LINDZ & ZEBIB
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves.
We’ve arrived at the last episode. Of this season, and of the whole series. I really hope you’ve enjoyed listening. If you have, please leave a nice review on Apple Podcasts, or rate Equal Parts on Spotify. I’ll say a little more about wrapping the show at the end of this episode, but for now, let’s get into this final, beautiful story.
Today’s tale is perhaps a perfect compromise between the arguments of fate, and choice, when it comes to love. Maybe the circumstances that put Lindz and Zebib in the same area at the same time were fate, but saying ‘what the heck’ on your final night in town? That’s a choice. Maybe finding somebody with your favourite poetry inscribed on their body is fate. But following that person across the country? Another choice.
Well, whether pre-determined, or a series of decisions, Lindz and Zebib’s story has a little magic, a little jeopardy, and a lotta romance.
ZEBIB: My name is Zebib.
LINDZ: I'm Lindz McLeod. I'm a writer and an editor, and I live in Edinburgh, in Scotland.
ZEBIB: I moved actually during the pandemic. I was living in New York for about 10 years and I'm a psychiatrist. Um, but when I'm not doing psychiatry and seeing patients, I'm writing… fiction mostly, which is something, uh, Lindz and I have in common… So, that's what we spent all of our time doing [laughs].
LINDZ: We've been together for three and a bit years. I actually have some sort of app where it tracks it and I looked at it the other day, uh, to make sure I wasn't missing any milestones, but we're a way off, but it was something like over 1100 days, which is cute.
ZEBIB: She's, um, just so loving, just so full of love, so generous, um, with what she offers to me and to everyone around her. Uh, extremely intelligent and that's something that's drawn me to her, just in terms of her ability to like, think about the world critically and to bring inventiveness and all of these amazing skills to her writing.
LINDZ: She is very funny, um, very chaotic sometimes. She's a ball of energy. She's very passionate about the things that she's interested in.
ZEBIB: She's fun. She's someone who's interested in like learning about the world and experiencing the world, um, living in the moment. She can be silly, she can be serious. Um, she's just a wonderfully, confident but gentle, loving person.
LINDZ: And she's always really kind and generous with her time and energy as well. She's also a wonderful writer.
ZEBIB: I mean, I think for everyone, it's been a really crazy time of transition and upheaval in the last few years, but then also just the time I was in my life… I was 30 and literally the night we met was the night before I was going to graduate residency, psychiatry residency. So I'm just kind of on a…. lots of thresholds. So having just spent like nine or 10 years in New York, um, I think I was at a moment where I was more looking for like a relationship than I ever had been before.
LINDZ: I had come out of a relationship, um, the previous year and I had dated a little bit, but I just wasn't really clicking with anybody so much, and I just wasn't really happy with how that was going, and I had kind of come to the conclusion that maybe I would just stop dating for a while. Of course, the universe has that…it’s like, oh really? You think so? Um, and my career had started, uh, kind of taking off. I'd got into the Writer's Hotel. Uh, I was about three quarters of the way through my master's at that point. So I kind of felt, maybe this is a, a good point in my life where I can, you know, put that personal stuff as aside, just really focus on my career. I was feeling pretty happy with where that was going.
ZEBIB: When I met Lindz, I hadn't been in like a serious, like, relationship with a, a woman before, so it was, I think, really important that I was at this stage in my life where like I kind of opened up to that, I opened up to… just being more like emotionally available. So that for me has been like a journey of understanding intimacy and learning to share my life with someone and like a different way than I had in the past. So I think I've evolved a lot in that way.
LINDZ: I think there's always a, a natural amount of change as you kind of, you, you are two separate rocks that kind of rub together and become smooth as the friction wears away. So I think we, we have learned to, you know, communicate better and we've grown as we've, uh, spent more and more time with each other. And I think… we definitely had to be prepared to do that because we were so long distance, um, for, for quite a long time. And during Covid as well.
So I was at the Writer's Hotel, uh, conference. So I had never been to America and I went alone. I was really excited, um, and surprisingly not nervous, maybe just because I was so exhausted, it didn't occur to me to be nervous. But I was really excited to go and to meet, you know, new people, um, and I'd always wanted to go to New York. It's somewhere that my mother loved, she's been several times. And I was particularly excited to go to the Natural History Museum because I'm a big geek.
ZEBIB: It was beginning of summer in New York and I was like, I'm on the dating scene [laughs] um, I had been doing that for some number of months and it was just kind of feeling like, oh gosh, I'm not like making many connections with people. Um, you know, it's just New York, it's craziness dating in New York. So yeah, it was just kind of finding it sometimes fun, but not really finding that like kind of connection, right, and not even expecting it any more.
LINDZ: So when I had first landed, I had Bumble on my phone and I remember I turned on my phone and, uh, I almost immediately had a match. It just kind of flashed up the notification and I thought, who the hell is matching me? [laughs] I just, I just landed, what is going on?
ZEBIB: At first I didn't realise she didn't live in New York.
LINDZ: I looked at her profile and I thought, wow, she's really pretty.
ZEBIB: Someone really cool and, and pretty and oh, this is interesting, and then turned out she lived in Scotland and she was actually in New York for a like writing conference sort of program over a week. So that was like initially disappointing, but then I thought like, hey, you know what? She's down to potentially meet up… we will just, we'll have fun. We'll get to go on a date.
ZEBIB: So, my profile was sort of just randomly put together, just like some random pictures and I had a friend write the, the description cos I was just like, urgh, I hate this. So this friend had asked me like, oh, what do you like to do? I was like, write. So she's like, you should say -
LINDZ: - write me a poem.
ZEBIB: Period. And that's it.
LINDZ: And I thought, ok, well, little demanding, maybe, not a lot of information, not not your height, not your interests, not your name. Um, just ‘write me a poem’ and I thought, hmm, you're pretty enough that you can get away with demanding that, but I don't know if I'm gonna do that. Let's, let's leave it for a while.
Um, and then, uh, I had got quite drunk with my new coursemates, and… strange confidence came upon me and I thought, I will write you a poem, [laughs] and it'll be the best poem that you have ever seen on this app, and I will impress you and you will go on a date with me.
ZEBIB: So of course you get interesting responses to that. But Lindz had actually opened with like a clever poem, you know, just like a few lines introducing herself. And I was like, oh my gosh, that's amazing. So that's how the, the, the discussion began. So I was like, oh, I'd love to meet this girl.
LINDZ: I didn't realise that Zebib had, um, photographic evidence of this poem, but she did. And recently she was performing at a storytelling event and one of the stories was loosely - it was a fantastical thing - it was loosely based on, on our relationship. And by the end of it, she said, you know, I, I just want to thank, you know my lovely fiance who's in the audience, and pointed at me and I thought, that's ok, I can deal with a moment of embarrassment. And so I kind of said, ok, you know, yay, well done. And she was like, yeah, and you know, I still have that poem. And I thought, oh, I didn't know that. And then she read it out on stage to my chagrin and horror. And it was really worse than I'd remembered [laughs], it was really a bad poem. Um, I blame the alcohol. I'm, I think I'm an ok poet, but I wasn't at that point. Um, I think some of it rhymed as well. It was… oh dear.
Basically, by the time that we had agreed to go on a date, it was actually gonna be my last night in New York.
ZEBIB: We were having trouble scheduling it because we were so busy. So we finally settled on the last night she was in New York and I was about to graduate the next morning.
LINDZ: All of my conference friends at that point had gone home, I was pretty much the only person who was still in New York, and I thought, I really wanna do something on my last day. You know, I, I want to make the most of it. So I went to the Met and I got lost twice in European sculptures. In my defence, it's a very big museum, but also I've grown up around European sculptures. Everything begins to look the same after a while. And the security guard was sort of gently kind of like, ok, I will actually show you the exit because you are a poor bumbling tourist and cannot figure out how to leave a building.
And I may have overdone it a bit, cos I was already very tired after a week of, of having about five hours sleep and, and partying every night and getting up at like seven every morning to, uh, go to this, um, hotel and, and really focus on a lot of writing and craft.
And part of me thought maybe, maybe I should cancel, I'm very tired and… and I thought, you know, no, why not? I, there was a bar. I wanted to go back to this bar and I thought, you know, like, I, I should make more of an effort, you know? She seems very nice and she did say that she had, um, been in Scotland before and loved it. So, you know, why not? We hadn't really interacted much, it was very much a kind of, hi, hello, do you want to go out? And I was like, ok, yes, sure I do.
ZEBIB: She had found this like really cool bar in, I think like West Village. All these lights, super, you know, I think.. It may have been a gay bar and um, I show up just a few minutes late.
LINDZ: As is my want, I arrived there slightly early.
ZEBIB: She was there, uh, I think like looking at something on her phone and, and laughing at it.
LINDZ: One of the friends that I had made in my group at the conference had said, you know, I write this blog, uh, it's kind of a comedy blog, and it's funny that you're going on a date tonight. I went on a really terrible date, I wrote about it in my blog, I'm gonna send it to you. And while I was a little bit early, I got a message saying I'm running late, which I would later find out was kind of a thing, [laughs] with Zebib. So I was like, oh, well, you know, I have a few minutes to kill. I'll just read this blog. It turns out my friend was hilarious. The date that she had gone on was so bad and, and so well written really, but very, very ridiculous that I was crying with laughter. Which, from my point of view was fine because, you know, I was just reading something, it was very funny. I, I actually do like tear up quite often when I'm laughing. Um, but from Zebib’s point of view, when she walked in… She was late, she'd never met me before…. She walked in and I was sitting at a table looking at my phone and crying. That may not have been a great first impression [laughs] and in hindsight, that probably didn't look good.
ZEBIB: I was very pleasantly surprised when I met her just because it just was an immediate sort of spark.
LINDZ: My first thought was, oh, you've done the opposite of catfishing, and that's not fair. You're so much prettier than your pictures.
ZEBIB: And the conversation just flowed from the beginning, which you know, you don't always find.
LINDZ: It just felt as if we had already known each other for a really long time and the conversation was just very easy. She was interested in the
things that I was saying in a very genuine way.
ZEBIB: It was just an amazing date. You know, we had a few drinks. We were talking about our lives and about what she was doing with writing.
LINDZ: I found her very fascinating. There were a number of points, uh, during the next three cocktails that I just kept thinking, wow, you know, I… I hadn't expected to meet anyone that I was, this, I don't remember if I've ever been that interested in anyone, like immediately. It was just, yeah, kind of like being hit by lightning a little bit, but very, very pleasant lightning, I think.
ZEBIB: And at one point I saw the small tattoo she had on her arm, um, that had a line of poetry from Robert Frost. So she was explaining it to me that it was a Robert Frost line, but like in the handwriting of Jane Austin. So I was just like, oh my god. I love both of them. I love Jane Austin!
LINDZ: I'd been telling people that all week, because obviously people had seen it at performances that we'd done and, and throughout the groups and things, but no one had responded with anything other than like, oh, that's nice. And instead Zebib said oh, that's amazing -
ZEBIB: - and also I have a, a line of poetry on my back and a tattoo, um by Walt Whitman.
LINDZ: And at that moment I thought, wow, ok. Yep, yep. I'm really sold on this girl. I'm so sold. That's, that's annoying because I'm gonna leave [laughs]. Um, why do you have to be completely perfect?
ZEBIB: Hours passed, and, and she was showing me some of her writing and we were just talking and yeah, we just absolutely hit it off.
LINDZ: At one point she asked if she could read some of my poetry, and remember that I was alone in this country. Um, the hostel, which was like a prison cell that I was staying in because I was too poor to, to afford anything good in Manhattan, um, was not far away, but my sense of direction wasn't quite good yet. So my phone was the only thing that I had that could link me to it. But I, and I never would normally give someone my phone and then wander off, but I just said, yeah, I'm gonna go to the bathroom, here's my phone, read some poetry, and just wandered off and left her and I, I didn't even think twice about it. I immediately trusted her.
Um, if she had taken it, I would have been utterly screwed but, I came back and she was gushing about my poetry and very flattering.
She said, shall we go back to yours? And I said, no, I have a prison cell [laughs]. And I tried to explain what it looked like and she was like, well, do you want to come back to mine? And I said, yeah, ok.
ZEBIB: So the next morning when we woke up, you know, we were like, ok, well… you have to go catch a flight! It was like 6:00 AM or something [laughs]. And she had asked me, I'm actually not leaving the United States, um, I'm going to Denver to see my best friend. Like, do you wanna visit? And I was like, oh yeah, maybe [laughs].
LINDZ: I didn't really know how far away Denver was from New York because my geography, as Zebib would find out later, is just woeful. Like I don't really know where anything is, so I didn't really know what I was asking, I think. I was kinda like, oh, you could come. And in my head I thought, oh, how far is it really? And she said, well, maybe I will. And I said, well, maybe you should.
ZEBIB: So first date part two, I guess our second date was, um, I just, I decided I was gonna fly to Denver and see her there. Um, and I don't know if she actually expected me to show up. I didn't have her like number or anything, I just had her email. But I, I did… I did just show up.
LINDZ: So my friend picked me up from the airport. It was something like three in the morning, and we got in the car and she said, you know, how are you? And I said, yeah, I'm great. I just had this amazing date last night with this girl and you know, I, I hope it's okay with you, I invited her just for a couple of days if she wanted to come, and my friend driving at 3:00 AM was like, Lindz [laughs].... nobody is gonna fly four and a half hours across the country on the basis of one date. I don't care how good it was. And I said, yeah, ok, let's see. Let's see who's right here.
ZEBIB: I remember discussing it with my roommate at the time, who I had lived with for like four years, and my brother, they were both just like, oh yeah, like, yeah, that's, that's crazy. You’ll go all the way to Denver?
LINDZ: And she said, what does she look like? And I said like, you know, you ever seen Flashdance? [laughs] And my friend was like, yeah. I'm like, like a young Jennifer Beals, she's like, ok young Jennifer Beals is not gonna fly four and a half hours across the country for you. You met once. That's not gonna happen. People don't do that.
ZEBIB: I was like, first of all, I'd like to go to Denver and she's awesome and I'm free, so like there's just really no reason not to. Ended up, our second date was a, a weekend in Denver, hanging out with her best friend. And that was amazing too!
LINDZ: When the taxi pulled up, I opened the door and What a Feeling was just blasting out of the house. I don't actually think Zebib picked up on it at the time, but I was like, please don't notice that that's what's happening.
ZEBIB: We spent time in Denver, we went to the mountains, we were hanging out, um, getting to know each other better. And then at the end of our time together, um, you know she had to actually fly back to Scotland now and, you know I remember kind of going back and forth and discussing it, but then I did email her after we said goodbye in the airport, saying like, I had an amazing time, like, I don't want this to end.
LINDZ: Do you wanna see where it goes? Um, and at that point I did do a little dance in the security queue and I said, yeah, I, I would, I would like to see how that goes.
ZEBIB: That evolved into our long distance relationship.
LINDZ: We emailed each other every day, And we frequently spoke on video, and at one point I sent her something, which my friends refer to as a girlfriend box, which I meant as a care package. Uh, but which in hindsight was just really soppy, which was like chocolates, like special chocolates because American chocolate is complete trash. Uh, so I thought, you know, she needs something good. I think there was some tea in there and I had found this really cute notebook that I knew she would love. And I had also handwritten a really pretty decent poem.
ZEBIB: So this is just a recording so you can't see it, but I'm showing you a bookmark, uh, like metallic bookmark. So this was something she had engraved and gave to me a few months into our relationship when she was visiting, and we went back to that bar. Even though it was like, I don't know, however many months, um, maybe like five month anniversary or something. And it says it's the, I think, latitude and longitude…. maybe of that bar? Um, and then ‘our journey started when you walked in. Yours indefinitely, Lindz’. And then she has some E. E. Cummings poetry on the back. So that's what she gave me, um, when we went back to that bar.
LINDZ: She had just graduated… She actually graduated the next morning after our first date, uh, which I didn't know. And she was still doing her boards, and I was still trying to finish my, my master's, uh, thesis portion. Um, so we were both really busy but there were times where we would come on video at like lunchtime, because obviously that was kind of 1:00 PM my time would've been like, um, 8:00 AM hers, and we would say hi, and we would kind of chat while she had some tea or I had some lunch, and then we would just stay on video for the next six hours and sometimes not even speak because she was studying for her boards, and I was trying to write this thing, but just knowing that she was there in the background was really nice.
ZEBIB: During the pandemic, we were separated for seven months. So we didn't get to see each other at all for seven months, so we only could video chat. Um, so that was really interesting to see how we navigated that because it was actually like, ok . Um, I mean obviously if we had started out knowing for sure it would be seven months, that would've been very overwhelming. That was amazing to see how we navigated that.
LINDZ: Zebib had always been really interested in the masters that I was doing, and I remember standing on a subway platform with her on one of my, my trips to New York, and, and I remember she said something like, you know, I, I'm really jealous, like I wish I could do that. And I said, why don't you? I mean, I know you just graduated and, and, but you know, a lot of your peers take a, a year out to do something else, or, or they do some other degree or whatever and you know, you're really good. Like, I had read some of her work, um, her creative non-fiction, and there was a tremendous amount of talent and potential there.
And I said, you know, why don't, why don't you check it out and see if there's masters that you're interested in? And so she had a look and, um, she was interested in the, the one at Edinburgh. So she worked really hard for a year and saved up, and then she decided to, to come here and do the masters for the year and we would kind of, you know, see how it goes.
ZEBIB: Our relationship continues to grow every day, and at least from my end, it's really interesting to see how your, you know, your love and intimacy can evolve through various stressors and situations, and being long distance and like not living together, to suddenly living together all the time during a pandemic, and how you can navigate that and like, grow closer and how I think we still have more things to learn about each other. Um, and I, I look forward to that.
LINDZ: I, I lucked out, I couldn't have found a, a nicer, sweeter person. And when I introduced Zebib to my parents - my mother has always told me that I should find an attractive doctor, and I'm really angry that, that she, she's got her way! [laughs] I'm like, damn it, how did that work?
Um, and my dad, who is a, a very gruff, stoic Scotsman, uh, I, I once said, you know, do, do you like her? And he said, oh, what's not to like? Um, and I was like, well, that's, that's about right, yeah. I don't know anyone who doesn't like Zebib upon meeting her. How can you not? You know, she's wonderful.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham, and the music came from Audio Network.
If that romance seemed a little familiar to you, it might be because you saw Lindz’s viral twitter thread on the subject in summer 2022. I was utterly charmed, like the other hundred and fourty thousand people that liked the tweet, and while it might have been fate that led me to see it (or you, know, algorithms), it was Lindz and Zebib’s choice to share it with me in detail. So for that, I thank you both very much.
Gina Stavrou made a beautiful, cosy illustration to accompany today’s episode. Go to equalpartspodcast.co.uk to have a look. You’ll also find there the galleries for seasons one and two, and a transcript for each episode of Equal Parts. There’s a link in the shownotes too, if that’s helpful.
A lot of time and work has gone into making this show, both on my side, and with all of the artists and guests featured over the years. Thank you all so much, and in particular Fran Marchesi who created the Equal Parts logo, and the gently evolving cover art for all three seasons.
