I was so… because I knew something was up like as I said, I sensed it in the restaurant that she was, something else was on her mind… but we don't, you know, we'd met each other twice I wasn't going to pry and be like “what's going on? What's going on with you?”. You just have to, deal with it. But we still had a lovely time and I think the bizarre, like the crazy crazy crazy egg show was a... was a good distraction. I remember telling people at work and they were like, “you went on date to see that?” [laughs] I was like “yeah! went really well!” [laughs] “she loved it” [laughs]
ELLIE: I must have just trusted her, to kind of be like, ‘here you go, here's my… here's all my shit….[laughs] you can have that on date three. So obviously for next date I just made her meet all my friends [laughs] erm, went to a house party… and from then on she was initiated and we couldn’t go back. So there we go, plan worked.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and of course thanks to Lucy and Ellie too.
Original artwork this week comes from Chelsea Waites, visit equalpartspodcast.co.uk to see her interpretation and click through to her Instagram which is full of gorgeous, playful illustrations.
Next week is the final episode of this season. If you like what you’ve heard please rate and review on Apple Podcasts, and recommend Equal Parts to a friend.
The final tale is one of copy-machines, cats and cooking.
SARAH: He was quite senior to me and I was a bit nervous. He had the door slightly open and I knocked on it, and asked him if he knew about the photocopier… and he didn’t, but of course, being ‘a man’ he wanted to come and show me and work it out anyway.
DENNIS: I think she came into my office with an agenda.
Davide & Nick
DAVIDE: I was living in Scotland, but I felt it was not the place for me. And I was still looking for a place, where to stay...as long as it feels like home, and Nick really felt like home.
NICK: We hadn’t even said anything to each other and we just kissed, and then after a few seconds, I was just laughing because I was thinking ‘this isn’t life, this isn’t what happens’.
DAVIDE: I noticed, he took out a picture of ours, from his pocket, I was like ‘what’s this?’, and then he started folding the picture, and I was thinking ‘oh my goodness, something big is happening’.
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves.
In most romances, lips are for kissing. In this one, they play a vital part in communication. Here’s Davide and Nick who recently celebrated their third anniversary.
DAVIDE: So I’m Davide, I come from Italy, but I’ve been living in UK for the past five years, and I’m a material scientist by training, er but at the moment I’m working as a teacher for the deaf.
NICK: I’m Nick, I was born in Sheffield, and I live in Manchester, and for my job I’m a researcher, I work at a university researching sign language.
DAVIDE: Well we have a couple of anniversaries, we have one anniversary in December, and one anniversary in January, and we celebrated our January anniversary a couple of weeks ago, and it was a very exciting anniversary.
When I met him, I was just coming out of a relationship that, wasn’t very important probably, wasn’t very deep but er somehow when my ex-boyfriend broke up with me it just left me distraught and er depressed for a couple of months.
Then I met Nick, and erm, we really ticked immediately. And since then we, both of us, grew so much. One of the most beautiful things for me, of Nick, is that he let me into his life very quickly, so he wanted me to meet all his friends, his family very soon, and so many different things, and erm, it really feels like I could ‘belong’ to someone, I could belong somewhere and back then I was really looking for a place to belong to… because coming from Italy, I was living in Scotland, but I felt it was not the place for me. And I was still looking for a place, where to stay for a longer period of time that wasn’t strictly three years/five years, doesn’t matter but, as long as it feels like home, and Nick really felt like home.
So I come from Verona, and the only direct flight from Britain to Verona, back then was from Manchester, or London. So usually what I used to do was, travel by train or by bus from Glasgow to Manchester, and then fly from there. It was December 2015 and er it was Christmas time, so I wanted to go back for Christmas. And I booked my flight, I booked my train, I had to stay over in the airport, overnight.
NICK: And he had done this previously, so flying from Manchester airport with a very early morning flight. And previously he had missed that flight.
DAVIDE: So I look for a bench, where to spend the night basically, in the airport. I was waiting on this bench and I was, yeah I was coming out of this relationship and I was looking for somebody else, er so I was on dating apps.
NICK: I’ve long used a dating website, OK Cupid. Which I really liked because they ask you lots of questions about yourself, about what you think, but also cleverly they ask you how important something is, so maybe you don’t like football but that’s not important to you, so if the other person does like football but it’s not important to you then that’s ok.
DAVIDE: So you could be like yeah, I’m totally a tory supporter, but I don’t mind if he’s, or she is, a labour supporter.
NICK: Whereas, you know if you think that flag burning is wrong, and that’s a passionately held belief, then you don’t want to meet someone who burns flags every other Tuesday, so... it’s a clever website.
DAVIDE: I really believe that what brings people together are values, rather than simply like. Because you know I can go out with my friends to something I like but I need to live with somebody that shares some beliefs somehow. So you put on all these answers, and eventually Nick’s profile came up and I saw it, we were very very compatible, like 90% compatible? It’s like, no way.
NICK: I think I was at home in Sheffield, with my parents, and he was at Manchester airport. Fortunately my phone was not state of the art, so I think my phone still thought I was in Manchester even though I was in Sheffield. So, yes up he came and we had a bit of a chat. He told me that he was from Verona, which immediately made me think of Shakespeare, so all of a sudden I was one of the gentleman of Verona.
DAVIDE: We liked each other and he messaged me straight away, I was like ‘oh finally somebody who makes the first move… usually on these apps people are just like tip-toeing around which is so annoying I’m like ‘we like each other clearly, just do something’. I always have to make the first step.
This time was like, mmm good. And then, yeah we hit it off very quickly. We moved very quickly from the messaging in the app to WhatsApp.
NICK: We kept in touch, he was in Italy, I was here. And then I flew to Australia for a conference, a few days before he flew back to the UK to continue with his research.
DAVIDE: So, we couldn’t meet for basically one month. So we text each other for one month, we skyped at some point, which was really nerve-wracking.