And thank YOU listeners! Ultimately, it’s you that I made this for, and I do appreciate your support. If you want to do more, you can rate and review, and send a recommendation or an episode link to a friend you think would enjoy the stories.
If you’re now on the look for a new show, check the description of this episode, I’ve left some links to podcasts that might be up your street.
If you want to keep up with what I’m making, you can follow me on Twitter, my handle is just @mariapassingham
Ok, I think that’s it… Like any creative project, life stage, or well-told story, the ending is sad, and joyful, in Equal Parts.
MARIA & OLIVER
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. If this is the first time you’re listening, I’d suggest starting with another episode. This one… it’s a bit different from usual.
A little while ago, I sat down with my microphone and a glass of wine, but instead of a sheet of notes in front of me, it was my friend Claire. And she had a list of questions.
When I started this podcast a while back, I was very single. Dating lots, but, no one seemed to stick. If you heard the bonus episode I put out on Valentine’s Day 2022, you’ll know that I found someone. After collecting and delighting in other people’s love stories for years, I finally had my own. And, as this season, and the whole series, wraps up, I thought I’d invite you into my life for a change, and my partner’s. Or maybe it’s our life now.
Sitting in Claire’s cosy - and crucially, quiet - flat, and checking my levels, the nerves suddenly hit. Hence the wine. I like being the one asking the questions, following up on tiny details, predicting how I’ll stitch the narrative together… but exposing my own feelings and memories? Oof, it was scary. And yet, here I am, about to play you mine and Oliver’s love story.
To keep it as unbiased as possible, another super talented friend, Davide, edited this episode. Massive thanks to him and Claire for stepping in as my production crew! Ok, here it is.
OLIVER: My name's Oliver. I am a software engineer and I live in Manchester at the moment, but I'm originally from Derby.
MARIA: I'm Maria, I am the creator of Equal Parts and producer and editor, and I live in Manchester, but I'm from Norfolk. My partner is Oliver and we've been together just shy of two years.
OLIVER: So me and Maria met through a dating app. It was the time where things were just kind of opening up again. The world was coming back to life. It was, uh, it was May, 2021.
MARIA: So we met on Hinge. I had just come back from spending nine months at my parents' house in rural Norfolk, which was a pretty big change from previously having lived in the city centre of Manchester. So because of that, I was very eager to get back out and socialising and making the most of the city. And I was also a bit unrehearsed, I think we all were coming out of covid of being social. Like I had a craving for it, but I was also kind of like, oh, how do you talk to people again?
I had had one quite short relationship before, but nothing super serious. Well, nothing serious at all, really. And so I was a very good, experienced, like first and second dater, I wasn't a relationship person at that point.
Not that I didn't want one. I think actually when I met Oliver, I was ready for a relationship. I was looking for that, but I was not used to it. I wasn't used to things progressing beyond a third or fourth date because I get bored quite easily.
OLIVER: I'd not long been, been on the app and I wasn't really interested in in dating, kind of things were opening up again, friends convinced me. I thought I'd go on some dates, see what happens and, and Maria was actually only the second day I went on.
I remember her photos were very intriguing, I was very attracted to her, but at the same time, I didn't get the vibes that we were gonna click as people.
My profile was somewhat hastily put together, mostly forced by friends. I…. not against photos, but I don't go out looking for photos, so my catalogue of photos of me was absolutely non-existent. Friends of mine had taken me out and we've been out as we kind of had trying the restaurants and, and bars as things started to open up again in Manchester. And, and they made an effort of forcing me to be in photos and taking photos of me where they could.
MARIA: There was one where he was, it was him and his friend, or who I assumed to be his friend, that were sitting outside, but it was obviously like a colder night and there was a blanket wrapped around them and I think there was one drink in front of them. I think it was a margarita. And I remember I opened the chat. I said something like, did you share the cocktail as well? Which is actually like not an interesting line, but in the realms of app dating, it's kind of interesting because it's ok, I've looked at your profile and I see something and I'm commenting on something. I'm not just doing a boring, how are you? And also hopefully like a little bit funny, like it's not a great joke, but it's like a bit of interesting humour, right?
OLIVER: I can't remember a great deal about Maria's profile. I can remember the photos, but I can't remember any of the details, uh, that she posted about herself. Maria looked exactly how you expected her to look at the photos, but the personality that she put across in the photos wasn't at all what I expected. She seemed a little bit kind of, um, I guess she was being playful. I don't know what the vibe she was putting forward was. She had so much sass about her and, um, it was a very playful sass and so I got this vibe that she was gonna be very sarcastic and, uh, a lot of fun. I guess that's kind of what drew me in. She just seemed like she was gonna be great to sit and have a conversation with. She'd be full of jokes, maybe a bit of self-deprecating humour and sarcasm, and I guess that happens to just be what I like.
I think the conversation that defines what we talked about on there was talking about music. Maria's a big music person and, and I thought I was too. But then I met Maria and I realised I know nothing about music. And she asked me what I was interested in, and at the time, me and a friend had been listening to a lot of records and um, we'd been appreciating kind of acousticy stuff, and, uh, something we'd listened to recently that we'd reconnected with was, I had heard this before, but Coldplay's first album. We'd been listening to that and it's a beautiful acoustic album, and on a, on a good high-fi it's just very relaxing, but it doesn't at all match up with the rest of the Coldplay vibes, and I remember saying to her that I'd been listening to Coldplay a lot and, and I think that almost kind of killed things dead there. She was very, very against that idea and she, she was happy to call me out on that.
MARIA: [laughing] It was almost a deal breaker for me because I really hate Coldplay, but he was talking about it, listening on his speakers, and how like the fullness of the sound is great or something. So I was like, ok, whatever, at least this guy is like into music. I'd rather he was into listening to music and appreciate it than not at all. We can get past the Coldplay. I can like upgrade his music knowledge. That's fine.
OLIVER: Luckily I had a few other good choices that she was vibing with at the time and I think they saved me, er, I think Taylor Swift was one. She's a, she's a big Taylor Swift fan. I mean, I'm sure it's not necessarily the most masculine thing for a guy to put out there, but, uh, I love Taylor Swift and I'd been introduced to one of the albums recently, and I think I shared with her my, my love for lying in the bath, listening to Taylor Swift and drinking, uh, cold white wine.
MARIA: And then I think because I was kind of a seasoned online dater, I was very quickly like, let's meet up in real life, because otherwise the chat just dries up and you, you run out of things to say or you… are talking to other people and you become disinterested. So, I wanted to meet up in real life. And I think we did that… I think it was like a week or less that we made a, a date in the physical world.
I do remember though, that we set the date, it was for a Saturday evening, early evening, and, usually in my experience, you'd set the date and then like you'd stop talking because you [laughs] it's so, it's so clinical, but like you wanna keep some information back so you've got something to talk about on the date.
But he kept texting me and I was like, this guy is so… either keen or just like chatty ,or just doesn't know the like ‘rules’. And it turned out it was the last that he just didn't really know the rules because he was not really much of an online dater. And also like he was interested, which is a nice thing, but I was just reading it as him being like overly chatty and I was like, I can't deal with his texts at the moment. We're like, hanging out on Saturday, let's just leave it at that.
OLIVER: We met in a, a nice little beer bar in the Northern Quarter and uh, it was a very rainy day and we were sat outside under the, kind of on these benches with big umbrellas for canopies. They were still soaked though. Um, so I managed to find a spot and, and waited and, uh, suddenly she came running down the kind of little pavement towards where the bench where I was.
MARIA: I could see like a group of people, a couple, a group, a couple, whatever. And then there was like one guy and he had dark hair, and I was like, ok, I think that's him. And then as I aproa- or like get parallel with our table and I realise it is him, and he looks up and like kind of smiles at me. I went over to the table and basically said hello, and then looked at where I was meant to be sitting, and it was like absolutely sodden.
OLIVER: I, I realised her bench was wet and I thought, oh, I'll offer my coat up. I, I'm, sometimes I can be smart, but I absolutely lack common sense. And so I thought, I, I, I'll do the chivalric thing and give her my coat to wipe the bench. And, and she just looked at me funny and said, I'll just go to the bar and get some paper towels.
MARIA: Basically like immediately went into kind of problem solving mode and basically just said hi and then ran into the bar, asked him for a load of blue roll, came back out, mopped up my seat, and then like threw this lump of blue roll just like on the table, very unromantic and sat down and, um, was able to start the date.
OLIVER: [laughing] And in that moment I just realised that was a great idea, but she, she said it in a way that really put me at ease, and, and from that moment you go into dates so nervous, but I was just at ease then. The conversation just flowed and, and I don't remember being nervous the rest of the night.
MARIA: For me that was just like a means to an end. I don't want a wet bum. I wanna be comfortable talking to this man. Um, for him, he was like, I found out later inspired by that moment because he had just sat down in the pool of wet or like on his coat or something, just thinking, oh, I don't wanna make a fuss, or, I have not thought about solving this problem, which is actually very unlike him thinking about it, so maybe he was nervous.
And he, apparently he was like, oh, ok, this, this woman knows, like she's just gone and got something, she's solved it. She's like done it for herself. She's not expected me to do anything, and now she's comfortable. And so a non-thought moment for me was quite like an impressive moment for him, which is kind of cute.
OLIVER: Neither of us were, were particularly well dressed for the weather, let alone to, to sit outside with, uh, rain running off the, the umbrella above us onto out backs and, and soaking us, but I actually don't remember any of it being, being an issue throughout the whole kind of time we were sat there. It's, we, we obviously just wrapped in our own little conversations and sheltering under this, this umbrella from the rain, and I guess that kind of brought us closer and made the conversation great. The noise of the rain sheltered us from the, the conversations around us and we were just in our own little bubble kind of, uh, swapping stories.
The thing I remember the most was Maria has this magic for bringing stories and, and information out of people and making them spill their, their kind of true thoughts and emotions on, on whatever it is that she's, she's inquiring about and, and I feel like this is what she did to me. It wasn't, it wasn't a one way affair, but it very much felt like I was being interviewed, but in the best of ways.
And at the same time, every story she'd pull from me, she might offer one in return. So it was, it was this back and forth, but I very much felt like she, she led the conversation. But it was all done in a very, kind of fun and, uh, playful way, and we, we covered everything from kind of our childhood histories to what we did for our careers, what, what our friends were like, what we liked to do with our spare time. Um, and knowing me, I probably kind of led some of those conversations down, deeper roots, and we had kind of deep, meaningful conversations about what we, what we felt and what was important to us. Um, which surprisingly was probably very, different to each other. We, we probably came in with very different viewpoints and stances in life.
MARIA: He seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say as opposed to just kind of going through the motions of it, which obviously is lovely to be on the receiving end of.
OLIVER: So the, the last orders got called quite early and we were… I mean, a great sign. we didn't want to end the night, so we wanted to think where else could we go?
And Maria suggested this little bar near is called Jane Eyre, uh, I'd never been before, but I'd heard good things. So we went along and we thought we'd see, we could try and find a table and we, we managed to find one outside, um, under this, uh, a little marque, so we're protected from the rain. It was a much better spot than the one we were in previously.
MARIA: Even though it was outside that bar has such a relaxed and welcoming feel, and that transposed to the outside area. Plus the square that it's in just had cute fairy lights up and stuff. s o it was like quite unintentionally romantic.
OLIVER: And I was introduced to their magical cocktails.
MARIA: And then there was a moment where…
OLIVER: …I realised that I was very interested and I was having a great time, and, uh, when conversation flows, so well, and you're having such a good in-depth conversation, sometimes I, I was scared that maybe I, I didn't want it to go the wrong way. I didn't wanna give the wrong vibes, that it was just great chat.
MARIA: So we were sitting opposite each other on like a kind of canteen bench.
OLIVER: I kind of sneakily put my leg forward, uh, and, and kind of threaded my leg through the middle of hers.
MARIA: So we were like, my, like his, like my leg, his leg.
OLIVER: Just kind of rested the side of it against her just to give the kind of, this is fun, this is, this is interesting. I, I like you.
MARIA: It was like so smooth. I can't remember who was talking, but it was unnoticeable. nHe didn't do anything with his face to be like, oh, I'm making a move now, but I just suddenly felt like his knee locking against my knees. I was like, ok, he's interested. This is like a signal.
OLIVER: That's a very delicate way I feel to make that first bit of contact, which is important cos if you don't make that first contact, then the first hug's a bit harder or the first kiss.
MARIA: And that was really nice because I'm… I kind of wasn't used to guys putting themselves out there, and that's like not even putting themselves out there, it's such a tiny thing, but it was like really valued in that moment.
OLIVER: Maria definitely made all the next moves. Uh, a short while later, she, she was looking at me funny with a, with a cute little smile on her face and she, she obviously didn't quite know how to say what she wanted to say, but told her to just kind of come out with it. And, and she said she, she wanted to kiss me and she, she wanted to ask for a kiss. And she was like, is that all right? And I said, of course. And then we, we went across the table and, and we kissed and it was, it was beautiful. And then she kind of sat back. She was there just smiling and glowing at me. Um, and I guess that was the, the moment where I knew that this was obviously off to a good start.
MARIA: And that was lovely, and then from that point I was like, ok, this, you know, we're both interested and it felt like solidly romantic.
OLIVER: And the night just went on from there. We, we sat until they called last orders at maybe kind of 11, 12, 1.
MARIA: And he said, I'll walk you back to your door. And I was like half like, hmm, ok, cheesy move cos he wants another kiss at the door, but also
like, that's really kind and sweet. Um, so we walked like the two minutes back to my door.
And that, oh, that walk is always like the worst time because you don't want to get into a full conversation because you know you're just about to arrive at a door and then like, you can't continue that conversation, but you also don't wanna just walk back in silence. So like that was the most awkward moment of the whole date probably.
And then we got to my building, and I think it was raining again, luckily there's like a little glass awning that comes out of the building. So we stood under that and we had a good night kiss, and then like the kiss just kept carrying on. And then I remember someone came in or out of the building and we were like, ok, this is a bit awkward and also it's raining, so we went into the building, just [laughs] just inside the lobby and then like carried on. And then someone else came in or out of the building. I was like, ok, this is really awkward, and also it's like fluorescent lighting in here so... I invited him upstairs.
And I remember, so I have a little duplex and upstairs is the living room. And so we went upstairs and we're sitting on the sofa. And I remember I gave him a glass of whisky. Well, I offered him a drink and then I think I just did it without asking him what he'd like. And we both had a glass of whisky. And again, this is one of the things that like, wasn't really a thing for me at all, but later on I've discovered that he was quite impressed by that because he'd, I think he'd never been to a woman's house before where they had given him whisky, especially like unprompted.
OLIVER: I think that kind of sealed the deal really. Uh, I'm very much a fan of a, of a night cap, especially a whisky. And, and it turned out to be, uh, a very good one - Woodford Reserve - and, uh, so we, we sat with a glass of whisky and, and continued chatting and. I, I can't think of a better way to end the night in, in general, s o let alone, uh, with someone having met someone as wonderful as Maria.
After the first date we had, I, I think a second date was just a given.
MARIA: I definitely wasn't thinking, oh, this is the one, this is like a serious thing. I was like, this is a nice… I feel good about it. Oh my god. I also remember before he left, he was like, what are you doing next week? Let's hang out on like Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday. And I was like, what? That’s like, in three days time! I'm not gonna have done anything by then. I won't have anything to talk to you about by then. I also have this thing that sometimes my friends make fun of me for, which is that I don't wanna see the same person too much in, in too little time, which is like pathetic. And it's based on a fear that we won't have anything to talk about. But obviously, like the people that you're closest to, you always have something to talk about, so it's really irrelevant. And I, I kind of left it, I was like, yeah, let's see. But then it turned out that I think my sister was coming to stay with me that week, my sister and my nephew. So I was like, it's either on the Tuesday, which is like three days from now, or it's not for like 10 days. So I was like, ok, well we sort of have to do this Tuesday thing.
OLIVER: Apparently that's very against Maria's norms. Um, but she made the exception for me.
MARIA: And then it was a great date, obviously, but I was just panicky that he was gunning for something so keen, and he said that on the, at the end of the first date, which again is like a nice flattering sign, but I read it as like, ooh, keen!
OLIVER: I definitely got vibes a lot sooner than Maria did.
MARIA: We met in this kind of spring, early summer in the autumn. I remember I went to visit some friends in London. And I'd had this like sense from him. I felt like he was maybe holding something back. And I, I said, I remember sitting outside this pub watching football with my friends and I said, I think Oliver wants to tell me he loves me and I'm not ready to say it back to him. And they were like, excited for me, but also kind of, um, compassionate. I felt very strongly. I didn't wanna say it for the sake of it.
OLIVER: But I could tell that she felt the same, but she was, she was too afraid to confront that, to truly say it.
MARIA: I didn't wanna say it unless I really meant it, and I'd never said it to anyone in a romantic context before.
OLIVER: And I... Don't remember when she first said it, but I remember when she first felt it and I, I got the vibe at the time and, and she kind of confirmed it afterwards that, that this is when she, she'd felt it. But we'd, we'd already been spending some mornings together, some nights and mornings together and, uh, I'd wake up and we'd have breakfast in the nice sunny kitchen. It was beautiful.
MARIA: And he was literally talking about like finance news, like something so boring. But literally I had like waves through my body and I couldn't stop smiling. And I suddenly realised, oh, I love this man. But [laughing] he was talking about this newx story and he was on such a roll, so I was just like glazed over staring and smiling at him, but he had no idea.
OLIVER: She just had this, this look in her eyes, this smile on her face, and obviously we were both just kind of so content, but she didn't wanna bring it up there and she didn't think it was the right time. She knew I had to rush off to work, and so she, she waited.
MARIA: And the next time we hung out was a friend's birthday party and there was loads of people around and I couldn't say it then.
OLIVER: It was the next time I saw her when we had a date that she admitted that that morning she'd wanted to say it, she'd felt it. She realised the first time that she felt like she, she was in love.
MARIA: I waited from like midweek until like the Saturday or Sunday and then finally I was able to say it and obviously he said it back, and I got so tongue tied when I was trying to say it. But I'm glad he read the room and he knew to kind of wait. And then when I was ready, it like meant more.
OLIVER: Me and Maria have developed a lot of tools in our time together so far, and I think that's what's made us so successful. Um, I've taken inspiration from, from my career in software engineering and, and the methodologies we use there. And, uh, a big thing I'm fan of is what we call a retrospective. And me and Maria adopted this practice really early.
What we do is we, we go to the pub on, on a Monday, every other Monday, and we talk about what's been going well, what's been going badly, what we wanna change, what we wanna keep doing, and we kind of use that as a bit of admin time to kind of plan, oh we’ve got these events. Uh, do you wanna do, see friends more? Do you wanna have a rest? How are finances? How are we doing with chores? Since we've moved in, uh, these have been absolutely pivotal to helping build a good kind of working relationship, so to speak at home. And so we, we use that as a good, uh, just a place for open communication.
MARIA: You're not holding onto things from an argument a week ago. You can bring them up like sensibly. You can have a place to talk about the really boring stuff that no one wants to talk about when you're out on date night, you can say something that might potentially be hurtful, but actually it's gonna be helpful.
OLIVER: If if we had fights, we'd always make sure to kind of, I guess do a full debrief on it, and maybe that's not healthy, maybe, maybe it's too much. But for us it helped to talk about it and we talk about what we'd fought about, but also why we got into that position. And oftentimes through doing that we discovered we weren't really fighting, we were just, there were some other anxieties in our life that had led us into that.
MARIA: It's about creating that space where we both know we have an opportunity to bring something up and I think. it only works because we both respect that and we're both willing to bring ourselves like honestly and open to it. And I, and I, I just really value knowing that it's there. I feel like it's such a key part of our relationship is something I'm very proud of.
OLIVER: Ultimately all the tools we have are, are founded on communication, uh, and good communication skills. And, and by talking about the things that are going on and the way we feel, we've iterated and adapted and we've grown and grown and grown, and I, I think doing that we've managed to build a really good, healthy life together.
Maria's completely changed me a as a person. She's made me a lot more social. She's introduced me to so many new friendship groups, um, and she's made me appreciate the ones that I have even more than I did before. The beauty has been that introducing Maria to my friends has been one of the easiest things to do because she's quickly just become part of the friendship group and I actually think she vibes with them even better than I vibe with them.
MARIA: You know Ithink my friends would say, oh yeah, you're still the same Maria. And his friends the same to him. But, I do think there were subtle changes within us as individuals and definitely as a couple that are just developments of having, of, of being in that close relationship with somebody, and wanting to make little adaptations to make everything go smoother.
All those little changes, just being aware of the other person's behaviour, aware of maybe as much as you can be what they're thinking at the time. Reading them better and then adjusting your own behaviour. So there are little changes like that all through our relationship that, um, have probably just made us both nicer people and like easier people to be around.
OLIVER: I can be… sometimes I can be serious and I can be sharp.
MARIA: Oliver is a very smart person, but he's also very playful.
OLIVER: And Maria definitely brings out that bubbly, playful side of me,
MARIA: And he brings out a playful side of me which is… not typical of me, I would say.
OLIVER: Coming into the, into our relationship, I was not at all interested in a relationship. But, but now I couldn't see it any other way. I, I, I found something that makes me truly happy and I was working so hard on building this kind of, this base of my life and nothing I could have done could have done as good a job as, as Maria has done so far at uh, kind of building this, this life we've got together.
Now I feel like we've, we've really begun the journey that I, I'm no longer on this kind of preparation phase. That things have begun and, and, and this is the start of the good life. I, I can only look forward with, with wonder and and happiness at what the next 10, 20, 30 years are gonna be like.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. This episode was co-edited by Davide Erbo, with production help from Claire Brown.
Davide is the creator and producer of the fantastic podcast Britalian, which shares his experience of being an Italian in Britain. What makes the perfect cup of tea? And why are there carpets, everywhere? It’s so charming and creative, and I insist that you must listen.
The music for Equal Parts comes from Audio Network, and there’s transcripts for every episode on the website EqualPartsPodcast.co.uk if you like to read instead, or alongside.
As always, an artwork has been created to accompany this episode. Waiting for any of these pieces is always a mixture of nervous and excited anticipation, but this one was so hard! I think you’ll agree with me though, the ink piece Savannah Storm has created is so cute. I love the way it progresses us through the story. You can find it at EqualPartsPodcast.co.uk or on socials - use #EqualPartsPodcast. Don’t worry, there’s links for all this stuff in the shownotes.
Next week… back to our regular programming, for one… last…. Time. And speaking of lasts, this final first date happened at the absolute latest opportunity.
Zebib: I saw the small tattoo she had on her arm, um, that had a line of poetry from Robert Frost. So she was explaining it to me that it was, a Robert Frost line, but like in the handwriting of Jane Austin. So I was just like, oh my god. I love both of them. I love Jane Austin!
LINDZ: Zebib said, oh, that's amazing!
ZEBIB: And also I have a line of poetry on my back and a tattoo, um, by Walt Whitman
LINDZ: And at that moment I thought, wow, ok, yep, yep. I'm really sold on this girl. I'm so sold. That's, that's annoying because I'm gonna leave. Why do you have to be completely perfect?
SHELL & ALEX
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves.
This week, a risky work romance. We’re used to love stories starting in a bar, but behind the bar? Those ones are usually short-lived. Especially when they get off on the wrong foot.
In this episode, Shell & Alex put their jobs - and Alex’s nose - on the line to prove the doubters wrong.
ALEX: Ok, my name's Alex. I'm over in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, and I'm a college lecturer teaching automotive technology.
SHELL: Hi, I'm Shell and I'm currently a full-time English literature student.
ALEX: We've been together for, I'm sweating now, what are we looking at? 16 years, just over. Whew, passed that test! [laughs].
SHELL: He's very calm, very laid back, and chilled out. Yeah, just a calming presence in the world, which is a bit hectic at the minute, and certainly for me, I'm the, I'm the storm in the tea cup and he's the one that calms it down and chills it out.
ALEX: I would describe Michelle as, [chuckles], do you know what? Caring, loving, passionate, and hard flipping work. She's one of the few people that her face says it before her mouth will say it, but she is a very, very, she's a passionate person, um, with a immense love for her family and for books.
My house is full of books. I have books everywhere. Everywhere you turn there’s a book. That's her true passion.
SHELL: When me and Alex met, I was uh, 19.
ALEX: I dunno how old I would've been back then… 24?
SHELL: Quite ambitious in what I did as a job. We were both working in a hotel and I knew my job. I was quite comfortable with it. I'd done it for a long time. Having started it when I was quite young.
ALEX: I was a hotel manager. I was relaxed, I was chilled, [laughs] um, very little used to make me cross. I suppose you could say, if I look back now, I was quite outta my depth, but I was very much a people's person. Always up for a laugh. I'd sit and chat to anyone and anyone that came through the door.
SHELL: So I think I was, yeah, confident, probably quite outgoing, not too worried about what I said or who I said it to [laughs] um, wasn't really bothered by people or meeting new people. So quite outgoing and yeah, outspoken probably is, is the word most people would use.
ALEX: I knew we were getting new members of staff cos I'd just been away.
SHELL: When I'd been employed, Alex was actually on holiday, so it was the hotel owner that had interviewed me, and employed me. I just don't think it was really mentioned, like no one kind of talked about the fact that he wasn't there. He wasn't someone that breathed down everyone's neck normally, so I, those people were just like, oh yeah, he's on holiday. This person's in charge while he's not here.
ALEX: So I came back in, I think it was, it was a Monday or a Tuesday, and as I walked into the bar, a new barmaid/waitress was there, and I can't even remember if I said hello, um, or introduced myself. Uh, but I did inform her that she was using the wrong glasses.
SHELL: Who does this person think he is telling me how to do my job? Um, dare I say? It's one of those things that's really funny cos I do remember, I was making a gin and tonic for a customer. And yeah, he comes around the corner and he's like, “oh, is that so-and-so’s drink?” And I'm like, “yeah”, and he's like, “well, you're doing it in the wrong glass.”
ALEX: I wanna say gin and tonic, but I could be totally wrong. We had glasses, particular glasses for particularly jobs. And with the glass she should have used should have had a bubble in the bottom. Um, cause they're a bit, they're a bit fancier.
SHELL: I was just like, “what?”
ALEX: I told her and she snapped. I can't remember what she said, but she just snapped and gave me some abuse and I was like, “oh…”
SHELL: [laughing] “Who are you to come round this bar and tell me what to do?”
ALEX: And I think I walked away. Cause I thought, oh, I'll back off a little bit. Let's go do some work.
SHELL: I was so annoyed that he dare tell me how to do my job because I didn't know who he was. I had no idea that he was actually the manager in the hotel at the time, you know, he just walks around the corner and tells me how to do something. I'm like, well, who are you to do that? He just kind of found it funny that I was annoyed with him and it was like, well, how'd you find that funny? I'm fuming at you, and you're just kind of laughing.
ALEX: And that's really where it, I suppose it all started.
SHELL: I think to be honest, that was kind of what intrigued us to each other. I think he was amazed that such a small thing would irritate me quite so much. I was kind of intrigued at the fact that he thought irritating me was funny, and I think that's just kind of how we built on it. Like he would do things to kind of wide me up. I think he would, you know, so it reminds me of like, little kids at school, you know you pull a girl’s hair cos you like her sort of thing. And I think that was kind of our thing of seeing how much he could annoy me and then doing something funny to make me see the funny side of it, and like chill out a little bit. And I think a lot of the time it was jokes or winding me up and it just kind of worked for us and made us kind of get a bit closer, I suppose, you know, that kind of banter.
I'm, I'm one of five children, so I grew up being teased quite mercifully, [laughs] um, at home. And I think it's just something that is a connection with someone. You know, if you fall into that kind of banter, it just meant that, it felt natural with him to be that way that you could joke and mess around and yeah, I think it was that, that probably got us intrigued with each other, that we could wind each other up quite easily, but then laugh about it at the end of the day.
ALEX: There was a night we worked together. We had a big, I'm sure it was a big party in or something and we were there drinking espressos, um, to try and keep us going cos it was late night. I don't think we finished till gone 12, um, on a Saturday night. And I remember bending down to check the barrel cos the barrels used to sit under the bar, we didn't have a separate cellar, so the, we only had two barrel barrels. I think it was for like Carling and Worthingtons or something like that.
So I'd gone to check it to make sure it was all right. And as I bent down, and she was there pulling a pint... one of the bar, uh, customers commented, um, to which we both went bright red can’t remember what he said, but it was enough to make us go red and it takes a lot to make me go red.
Um, at this point, nothing, I don't think we'd even probably even looked to each other in that way. I don't know. Maybe we had. But yeah, I crouched down and checked it, customer said something, we both went giggleish and bright red. And I think it all kind of started from there, to be honest with you. Um, which went then from the work colleague to possibly a bit of flirting to where we are now, 16 years later.
SHELL: I think it was one of those things that kind of, it was building and building and neither one of us wanted to put a name or a, a thought on it. We were like, you can tell that it's building up. And I think we were both a little bit… we'd both not long come out of actual relationships with other people, so I think we were both a bit dubious on were we gonna make this something or not?
And then obviously working in a hotel we finished late at night, so I think we'd finished one shift, I think it was gone midnight by the time we'd actually both left the hotel and I was kind of heading home and he was like, kind of messaged and was like, oh, do you fancy a nightcap?
ALEX: One text message led to another text message [laughs] led to the next morning. [laughs] I'm even going red. I can feel myself [laughs]
SHELL: I think it was that kind of, we'd been building it separately and then kind of sat there and been like, yeah, actually let's go for it. Um, and make something of it, but not really said in words. It was just like, yeah, a late night drink and then it was like, oh, ok, yeah, this will be, this will now be us.
We met up for like a breakfast before work one day. That was probably our official date, but not said in so many words. I think our actual, our first date was after we'd actually moved in together [laughs] so, so we kind of said, yes, we're gonna make a go of it. Moved in together within like two weeks. Um, it would've ended quicker, but I was on holiday with my family, the week before.
Um, so while I was on holiday, he found a new flat for us to rent, moved, moved all his stuff in, and I came back and moved mine in. And then about a week later, we actually had our first proper date you know, went out for dinner and whatnot. Um, so yeah, we kind of did it a bit backwards, I suppose.
ALEX: Once it became official. Um, I don't wanna sound beheaded, but I think I was liked a lot, so I learned afterwards, because I was just easygoing, I was happy, I was cheerful. So I think there was a little bit of resentfulness in the team, but there was nothing more than that, um, and there was a little bit jealousy, but other than that, I think everything… I was just, you know what, this, it’s life.
SHELL: I mean the team that were at the hotel had all been working together for quite a long time, um, I was very much the new girl. And unfortunately, dare I say that one of the girls actually worked there, obviously already had designs on Alex and wanted that to be her and Alex. So when I came along and I think, I think it was probably more obvious to others before it was obvious to me and Alex, that something was there, that it made that instance, um, probably a little bit more awkward, being the new girl and then all of a sudden it's like, oh, hang on the new girl and him, when actually I quite liked him first, meant that it was slight, slightly awkward [laughs].
ALEX: It did make us feel, well, hang on a minute, you can't keep working even though people meet each other in different ways. You can't keep working in that environment just in case there is that bit of resentfulness or people might frown upon it. Or if anything, but of course you don't know what's gonna happen in the future, it may not have, it may not have lasted. I know that when we left, there was a lot of comments. Um, there was a, I can't think what they called it now. They'd put a thing on the computer, you know, where they could gossip about people they saw.
Um, we'd gone to, uh, myself and Shell had gone out one night. We'd bumped into a member of staff and we'd ended up in the gossip folder. The drinks we'd ordered, what we were wearing, how -anything, uh, so actually it was probably the best thing we did was to get out to leave and to start a new adventure.
SHELL: It was fine for a week or so, and then there'd been complaints that he'd been favouring me at work, which although hadn't been the case, I think people were very willing to make a case for it.
So it was just like, you know, it is gonna cause an issue, we think you’d be better off finding employment elsewhere. So it was all done very quickly and very shortly. So there wasn't like a drawn out awkwardness or anything like that, I think… We as a couple had known that was gonna come, like say, knowing that one of the people there had already kind of liked him, I think we were expecting it to happen. So we were both just like, let's just, I'll get out, it's fine [laughs].
ALEX: I did get punched in the nose by another member of staff. Um, we'd gone back for the Christmas party, so we finished end of August, September time... but we'd been invited back to the Christmas party. And one of the waitresses was there and she was quite, um, upset and she got drunk and this, that, and the other. So I went to check, see if she was ok, and she started screaming and shouting at me and smacked me in the face. Um, because, she reckoned that, um, Michelle was with me because of my bank balance, which if she was, she was, it was always in the red. So there was no money, ever any money there [laughs] so, you know, I'm not sure where it came from.
But yeah, she punched me in the face and, um, stormed off and I was in stitches. It was the funniest thing ever. Um, I've never been punched before. It was like a tickle, uh, bless her heart, but it was, it was funny. I went back, carried on drinking and laughing away myself.
As I've got older, the skill to be able to laugh things off has got more difficult. But even now, I just… life's too short, isn't it? We're here for a visit. If you take everything to heart, it makes everything more difficult, and this is why me and Michelle are great together because there's a lot of stuff I'm relaxed about, and I'll relax her and we'll talk through when she's the opposite and vice versa.
If I get upright, she'll then sit there and you'll chat. Granted, she'll still take it in and she'll still be frustrated inside, but she’ll try and calm me down and it works well and it's, uh, it's a good thing we've passed over to our son, he's, he's very much the same. Um, he's got the best of both of us where he'll get upright about of certain things, but he'll be chill about the rest. Yeah, that's fine. We'll worry about it later. You’ve got to laugh things off, ain’t ya? Life's too short.
SHELL: You know, initially I'd get frustrated cuz he'd be laid back on things, whereas I want to go off like a bottle of pop and he'll just take it and ride with it and I'm like, why aren’t you more annoyed? Um, so kind of mellowed each other out.
He's probably understood a bit more if I go off like a bottle of pop just to leave me to it. Whereas before he'd try and calm me down from the offset. So, probably just managing each other and knowing when we need space, whereas initially I don't think we probably did that very well with one another.
ALEX: Our confidence has changed as well. I've never been a believer in myself. Um, but with the help of Michelle, she now pushes me to achieve great things, and she has, she really, I couldn't, I couldn't ask for a better… friend, partner, wife, and she really does push me to achieve things. And I would never have done that before. I'd never put myself out there. Um, I'd never even really believed myself.
SHELL: So we were living in Hunstanton at the time, so by the sea, which was lovely. And there was a thunderstorm one night. We lived in a third floor flat that was boiling. It didn't matter, you know, if the sun had gone down three hours ago or an hour ago, it was so hot. So there was a thunderstorm one night and we were like, it's too hot in here. It's lovely. We live by the sea, let’s… And we literally walked the beach in the thunderstorm and it was lovely.
No one else was around. It was just the two of us. And you're sitting there realising how little your life is in this thing of the world. You know, you've got the sea which is just wonderful, very lucky to live by that. And that kind of calms you anyway. But to be out there in a thunderstorm, just watching how powerful everything is and you think we, we felt, I think that we were fighting a battle in the storm for us. And then it was like, actually that's nothing. You know, we, we can do this and it's just us and the rest of the world doesn't really matter. Do you know what I mean? It gave you that sense of… You are on your own, within your own little bubble. And if that makes you happy, then the rest of it's quite insignificant. Um, and it, yeah, just really nice to kind of sit there and watch the storm play out across the wash and just be like, yeah, life's… life's good.
You know? We live in a wonderful place and we can have calm when we need it, and it's just us. And yeah, I think that goes for most of our marriage I think. If times get tough you head to the beach and you just sit by the sea, and it is something that we've always kind of done as, if life's hard or has it been a tough day, it’s like, alright shall we go to the beach and just chill out. I think certainly in our early days that worked for us, just being by the sea and chilling out.
ALEX: Shell’s dad was a bit shocked when we turned around and told him we'd got engaged. So his comment was, it's only another excuse to get in to your knickers, um, and embarrassed himself and walked out the room and I didn't, I didn't know what, I was scared him… I still am a little bit, [laughs] you know, after 16 years. Um, so I think it was a shock to some people, but we've proved that it can happen, you know? Yeah we were together, we moved in within... I wanna say a month, it might even have been quicker than that, got married within a year and a bit… So it was all, yeah, it was all very, very quick. But when you know something's right, you know it's right, and it was right. And 16 years later, it's still right.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham.
The music comes from Audio Network, and the story came from Shell and Alex, thank you both for your time.
Eleanor Hardiman is the illustrator behind this week’s original artwork, highlighting one key element from Shell & Alex’s story.
You can see it at equalpartspodcast.co.uk alongside all the previous illustrations from the show.
The website also hosts transcripts for each and every episode of Equal Parts - you can find a link in the shownotes.
Next week… Sometimes it’s the little gestures that mean the most. To me, anyway.
OLIVER: I kind of sneakily put my leg forward, uh, and, and kind of threaded my leg through the middle of hers.
MARIA: So we were like, my leg, his leg, my leg, his leg.
OLIVER: Just kind of rested the side of it against her just to give the kind of sign like, this is fun. This is, this is interesting. I, I like you.
GABE & KRYSTINA
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. Apparently your emotions are heightened when you fly, but have you ever fallen in love on a plane? In today’s episode, perfect strangers Gabe and Krystina find out there's more between them than an armrest… and it’s something that’s worth flying back and forth across the country for. In a poetic parallel: these two love to travel, and travel, led them to love.
GABE: I'm Gabe. I'm 38 years old. I, uh, I tag along with my fiance since she's a performer. I work in, uh, marketing, so I work remotely.
KRYSTINA: I'm Krystina. I'm originally from New York and I'm currently in Germany performing in Aladin, the musical.
GABE: I was, uh, born and raised in Germany initially, and my father's French, my mother's American from. From Germany then I went to, uh, the States and now I'm back to kind of globe trotting, going with the flow.