NICK: I remember, being nervous about it. And also he was in his house, the family house in Italy, and he was using his mobile phone, so it was one of those situations where you can’t find anything around you , any surface, on which to rest the phone and it ends up toppling over, so one minute it’s him, the next minute the ceiling, and a bit of wall in the corner, and some cobwebs… all sorts of different things that I could see, so I really got to know his house quite well but I didn’t really get to see that much of him while we were skyping.
DAVIDE: And on top of that, after a few texts, erm I realised he was deaf. You know when you text somebody you don’t need to know that he’s deaf or not… and I’m not sure I picked it from his profile, I should have because he mentioned sign language a couple of times, but… so when we skyped the first time I was really scared that he wouldn’t read my lips or we wouldn’t be able to communicate in anyway but it was fine.
NICK: I do remember that it was quite easy to lipread him, which was a nice surprise for me, because that was something that I was worried about I think, the first time as a deaf person I was chatting with him, trying to work out whether that side of things, the communication side of things, whether that was going to work or not, so it was quite a relief to find out that it did.
DAVIDE: So I found out that Nick was deaf, and at first I was a little bit like ‘oh my goodness’ I had known nothing about deaf people. He was a tiny little bit, preachy, or anyway he put on his teacher hat, or his like, activist hat, so he was like “yeah deaf people, deaf community, deaf culture...blah blah blah” I was like “wow”, but I was super eager to learn.
Actually, er months later I found out in my old diaries that on my to-do list for the new year was sign language, so it’s funny that somehow, it was years back, I wanted to learn sign language but was in another country so it wouldn’t have worked anyway, but now finally I’m learning sign language.
NICK: So I was teaching him some signs. I remember filming myself going through the paradigm of questions - what, who, where, when - that kind of thing. And then sending them to him, and then he would film himself and send that back, and it was so beautiful, I mean we hadn’t even met but he was trying so hard to learn my sign language. But the thing is, I mean when you ask questions in sign language your eyebrows are really important, you have to raise or lower your eyebrows and his eyebrows were going all over the place.
So I gave him a sign name, which we deaf people do, we give people like a sign, that becomes their name. And this sign is just two fingers that represent the eyebrows going up and down quite wildly, very sort of franetic. So that’s Davide’s sign name, and that’s continued until this day really. And it wasn’t until the 15th of January that we met in person.
DAVIDE: The first time we met was, erm, a little bit of a gamble but we knew that we really wanted to date each other basically. We felt really confident that it was going very well. So we decided to meet halfway. I was in Glasgow, he was in Manchester, halfway means the Lake District, so let’s book a weekend together in the Lake District, as soon as possible.
NICK: So we met halfway, in Penrith. And I suppose I was a bit nervous, but also I felt very relaxed about it in some ways, because, I don’t know we, I felt at ease with him, it was… I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be difficult, that there were not going to be any surprises or anything like that.
DAVIDE: We booked a B&B, he planned everything, I have never been to the lake District before so it was a total surprise and holiday for me as well. Erm, I booked a train ticket on the Friday night, I went down to Penrith. His train was a little bit delayed so I was really really nervous, waiting in the waiting room.
NICK: I remember the train journey up to Penrith. I remember making sure I was minty fresh, and um, and then I got off the train onto the platform, and there he was.
DAVIDE: And I like, basically jumped very nervously towards him, and we straight off kissed each other. So it was a very beautiful kiss on the platform, in Penrith. It was very very dark, it was cold, freezing cold, but it was very very beautiful.
NICK: He had made um, a paper rose, with like red tissue paper.
DAVIDE: I always think that, I would be so happy if my date erm, would bring me roses, flowers, on a date, so I thought ok, now it’s my turn, but instead of bringing like fresh flowers because you know, we were going on a walk, it wouldn’t have been feasible, so I just made er paper roses.
NICK: The fact that he had, gone to the trouble to make something and he had the courage to bring that, it was beautiful, it was so moving. And I think if I remember it wasn’t just paper roses, he also made some soap, in the shape of a heart. I think that was homemade soap, pink in the shape of a heart, and I’ve still got that as well.
I mean it was just the most romantic thing, we just walked towards each other and kissed so and, we hadn’t even said anything to each other and we just kissed, and then after a few seconds, I was just laughing because I was thinking ‘this isn’t life, this isn’t what happens’ you know ‘this is something from a very bad or a very good Hollywood rom-com, it didn’t… I didn’t realise that I would ever experience anything like that, but it was the most romantic moment of my life. I’ve never had anything like that, before or since really.
DAVIDE: The following day we made a very long walk around, he had planned everything so… We really liked each other, we got it, so we, yeah we didn’t need much talking or much… we just need to get to know each other, but we had skyped so much and we had text so much, we had talked about many many different things, important things for each other, so yeah it was all very very easy.
NICK: We decided to go for a walk, I think I’d printed off a route already, a very ambitious route I think, we were supposed to be going 28 miles or something which obviously didn’t happen in the space of a day. It was very cold, I mean it was mid-January, and there was lots of snow around if I remember, it was very beautiful, I mean, very cold but beautiful. And we both like noticing things and spotting things, so we saw icicles that were dangling from um, suspended from branches over the river, and there was frost covering the stones and the hedges and things like that, it was very romantic.
DAVIDE: We went by a castle, and I said “oh, are we not going to see the castle?” and he was like “mm no, I thought we wouldn’t go this time, we’ll go another time, let’s just say ‘hi’ from afar”. I was like “ok fair enough, it doesn’t matter”.
NICK: There was a henge, a neolithic henge -
DAVIDE: A prehistoric thingy with a single stone in the middle of a circle, which is very beautiful, only the built the M6 next to it, so it was super loud with cars… it doesn’t matter for him because he’s deaf [laughs].
NICK: And so we stopped there and I’d brought us a flask of coffee - I’m a practical Northerner - we had a flask of coffee and some cake, and I remember sitting at the edge of this henge, so this sort of flat circular area with this embankment around it, and I looked at him, and I remember thinking this is a really special person. I mean, I’m not sure I would said I fell in love with him there, but that was a moment where I just thought ‘this is special, there’s something special going on here’.
DAVIDE: We’ve talked about weddings on the first date, because I really wanted to make clear that um, I was looking for something long-term and that my plans, or dreams, or wishes in the future were, I didn’t want to scare him off, but I felt he was the right guy to talk about it early on, to show that I could commit. Nick somehow gave me the opportunity for a plan in the future, like with him it really felt like yeah, it’s a long-term commitment.
NICK: There was a really strange moment when we had to say goodbye, I mean again, we were at Penrith train station, it seems to be the emotional centre of the world to us, or something like that i don’t know, but um, he had to go North, and I had to go South so, I remember saying goodbye, and wanting to sort of punch the air, because everything had gone so well. But then, feeling that I would miss him, and wondering how we would make the transition again, from being present with each other and then going back to being apart, and wondering how that would work out. And I think we weren’t meeting again for another two or three weeks, and that felt like quite a long time.
But for me, I think the advantage of him being in Glasgow and me being in Manchester, it was that it kind of gave our relationship in the early days, a bit of pace, so it meant that we didn’t have to rush into things, that wasn’t a kind of overkill. I mean, I’m a very old-fashioned sort of person in some ways. My parents tell me about courting, back in the 70s, when everything sort of moved forwards inch by inch, and it was all so incremental, and you’d meet every Friday for twenty years, and then you’d meet twice a week, and that was the big change, so… and I think that there is something in that in a way, something hopeful about having a sort of a paced introduction.
So the fact that we lived in different cities actually gave us a bit of space and it gave us some time to kind of grow into each other.
NICK: So, a couple of weeks ago, when we were celebrating our anniversary -
DAVIDE: I said “shall we go on a walk somewhere nice?” and he said “where do you want to go?”, I was like “shall we go back to the Lake District, we haven’t been back for a long time?”. He said “ok fair enough, I’ll think about booking, sorting it out”, I was like “ok you do it”.
We went up to Penrith again, on a Friday night again, we just wanted to stay for one night, one day. Um, we booked the same B&B that we should have stayed three years before, but back then, the owner of the B&B had to go away on a weekend, so this time we said “ok, we’re going to stay in the place where we should have stayed three years ago”, perfect.
This time, he said “I’m going to take you to the castle”, it was like ‘ooh exciting’. So we went to the castle, and then we continued our walk, and I said “are we going to do a different walk?”, he was like “no shall we do the same walk, I mean, it’s being our anniversary so we might as well”, fine, I was being very very silly. And at some point I was doing the Bird Box challenge, so I pretended to be blindfolded and he was like guiding me, erm anyway, I was being this silly, I was walking around and jumping around, and he was behind me.
I stopped at the big stone in the middle, and he reached me finally, and I noticed he took out a picture of ours, from his pocket. I was like ‘what’s this?’. Does he want to like, uh, hide it in the ground, or like, I don’t know, put it down as a memory for the future? Like ‘oh that’s such a nice idea’. And then he started folding the picture, and he was so moved he was in tears - Nick gets moved so easily - and I was thinking ‘oh my goodness, something big is happening’ and he folded the picture into a ring origami, which is very very sweet, and it was a perfect ring with a diamond in the centre, and he folded it so quickly, and I was, I didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh, he knelt down, and it was all muddy, so I was worried as well like “please please please, it’s muddy” [laughs] anyway he said “vuoi sposarmi?”, so in Italian “do you want to marry me?”, I was laughing a bit, I was, not crying but very very moved, and of course I said yes, so yeah now we are engaged, officially [laughs]. In a very funny way, like we do most of our things.
NICK: I always knew that that was going to be the place that I should propose to him. So that’s beside the M6, but you see the thing is about being deaf, you don’t hear the traffic… he did, poor thing, but for me it was, it was silent and frosty, and we could see the snow-covered mountains of the Lake District in the distance, and it was really quite something.
The thing is we’d always talked about getting married, so we both knew it was something that we wanted to do. And then I wanted to get married in my church, so they are hopefully going to change the rules in a year or two. So I told him that I wanted to wait for that, but then in the meantime, I thought ‘life is too short’ so there are other churches that we could get married in now, so… I changed my mind and I decided to propose to him. So I think that’s why he was surprised, because he thought that I was set on waiting another year or two before I asked him.
DAVIDE: We’re both religious, he’s Methodist, I’m Catholic, so Catholic will never, er let me get married, and it’s fine, but with Methodist, they’re deciding about it, and they might agree on it next year. So we said “ok let’s wait for 2020 and then let’s get married in 2021, it’s fine.
There was no question about if, it was a question of when. So, now we know when… or we don’t know yet but we know that it’s happening very soon.
He’s so good at lipreading, one day he told me “you know that you say ‘love’ wrong”, and I was like “sorry?” and he was like “yeah yeah, you say love like Italians, and you should say love.” I’m like [laughs] “but how do you know that I say love or whatever?”, he’s like “I can see from your lip pattern” I’m like “what?!” so yeah [laughs] I think he could pick up a lot, my accent, the way I was saying words wrong, or whatever, or different. I think if I do it in a very funny, cheeky, Northern way it’s much easier to say love rather than saying love, no no it’s doesn’t, I can’t make it [laughs].
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and congratulations to Davide and Nick on your engagement.
Hannah Lyons created the gorgeous artwork for this week’s episode, which you can see on our website.
There’s also a transcript for this, and every episode, of Equal Parts, for those who are deaf or prefer reading. You can find everything at equalpartspodcast.co.uk
Next week, a match made in musical heaven, even if they now disagree on what that music was.
JAY: She worked in the bar, and they had one of these digital jukebox things where you’d just mess around with the songs and I think, weirdly enough we both went up at the same time and was gonna choose the same song.
BECKY: And my friend who was the landlord, said to me, randomly out of nowhere, “oh you’re going to marry that guy” and then walked off!
Duncan & Anna
DUNCAN: She had a lot of attention that night so I was just like, ‘this isn’t going to happen, she’s the Birthday girl, it’s her 30th, she’s got, you know, a room full of friends’
ANNA: We said nothing, looked at each other, eyes lock, kissed, and then moved off and carried on [laughs].