KRYSTINA: My partner is Gabriel or Gabe and we've been together four years. I would describe Gabe as... well with me, um, very outgoing and he likes to push my buttons particularly, but he is very caring and insightful. I think he can read me very, very well. He is really just super giving.
GABE: She's a very devoted, dedicated, genuine, real person. She knows what she wants, she knows where her passion is, she knows what she's good at. She also knows what she's not good at. And um, you know, what you see is what you get. There's no games, there's no BS and it's someone that can be your best friend, but also someone that could be a partner.
KRYSTINA: Just before I met Gabe, I feel like I was just very comfortable, and confident in where I was and what I was doing. Like I wasn't looking for a partner, but I was just very satisfied and in my skin, like I was really enjoying my career. I was enjoying my free time, my friends, and just being like, I wasn't looking for something, I just felt like exactly centered and where I was supposed to be.
GABE: Gabe was, um, not looking for a relationship, based on recent experiences. Was not really convinced that monogamy was a real thing that worked, and was kind of ready to do his own thing.
I got out of a relationship earlier that year, four year relationship, and I was like in a head space where, you know, I recognised that I always put myself in these relationships that like, I knew they weren't real, I just stayed in them and it was not, it's not a healthy thing.
And I just realised that about myself, so I just got done, um, visiting my family uh, I was in Greece, I was in Germany. And I was like, okay, time to go back to New York, and I was like, eh, not, not ready. So in Germany, I booked a ticket to visit a friend in LA and then to go to my cousin's wedding in Seattle, and then just kind of extended my like two months road trip by another few weeks.
And so when I got to the terminal, I just got back from Greece, actually spent the night in the terminal. So I was kind of like, I was, I was tired. I wasn't feeling great, you know, I was like, whatever. So I go into this terminal and, and ready to get on that flight and it's full, and I'm like walking around, I'm like, let me sit for a second. That's when I ended up sitting next to her.
KRYSTINA: It was really early in the morning, but I just remember I was sitting there watching Jane the Virgin because I was obsessed at the time. I was like, yes, let me get my episode in, and then he just came and like plopped down, like basically in my lap, he was that close and I was like, okay, this guy does not have spacial awareness, I'm trying to watch my show. And he was like kind of, not like a mess, but like I could see all his stuff, so I could see that he was gonna be sitting next to me because his ticket was just, on top of me basically, and I'm like, of course this guy who doesn't have spatial awareness, of course he is gonna sit next to me. Like why would that not be the case? And then I just remember him getting up at some point to get in line to get on the plane. And obviously I knew he was sitting next to me, so I was like, this is not our boarding group. What are you doing ? Like why are you up? And I was like, okay, spatial awareness, no, follows the rules, no.
So I was already like, oh, bless, I can't with this guy. And I just remember noticing his outfit. He had like this military, uh, style shirt. It had like, um, the camo print like on half of it. And I remember that, and I remember his shoes cause I was like, urgh, this guy's wearing dad shoes, I can't.
GABE: Turns out that she was sitting next to me. So like when she came onto the plane, like she was doing one of those, I'm gonna try to get my headphones in before I sit down, so nobody talks to me, but she has this beautiful smile. And she had this smile but was trying to get the headphones in, and, you know, as a guy, like, hey, this beautiful girl is smiling at you. She must wanna talk to me right? So right away, I started talking to her.
KRYSTINA: And so immediately he's like, “oh, weren't you sitting next to me out in the terminal?” So like, before I can even get my butt in the seat or get him to get up so I can get in my chair, because I was the middle and he was the aisle, we're already chatting. He's already like started the conversation.
GABE: We just started talking. It was, it was very natural and we were stuck on a the tarmac for like an hour. There's a delay. We were just talking all the time before the fight took off. I did try, I had these tickets to a festival and I was like, “yo, you wanna go to a festival?” And she's like, “no, like, I don't know you, I'm not just going to some random festival.” I was like, “ok”.
KRYSTINA: Whoa. I don't even know you. You could be crazy. I can't go to - the festival's like in Chicago. I'm living in LA at that time, I'm like, so I don't know you. I'm gonna fly to Chicago, go to a festival with you? No, no sir. But we talked about everything like work, travel, likes, dislikes, we talked about spirituality.
GABE: What we like to do, which is travel, about experiences, about, um, like how we look at the world about her shitty movie selection, um… [laughs]
KRYSTINA: Stream of consciousness almost, it felt like we were just jumping from topics, but seamlessly. It was just so natural.
GABE: We watched a couple of movies. It was very like organic. It was, um, I like, I've met people in the past and there's a lot of, um, I call it infatuation, and then there's like chemistry and there's like excitement, right?
And what happened here was like, calm and quiet and like natural, it wasn't forced, it wasn't like overly excited, but it was like just, it just like fit, like two pieces of puzzle just fit.
KRYSTINA: The guy who was next to me by the window, he was asleep the whole flight. And for him, especially because it was clear when we got on, we didn't know each other, but when he woke up for the end of the flight, you could see that he was like, wait, what happened, like, cuz you know how conversation progresses and like, we were just so familiar immediately. So I know for him he was like… huh?
As we were getting off the plane, I think even before, like as we were about to get up and leave, he was like, can I walk you off or walk off with you? And I'm like, well, obviously we're in the same aisle. We're gonna be walking off together [laughs]... And then he was like -
TOGETHER: Something happened here -
GABE: I don't know what it is
KRYSTINA: And I wanna come back in a week and I wanna see what this is about. He was like, there's just something and I'm coming back.
GABE: We’re gonna hang out, and we're gonna see what's going on.
KRYSTINA: And in my head I was like, yeah, sure you're coming back, like you just met me, you're just gonna come back in a week to hang out? I was like, okay, buddy. Yeah, I believe that [laughs].
GABE: And then we walked out and then we said goodbye. And like I gave a hug and I a kiss on her cheek and she got a little awkward, she's like, “bye”! She didn't kiss me back. She just kind of like ran off.
KRYSTINA: I was just so awkward because one of my best friends, uh, I was living with her at the time and her parents were picking me up, and so I'm like, I don't want anybody to see that I met this guy randomly, and so I was like, “bye!” I just like ran away.
GABE: And yeah, I remember messaging my brother. I have a screenshot of it. I was like, I met this beautiful, sarcastic, talented, like, amazing woman, like the girl in my dreams.
KRYSTINA: As soon as I got off the flight, I texted my best friend and I texted my sister. And I was like, so I just said, ‘so I met a guy’. Cause I was like, I don't wanna chase it by saying too much. So I definitely told them, and I told my best friend, I was like, okay, there's this guy, like there's something different. Because I was like, I could just feel as soon as we started talking or like just something about our energies was just so aligned.
And I was still so excited about our exchange on the plane. I like texted him as soon as I got in the car. And this kid like waits hours to respond back to me.
GABE: In my mind, I had to go find my friend. I've never been to LA, I had to figure out how to get there. So I know she messaged me like pretty much when she got in the car and um, I kind of ignored her for a few hours because I was trying to figure out where I was going.
And then we started messaging back and forth and I was like, yes, so I'm coming back to LA in a week, so like, we gotta figure out what we're gonna do. She was like, yeah, I figured like you just show up and we go watch a movie and eat dinner. I'm like, listen, I'm flying back to LA to hang out with you. We're gonna do a lot more than just watch a movie and like eat dinner. Like that's not how this is gonna go. And I remember her like not being helpful. I was like, ok, I need to make the decision on this. So let's get on a call, let me call you, and, uh, let's figure it out, right?
KRYSTINA: And he swears that I ignored his phone call -
GABE: And [laughs] she did the classic like, oh, my phone is dying -
KRYSTINA: but my phone [claps] was [claps] dying [claps]. So I'm like, I cannot sit on the phone with you if I have a dead phone. He thinks I just ignored him because I'm awkward on the phone. I don't like talking on the phone. Uh, we set a time to talk and we wind up FaceTiming for like three hours, still talking. I mean, as if the eight hours on the flight wasn't enough. Like we had like three hours more and like, I don't like talking on the phone and it was just so easy. We probably could have talked the whole night.
GABE: And that was like another moment where after we hung up, I was like, what the hell is going on here? Like, what is this? So I flew back to LA, I rented a… I was trying to, you know, turns out she doesn't care about cars at all, I was trying to like, I like impress her [laughs], I rented a convertible, a little Mercedes convertible,
KRYSTINA: Some kind of nice car.. I don't even know what kind of car it was. I just knew that the top was down and I was like, oh no, cos I, I actually had just gotten my hair done.
GABE: It was only a few days, but we, we did, we did a lot of, like, it was very simple, but we did a lot of eating, found brunch spots, we went, uh, did some day trips to the beach. We ate a lot of, uh, baguette and cheese and just chilled inside. And, uh, it was just awesome. Like, we just spent a lot of time together.
KRYSTINA: We did have the first kiss, I think it was like, it was definitely the first night. It was like the vibes were there because it felt like on the plane that already felt like 50 dates packed into one. Like we just knew so much about each other's lives at that point.
And by the time he was supposed to leave, it was just so like heart wrenching. Like I wasn't ready to leave. Like we went to brunch that day and I was just so, I couldn’t… stop being said. I was just like, I'm not ready for you to leave. Like, I'm not ready for this to be done.
GABE: I’m a very like, emotional sensitive person, right? And she's a, she's a very logical person. Like everything is very logic driven. Like she likes to solve emotion with logic, but she was like visibly like upset, but she didn't wanna say it. And I was like, we were both kind of upset that it was ending. And I was like, listen, let's just look at what flight I’m on. And, uh, if there's a seat available, like, why don't you just buy a ticket and come back to New York?
KRYSTINA: And if there’s a seat left, then we know, that's, that's what we should do.
GABE: And it turns out there's a seat empty next to me.
KRYSTINA: So we're like, okay, like how much clearer can this be? So then I booked the ticket and I left that day with him!
I think I was there for two, maybe three days of us hanging out. And then I got an audition call and I was like, oh, gotta go back. Like I need to do this. This is my career. I've been doing this. You just got here. I gotta do this.
GABE: I remember driving her to the airport and there was traffic and we were late and like she wasn't really admitting it, but we were both hoping that we would just miss the flight, and I was like ready to just take the next exit and be like, “yo, let's just get pizza in Brooklyn”. There’s this really cool spot. And I didn't, cause I was like, listen, if that's what she needs to do, I can't. I can't make her change her mind.
KRYSTINA: Clearly. We wanna be around each other all the time. So we made a plan to like when we were together, we would plan the next time we would see each other.
Before I left he was like, ok, so I'll come see you in like three weeks or something, which now that I think about, I'm like, that was so long. But by the next time he came back to LA, it was just like, ok, and you're moving back with me. And also like at that time, I had gotten, I work with an artist in New York. He had, um, asked if I wanted to go on tour with him and perform, and it was gonna be eight weeks starting in New York and rehearsals and everything, so I was like, ok, is this timing like not perfect? So I just packed up everything and got back on the flight that he was on, moved back.
GABE: Basically, it was, it was done. It was like, okay, we're a thing. Uh, we moved in together. She moved into my place in New York and we've been in a relationship ever since.
Again, it was contradicting where I was at in life and how I felt about relationships. So like my attitude at the beginning was like, hey, we'll just hang out and see where it goes, and she knows if something's real or not, like this goes back to her like being a genuine person and she's also very patient and she doesn't need validation. She doesn't need outside like telling us, so the, the way we were interacting and the way our energy was proved to her what our situation was. So when I would say those things, she, in her mind, she would just, in, in hindsight now, like in her mind she would just be like, yeah, ok, like you need a few months to, like, you figure out where you're at. That's fine. Like, I, I know where we're at, but… it just kind of just fit. I've never had an experience like that before.
KRYSTINA: I think I got over the phone thing, at least with him very quickly, because especially once I got back to New York, I think we only had like two or three weeks together before I started the tour. So we were… we had a plan. We spoke every night once I got to the next location and then we'd be texting all day.So we’d FaceTimed nightly. It was a little torturous cos it's like a new relationship and you're like, I just wanna be with that person all the time.
We got engaged in October, 2019, and it's funny because we actually picked our wedding venue before we got engaged, like just everything, we just knew that we wanted to get married and like we knew we wanted a destination wedding because we're always travelling.
GABE: I proposed to her in Italy. Um, it was funny cause like we keep having these like travel things, so we were in the west in LA then we were in Vegas and we went from Vegas to Italy, and we flew over DC which is where her mum lives, and the ring was there. So on the stop over I had to sidebar message her mum and meet her in the, in the airport without her seeing that she was meeting me in the airport, which I, I pulled off, which is surprising.
Um, got the ring and I proposed to her in, uh, October of 2019.
KRYSTINA: We were actually supposed to get married in 2020, but like we postponed like three times now because of Covid. But it's coming soon.
GABE: We wanna travel, like that's a big part of our lives. She has the performing arts. I'm in the, in the marketing and in the tech industry, um, which gives me the flexibility. I'm very, you know, grateful for that.
At, at one point we want to find like our home base. I don't think we're ever gonna settle. We are very comfortable being someone new, if that makes sense. Like whenever we're new, that's our comfort zone. And when we’re in one place for too long, we get uncomfortable. But we do wanna have a home base because that's where we'll wanna raise our children, have a family, and when we're ready for that step.
KRYSTINA: The images of the two of us in the terminal are definitely representative of us as people like I am very together and organised and collected in every fashion, and Gabe is just fly by the seat of his pants. [laughs]
GABE: Yeah, uh, her being logical and me being emotional took a second to, to work out. Um, I had to essentially instruct her on like, hey, right now, I'm having emotions, so like logic is not what we need. We just need like, some love and affection and, and then we can apply the logic.
So like, it took a second, and it was just literally me saying that, remember the first time I was like feeling, uh, feeling a way about something and all I needed was like some affection. And I could tell her like, this is where you gimme a hug [laughs] and he just kind of, that's it, like, and that's, that's literally how that went. She like gave me this hug, and like, pat me on the shoulder, like she didn't know what to do with it, but now, she's also gotten a lot better at letting the emotion, like it's not a sign of weakness. It's okay to be emotional, but it, you know, took a while for her to feel like safe. Like, I'm not gonna turn around and use that against her, for example, you know? And so, um, and the logic driven part, it comes from a place of like, I wanna resolve this and I have your best interest at heart. But I'm not used to people always having my best interest at heart. So if you go straight to l ogic, then I'm gonna potentially assume that maybe what's your angle? Right? And so like that's the part I had to get over, I have to like remember like, oh no, when she goes to logic and she wants to solve a problem, it’s because she has your best interests at heart and she won't ever settle for a 50%, she'll only settle for 100%. So it forces me to step up. So we had to learn how to, I had to learn how to receive it, in our relationship. But it's, it's good, like it's not easy [laughs], you know, but it's good that we can openly communicate and get through the bumpy parts and figure it out.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thank you Audio Network for the music, and thanks, and congratulations to Gabe & Krystina! Another couple who have said their vows since we recorded.
You can see wedding pics, and follow Gabe & Krystina’s journey on Instagram, they’re at Swirl Through The World.
There’s a new piece of original artwork for every episode of Equal Parts, today’s story has been distilled into a dreamy piece from Tinuke Fagborun. Thank you Tinuke!
Go to equalpartspodcast.co.uk to see this illustration, and all the previous artwork from the show.
You can find transcripts for each episode on the website too. Links for all of this in the shownotes.
Next week… What’s behind the work banter?
ALEX: I can't even remember if I said hello, um, or introduced myself, but I did inform her that she was using the wrong glasses.
SHELL: Who does this person think he is telling me how to do my job?
ALEX: I told her and she snapped. I can't remember what she said, but she just snapped and gave me some abuse and I was like, oh…
SHELL: [laughing] Who are you to come round this bar? And tell me what to do? He just kind of found it funny that I was annoyed with him and it was like, well, how'd you find that funny? I'm fuming at you and you're just kind of laughing.
Louise & Luke
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories told by the couples themselves. Today's episode takes us back to the early days of apps before we head swipe fatigue, or five different profiles on five different platforms to keep track of.
There's something very sweet and fresh-faced about this couple's first date. Luke bubbling over with nerves, Louise staring at the pavement, and an absolute blindness from both concerning an appropriate meet-up spot. Now instead of jitters, they're brimming with pride for each other and how far they've grown. To tell the story in full, here's Louise and Luke.
LUKE: So I'm Luke. I'm 35 years old and I'm from Derby.
LOUISE: I'm Louise. I live in Derby. I used to be an English teacher and now I am a wedding celebrant.
LUKE: My partner is, uh, Louise, and we've been together for nine years and we've been married for three.
LOUISE: I was very different in 2013 to what I am now.
LUKE: I think I was a lot different, to be honest. Being sort of mid twenties, I, I think I was, I was quite immature really. Um, I'd had a, I'd had a job since I was 16. Um, and I'm still in that, I'm still work for the same company that I did when I was an apprentice. But, um, yeah, I think I was a bit lost.
LOUISE: I've definitely got a lot more confident. I think I've always been a little bit outgoing, but I think I'm a much more confident person now.
And I was in a kind of weird part of my life in 2013. Um, I was living with my ex-boyfriend… still, which is bit weird. And, I’d just completed my NQT year, so my first like training year of being a teacher. And when I first met with Luke, I'd just done the inset day of my teacher training for my new job at a new school of my first year of being an actual fully qualified English teacher.
LUKE: Yeah, I think, uh, she's, she's taught me a lot since, since we met. Um, I feel like. I'm a lot more a tolerant person and I've, you know, I'm prepared, I'm more confident and, you know, prepared to sort of, um, voice my opinions rather than just shying away and, uh, and just believing what people tell me.
I was, I was on a night shift at work and I was, I was reading The Guardian article. And it, and it basically said that there's gonna be a new app that you can download on your phone and it's gonna revolutionise dating. And the way that we think about it. I was sceptical, but I thought, well, what have I got to lose? So, so I downloaded it.
LOUISE: So we met on Tinder and it was back in the days when Tinder was very new. It didn't have the really trashy reputation that it since got, it was kind of the hot new app.
LUKE: There was literally probably about 10 people within a hundred mile radius on there. So it's, uh, I mean we, we joke about it, we call it the online catalogue now.
And uh, so I was walking through and I saw Louise and I thought to myself, she is, the kind of girl that I'd see if I was out at a concert, but I would never stand a chance with. I was like, I'm too shy. I just haven't got enough chat, and I would not be able to go and approach her, but I thought, well, I'm online, so I'm typing, it's not as scary. So I just thought I'll, I'll swipe and see what happens from there.
LOUISE: I've always liked men with dark hair, look a, look a bit, a bit rugged, so his, his photos stood out for that reason. And I remember the first message that he sent me on Tinder said something like, um, oh, hi, how are you doing? I love your hair. And I had like red, really big volumized hair in my profile picture. So he commented on that. So I knew that it wasn't just a, a generic message that he was sending to lots of people.
LUKE: I still think I did a really clumsy job of, er, trying to chat Louise up.
LOUISE: Then he said something about, I've just come out of a job interview
LUKE: I’d played tennis, and that was really not gonna impress Louise in the slightest
LOUISE: And then been and played tennis and now I’m eating a banana [laughs]
LUKE: You know, I, I managed to, uh, to bumble my way through the conversation and, uh, you know, I think she, uh, eventually saw my, uh, my weird and quirky charms.
LOUISE: And half of me kind of thought like, is this some kind of segue into a dick pic? Is he talking about a banana because this is like…. do you wanna see? Uh, yeah, but no, like he, he genuinely just thought that, I'd like to know that he was eating a banana after, after his job interview and after playing tennis.
To be fair, the tennis thing almost put me off because I'm not very tennis-y person. Kind of have this association of tennis being for poshos, and I'm definitely not a posho, so I kind of just, swept over that.
I remember that you could put on Tinder artists that you liked, and bands that you liked, and there were a couple of kind of quite niche bands maybe that a lot of other people might not have… Oh, this sounds, makes me sound like really wanky, lik oh, you wouldn't have heard of them, but like, a couple of bands that aren't mega popular that we'd both like to listen to, and we both really love music. So that was quite important. That, I think that was something that we started chatting about first, really, comparing bands and people that we'd been to see.
We realised about four years in to our relationship that we'd both been at the same gig together. Like five years before we met.
LUKE: It was like during the peak, early 2000 indie scene. Um, so we were both at Nottingham Rock City to, uh, to see The Pigeon Detectives . Um, so yeah, it's like, it, it, it is so weird to think that I could have, I, like, I, I literally been stood at the bar next to Louise and I would not have even known.
LOUISE: It's not a massive venue, so, chances are we might have walked past each other or seen each other or something.
LUKE: So that’s a bit scary. But yeah, um, we always, we share, um, a love of rock music. Uh, we love listening to playlists in the house. We go to a lot of gigs as well together. That's, um, that's one of our biggest passions really.
About two weeks after we've been chatting, I went, I went on Holiday to America, so I was going around to the theme parks with my mum and dad and, and they were laughing because I like every single time I could find a wifi hotspot, I was, I was like hunting them out. So I was like just randomly going in a shop and buying something that I didn't even want to buy just so I could log onto the wifi. But yeah, it was, it, it wasn't till I got back from America that we went, went on our, on the first date.
LOUISE: I can't remember who first suggested that we meet up for a date, but either way, it was suggested for a Saturday lunchtime, after Luke had got up from a night shift, which in hindsight just wasn't really, wasn't really a very good idea. Um, so he would've worked like a 12 hour Friday night shift, I think, and we'd arranged to meet, um, at a restaurant in Derby.
LUKE: I think we both thought that the other person lived absolutely miles away, even though we're in the same county.
LOUISE: I realised when I was kind of halfway driving there, like I'd not actually spoke to him that day and we'd been messaging back and forth a lot, obviously in the lead up.
But that morning he was in bed cos he'd, he'd been on nights and I remember driving and thinking like, what, what if, what if his alarm doesn't go off? Or what if he is still in bed and I'm just gonna arrive and look like a idiot? And I'd asked where was the best place to park as well.
LUKE: For some reason I suggested that we meet in a multi-story car park.
Which, um, thinking about it, I mean it was a, it was a different time. I think it probably wasn't as scary back then, but, um, yeah, I think it looked a bit dodgy. It looked a bit suspect.
LOUISE: I was a bit like I'm meeting this strange man from the internet in a car park… It doesn't seem… Doesn't seem right. So he told me to park in the car park, and he’d meet me outside a pub across the road instead, so that it was a little bit less dodgy.
LUKE: I, I just assumed that Louise was gonna be the, the most confident person that I've ever met. I mean, look at her bright orange hair now, it's like she's not shrinking violet, but… when we, when we first met, Louise was really shy. I mean it, I think probably about, it was a good hour into the date before I saw anything other than the top of the head [laughs].
LOUISE: You know, when you walk in with somebody and they know where they're going and you don't, so you're kind of having to like, keep them in your peripheral vision so you can work out which direction they're going to, to go and walk in. But I was, I just went really, really shy and I, I was kind of looking at the floor.
But trying to keep him - so I could see which direction we were supposed to be going. And I , I remember we had these kind of, caramel-y coloured, like chino trousers on, and these orangey big clompy boots. And I remember not really liking his boots very much. Well, that was all I could really see because I was just looking at the floor.
But he, he's very good at small talk, so he was, he was kind of chatting away and allowing me to just be shy and awkward.
LUKE: I, I started to get nervous, cos the first time I saw Louise, I thought like I am, I am seriously punching right now.
LOUISE: Once we got to the restaurant it… we'd already chatted quite a bit on Tinder, so we, we kind of knew the basics about each other, but I do remember us chatting quite well. I don't remember it being like really awkward or like loads of awkward silences. I just remember, I don't think I really gave him much eye contact [laughs].
LUKE: I even during, during that date, I, uh, when I went to the toilet, I gave myself a little pep talk. I was, I was telling myself not to screw this up. Don't, come on, don't mess this up now. This is, this is your chance. Like, I really, really fancy her and I think she's like a wonderful person. So like, just play it cool, just play it cool. But what I didn't realise was, when I was given my pep talk… the mirror that was in front of me, I didn't realise it was like a two-way mirror. So there was a chef making pizza on the other side and he was just looking at me. [laughs] I think he probably heard every word and thought I was going insane. So, uh, yeah, that's my, uh, that's my embarrassing story from my first date.
It was weird. It was like, it was like a mirror but then it had a like a, a stripe through it that was like, there's just glass. Yeah. There's gotta be some sort of privacy law there but… [laughs].
LOUISE: We went to another pub afterwards, the one that we'd met outside, across the road from the car park.
LUKE: I, I think we, we went to a pub that I probably always used to frequent when I was younger. I think it was, uh, it's a bit of a dive pub really, to be fair.
LOUISE: I remember that we picked, we chose to sit on a big leather settee, you know, where it looks really comfy, and then you sit down in it and it almost swallows you, and then it just got really awkward, because, you can't reach, your drink because you've got to like almost stand fully up to get to the table. And because it was so saggy, we were, it was like it was pulling us into the middle of the settee together. And when you're on your first date and everything's a bit like, my god, we just touched hands…
LUKE: Louise obviously got a lot less nervous as the date went on, so the conversation started to flow a bit more about her hobbies, a bit more about her interests.
Yeah. Yeah, like I said, it took a while. I was, I was surprised actually. I was really surprised at how, how shy Louise was. I, I thought I, you know, I was got the impression that she was gonna be, be a really confident person. But I think when I get nervous though, I just, I just talk, I just ramble on. Louise always jokes that like, I'm a, I'm a man of, uh, of too many words.
I did notice though, on, on the first date, she did tease me because everything I ordered off the menu. If I, if, if I see something on the menu, I'll have the, uh, the thrice cooked, hand reared, and I'll read the whole thing out, and Louise like, just, just say that you just want the chicken… it, it definitely leaves the tension. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I mean, now she doesn't stop taking the mick out of me, but [laughs].
LOUISE: He walked me back to my car in the car park and by this point I was kind of, knew that he was a safe person and that being in a car park with him was okay. Um, and I, again, I was just really, really awkward and I, I mean, I hate saying goodbye to anybody on any day, because I'm not really a hugger… Um, it's just not my natural kind of go-to thing to do. But cos he'd walked me to my car, it kind of needed a…. needed something to happen. And I think he went in for a little kiss.
LUKE: That's when we shared our first kiss as well. Um, when I said bye to her, I stood outside the multistory car park again.
LOUISE: Just a polite little peck… if I remember rightly.
And then, yeah, I remember driving home and thinking that I was gonna text some people when I got back and tell them, actually, I've just been on a date with this guy and he's quite nice.
LUKE: So after our date, I went back, um, and I spoke to my housemates and I, and I said, I think I've met the one. I think I think this, I think this is it, and my housemates said, oh, this, that's it. Like, you're gonna break the band up. That's it, you're, you've gone now. But to be fair, they were right then, so, but yeah. Yeah, I definitely thought that, that Louise was the one as soon, as soon as I'd, I'd been on that first date and as soon as we met in person.
LOUISE: I don't think I, I was necessarily fully, fully sold. It wasn't like, oh my God, love at first sight, we're, we're gonna get married, um, at that point, because I didn't know if he was a little bit too straight laced, a little bit too nice. And I know that's the worst and most horrible thing to say. And that men always complained that like, oh, women don't like the nice guys… And actually he is the nicest man in the world. But at the time… I did think like, is he so nice that he might be a bit boring? But then when we continued chatting and I saw more of him, I realised that that wasn't the case.
LUKE: The, the early days of our, our relationship, we, um, we, we sort of settled in, settled into a routine really quickly. Um, it was a bit awkward at the time because Louise was still living with her, with her ex partner.
LOUISE: If we, we did dates at home. It had to be at his home, and it was so cold that like the insides of the windows were frosted up and it was so draughty and horrible.
LUKE: We were staying in this, um, well, it was like a converted barn, but it was the coldest place you've ever like, it was like electric heaters on all the time and you couldn't dry clothes anywhere in the house!
LOUISE: So, I was going around there quite a lot, most weekends to see him, um, and actually it was me who first said, I love you to him… on a Sunday afternoon before I had to drive back home. And I think that was only about six or seven weeks in. It wasn't very long at all. Um, I think I kind of, I kind of thought that he, well, I had a good idea that he was on the same page. I didn't think he would say it. I think he needed the reassurance from me, because as soon as I said he said it back, it was all good.
LUKE: After three months of us being together, we, uh, we ended up moving in literally about four days before Christmas. Um, so I, I invited my mum and dad around for Christmas day and, uh, had not even got a table. I was there with the toolkit, putting a table up before they came round!
LOUISE: I was really trying to show off my cooking skills and [sighs] oh, the kitchen was absolutely tiny. Really, really small, and I'd made some little starters and appetisers and we'd, we'd bought a turkey and it, I, it was like, every single surface in the kitchen was rammed, and I put the oven on to preheat so that I could cook the turkey… and then I could smell something cooking. And Luke had decided to make more space on the kitchen sides by putting random stuff that I'd prepared [laughs] into the oven just to tidy things up a bit and save some space. So like, half of the things I'd prepared were sort of half partly cooked and had to take them out of the oven. And put the turkey back in and then basically carry on cooking them later on, so some, some stuff was fine… Some stuff was not quite so fine.
Yeah, he likes, he likes to tidy around me. Bless him.
I think the biggest change really is that we're both now a lot more embracing of our interests and passions and not afraid to be a bit weird… because we are both a bit weird. I'm obsessed with mushrooms and I crochet, and I, I just love making weird, random things and I'm now not afraid of showing that. Luke's recently got into bats, so he goes out to bat club and goes to meetings about bats.
LUKE: I volunteer for a local bat conservation group. I've always been interested in, in nature, and I used to, I used to go bird watching as a, as a child, but I was, I was really embarrassed by it and I, I got bullied quite badly at school as well. And, uh, a lot of people used to sort of take mick out for it, so I just, I just abandoned it.
But it's, um, it's, it's living with Louise really. She's, she's given me the, the, the freedom to just go and just enjoy myself and, uh, and to devote time and energy to my passions and, and, you know, not feel guilty about it. I mean, it's…. Louise really, she's really into mushrooms, taking photos of mushrooms, collecting mushrooms…So we, um, and I'm, I'm going out bird watching or, or with bats. Um, so we always joke that we walk into, uh, to low hanging branches. Cos, there's one of us looking up, one of us looking down, and no one's looking straight ahead.
LOUISE: But we just always kind of spear each other on, push each other to do what we enjoy, whether it's something together or something separate.
LUKE: I mean, when we, when we were wedding planning, um, we, we bought a house and then got a puppy, and I, I was, I was really struggling with my mental health during that as well, but, um, Louise encouraged me to, to go and, and, and speak to someone and, and get some counselling for that. So it's, um, I think she's just such a supportive person, um so she brings me out of my shell, she stops me getting too serious and it is just great. Someone that, that you know, that we can share passions and adventures with really.
LOUISE: I remember actually after we'd matched and after we'd started going on some dates, I started having these like mini existential crises of what if I'd accidentally swipe the wrong way? Because then they're gone forever.
I was like, what if your picture had just come up and I've not swiped right? I’d accidentally or not even looked properly and swiped left and then we'd like we never would've met. And it used to actually kind of keep me awake at night a little bit. Honestly, I had sleepless nights!
LOUISE: Maybe almost a year into our relationship…I kind of looked back at the fact that we'd met on Tinder and brought it up to Luke, because he hates having his photo taken and doesn't really use social media very much, and doesn't really like to put himself out there…. and so he is the least likely person to ever be using a dating app. And he said that he'd read about it in The Guardian, and I realised that that was why I had also downloaded Tinder, because I'd gone to give blood and I was in the blood donation hall, reading The Guardian online, where they'd done an article about this big new, um, dating app that was taken the world by storm. And uh, that's what made me download it as well. So if we'd, I mean such like left wing knob ‘eads, aren't we? But if we'd both not read The Guardian, that exact article, then either one of us or neither of us, wouldn’t ever have downloaded it.
LUKE: Yeah, it ended up being the best thing that ever I've been reading that article and downloading that app.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me. Maria Passingham, thank you Audio Network for the music and thanks also to Louise and Luke for your time. Please take care with those branches.
Each episode of Equal Parts is accompanied by a piece of original artwork. Inspired by the audio only Rebecca Houghton made a charming piece to go with Louise and Luke's story.
Thank you, Rebecca. You can find all of the artwork for this season as it unravels on the website, equalpartspodcast.co.uk And of course, the episodes on art for seasons one and two are there as well.
Don't forget, there are transcripts for each episode of Equal Parts for those who are deaf or prefer to read.
These are also at equalpartspodcast.co.uk and there's a link in the show notes.
Next week… finding love at 30,000 feet.
GABE: She was doing one of those - I'm gonna try to get my headphones in before I sit down so nobody talks to me - but she has this beautiful smile and she had this smile, but was trying to get the headphones in. And you know, I was a guy like, hey, this beautiful girl is smiling at you. She must want to talk to me, right?
KRYSTINA: And so immediately he's like, oh, weren't you sitting next to me out in the terminal? So like, before I can even get my butt in the seat,
we're already chatting, he's already like started the conversation.
Andy & Evin
MARIA: Welcome back to Equal Parts season three. It's been a while, huh? Hopefully it's worth the wait. If you're new to the show, there's a load of tasty episodes already out, just waiting to be binged… or you know, savoured with a big mug of tea and a soft gaze. Pull up a blanket, sink a little deeper into your chair. Indulge in a series of true love stories.
If you're a longtime listener, thanks for coming back. I really appreciate your dedication.
This is the final season of Equal Parts. While I've loved making this show, it's a lot of work and I've decided to focus our energy into other areas of life, including my own blossoming romantic relationship… More on that in a few weeks.
So this first story, well, you heard a preview of it a full year ago. I heard it for the first time a while before that. And finally, here it is in its full, charming, romantic glory. This is a tale of games, secrets, and risks. Both Andy and Evin love intricately designing, constructing, and donning elaborate costumes.
But there came a point where one of them realised they’d had enough of playing a character outside of fantasy adventures at the weekend, and the other person… well, they were worth taking the mask off for.
EVIN: I’m Evin. I live in Knoxville, Maryland, which is just outside of Frederick Maryland, in the good old US of A.
ANDY: So my name is Andy. My pronouns are they/them. Uh, and I am an ex-pastor. I was a pastor in an Evangelical church. And yeah, I'm a big nerd. I do cosplay and I love RPGs.
EVIN: I am a big nerd. I love comic books, I love TV shows. I like making stuff. I like crafts.
ANDY: We met at New York Comic-Con in 2015, and we got engaged in 2017.
EVIN: Andy's very charismatic. Andy's the extrovert of the relationship and I'm the introvert of the relationship. So Andy definitely is a motivator for me to go do things when I otherwise would stay in the house. They're very compassionate, they're very emotionally driven, and I'm very analytical. So, uh, we're a good balance for each other. Andy’s kind of all of the things that I don't naturally have about me.
ANDY: Evin is incredibly organised. He is very much a ‘dot all the Is, cross all the Ts, make sure things are in order’… Uh, part of that is, I think, a little bit of his anxiety, but then I think it's also because he cares so much about the details and making sure things are in order. And it's, I think, a reflection of his love for everything he does.
EVIN: We have really good communication and we both acknowledge about ourselves, like, oh, I'm being way too analytical about this situation and thinking about it way too in a nuts and bolts fashion when Andy's clearly thinking about this situation more from an emotional perspective.
So I think we, uh, realised this about each other, talking about how we feel about things a lot.
ANDY: He makes me smile. I love him, uh, incredibly much. And, uh, he, he means the world to me. So, yeah, it's impossible to talk about him without smiling. Uh, he's, he's the best thing in my life.
Evin and I, when we met and started dating, we dated for a year, secretly, while I was working as a, as a pastor. I had already kind of come to terms with the fact that I was gay and non-binary, but I was in seminary at the time and my game plan was, I’d… join a church and become a pastor, and my plan was to serve in the ministry until I was 30, and then kind of come out then, you know, with the intention of I, I'll, I'll come out later in life. But, uh, you know, I have a calling and a duty to like try and fix things in the church, and I thought that I was going to fix all of the problems, and uh… that didn't happen.
EVIN: It was a really weird time for me. Uh, I'm trans and it was just before I started, like medically transitioning when I first met Andy. We started dating in December of 2015 and we had met in October that same year, and I started hormones in like November of that year, so between the time we met and the time we started dating.
So that's a lot. I mean, it was good, it was a positive change for me, but any kind of medical situation, it's a lot to deal with at the very beginning of a relationship. And uh, I had also just moved from Connecticut back to Maryland, so there was a lot, a lot of stuff going on in my life at the time.
ANDY: The, the church I was at was extremely conservative and, um, I did know that going in and I get asked quite a bit, kind of condescendingly of like, well, what were you thinking? Like, why would you, if you knew that about yourself, why would you become a pastor of a church like that?
And like, yes, the, the church I was at, you could arguably label homophobic, like I knew it was a doctrinal thing for them. But, um, they were lovely people and I loved serving there. I loved being a pastor and I cared about those people and they cared about me, and it ended up breaking bad in a pretty big way. But I was proud of the work I did while I was there, and I, I loved the people there and, uh, I think I was a good pastor.
I had a group of friends who I met through Cosplaying, which is, uh, dressing up in costume and going to things like ComicCon. Um, and you make the costume, or you commission someone to make it for you, and it's, it's very fun. It's like a big costume party. They were trying tooth and nail to get me to play Dragon Age Inquisition and cosplay a character called the Iron Bull.
Because they were trying to get a group together and I was uninterested. I didn't want to do all that prosthetic work, I didn't want to have to do face paint. Like guys, like I'm super flattered that you want me to do this group with you, but it's not going to happen. And they were showing me clips of the video game and the character has a lot of religious trauma and stuff and is, uh, like very similar sense of humour as I do.
So fast forward then like three months of them pestering me. We were at New York Comic-Con. I am dressed as Shia Labeouf from the just do it meme, and I had like a green screen on my back, and, uh, people were coming up to me and like doing the posing, like taking pictures with me and stuff. And it was very funny, but very dumb. And I see some of my friends talking to this really cute guy.