DUNCAN: It all kicked off, [laughs] and chaos ensued, and then I didn’t really see her again, for a long time.
MARIA (host): Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. This week, a third time’s the charm tale which proves that true love conquers all: time, distance, and even garlic-sauce kebab breath.
ANNA: I’m Anna, and I’m a primary school teacher, and I live in London.
DUNCAN: Hi I’m Duncan Brown, I’m a UX designer, and I live in Kilburn, which is in North West London.
ANNA: We’ve been together for…. 12 years, we’re coming into… I guess this is 13th year? Yeah. Yeah, 12 years.
So, Duncan and I are both from the same town, and it’s the sort of town where if, er you are… wanting to drink when you’re 14 or 15 and be hedonistic and push the boundaries and take risks, everyone’s trying to do it in the same two pubs in the town. So you all see each other and you all sort of casually get to know each other.
DUNCAN: We met when we were, erm, I was kind of in my late teens, I’m like two years older than Anna, in our hometown, which is in the midlands: Grantham.
ANNA: He was part of the cool, boy college gang as far as I was concerned. Totally fit, totally thought he was gorgeous but very much aloof, and I actually started dating ne of his friends. And I can remember er, Dunc had a party, erm which always amazed me because my family were incredibly straight and I would never have dared thrown a house party, ever. Erm, but his parents were great and went away and trusted them or, you know he was cool enough to take the risk, er and it was just this sort of very cool atmosphere, it was just a great party.
DUNCAN: Erm, actually Anna was going out with one of my friends.
ANNA: Julian was in the loo, I was stood outside the loo, and Duncan sort of came up to me and we had a kiss.
DUNCAN: We had a little kiss, at my parents’ house.
ANNA: He literally looked at me, I looked at him, and he says I kissed him, and I say he kissed me, so that is still an ongoing argument. Erm but we kind of just had this weird moment in time, I can picture it now, we said nothing, looked at each other, eyes lock, kissed, and then moved off and carried on [laughs].
DUNCAN: That was around 1991, so that’s quite a while ago.
ANNA: Yeah, that was when we were 17? Erm, Duncan’s two years older, so they all soon went off to college.
DUNCAN: Obviously people kind of go to university, go off get jobs, so I didn’t really see Anna a great deal.
ANNA: And I went off travelling after university,
DUNCAN: And then… she came back from Australia.
ANNA: To Newcastle, where I had done my degree, to do my teaching course.
DUNCAN: And she was, happened to be in Grantham by chance, and I was at my erm Step Brother’s wedding, and the wedding finished and a few of us went into town, and bumped into Anna in the nightclub.
I was in a suit, which was a bit weird, because you don’t wear suits to nightclubs [laughs. Erm, and Anna was there with some friends, and Anna was very, she was pleased to see everyone, and we kind of chatted and again we had a bit of a kiss. But unfortunately Anna was way more drunk than I was, even though I’d been at a wedding and I should have been the most drunk, but Anna beat me on that one.
We were getting on quite well and then she lost her purse, and it all kicked off [laughs] and chaos ensued, and then I didn’t really see her again, for a long time. Sadly. So it was like two false starts, in a way.
DUNCAN: So the third time we got together, erm it was, I was living in London, and Anna was up in Newcastle, and we just hadn’t really seen each other for years.,
ANNA: It was crazy, we first kissed each other when we were 17, I’m now 30 and have had enough of Newcastle. I was like, I’m not going to live in the North for ever. If I wasn’t a Geordie I was never really going to belong. But I think I was just a bit bored, I just wanted to have something new. I had amazing friends, but just needed some change. And it just seems fateful now, because I was moving down south the week afterwards.
DUNCAN: It was Anna’s 30th and she was having a party in Newcastle. So my best friend, he, he got the invite.
ANNA: And so Jamie said to me “oh, Dunc Brown’s coming as well” and I was like “oh, great, lovely”, thinking ‘I always fancied him, that’s amazing’. I remember saying to my girlfriends, “oh, Jamie’s coming from Grantham, Tim’s coming, oh and another Tim, and um, and Duncan”. And they were just like “yes, no kissing any Grantham boys Anna. You know. We know what you Grantham lot are like, it’s incredibly incestuous, you’ve all kissed each other when you were teenagers, just none of that”.
DUNCAN: So I was kind of invited, and I think in hindsight my friend was playing cupid, erm, so we’re all kind of organised to go up.
ANNA: The 30th was all planned, it was July, and… it’s really horrible because it’s 2005 and that was when the 7/7 bombings happened.
DUNCAN: The London bombings kicked off.
ANNA: So completely, nothing like London or England’s ever known, and it was just eurgh. Hideous, hideous stuff.
DUNCAN: It was a big, sad event, and it was really odd. So all the trains were, were down.
ANNA: Part of that was, the boys that were all coming up from London couldn’t come to the party. So, ok, there’s bigger things than my Birthday.
DUNCAN: And suddenly I was like, damn I really wanted to see Anna.
ANNA: Jamie, the great friend that he is, was like “I think I‘m going to go and get the boys from London.” He drove all the way down from the North East, to London, picked them all up and drove them back again, all so we could all have this party, which… I still don’t really know why, why he made such an effort. He’s a great guy.
DUNCAN: Erm, so we managed to get a train out up to Grantham which was like the halfway point, because the trains were like just really up in the air as you can probably imagine, after all that bombing business. Erm, but anyway, we stayed at my parents’ for the Friday night, and then kind of journeyed up to Newcastle and made it to the party which was wicked. Er, and got to see Anna.
ANNA: We had this big party, in… I’m going to say the Pitcher and Piano, which sounds really naff, and it is in every other city but Newcastle. Only because the Pitcher and Piano in Newcastle [laughs] and admittedly it was new and exciting then, it’s on the banks of the river Tyne, and the entire floor to ceiling glass walls, which again, this sounds really ridiculous this many years later, but at the time it was very nice [laughs]. My Birthday’s in July so there’s an outside bit and it you know, it felt great. And all these people came up from London going “ooh actually Newcastle’s really lovely [laughs].