EVIN: I was Cosplaying Quicksilver from the Age of Ultron movie with a bunch of friends who are also doing Marvel Cosplays on that day.
ANDY: I’m immediately like, who is that? Who are you talking to?
EVIN: We just like met by chance in a hallway and started talking about Dragon Age and uh, I mentioned, that the very next day I was gonna be Cosplaying Dorian from Dragon Age. And they were like, oh, that's so cool. We're doing a Dragon Age group at Katsucon, which is another convention coming up, and we've got this character and that character and this character, but we don't have a Dorian, and our one friend is gonna be Iron Bull. And I was like, oh, that's neat, that's cool.
ANDY: And I knew from all of their pestering that Dorian and the Iron Bulll are a couple. So I go over and, Evin is going to say I did finger guns. I do not remember finger guns happening, but uh, I sidled up and was like, hey, Dragon Age is the best I love… all of the dragons in it. I'm gonna be the Iron Bull. Hey, I'm Andy. Nice to meet you. Uh, you have a great butt.
EVIN: It was like sort of flattering to be given finger guns and called hot. It was a strong first impression in some kind of a way… Not necessarily a positive first impression, but yeah, that was the last time I saw Andy in person for quite a bit.
ANDY: We had like a group chat going, talking about making the costumes and I like rushed home from that convention and bought that fucking game. I went straight home and like immediately started playing it. Uh, and it's a great game, thankfully. But anytime Evin posted on progress on his costume, I was sure to like, comment on it and encourage him, and talk about how great it was.
EVIN: Andy started messaging me on Facebook and it was very clear that Andy was into me and uh, I was not really interested in starting a relationship at the time. I was still technically in a relationship even though it was not going super smoothly, and like I knew that I was going through all this stuff, in my life, and was just not really interested in adding a, uh, a relationship into the mix. Also, the relationship that was ending at that time had lasted a real long time. That was like a five year long relationship and uh, I was kind of anticipating getting out of it, but looking forward to being single for a bit cos I had not been single in a very long time. But Andy started sending me like pretty flirtatious Facebook messages, and I didn't mind, but I said a couple of times like, Hey, just so you know, I'm really not like looking for anything. Uh, this is not, this is not gonna be a thing. Um, like I just wanna lay that on the table for you before you go flirting with me, expecting me to reciprocate. And Andy was like, yeah, yeah, that's fine. That's fine. Sure. Totally.
So we were Facebook messaging. We exchanged phone numbers and we were texting kind of casually. Like I said, Andy was pursuing me much harder than I was responding. But I did officially end the relationship I had been in.
ANDY: I waited a respectful amount of time and started flirting way more. And, uh, he shut me down again and was like, Hey, I love flirting with you, like it's really fun. And I like talking with you, but I don't wanna lead you on, you have a ton of baggage. Uh, you're an Evingelical pastor, you're in the closet, and I just got out of a relationship, so like I'm not interested in anything. I was like, Hey, like I super respect that, like I'm down with just like, flirting and not expecting anything, and… you know, I appreciate you being upfront about that. And in my head
I'm like, you idiot. You gave me an opening. Like, I'm so charming. Are you kidding me? But yeah, we kept talking a bunch.
I distinctly remember at one point I was at like, uh, a youth camp retreat. And I had yelled at all the kids to get off their phones and go to bed. And then I'm under my covers texting Evin about Tolkein or something, and we were talking like late into the night, uh, and I was, you know, get off your phones, dit-dit-dit-dit. But eventually he gave me a shot.
EVIN: I was in a very rural area at the time. There wasn't a lot to do. I only had a few friends in the area, so I was like, sure, let's go on a date. Let's go hang out somewhere and do something. Let's meet in DC and like go to some museums, walk around. We had a good chat in a coffee shop. It was clear that we, like generally had the same interest, which we already knew because we had been at a comic convention together even though we had turned up independently.
ANDY: It rained like hell. We went to an art museum, which was really cool.
EVIN: And then we went to the Native American History Museum, which was cool… kind of a bummer for a first date though. Not strong first date content.
ANDY: Gorgeous museum. Stunning museum. Huge bummer for a date. I just remember like thinking how fucking smart he was. Like he was full of all of these facts that he was explaining to me, like Evin is a wealth of information. He just soaks stuff up.
EVIN: It was almost Christmas, so we got each other little gifts cos we had been, you know, talking for a long time. My mindset was like, even if it doesn't turn out to be anything, you know, we've got a friendship now.
I got Andy, I made, uh, them a stocking with Star Wars fabric. It was reversible with Star Wars fabric on one side, and, uh, Doctor Who fabric on the other side and just filled it with like, snacks and stuff.
ANDY: And I got him like a big encyclopaedia of all the like, concept art for the game and stuff.
EVIN: And Andy got me, there's a little like necklace that a character gives another character in Dragon Age. Uh, so Andy's gift was definitely way more directly romantic than mine was.
ANDY: And then, uh, like a weirdo I knew I'm in love with him on that date.
EVIN: We did kiss very briefly, but it wasn't a particularly good kiss. I got a lot of Andy's moustache, it was just real quick. It was a good, it was a good date though. We did have a good time.
ANDY: I had never been in love before. I’d dated a ton, especially in college, like I dated a lot, but it was all girls. Evin was the first guy I'd ever gone on a date with, and I knew then and there. shit, this isn't good, like I'm in love with this guy and I'm a pastor, and in the closet and, uh, also only a weirdo says that they're in love with you on the first date. So I need to keep that locked down and in private.
But yeah, I, I very much knew that like, this was more than a casual thing for me at that point. He'll tease me about that occasionally about how, you know, he swept me off my feet, uh, and I'll tease him for turning me down like twice.
EVIN: So we were long distance for a while. We continued to text. We couldn't like go on dates that often because we lived like five hours apart or something like that. Uh, Andy was living in Philly and I was living in Southern Maryland. Uh, so we didn't get to see each other very often, but we did get to see each other at Katsucon, which is that, uh, convention where we were in the same cosplay group. That was a ton of fun, but I was still not really expecting this relationship to go many places because Andy was a pastor at the time, with a very homophobic church, and I just didn't really want to have to deal with dating somebody who was still extremely in the closet. And like I said, I was going through all kinds of stuff in my life at the time. So it was like kind of objectively the worst way to start a relationship, and like the worst, the worst circumstances for both of us.
But, uh, over the course of the next like year or so, it became clear and I, I can't point to a specific date or a specific, like moment when this happened, but it became clear that like we were really developing serious feelings for each other.
ANDY: I essentially was pulling like a Peter Parker. Like I had this whole secret life where I was going to my job every day and serving at this church, and then I'd like go home, have a change of clothes in a bag, go to my friend's house. Go into the bathroom, change, put on makeup, and come out as like queer Andy and have fun and be myself and talk to Evin. And then at the end of the night, go back to the bathroom, take it all off and go home. And, um, also I was going to classes, like full-time in seminary, uh, trying to get my master's and it was difficult. I was drinking like 12, 13 cups of coffee a day. Like I wasn't sleeping. It was remarkably tough.
EVIN: I don’t know if you know what LARP is, it stands for Live Action, Role Play and there are various groups that have these like get togethers on weekends where you dress up as a elf or a barbarian or whatever and you run around the woods and you pretend to kill mon- it's, it's like a, sort of like a renaissance festival or something, but it's like an immersive, acting thing.
So there's one that Andy had been going to already, and that I had started going to because we got to like see each other for the whole weekend and hang out and we could sort of be… out at the LARP, pretty much be ourselves, even though we were dressed up as like fantasy characters or whatever.
ANDY: We were out to everyone at the LARP, except for like my three friends that had like grown up going to church with me. So like we'd be in our tent making out, and they'd run into the tent being like, there's goblins attacking. What do we do? And like, we're now on separate sides of the tent, like putting clothes on. Like what? Oh yeah. Yeah. We're roommates. We're very good friends.
So it got to the point where after a year of dating, um, we were talking about how manageable is this? And uh, the 2015 bathroom bills were happening, which was like a very transphobic thing in America. And there was a meeting at church talking about that, where… I left that meeting and I knew I wasn't safe there anymore. Like I knew the church's opinions on queer people. I did not know, um, the passionate disgust they had for queer people. But like that meeting with the elder board, I left it and I was like, I'm not safe here. So I pretty quickly got a job at Starbucks knowing that I could move anywhere and then put in my two weeks. Then, uh, I came out to my family and it didn't go great.
EVIN: Andy started living with a couple of friends of ours up in the, in the Philly area because they were still living at home at the time and they didn't want to be around their, their family anymore. Understandably.
ANDY: I was kind of mooching off some friends, and that really wasn't a super tenable situation, and like I had a bunch of my stuff in my car… and Evin and I had talked about me moving in with him and I knew that was something that he didn't really want. And I didn't want to move in together unless we were engaged for whatever reason, I felt like that was important before we moved in.
EVIN: Less than a year ago, I had been in a long-term cohabitating relationship and like I was enjoying living by myself, even though I knew I had feelings for Andy, I was like, I, I like the independence of living by myself. So it came to the point where Andy's options were moving in with me, or like moving in with a friend, like in Brooklyn or something like that, somewhere where they would've been even further away. And I was like, you know what? I would rather take a chance on, you know, getting into another cohabitating situation, then have Andy be so far away from me that it kind of becomes impractical for us to to date anymore.
So, less than a year after we started dating, Andy came out, and then just a few months after that, they came to move in with me in my, uh, little house in southern Maryland that I was renting from my dad.
ANDY: And, uh, it was great. I mean, I was severely depressed for a few months. I'm sure I wasn't a great roommate for those first couple months, but, uh, yeah, therapy's great and I got my shit sorted. But yeah, it was difficult and complicated.
And like Evin did not push me to come out at all. He was just very supportive of, you know, this is your decision and it's gonna be your timing and I'm gonna support you no matter what you choose to do about it, and um, like I can't stress how much that meant that I knew he was in my corner about it. And um, you know, it's, it's really hard to date someone in the closet and it's doubly hard when their livelihood is depending on it. He was a really great partner, through all of that.
EVIN: We have like similar enough habits that there wasn't any, like major friction. Uh, you know, there, there wasn't a lot to overcome there or anything. I do think that, uh, I am better at like household chores than Andy is, and I think that endures it to the present. But, uh, I don't really blame Andy for that. I was definitely socialised to do household chores in a way that Andy wasn't, because like, I was socially perceived as female for most of my life. So, you know, I got all of the dishwashing household chores and the vacuuming household chores. There was kind of like a learning curve there for Andy because, you know, people, uh, perceived as masculine are not expected to, to do that in the same way that like, people perceived as women are expected to.
ANDY: This relationship, it means the world to me. And I, I like who I am with Evin, uh, significantly more than I liked who I was with my family or with the church. Um, I'm, I'm a much happier person and uh, it sucks that I couldn't have it all. And there are definitely days where I wish, like, damn, I really wish I could have a relationship with my parents and be with Evin, or I miss being a pastor and I liked being a pastor and I wish I could still be doing that, and be with Evin, but like at the end of the day, it's… It's no contest. It's no question about what I would rather have.
EVIN: We got engaged, uh, like roughly two years in. So we had been living together for a bit. And Andy was out, and everybody knew about everything at that point. And that LARP, that uh, weird mediaeval Fantasy weekend thing that we went to throughout a large portion of our relationship…I t was an important part of our sort of social lives for a very long time.So I was like, you know what? This silly thing we do together would be a perfect opportunity for me to propose.
So I started planning this like months in advance. I reached out to the people in charge and I was like, Hey, I need to set up like an encounter. Basically I need to, I need to frame this in the story that we're doing for the weekend. So that Andy doesn't suspect anything. And so that it's still a fun time and I need to like, involve a bunch of people secretly. And they were like, okay, we can, we can help you out with this. So in the ongoing plot for this like silly mediaeval fantasy game that we play, Andy's character had sold their soul to a sea witch.
ANDY: For very responsible reasons, um, I was a pirate captain and Evin's character was my first mate. And then we had like six or seven friends who were our pirate crew.
EVIN: And I was like, okay, I'm gonna frame this encounter to like take Andy's character's soul back from the sea witch. And I'm gonna put it in a ring, which I had purchased already. And uh, I'm going to present it to them and then I'm gonna break character and it's gonna be a proposal.
ANDY: And I noticed one Saturday while we were at game that like, Hey, Evin's not around. And I was like, does anyone know where he is? And everyone was like, no, it's fine, don't worry about it.
And I was like, no, like, that's not okay. Like, there are monsters here. That's not good. That shouldn't be okay. I was like, we should go looking for him. And everyone was like, no we shouldn't. And I was like, what the fuck is wrong with you guys? Like fine, I'm going to go look for him. And our friend Justin was like, oh, I'll go with you. And he did a very good job of distracting me, by talking about Star Wars. Cause I'm a huge Star Wars nerd.
EVIN: I recruited a friend to distract Andy for like 45 minutes while we set up all the stuff down at the beach. It was like a sports play or something. I was there and I had everybody huddled around and I'm like, okay, you're gonna do this and you're gonna do that and I'm gonna do this. Oh, and I got the photographer employed by the people who ran the game, and so I was like, Kyle, you gotta come down to the beach and you gotta take photos. And just as Andy arrived, I was standing on the dock negotiating with the sea witch, like, I outsmarted the sea witch! And I snatched the ring from her, and I turned to Andy and Andy was like looking like startled.
ANDY: His hand was like, covered in blood and like he was holding like a bloody knife. And I was like, oh shit. Some stuff is going down.
EVIN: I remember the look on Andy's face was just like very surprised, like, what the hell is going on here?
ANDY: He was trading an incredibly powerful, magical artefact he had for my soul. And I was like, what an idiot. It is not worth it. That, that artefact is way more valuable than my character's soul. Like, what are you doing? I, I was like bitching under my breath, like, what a bad move.
And then the Sea Witch gave this dramatic speech about how my soul belongs to another, and it's not hers anymore. Uh, but Evin's character was a smith. He could make things, that was like his whole deal and uh, he was holding a very beautiful ring. And he had -in story- crafted my character soul, which was trapped in the stone into the gem on the ring.
EVIN: And I specifically remember like as I turned to Andy with the ring in my hand -
ANDY: He said that he wanted to live the rest of his life with me
EVIN: - Andy said something like, is this out of game? Is this a real life?
ANDY: This is really happening, right? This is no longer the pretend bit?
EVIN: And I was like, yes, Andy. It's obviously out of ga.. We’re not… yes, it's out of game. I'm proposing to you in real life. This is real life . And so, um, we had our moment there. I had a friend film it and I had the photographer guy Kyle do some nice photos. And then the sea witch sticked her, sea zombie minions on us. And we had a sword fight. Because I still wanted it to be like fun, like a fantasy encounter.
ANDY: So then we got to fight off, the two of us back to back, an army of ghost pirates, which was great. Every engagement should end with getting to sword fight back to back with your, your, your partner against ghost pirates.
EVIN: So we uh, we defeated all of the, the sea zombies together on the beach and left triumphantly. It was, it was very fun.
ANDY: It was very cheesy. It's impossible to tell that story to people though, cos it's like, oh, how did you get engaged? And it's like, Okay. We played this really elaborate game of make believe… [laughs] So I just tell people he proposed on the beach.
I love going on adventures with him and I love that, whether it's through a tabletop game or through dressing up as Dragon Age characters, or being pirates and fighting sea witches… like we get to share these incredible stories and adventures together, and they're absolutely make believe, but they're also real to us, they're tangible to us. We put on the costumes and we go and we do these things, and it's a ton of fun.
And we're about to go on a huge adventure. We're getting married, so that is really, really exciting, that we're starting a new chapter in this adventure story we're telling.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music. And thank you Andy and Evin for talking to me about some deeply personal parts of your lives. And congratulations on getting married since we recorded!
For each episode of Equal Parts an illustrator or artist designs a piece of original artwork, inspired by the audio alone. Andy & Evin’s story was illustrated by Becky Appleyard, and I freaking love it! It so perfectly captures the adventures and playfulness of this couple. Follow Becky on Instagram at flytee_comics - there’s a link in the shownotes.
You can find all of the artwork for this season as it unravels on the website, equalpartspodcast.co.uk, and of course the episodes and art for seasons 1 and 2 as well!
Don’t forget, there are transcripts for each episode of Equal Parts for those who are d/Deaf or prefer to read. These are also at equalpartspodcast.co.uk and there's a link in the shownotes too.
Next week, a newspaper, a car park, and a whole lot of nerves.
LUKE: For some reason I suggested that we meet in a multi-story car park. Which, um, thinking about it, I mean, it was a, it was a different time I think, it probably wasn't as scary back then, but, um, yeah, I think it, he looked a bit dodgy. It looked a bit suspect.
LOUISE: I was a bit like, I’m meeting this strange man from the internet in a car park. It doesn't seem, it doesn't seem right.
Season 3: Coming Soon!
MARIA: Equal parts is back again for a third and final season. Celebrating all the varied and beautiful ways we fall in love, this season will launch you into the sky one moment and squeeze you into a cramped hotel bar the next. Hear how one couple connected through their love of huge fantasy adventures while another found romance in a simple, tender touch of a leg.
ZEBIB: You should write me a poem, period, and that's it.
LINDZ: And I thought, okay, well, little demanding maybe, not a lot of information. Just... 'write me a poem'. And I thought, hmm, you're pretty enough that you can get away with demanding that.
LUKE: I was telling myself not to screw this up. Come on, don't mess this up now. This is, this is your chance.
ANDY: He said that he wanted to live the rest of his life with me.
EVIN: Andy said something like, "Is this out of game? Is this in real life?"
ANDY: "This is really happening, right? This is no longer the pretend bit?"
GABE: "Something happened here. I don't know what it is."
KRYSTINA: "And I wanna come back in a week and I wanna see what this is about." He was like, there's just something and I'm coming back.
MARIA: Whether you are obsessed with dating shows or your faith in love is wearing thin, Discover Pods says Equal Parts is 'guaranteed to make you smile'.
LINDZ: "Nobody is gonna fly four and a half hours across the country on the basis of one date, I don't care how good it was." And I said, "yeah, okay. Let's see."
ZEBIB: She's awesome and I'm free. So like ,there's just really no reason not to.
ALEX: When you know something's right, you know it's right... and it was right. And 16 years later, it's still right.
MARIA: You can follow equal parts now, season three starts on Valentine's Day.
Happy Valentine's Day: 2022
MARIA: Hi, it's Maria. Happy Valentine's Day. I have some good and some bad news for you. Let's start with the bad eh? Well, I don't have a new season of equal parts for you, I'm sorry.
To pull back the curtain for a moment. I started this project for two reasons. One was to spread joy and romance. And I think that's definitely been successful. Two, as a sort of portfolio, to polish skills and to prove myself in the industry. Well, that has also been successful. I'm a full-time podcast editor now, and I love my job.
So as paid work has grown, this side product has shrunk. That's not to say it will fully stop. I really hope to make a full third season. Keep listening until the end for a little preview of what's to come... at some point.
Now there's one more reason I've been slack in production since season two. After years of sharing other people's love stories, I've finally lived my own. Am living! Turns out, it's time consuming - falling in love. In a good way, a great way for me, less great for Equal Parts. So I hope you'll forgive me for making you wait for the next season.
Ok, I guess that was kind of good news too, but onto the official good news? I have some updates for you!
I thought it'd be fun to catch up with some of our previous couples. Hear what's new, where life has taken them, play out some of the real life moments after the quirky meeting, after the whirlwind romance, what happens next? First up Nick and Davide from season one.
NICK: So it's just over three years since we first had our interviews, what's new. Well... No one told us that there was a pandemic on the way. So that's been challenging - trying to deal with the practical and psychological aspects of, of a pandemic living together in a small flat, trying not to drive each other crackers.
DAVIDE: Somehow we realised that we can spend 24 hours together, seven days out of seven, and not be tired of each other. Like through the pandemic, Nick became my co-worker, my office colleague. He became my, my daily friend. So I felt really lucky to be locked down with him.
TASH: So this is Tash
MARTHE: And this is Marthe.
TASH: And we are back to give you an update, I guess, since our last recording.
MARTHE: Yeah. That's been a year ago.
TASH: A whole year. What's changed in a year, babe?
MARTHE: *sighs* Everything.
TASHE: Everything has changed in the past year. We're married.
MARTHE: *singing* Marrieeeed.
TASH: Uh, we're recording this episode in London.
MARTHE: Yes, we were at, in Holland at the time.
TASH: You'll have to excuse, Ted is in another room, barking his face off. He's being... Well, he Ted's here, actually. He wasn't here for the last recording, that was different. Um, we had Ted, but he was back at my parents and now he's being particularly, um, non co-operative.
GRAHAM: Hi, it's Graham and Jules. Um, we can't believe it's been a year since we were on Equal Parts.
JULES: No, it's been uhh, a very strange year. We have changed our lifestyle a little bit. I'm the one going out to work and you have for the first time started working from home, which has changed the dynamic, and has changed our daily lives.
DUNCAN: So what's new. Um, well kind of everything's new really, uh, except for me and Anna, we're the, we're the constant in all of this.
ANNA: It's been a bit of a rollercoaster, some crazy highs and some crazy lows, sadly.
DUNCAN: We gave up, I don't know, all the friends we love, the flat that we love, the city that we love and careers that we kind of loved. Um, we changed everything. Just like right during lockdown.
ANNA: We've lived together in London for 12 of our 15 years. And then we also did long distance for a bit, London - Brighton.
DUNCAN: We up and left London, sold the flat, quit our jobs. Um, and then we moved to, uh, Norfolk to be with my mother who was kind of struggling in lockdowns. Um, which was fantastic, we had a brilliant year in Norfolk.
ANNA: Really beautiful to be in the country, but most importantly, to get loads and loads of quality time with Dunc's mum, and what was lovely as well was, um, knowing that we could spend that much time together in a very confined space because it was a one bed, sort of studio flat situation, um, at the end of the drive of Dunc's mum's and that we could have a great time. So, uh, it certainly brought us closer together. I would say.
NICK: You know some people might kind of live together in order to determine whether they should get married and we kind of braved the pandemic together together and we survived it, so that was kind of the test that we needed to pass before we got married.
DAVIDE: One very bad thing was that we had postpone our wedding, but a very good thing is that eventually we got married.
NICK: We spent loads of time trying to decide when and where and how to get married, which church to get married in. What kind of celebration we wanted and we had everything planned.
DAVIDE: I remember to celebrate the wedding that was not to be, we just went out in the garden, it was the only place we could go.
And we took a picture under the tree because the tree was in blossom and we thought it would be the most beautiful picture we could get that day. And it was a sunny day, I remember. And then a year later we could start organising. And we were so lucky to get the wedding done in the window of time in front of 21, when the pandemic was at its lowest and most of the restrictions were removed, so we could have a big Italian slash British wedding.
NICK: We were able to have a good few people with us to celebrate. And it felt like a very special day
DAVIDE: It was a little bit Italian, because the food was provided by my friends who are from Sicily, so the food was also Sicilian, but for example, the wedding cake was British.
NICK: And we had knitted bunting.
DAVIDE: And then we had a ceilidh. Which is Scottish, and I used to live in Scotland.
NICK: And most importantly, we had friends around us all through the day. So that made it really special.
DAVIDE: Nick went out in our allotment to get flowers for the tables in the morning and it was raining. So he came back all soaked and was making these little poses for the tables. And it just, so beautiful, all these colours from our allotment for the wedding.
NICK: We're looking forward to going over to Italy for part two, so that we can celebrate with Davide's friends and family properly.
TASH: How is it living together permanently after all our time of being long distance?
MARTHE: Yeah, it's been crazy because I moved here, but just before COVID hit, but I've been back and forth to Holland so much, at some point five months at a time. So I feel like I officially moved here last may, 2021.
TASH: I love it.
MARTHE: Yeah, you do? *laughs*
TASH: You don't believe me? *laughs* I mean, obviously it has different challenges, like you're with each other all the time, but now that we're both sort of in that more conventional -we go off to work for the day, we come home, we have an evening, or like we have a weekend, like muggles do, we're kind of living like normal, married life, if that's a thing.
MARTHE: But I do have to say, for example, I'm going to Holland next week for two weeks. And of course, it's not nice to miss you, but two weeks is not too long. And I think it's actually good for every couple to have that. Sometimes some people can't be apart for like two nights. But I think it's actually good because then you, you're still your own person, you're still doing everything by yourself and when you come back you appreciate it even more.
TASH: Yeah. That's definitely how I feel.
GRAHAM: I now work for myself, so I don't go out to work and work for a boss, as a member of staff. And so we learned... Well, you've maybe learned as I learned along the way, why I suck at working for a boss. Cause it didn't, you know, for years and years I had issues with bosses and stuff and we kinda, we went a bit deep into why that might be based on, you know, childhood and whatever. And we actually got quite deep into kind of the psychology and where the triggers are and why.
GRAHAM: So I learned about me and you learned about me, and I learned that you are someone good to talk this over with. Well, in fact, you're the only person I can talk this over with because you're the only person in the world that understands me.
JULES: Well, there is that. And I'm the only person here.
GRAHAM: Yeah. But I also learned about you and, not in the same way, but there are certain things about your life and previous relationships and friendships and stuff that you've also had to reframe where you're at, and how we got here, and that wouldn't have happened if we didn't have this lifestyle change, which was forced upon us by the pandemic.
I was coming home after seven o'clock at night, some nights, and we wouldn't have the time to sit and talk and we talk for ages. We talk a lot more now.
JULES: We do, we do. And, uh, we listen a lot more. It's made us look deeper into each other's, um, issues and. Um, learning more about how we feel and just so much -
GRAHAM: -it sounds really heavy duty, but it's been, it's been lifting -
JULES: -and enlightening
GRAHAM: and freeing in a way when you understand, because you just don't because you get on the hamster wheel of life and work and whatever, you don't have the time to just actually go, hey, wait a minute, why do I do that? And is, is that the right thing to do? Have you ever noticed that?
JULES: Yeah. So it has been a very positive year.
GRAHAM: Yeah. From spending more time together, I'd say.
MARTHE: I think we're now better at knowing each other and knowing how to sort of react and know what the person needs. So if you're like super sad or disconnected from me, I could take that really personally. Or I could take that on us. And now I feel like I can leave that more with you and then I can be there better for you and not be sad about it.
TASH: Yeah. I definitely feel that. And it kind of stops a cycle occurring, right?
TASH: Yeah, I feel like... this is more probably recently actually like the times that your struggling with something that, like sometimes I just have to let you come to me with it and be like, I can see something's upsetting you, you are telling me it's fine. And I'm like, yeah, but it's not fine is it? What is it? And now I just have to just accept that you will tell me in your own time.
DUNCAN: Suddenly my mum passed away unexpectedly. So that kind of, obviously it changed a lot.
ANNA You see your partner in a new light. I've just been bowled over by how incredible Dunc's this been in this situation. Um, both seeing him as an amazing support for Biddy when we were all together and then how he's dealt with having to lose your final parent and, deal with all the horrendous logistics of probate and possessions and handling everyone else's emotions, family and friends, he blows me away. Um, he's just been incredible.
DAVIDE: It took me awhile to get used to the word husband, but now I'm proud to say, yeah, Nick, my husband, to strangers or whatever. And it took me awhile to get used to the ring as well. But then if I take it off for whatever reason, like if I'm kneading some dough, baking some bread and I need to take it off otherwise it'll get plastered in dough. And then actually like there is something missing and you need to put it back.
ANNA: I also forgot the happy part, which was one of the other things that's changed is, um, we got married.
DUNCAN: We kind of eloped really. Anna and I never really, um, had a thing about being married. Um, it was more that the civil partnership basically became an option, um, fairly recently. That makes a lot of sense for us because we've been together forever and we're, our lives are going to be entwined forever. And having a civil partnership just made a lot of sense in many different ways.
ANNA: But we didn't want all the formality or the focus of attention, the big party, all of that. Maybe we will one day. So we did a Tuesday and the registry office in Camden. Absolutely amazing. Two of our closest friends were eye witnesses and it was 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM, a champagne, food celebration. It was absolutely incredible, so much fun. And then we were official.
TASH: I mean, probably the biggest thing is that we're married.
MARTHE: Yeah. It was like the biggest event I've ever hosted in my life.
TASH: Or planned in my life. But it was so much fun. Oh my gosh, the actual day's all worth it because when it actually happens it's like the best, the best day ever.
MARTHE: It was literally the best day ever. And it was just overwhelming.
TASH: And actually, if you want to hear about the full wedding, we actually just released two podcasts. So you can hear the full extent of what it was like getting married.
ANNA: The only other thing we'd say is we kept it a surprise and sort of secret from most of our friends and family. But as it got closer, I remember I kept saying to Duncan, you know, I just don't feel right about not telling Biddy, which is Dunc's mum, and my mum, you know, the mums - they'll get very upset and we have to tell them beforehand. And he was like, no, no, anyway, played dumb. But it turns out that Duncan had not only told Biddy however many months ago, but had actually gone home to visit, and had retrieved his grandmother's ring.
DUNCAN: We haven't really talked about engagement or rings or anything. It was kind of a bit more business, but I wanted to do, you know, I wanted to bring the romance in somehow. *laughs* My mum was amazing. She's the only person that can really keep a secret and she didn't tell a soul, and Anna was getting stressed because she hadn't told her mum. So I had to fess up and then Anna was able to, uh, to share that with her mum. So it was just our mums, um, and the witnesses, obviously.
And then after the event, we just, um, we told people. I guess we feel a little bit guilty because we've been to some amazing friend's weddings and, you know, lavish things and, and we just kind of snuck off and had this amazing day just with our two friends, but it made sense to us and maybe we'll have a party in the future. But we'll see.
GRAHAM: What we used to do is every year on our anniversary, we'd go to a different European city for a weekend. So we started with Paris and then we did Amsterdam and Rome and Prague-
JULES: -and Venince
GRAHAM: Yeah. And all these cool places. So we're owed a nice trip at some stage.
JULES: 'Cause we've missed two anniversary weekends away or travel trips.
GRAHAM: Yeah, we've missed two of those special times.
JULES: So we do have to catch up on that.
JULES: But it is amazing to think ... how long have we been married now?
GRAHAM: We were married in '87...
JULES: 36? Is it 36?
GRAHAM: It'll be 30....Will it be 30?
JULES: Oh no. We lost track of how long we've been married?
GRAHAM: That's how long, we've lost track, that's how old we are.
JULES: That's how long we've been married. Hang on, we're doing the maths now.
GRAHAM: So 2022 minus 1987 means in October it will be 35
JULES: Oh 35, ok. So we're at 35 years. And, uh, it's just really interesting to have our relationship where you think, um, you were asking, how, how are we being romantic and all that sort of thing, and we think, well, for us, it's more about supporting each other and understanding each other, and, and as, as we change and life changes, we've, we've supported each other through it. That's romantic.
JULES: Are we really boring?
GRAHAM: No, I don't think so, I think we're quite exciting *laughs*.
NICK: In September we went walking in Northumberland and we stayed and, um, a small spa in the middle of nowhere, really. Just someone had built a cabin in their front garden. With a sauna. And then there was a jacuzzi in that back garden. So it was really quite remote, and the sky was beautiful and dark. And that morning, it had been chucking it down with rain. We woke up and everything was grey. Before we went to bed that night we were in this jacuzzi and we could see the milky way, and we saw these shooting stars and it was just so beautiful.
So that was definitely one of the more memorable moments of the year. And definitely romantic.
TASH: Recently, I was having a really hard week and I was just really feeling overwhelmed and I was shutting down and Marthe was exercising that new thing where she doesn't take it on herself. And understands that the thing is me and I'm dealing with it my own way. And, um, we were going into a weekend and on the Sunday, we'd had a really lovely day together. It was as simple as like sitting on the sofa with brunch and watching a lesbian movie. And then she was like, oh, stay in here for a second. And she like went off and did a little squirreling away and then came back and was like, oh, if you go into the bathroom, you'll find your robe there, and your tea. And then you come through into the massage room and I walked into the bedroom and it literally felt like I'd walked into a five-star spa. They were like candles, and it was like beautiful smells and beautiful, relaxing music and all like dim and calm. And the like scents were going and humidifier was on and it was just... beautiful zen calmness.
And then you gave me like a full body massage. There was no about like, I'll give you a massage and you give me a massage. It was just, yeah, like, I want to do this for you because I know that you need it. You know, it wasn't a romantic or kinky massage in any way. It was literally just like, I know that you need this and you need this moment of relaxation.
ANNA: We've now moved to St. Leonard's and Hastings and us exploring that together, you know, when it's scary and exciting and brilliant has been amazing and strolling by the sea, most days I'm looking out, we're sort of pinching ourselves that, you know, we've done it. We've only been here two months, but it's all going brilliantly.
Um, but just actually the amount of time we now spend with each other. We're not doing full-time jobs at the moment, so we've got this luxury of time which could kill or cure, and it's just been wonderful.
DUNCAN: We're, you know, we're really good at hanging out and, um, spending time together, a lot of time together. I think if you'd said, you know, a couple of years ago that we'd have been doing this, I'd have thought Christ... Um, you know, that could be a problem cause Anna's a talker and she's constantly making noise and you know, you always know where she is, but, um, it it's been fine. It's been fun.
ANNA: It turns out we love spending that much time together. I really hope he's going to say the same thing. Just, you know, excited for this next new chapter.
TASH: I have to say I love being married.
MARTHE: But what is the difference?
TASH: I don't know. I think it's the fact that.... There is that commitment, public recognised, commitment, that mutual understanding that you are committed to each other, you know, that not that I felt, this one we were when we were just fiances or girlfriends, but like you have an argument, you know, that there is like always that solid foundation, safety net. And I don't want this to be misinterpreted that you then don't have to work because you still do. It's just in a different way. I don't know. There's. I just feel like we're building something.
MARIA: Oh, I love them all. So great to hear how things are going. The little romantic gestures and the big life changes. Thank you Nick and Davide, Anna and Duncan, Graham and Jules and Tash and Marthe for sharing these gorgeous updates.
Well, it's almost time to go and see my person on this most sacred... hmmm commercial, disgusting, pressurising day. But before I leave you, here's a little treat. A preview of something to look forward to: Evin and Andy.
EVIN: It was almost Christmas. So we got each other little gifts. Cause we had been talking for a long time. My mindset was like, even if it doesn't turn out to be anything, you know, we've got a friendship now.
ANDY: There is a video game series called Dragon Age. And uh, he got me, I think a Dragon Age comic book.
EVIN: I got Andy... I made them a stocking. With Star Wars fabric. It was reversible with Star Wars fabric on one side and a Doctor Who fabric on the other side and just filled it with like snacks and stuff.
ANDY: And I got him like a big, encyclopaedia of all the like concept art for the game and stuff.
EVIN: And Andy got me, there's a little like necklace that a character gives another character in Dragon Age. And so Andy's gift was definitely way more directly romantic than mine was.
ANDY: It rained like hell, we went to an art museum, which was really cool.
EVIN: And then we went to the native American history museum, which was cool, kind of a bummer for a first date though, not strong first date, uh, content.
ANDY: Gorgeous museum, stunning museum, huge bummer for a date.
I think it was then like coffee and then, uh, like a weirdo. I knew I'm in love with him on that date.
EVIN: We did kiss very briefly, but it wasn't a particularly good kiss. I got a lot of Andy's moustache. It was just real quick. It was a good, it was a good date though, we did have a good time.
ANDY: I had never been in love before. I'm pretty confident in saying. I dated a tonne, especially in college. Like I dated a lot, but it was all girls. Evin was the first guy I'd ever gone on a date with. And like, I knew there and then like, shit, this isn't good. Like I'm in love with this guy and I'm a pastor and in the closet. And, uh, also only a weirdo says that they're in love with you on the first date. So I need to keep that locked down and in private. Um, but yeah, I, I very much knew that, like this was more than a casual thing for me.
Season 2 (most recent first)
Ty & Stanislav
STANISLAV: Oh my god, who is this woman?
TY: Oh my god, who is this guy?
STANISLAV: Like, I just tried to enjoy it every minute. And not get too overwhelmed by feelings.
TY: Oh, universe, this is what I want!
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. In this season finale, we head to a party in Thailand, where both members of our couple found themselves unexpectedly alone, but blissful in this beautiful setting. Just to warn you, there are a few swears in this episode.
TY: Hi my name is Ty. I am 30. I'm a Londoner.
STANISLAV: I'm Stanislav. I come from Munich, Germany.
TY: I'm currently full time mumming I guess. But before I had a baby earlier this year, I did a whole bunch of different stuff in the wellness world. So I read tarot, I do movement meditation events...
STANISLA: I’m a photographer, slash barkeeper, slash barista, like, mainly photographer, but, you know, sometimes you have to earn some money somewhere else, especially in the beginnings!
TY: We've been together for two and a half years officially, but we met nearly three years ago. And there was kind of nobody even remotely in my life from the moment I met him. So, and it just kind of worked out that way.
STANISLAV: Ty, my, my lovely jungle princess, she's just like, the most chilled and like understanding person that I ever met. And I think this was always the most important for me, anyway, in a partner. I don't mind what they do and how they do as long as they like, have an understanding what, that there’s another person with other needs, or like other things that they want to do. So I really appreciate that.
TY: A few months before I met him, I'd like shaved my hair and just been like, ok, I'm not swearing off men, but I suppose like, just raising my bar. I kind of was like, great, no more nonsense, you know, I've had loads of lovely sex adventures all over the world [laughs], now I'm ready to just hold - as my mum says like - hold and receive, I'm just gonna hold and receive, and see what comes forward. So that's kind of where I was at when I met him. But also at the same time, I was on a family holiday, I hadn't even taken any condoms, because I was like, I’m on a family holiday!You know, this is not this is not about guys, this is not about men. So that's where I was like in those two places, at the same time.