DUNCAN: Arrived at the pub, it was like this lovely pub overlooking the Tyne, and there was Anna, at the centre of everything and, she was er, she was lovely, she was so warm and friendly with all of her friends, and all her friends were like, just a great bunch. And I was quite kind of, taken aback.
And she looked amazing and I was just like ‘wow’. I was definitely interested. I think eventually we got talking, obviously she had a lot of attention that night so I was just like, ‘this isn’t going to happen, she’s the Birthday girl, it’s her 30th, she’s got, you know, a room full of friends”.
ANNA: I just remember having an incredible time, and we then after the pub, we went off to this local nightclub. Now I don’t know how much you know Newcastle but it doesn’t have the reputation for the coolest nightclubs particularly, but World Headquarters is the bit, the club that we sort of discovered when we were students.
DUNCAN: It’s funny ‘cause [laughs] we had a little kiss in the venue, which Anna doesn’t remember, ‘cause she was having a great time and she’d drank a lot of champagne. Erm, she thinks that the first kiss was when we got to World Headquarters which is this kind of meat market in Newcastle [laughs], erm she remembers that, but I remember the bits before.
ANNA: I think, this is the problem. I can’t actually remember when we had our first kiss, and we have debated this. Now I’m told it was outside of the Pitcher and Piano, erm which we then did a staggering walk to World Headquarters, then proceeded the very exciting - snog session I suppose you’d say? Of me and Duncan going from the three floors of World Headquarters trying to sneak off and have little cuddles and kisses away from the masses of everyone at the party. Erm I think we probably didn’t want everyone going “oh my goodness”, so yeah that was erm a lot of fun, and we were just having the best time. And I remember that really really vividly.
DUNCAN: It was like this multi-floor horrible club full of nutters, and we just kept sneaking off up to the next floor to have a little kiss, which was yeah, which was great, ‘cause I’m like “it’s your Birthday and you wanna come and do this with me?” it’s like, lovely.
ANNA: After World Headquarters we all, really classily went, as you do, to the kebab shop [laughs].
DUNCAN: [laughing] which was like, yeah of course she would do that. And we had a kebab and then kind of said our goodbyes.
ANNA: And I can remember us all standing there outside, and him giving me the “so…”.
DUNCAN: I think I was a gentleman, and was like, wasn’t pushing to go back to hers in any way.
ANNA: “Can I come home with you?” [laughs] and it was great because he really couldn’t. Because I was moving down south the week afterwards, and this is the weird thing. He lives in London and I was planning to move to Brighton that very next week, everything was done, my house was packed up, I was staying at my friend’s, so he couldn’t come and stay.
DUNCAN: I also think she probably had a house full of people, so that was never going to happen. But mainly I was being a gentleman and didn’t wanna push it.
Erm, and also when I got back, ‘cause all the guys were staying in this kind of like rented er kind of like apartment thing, and I got home, and a friend had filled my erm my favourite trainers with water and put them in the freezer! [laughs] for some bizarre reason, but he was really mad because it actually cleaned them and they felt brand new again, which was really cool. He got really mad. And I also think he liked Anna a bit.
ANNA: The next day we all planned to meet each other, erm post hangovers, compare stories you know all of that. And so we met in some really random weird pub that the boys had decided because it was near where they were all staying, and I just remember that you know, that nervous thing of you’ve just kissed somebody the night before, how is it going to be?
DUNCAN: I was like, really hungover, an a bit nervous, it’s like ‘is Anna gonna remember anything? Is she gonna like… what’s gonna happen?’ and er -
ANNA: The first thing he did was he just came up to me straight away and gave me a kiss.
DUNCAN: Luckily she just came up and came and gave me a big kiss and it was just like ‘yep that’s great’.
ANNA: And I just thought that was great.
DUNCAN: Thank god, this is a good sign.
ANNA: There was no kind of ‘oh I’m going to act all cool and pretend last night didn’t happen and de dah de dah.’ I just loved that erm and then, I don’t know we hung out for an hour or two and then they all had to make their separate ways, and I can still remember him walking off, you know as we’d all said our goodbyes, then turned around and looked back.
DUNCAN: I was like, you know, ‘maybe something can happen’. But, then we played that game where it’s like, we’ve got each other’s phone numbers, it’s like who’s gonna send a text, how long do you wait, I don’t want to seem overly keen although I was dying to obviously send Anna a text.
ANNA: And it was great because he texted I think the next day or something. He didn’t do that horrible, let’s wait forever and yeah, which would have been… urgh.
DUNCAN: I think there was a text, maybe a couple of days after the party? And I don’t know who it was from. I’m gonna say Anna [laughs], she was more keen to chase me. No, I doubt it, I think it was probably definitely me, yeah.
ANNA: So he, texted the next day, or fairly promptly, maybe two days later, and then we started this text thing that week and I was like ‘how do you ever shift it, now from this to moving it on’.
Erm, the following week was my brother’s wedding. Got completely emotional, drunk and emotional as you do at weddings and I was completely overawed by the grandeur of my brother getting married. And so, after oodles of wine and Dutch courage, I just thought ‘stuff this, I’m not doing this keep it cool’ you know, and I just remember sitting by, outside the wedding, by some, you know dumpster or something I don’t know, by the bins… calling Duncan, half crying, because I’d just cried about how emotional I was about the wedding, and he was at a party.
DUNCAN: And she called me from her brother’s wedding and I was so happy. And we talked for quite a white, and then I kind of bored the entire party with this Anna that I’d just been talking to and everyone was just like… they could see how happy I was.
ANNA: Somewhere there we must have made a plan that we were going to see each other…. I think I was coming to London to go on holiday perhaps? Because it was coming up to July and I’m a teacher, and I think my summer was pretty planned. I seem to think I had two holidays planned, but er we made some sort of plan where I was coming through London and I was going to see him.
DUNCAN: I remember she got off, she got a train up to Brighton and I met her in Victoria on the platform.
ANNA: I went to his in Willesden, his place, and he’d made a real effort, and did a barbeque in the garden, and he was very quiet I remember that
night, he just seemed to be, we just seemed to be quite… looking at each other? And I was gibbering on as I do… that was our first sort of proper, one-to-one date I guess, in his back garden in Willesden in the summer, which was absolutely fantastic.
DUNCAN: I knew that I wanted definitely to be long-term with Anna, but there were just all this kind of, holidays in the way, and erm distance in the way, but I think it just kinda sorted itself out, we just started, got into this habit of, I would come down to Brighton straight after work on the Friday and stay with Anna and then vice versa, we kinda like started to take it in turns.
ANNA: Sunday evening are the best time to just be snuggly and together and chill out and have your downtime together.
DUNCAN: I don’t remember the moment where we decided that we were a thing. I probably decided in my mind, that, you know, that, right at the party in Newcastle.
ANNA: I think we both knew we wanted to be together and it was where we were going to live. You know, we’d done three years of long distance, and it’s like, where do we live, London or Brighton? Duncan had been in London since he was 18, I’d only just moved to Brighton three years ago, I was loving it…
I think actually I was happy to move to London, I just wanted to know that Dunc would move to Brighton [laughs]. We had chats about it, but I just remember one day, Dunc went “I’ll move to Brighton” and that’s when I remember saying “great, that’s brilliant, I want to move to London” [laughs] and he’s like “brilliant! I don’t have to leave London!”, I just needed to hear him say he would have done, yeah. And I cannot imagine living anywhere else now, erm we’ve, we moved in together nearly 10 years ago, got our flat, made that our own together.
DUNCAN: Anna is… probably the happiest person I’ve ever met. And the most fun, and the warmest, and friendly, and she’s just amazing.
ANNA: In the last however many years I think it just changes from, you just feel so safe and secure and content I guess, yeah.
DUNCAN: Does Julian know we kissed? Erm I’m not sure, but it was really funny because a few years into Anna and I being an item we got invited to Julian’s wedding [laughs] and Anna was like “oh my god, should we go?” and I’m like “what you talking about, of course we should go, it’s Ju, he’s getting married!”. Yeah I kind of pulled Anna’s leg saying there’s going to be this big Graduate scene, in the middle of the wedding where Julian turns around and goes “no, Anna, Anna’s the one for me” but no, that was a wicked wedding. I passed out on an EasyJet flight on the way home [laughs].
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and of course, to Duncan and Anna.
Each episode of Equal Parts has an accompanying piece of original artwork. Sophie Linney drew this week’s image, which you can see at equalpartspodcast.co.uk. There’s also links there to discover more of her work.
Next week, reading the signs.
NICK: He had made a paper rose, with like, red tissue paper.
DAVIDE: I always think that, I would be so happy if my date would bring me roses on a date, so I thought ok, now it’s my turn to bring flowers.
NICK: The fact that he had, gone to the trouble to make something and he had the courage to bring that, I mean it was just the most romantic thing.
Sarah & Freddie
MARIA: Sooooo how did you meet? It’s a question that every couple will be asked sooner or later, and damn, some people have a really good story. Think love at first sight doesn’t exist? Dating apps are just for casual hook-ups? No one really meets their life partner when they help pick up their spilled shopping? Think again. This series is a celebration of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. I’m Maria Passingham, this is Equal Parts.
SARAH: I was so nervous, I was so nervous.
FREDDIE: He came right up to me and rested his massive fist, it was like a bear’s paw, on my nose.
SARAH: Oh my god, what have I just said?
MARIA: Our first tale is a classic: a good, old-fashioned set-up. There’s snow, there’s trains, there’s a bit of fisty-cuffs: in other words, all the makings of a great rom-com. Here’s Sarah and Freddie, a couple of six years, now living in South London.
SARAH: I’m Sarah, I’m from Manchester, and I work in theatre as an Assistant Stage Manager
FREDDIE: I’m Freddie, my partner is Sarah, otherwise known a Gaz. She doesn’t allow me to call her Sarah, she tells me off if I call her Sarah, so it’s Gaz. I am 26 years old, I live in London, I work at a music label doing a lot of digital online stuff that the older people don’t think they can do.
SARAH: We met on the 25th January, and we like to call that whole week up until the 1st February our anniversary week, because our first date was on the 1st February which was exactly a week after we first met.
So I first met Freddie, so my friend, my best friend, showed me pictures of him. So she’d met him before I had. The first thing that I saw when I saw pictures of him was his fashion… or his, oh no his hair actually. I just liked his face. Tall, dark, and handsome. Yeah there’s this one picture which was his profile picture at the time and he’s wearing like a white jacket, and he’s standing on a roof, trying to look cool. And I thought he does look cool.
So we sat there and stalked him on Facebook quite regularly for about two weeks, up until she said, why don’t you come to Sheffield and meet him? And so I literally did get on a train to meet this guy.
And I was in, her boyfriend at the time, I was in his room getting ready to go out, and suddenly Freddie appeared at the doorway.
So I just remember him and the clothes that he was wearing, and his hair, and being introduced as Gaz and Vivian… that’s a whole other story. And that was it, and I just, I just knew, that that was it.
FREDDIE: When I first met her, I was at a period of my life where I was looking for romance all the time, like quite a lot. And then one of her friends set me up. But I was so adamantly trying to do it on my own, that as soon as I saw her I was like, “oh hello, y’alright”, and then carried on walking essentially, I definitely just tried to blank her out of my mind because I was still so focussed on just trying to find love on my own, because I thought that was the way you had to do it...pft, silly. [Laughs] I was rubbish at it, I was single for two years but looking the whole time, so I dunno…
SARAH: So it started off at my best friend’s boyfriend’s house, in Sheffield. And also in this house is another friend of Freddie’s from school… they just all sort of followed each other to Sheffield. So it’s a big house party and - Fred will tell you as well that he wasn’t even going to come out, but they convinced him, his friends convinced him to come out - I was so nervous, I was so nervous, and we all went down into the kitchen and there was this living area in the kitchen, and everyone was sitting in a circle, and there were loads of people that I’d never met before.
Fred and I were sitting next to each other I think, but I just couldn’t, I didn’t have the courage to talk to him, erm until eventually, I don’t know what made it happen… it was probably Freddie started talking, and we were talking about radio and how I did the radio at uni and he always said he thought that was really cool, and from then on we just chatted and chatted, and chatted.
FREDDIE: I think the thing that caught me most then is when she started talking to me, and she was just doing loads of cool stuff. Like, she was doing radio, at her university, she was doing some TV and just started talking about loads of other stuff that I wished I was doing, at the time. I was like, ‘wow this girl’s really cool’!
And then, just after we finished talking at the party before we went dancing, we had to walk, this was in Sheffield, we had to walk to the club or the next bar or whatever it was, and er, it was snowing outside. And this is January so it was a pretty good snow, and we had a big snowball fight, and she had her big winter coat on and these little purple - I think purple plimsolls or something - on, and threw a particularly good snowball at her. Obviously I was aiming at her most than anyone else, because I already completely fancied her.
SARAH: It was really really heavy snow, and I had these really flimsy shoes on that I’d just bought, cos I didn’t even have anything to wear. So I turned up in Sheffield and had to go to Topshop, and I bought this dress that didn’t really fit me,it was too tight, and some really flimsy shoes that I don’t have… I think I probably got rid of them on the night… and then so we walked all the way down from the house into town and he was throwing snowballs at me [laughs] and I like, lost my shoe in the middle of the road as well at one point… and then eventually we ended up in this pub - I think it’s called The Cavendish.
FREDDIE: My friends were there, and her best friend from home was there. And she was the one that set the two of us up, and er, yeah I just found her absolutely amazing, and I knew actually as soon as I met her at the party beforehand that, er, I really wanted her to be my girlfriend. And I hadn’t had that before. I’d met girls that I thought were cool. ‘Ooh this person really likes this part of a film’, and I thought that was what romance was but it wasn’t really. It didn’t do anything. And then I met Gaz, and er, I don’t know, just, it was what I wanted.
FREDDIE: So we then went to another bar -
SARAH: A place called West Street Live in Sheffield. It’s more of like a Motown-y vibe, soul vibe.
FREDDIE: This is the fun, upbeat, kind of soul, nightclub I guess. Kind of soul and funk, a bit Craig Charles 6 Music kind of stuff. And we were dancing there, and then er we shared our first kiss on the dancefloor.
SARAH: We had our first kiss there, and erm and then got a taxi home?
FREDDIE: I remember, she was giving me her phone number, and she took my phone and put it in, and then the next morning, ‘cause we were all staying in our friend’s house -
SARAH: I had to leave, early-ish, and so as I was leaving Fred asked me if he could come and see me in Manchester….but I was like, no I’m not going to be in Manchester, and he got really confused and thought that I went to uni in Manchester and was from Oxford, and he was convinced that that was what it was, and so I had to be like “no, I’m going back to Oxford to go to uni”, ‘cause it was in the Christmas holidays still, and, so I remember leaving the house, and him asking if he could come and see me, and I said yeah.
FREDDIE: I said, “ah I’ll call you and we’ll arrange something in Manchester”, so, she said yeah great, and we hugged and she went off. And then about five minutes later I went through my phone to find her number, just to check it was still there… I couldn’t find it!
SARAH: I think for ages he was searching for Sarah, and it wasn’t coming up, and then realised ‘oh I need to put in Gaz’, and then I think it took about three days for me to hear from him, and I remembered saying to my friends from home like “oh yeah like I met this guy, but, I’ve not heard from him yet so I don’t know but, you know I don’t want to get my hopes up but erm, but yeah” and then um, eventually I heard- and I think he thinks that three days was quite a cool amount of time to leave it.
FREDDIE: So up until this point, I’d never actually… if I met someone that I was sort of interested in, I would never - it wasn’t had the courage, but I never was really bothered about contacting them much afterwards because, I don’t know, after meeting someone new, it would be kind of fun at first, and then you might send a text, and I always found that, and then I got bored.
But then with Gaz it was different. I wanted to speak to her, so after three days - which was an accidental three days wait - I just was going out to various gigs or something with friends, I don’t think I wanted to ring her up too hungover, so I rang, actually rang her up, it was the first time I’d ever done that with a girl, and I was so nervous, so nervous. Like just pressing the buttons and press the call was difficult, and then I rang her up, and er we organised going er on a date on the weekend, the following weekend after we first met. In Manchester, so we met in Sheffield, and then arranged a date in Manchester.
SARAH: I’d just finished, I was doing some work experience at a radio station in Manchester, and so he came, he got the train about 1 o’clock.
FREDDIE: I listened to one of my favourite albums to try and chill myself out - er Nicolas Jaar’s Space Is Only Noise - which isn’t particularly a relaxing album, actually now I think about it, it’s pretty weird. But I don’t know, I was just listening to it a lot at the time, and er, I hoped it would calm me down. Which it kind of did, kind of did, but I knew it was still such a momentous occasion that I was still, my heart was actually pounding for the whole journey.
SARAH: I remember we walked down to Castlefield in Manchester, and went to Duke’s 92 and had pizza. And I remember talking - I was so nervous - and I remember we talked about driving, that was the only part of conversation that I remember, passing our driving tests or something.
FREDDIE: It was good, it was sort of flowing, but it wasn’t relaxed as it might be if you were sitting down with your friends, and it was a little bit obvious.
SARAH: And he always says that he did a really good thing to break the ice, and he sent me up the stairs to the toilet - because I needed the toilet - and he said “oh yeah, they’re just up this way” -
FREDDIE: Purposely pointed her in the wrong direction, and she walked into a business meeting [laughs] full of suited men [laughs]. And then came back down really embarrassed, but in a kind of happy way. And that sort of broke the ice.
SARAH: It did break the ice to be fair, because from then on it was a lot easier. We shared a lot that I wouldn’t of usually thought you would have shared on a first date, but it just did feel natural.
FREDDIE: We went to see this free stand-up comedy at the main theatre there, The Royal Exchange.
SARAH: Which I loved, because that’s always been one of my favourite buildings in Manchester.
FREDDIE: Which was really bad [laughs].
SARAH: Then we went to an oyster bar in Manchester, and Fred says he nearly got stabbed.
FREDDIE: It was really, really rammed. Packed full of people, it was obviously a popping bar. And we managed to find a perch on a windowsill in one of the rooms, it was quite a small room, and there were just a bunch of locals sitting around and er they couldn’t understand my southern accent, and I couldn’t understand their Mancunian accent. But we still took a shining to them, and they ended up inviting us to just sit in their circle, so we did. We got a better seat on the sofa. And Gaz started talking to this guy next to her - I can’t remember his name, but he had a tattoo of his daughter? Tattooed on his arm, the name of his daughter on his arm.
SARAH: I was too busy chatting to a man called Carl, about his daughter that he had tattooed on his wrist that he hadn’t seen in years, so I missed this whole stabbing episode.
FREDDIE: So I was talking to the rest of the group, because Gaz was wrapped up in this story, and then this one guy who, who was really drunk in the corner and was only half really following what was going on, and beforehand, he had shown us these er scars, on his back, which he said were stab wounds. And he was a big bloke, so it was pretty intimidating, and er this guy’s daughter was sitting on the other end of the table, and I think she asked me a few questions about what I was doing with Gaz, and where we were thinking of going, you know like, whether we were enjoying Manchester, and then this guys gets angry because he thinks I’m hitting on his daughter. I’m like “nah, nah nah nah, I’m on a date with this girl, I know she’s not talking to me right now, but I’m on a date with this girl here”.
He sort of like, staggeringly wavered at me, and then he was like - and Gaz had no idea this was going on, she was busily chatting to this guy who hadn’t seen his daughter in years - and er he came right up to me and rested his massive fist, it was like a bear’s paw, on my nose, like rest- and I thought he was joking, he was obviously very confused… and then the rest of the friends all get up at that point, and realise it was all getting a bit lardy, so they take him outside.
And then I go [whispering] “Gaz, Gaz, Gaz, Gaz” and I get her attention and I was like “we have to go, right now”, so I basically drag her out, I was like ‘wow, great introduction to Manchester!’ So that was our first date and then er -
SARAH: We had to run for the train, because we both had to get the last train back. And this was the other thing, was that I was, he kept on asking me what time I needed to leave and what time I needed to go home, and I was really scared and I didn’t want to like - so I just said oh 6 o’clock. And I think I said that I had to look after my sister or something, who’s only like two years younger than me [laughs], and then somehow I forgot about that and I stayed until, yeah half eleven [laughs].
I remember being in the foyer at Manchester Piccadilly-
FREDDIE: In the main hustle and bustle of the station we had a little
FREDDIE & SARAH TOGETHER: We had a kiss
FREDDIE: I guess our second kiss
SARAH: [cringe laughing] and...oh it’s so awful [laughs], so we were saying bye and then, um, I said “I love you” and... I didn’t think he heard it because he didn’t react, but I was like, ‘oh my god what have I just said?’ thinking I - I just meant it as if I were saying goodbye to a friend. But it happened just after we kissed so it was just awful.
FREDDIE: [laughs] It’s the kind of thing that would definitely have freaked me out back then, massively. So I just very quickly, subconsciously pretended I hadn’t heard it because she said it so quietly.
SARAH: Oh my gosh. And then we both went our separate ways. And he had to go to one platform and I went to the other, but it ended up that my train was sitting on the platform for ages, and Fred was also waiting for his train, so I ended up seeing him, on the platform, whilst on this train, just waiting for it to move, and I’d just told him that I loved him! [laughs] After a week of knowing him, and two weeks of stalking him on Facebook, so you know… bit creepy.
That took a few months for that to come out and for me to learn that he did hear me… and he just had to push it out of his brain because he was a bit freaked out by it. He definitely like talked to his friends about it, erm, I hope he just knew that I was just nervous and just said it. Quite funny.
FREDDIE: I forgot about it until, I think two months later, when her best friend - Emma, Emma’s boyfriend - Josh, asked me if I’d heard anything, heard Gaz say anything at the end of the date, and then I was like “oh my god she said I love you at the end of the first date… she didn’t think that really, did she? That’s crazy” and I freaked out for a little bit and then I was like ‘nah she can’t have meant that, it must have just been an accident’.
But it was funny, because I think after six months of our relationship, I brought it up again, being like, “oh yeah at least I didn’t say I love you on the first date” and she cringed pretty hard.
SARAH: That’s a great story, I love that one.
SARAH: I always remember thinking that, like, ‘oh he’s really carefree’ which was something that I was never, so that was really nice, because I went on loads of adventures with him.
FREDDIE: I think, the two of us together, just er, I don’t know, we clicked in certain ways that made everything very easy to do. The fact that Gaz was at university at Oxford Brookes, and I was in Sheffield, was really easy. Even though we got - we saw each other every couple of weeks, or maybe longer. That was alright because, I don’t know, we had found the right thing and it was really nice. And we didn’t really ever argue - we don’t really argue now either.
I’m still finding things out about her, that still amaze me, like some small things, some, I don’t know, big things as she changes and moves on with her life and works out what she wants to do with her career and, yeah I’d say it’s still really easy between the two of us.
SARAH: He’s just, kind. And I think a lot of people would probably say that… and funny. They’re kind of clichés but it’s true.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and to Sarah and Freddie for sharing their story.
Each episode of Equal Parts has an accompanying piece of original artwork, produced by some of my favourite artists, designers, and illustrators. This week’s image was created by the wonderful Fran Marchesi of lettersandshapes, who also designed our logo. You can see her creation and find links to more of her work at equalpartspodcast.co.uk
Next week, a story spanning decades and the length of the country.
DUNCAN: It was Anna’s 30th and she was throwing a party in Newcastle, so my best friend, he got the invite.
ANNA: And so Jamie, said to me, “oh Dunc Brown’s coming as well” and [laughs] I was like “ohhh, great, lovely”, thinking ‘I always fancied him’.