STANISLAV: I was quite in a place of new beginnings. My work, they ran out of money. And I always wanted to travel, I wanted to go away for longer than just like, you know, the past two weeks, or the odd holiday. At that time, like my dad died, sadly, as well. But it's ok, it wasn't like oh, suddenly, but it's just like came altogether, and he left me also some money. So I decided with my other best friend who was still like living in Munich to visit my Thailand friend. And just to see how it is how he lives. And maybe I had a talk before with him, if I want to, like get into the hostel and maybe open a coffee shop or something like that.
It was just great. Like, really the first time I went like far away. Climate, people, holiday island - it’s just like, where I want to be!
TY: It was just after New Year. And it was a couple of days after.... I'd been on holiday with my family for two weeks, and then they'd left and I had a few days on my own. And I'd been at a kambo ceremony, kambo’s this like frog poison medicine, it sounds really gnarly, but they kind of made these little burns on your arm, and they put this frog poison on your arm. It's kind of this medicine that they use in the Amazon. So I'd been at a ceremony earlier that day, doing that. And as you can imagine, it's pretty intense. So like, by the afternoon, I was ready to just chill and be in my own space. And I had this little bungalow right on the beach. And I just went back there. And that evening was a party at my favourite place to dance to - this was all like in Thailand, happening by the way! So I was like, ok, I really want to go, this is my last chance to dance before I go home. But I'm also really tired, I want to just honour where I'm at. So I'm just gonna let myself go to sleep. And if I wake up and go to the party, then great. And if I don't, then it wasn't meant to be.
Went to sleep, and then woke up in the middle of the night, it was pitch black and I was pretty tired. I was like, oh I think I'll just go back to sleep, let me just see what the time is…. looked at my phone, and it was 3:33 and when I see like triple or quadruple digits I always think like oh my god, yes, I'm in the matrix, my angel’s with me [laughs]. There was just something about this 333 that I was, it just made me like sit bolt upright in bed and I was like oh, this this really a sign I've got to go - something good is gonna happen to me tonight, if I go to this party.
STANISLAV: It was kind of our last party. And this party was quite promising because you had to like go on the boats go to the next bay and quite another feeling than where the other parties just like with a motorbike or like taxi.
So we set like over to the, to the other bay, with the boat, and I left my phone at home and you know like first time really on a tropical island and over water and party and I just thought like I leave it better at home before I lose it. But we arrived quite early in the party and was a great party. I loved it. Sadly my one friend from Munich. He had a bit of a bad time just like alcohol and you know, he didn't have a great time. And my other friend, he is more like the party talker? So he was just sitting with his girlfriend on the on the side and was just like chatting and i was just dancing the whole night.
TY: Yeah, Eden Bar, the party goes kind of from the night all the way through to the daytime so you can go there at 333 in the morning and the party will still be in full swing. Because I've been to this place many times, I know a lot of people there, so I thought yeah I'll just go on my own because there'll be people that I know, but actually there was nobody there that I knew so I just thought ok most people usually turn up about like seven or eight for a morning dance, so I just - I think by the time i got there it was about 4:30 so I was like I'll just dance on my own for a bit and see how it goes. So I was yeah, just kind of dancing on my own just like waiting for the sun to come up really.
STANISLAV: My friend didn't feel very well so they said like they leave now, but I was like ‘nah I'm not done yet’ like last party, I know how to get home, like ‘you got off, I stay here’.
TY: Oh god, I can still remember - like still makes me smile so much - I just saw, walking across the dance floor, i just saw Stanny, like you know we're in the tropical islands, so he was just like topless, he had his sort of thailand trousers on, and his little kind of bum bag and I was just like oh my god, and I literally remember the thought went through my head like, ‘oh my god there goes my dream man’.
And I was just like I have to, I have to dance with him, I have to you know like, I have to engage with him in some way like two days before the end of my holiday! So I kind of - I think I was at the bar, I was waiting for a drink so I just kind of saw him - like a like a wild animal like through the trees, and then he was gone, and then I was looking around for him, I couldn’t see him anywhere, so I just had to kind of forget about it a little bit and then maybe like half an hour later when I was dancing I turned around. and he was dancing just behind me, on like the little elevated bit, so then I was kind of doing all my, you know, throwing out all my best moves in the hopes that he would notice me, and then eventually I went and like stood next to him.
STANISLAV: Yeah all of a sudden like this [sighs] gorgeous like woman was standing right next to me and moving like, I never saw like someone moving like this before, you know Germany is quite like, very like ‘hard’ in a way of movement and then just like this yeah, jungle princess, I just yeah immediately in a way like fell in love with her movement was just like wow!
TY: He smiled at me and I smiled back at him
STANISLAV: Normally I'm very bad at flirting, so just like hey you have to say something.
TY: He's like ‘oh yeah you're a good dancer’
STANISLAV: ‘Oh yeah I love your, the way you dance’
TY: Or ‘I like your dancing’, I was like, ‘oh thanks, I like your face!
STANISLAV: ‘I like your face’ it was like uh, uh…
TY: [laughing] and he just looked so shocked! I was like oh shit, he’s probably got a girlfriend like but it's fine, it's fine, I've said it you know!
Then he's like ‘do you want a cigarette’ I was like ‘oh no thanks’ because I don't smoke, and then he's like ‘ok, do you want a lollipop?’, and it's so funny because when I go to berlin with my girlfriends like I will just - because I don't smoke, I just stash my little bum bag full of lollipops, so I can just like have something nice to suck on on the dance floor, just like dancing away to the techno. So I was just like this beautiful man has just offered me a lollipop, like in my favourite place to dance in the whole world, Ii was like what the hell, so Ii took my lollipop, I was really happy with that.
STANISLAV: Uh, next question like ‘oh where are you from’, ‘I'm from Germany, and then she’s like -
TOGETHER: ich mag dein gesicht
STANISLAV: Just like ‘I like your face’ in German
TY: Then he looks even more surprised! That I spoke german I guess!
STANISLAV: My face just dropped just like, oh shit!
TY: But then i was just there dancing with my lollipop, like wow, I love berlin, I love just just the whole german vibe in general so not only is this man like tall and beautiful, and offered me a lollipop, and he's dancing, but he's also german! I was like this can't be real, this can't really be happening.
STANISLAV: Then we're just like chatting but not really like deeply, just a bit of chat and more dancing and just looking at each other.
TY: Ooh this is really nice [laughs]. Like dancing closer, dancing closer, I was like oh yeah I'm gonna get a kiss! And then we had a nice kiss.
STANISLAV: I just remember this kiss, it was just like [exhales] like I never kissed that juicy lips before and like so soft!
TY: He was just like ‘wowwwww your lips are so soft!’ I was like ‘oh thank you!’.
And yeah I guess because we met quite late in the night, by this time like the sun was coming up so there's this huge - Eden Bar’s kind of built onto the rocks, so we went down onto the rocks and we like dancing and watching the sunrise over the ocean, it was like super dreamy and I was looking at him trying to work out how old is he, is he the same age as me? I think we're about the same age, I was like oh please let him not be like 21 or something!
STANISLAV: The music stopped and we were like, oh, ok, must be over, like oh shit this is now over like, what is - yeah yeah I would love to hang out with you but, I can't be like so… I didn't want to look like too greedy? Too like ‘yeah yeah yeah I love you yeah!’ [laughs] you know when you just fancy someone from the first minute and you just be like, oh, cool person! Then she just asked whatever I do the rest of the day, and I really didn't have plans because I also would leave in three days after that.
TY: So I was just like, ‘oh, do you just want to like, hang out with me today?’, and he was so nonchalant. He was like, ‘yeah, maybe’ I was like, ‘ok, cool!’.
STANISLAV: Why not? Like, just like, yeah, I think so I can stay. Also like, I didn't have a phone and my friends were like, on the other side of the island, and I also was a bit like, ooh, can I, can I just stay without them like, sending like a search troop for me? But then I just had decided, uh last days, why not just go full and they will think something like that will be fine.
TY: He did end up staying like all day, we just kind of went from beach to beach, eating and chatting, eating and chatting. Like there was that kiss and then it was just like, we were just two people just hanging out and just talking, talking, talking all day long until it finally got to about like, yeah, nine or ten at night or whatever. I was like, ok, he's clearly not going back to his, his bungalow on the other side of the island. I was like, ‘do you want to stay?’ And he's like, ‘yeah’, so I was like, ‘great’! [laughs].
STANISLAV: ‘Oh, yeah, I would love to stay over, but first can you ask someone, can I get a phone? Can I get on Facebook? Can I send a message to my friends? Because another night would be like, getting strange. Luckily, she knew someone who had a phone that I could login into my Facebook, write them a message. I'm like, I'm fine. I'm coming tomorrow.
And I was a bit like, oof you know, I danced the whole night, like I sweated a lot. So I felt in a way very ugly, very, like stinky, very like, just done, you know, because I really was not like her when she came at, what, four o'clock or something? I was really there from like 11[pm] [laughs].
TY: And then the next day, was my last day before I had to catch my flight. And he was like, ‘do you want to come back and stay on the other side of the island with me before you go home? There's another party.’ So I was like, ‘yeah’, so I packed up all my stuff.
And then we had another day and night on the other side of the island. And yeah, that evening, we went to try and go to this party. But it turned out that it wasn't on. And so we just had this night where we just - we had taken like sarongs to lie on - and we just sat on the beach from about seven in the evening, it was completely deserted, because the party was cancelled, just talking again, just like talking all night long. And I remember watching the constellation of what is it, Orion kind of move across the whole, like it rose up above the horizon and move across the whole sky. And I just remember thinking like, oh, universe, this is what I want! You know, I know that it might not be this guy, because he lives in, you know, in another country, and I've met him on holiday, but this is what I want, please, like this is what, this is what I'm looking for. So if it's not this something like this, please.
STANISLAV: But I also remember, she brought like Star Wars analogies. And I was like, oh my god, who is this woman? Just like such a babe like next to me and just like casually bringing like Star Wars analogies and phrases of Yoda and like that kind of stuff. And I'm like, wow, who's this cool chick? Like, I just tried to enjoy it every minute. And not get too overwhelmed by feelings and being like too like, oh fuck, I love this woman, in a way. Just like tries to keep my my my feelings like, under control.
TY: I was just trying to like, hold it all really lightly in the hand, you know, and not getting too carried away, but also really thinking like, oh my god, who is this guy? And I was looking at him and just looking at his face, and I was like, it felt, it honestly felt like I was just remembering it. It was like I was looking at him, and just remembering his face. I was like, oh my god, who is this guy? This is crazy. But also I know that I'm on this beautiful paradise Island and lots of magical things happen to me when I'm here. But this feels really amazing, you know? And then the next day, yeah, I left. He wrote his number on a little piece of paper and gave it to me and was like ‘yeah stay in touch’, I was like ‘yeah I will!’. And then I came back to London.
STANISLAV: My friends were just like joking, like, ‘oh, you found the love of your life’. I just said like ‘no, no, no, that was it was just a holiday romance. Nothing, particular. I don't have time for that.’ But then I gave her my number and got this long message of like, how beautiful it was a time, and that brought her back and I was remember just like my last evening. The whole last night I was just sitting on the terrace. My friend was already sleeping inside the house, and I was just like staring onto the ocean. I was just like, wow, what happened the last three days? Like what was that? Never experience that kind of feelings or like before.
TY: I feel like if anything, there was something about the fact that we were both on holiday that is so different. Like when you meet someone, when you're away, it's so different to when you meet someone when you're back home, because when you're at home, like, you're thinking, ok, I'm gonna get off of work tomorrow. And you know, maybe that person is like chatting to a few other people or, you know, maybe it's like an app date. So you're, there's kind of like, all these other things. It's quite, it's quite rare to sort of meet someone in your home city in that kind of, like, magical way.
Whereas this was just like, I'm just here, you know, I was just, my family had gone, I was just there. And in this place in my life as well, where I was just like, this is me, like, unapologetically me. So you kind of end up having these conversations that are so much less guarded. And you just, you know, in a way, like you just don't, you just don't give as much of a fuck in a really good way! Because you're like, you know, I'm going home tomorrow. So let's just talk about everything, let’s talk about, you know, how many children do you want? And you know, what do you like in a relationship? What do you not like? You just talk about - just talk about everything. And it's not the same as - there's not this kind of like, ‘oh, don't get too into me, it's just a first date.’ You know what I mean? It doesn't feel like a date at all. It's not a date, you're actually just, you've just met someone and you're like, hey, let's just hang out until I fly home.
STANISLAV: Yeah, then we just kept in a way casual and in contact. But also my friend decided also to go to Thailand. And so we set us like a timer for three months, until we like have to get every, all the papers done. You know, you have to break up a lifetime.
TY: He was like, maybe I'll come to London before, like, on my way to back to Bangkok. I need to practice my English. And I genuinely thought he mainly wanted to practice his English and needed somewhere to stay, so I was kind of like ‘oh ok, yeah, sure. Yeah, like, you can come and stay with me!’.
STANISLAV: Because I still did not know how she felt about me, you know, like, so I just had to, like, disguise it a bit. Like, I want to see her again, but make it casual. Bring another reasons! [laughs].
Yeah, then she picked me up after work. And I wish like, from the first minute, I wanted to kiss her again. Then we were lying after dinner, like on the couch. And she started stroking my foot. And I'm like, ‘oh, yeah, she's still interested, like, not just like a friend!’, the whole, whole six days, I was just like , cloud seven. Cloud nine! Cloud nine is in English! In German it's cloud seven, that's why I'm always a bit like, seven, nine, oh now we’re in England so nine!
TY: Me of a few years ago would have been like, oh my god, I love you. Like, I'm just going to come to Thailand with you. But I had a long distance relationship a few years before this, that was my last one before this one. And it ended really badly. And so I felt much more kind of defended about the idea of falling for someone in that long distance setting where one of you or both of you are either like always on holiday and it being like quite a different dynamic. And so I was much more like defended of my heart, even though I was really open with him. The inner recesses of my heart, let's think I still was kind of like, I need to, I don't want to, I don't want to say I love you and then realise when I get to know you more that actually I don't, or vice versa, you know, that's awful.
STANISLAV: Yeah, I just like realised, I loved her, and I was in this moment of like, all my life, is new, everything is just like, why not just tell her and I mean, that's how I feel like, I can't not feel my feelings.
TY: At the end of the time when he was in London, he said, ‘I love you’.
STANISLAV; Just silence, you know, just like dead silence.
TY: And I was like, oh god, what am I gonna say? Because it didn't freak me out. Because I felt like I could feel those feelings too. But I don't want to say it too soon, because we've only spent like, you know, seven or eight days in each other's company, ever.
STANISLAV: And to tell someone that you love them, and it was dark, we were just like, kind of went to bed. So I couldn't see her face and just like dead silence, and it got like longer and longer and just like awkward, and just be like, ok, did I destroy everything?
TY: And then he was like, ‘ok, good night’. I was like, ‘no, no, no, no, you can't say good night!, you can’t say something like that., and then say good night!’
STANISLAV: ‘You can’t just like, leave me with that’. I'm like, ‘you’re leaving me with that!’ you know? [laughs]
TY: I was like, ‘no, no, thank you for saying that’. And, you know, ‘eyes can't lie’ is what I said. And that we'd just been spending so much time just gazing into each other's eyes, ‘eyes can't lie’. And yeah, specifically, I remember those as one time when we were just looking at each other. And I realised like, wow, there's nothing between his eyes and his soul. Like it's just open, you know, you know, so often you go on a date or you meet someone, you want to connect, and you want to feel like oh, this could be something really beautiful. But often people kind of have this like, there's something that holds them back from really opening up to that, and I felt like that when we would look at each other, there was nothing in between. There was nothing in the way.
STANISLAV: I knew that she like, has the same feelings, but she can't like voice it. And I was ok with that. Because, you know, I didn't say it, to hear it back. I said it because I felt it, and that that was the main reason why I wanted to say it.
Yeah, just left with this super nice warm feeling and super excitement of like a new country, but still, like, ooh wowl, I met the girl of my life in a way.
TY: Then I went to see him in Thailand, two months after that. So in May, which was when we finally became a couple, you know, and oh, my god, it was just like the dreamiest two weeks of my life. I'd been there for about three days. And we came back from this party. And, you know, even just when I arrived, he had already, like, you know, bought the weed and the fruit and the food and had just had made such an effort. And we got back from this party, and he like, brought me some food. And I was just like, thinking, oh yeah I love this about him, I love this, and everything about him, I was like [gasps] oh my gosh! Oh my god, I love him! There was like, this internal realisation of like, oh, my god, I do, I actually do!
And then we’d been at this party, obviously, Thailand, humidity, and he has long hair. So he was like, ‘oh, I really need to have a shower and wash my hair and dry it’ I was like ‘I can dry it for you if you like’. And he was like, ‘really, would you?’ I was like ‘yeah course!’. So he went and had his shower, and I was sitting there like, oh my god, I love him. I love him! This is great. And then he came out of the shower, and I was blow drying his hair. And just, he was just like, you know, when you see like a cat that's being brushed, the cat’s like ‘oh I’m loving this’... he was just sitting there like, and I was brushing and blow drying, so we weren't talking, and there was this golden kind of light just sort of descended into my heart. And I was just like, I'm fully in it. I’m fully, fully in it. And from that point onwards, like until now, I just completely have been.
And I didn't - I should have just said it then, I should have, because he'd already said it to me. Like I should have just said I love you. But I was like I'm gonna wait until he says it again!
STANISLAV: We went to the other side of the island where we met and had just like this magical, really magical days, every day, it was just perfect.
TY: We were paying this, doing these questions. There's like 36 questions to fall in love to. But they're really great questions as well, you could just do them even with a friend.
STANISLAV: In a way we knew all that what the other questions were about. We knew already because we were so chatty. And so it was not like, ‘whoa, whoa, really? That's how you?’ It was just like ‘oh, yeah, I can see that.’ And like ‘I could hear that already.’
TY: We got to the question that was like, if you died tomorrow, is there anything that you would regret having not said to someone? And I was like, you go first!
STANISLAV: In a way, I thought, there is none. Because I said that I loved her. So I was like ‘there is nothing’. But then it just felt like I have to say something.
TY: And he was like, ‘well, you know’ like, ‘you know how I feel’. And I was like, ‘what do you mean?’.
STANISLAV: ‘You exactly know what I want to say’, because I wanted to hear from her, like she did - she already heard it from me! But then she was like ‘you say first’ so just said more like how much I love her, rather than that I love her, because that she knew already!
TY: ‘Oh my god I love you too, I love you too, I love you too! [laughs]. And then yeah, that was it. Then we both said it, we went back to the same bar - Eden Bar - for a night, a party that night and we were just like, just so fully in our love.
And then when we got back to our bungalow, he was like, ‘ok, so yeah, I mean, I got to move to London’. And I was like, ‘I mean, yeah, I wasn't gonna pressure you because you've literally just arrived in Thailand, but when are you coming?’ and then three months after that, he moved to London.
STANISLAV: Yeah we just like knew, we want to be forever.
TY: And it’s just been great. There's not been a single moment where I've been like, oh shit, we've done anything too fast or too soon, even though by some people's standards, you know, we moved like, super, super quick lightning speed, but it's just felt so.. right. And sort of like, why wait? You know, why waste time? We're just gonna want to be together all the time. So let's just be together all the time!
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. This is sadly the end of season 2, but I hope to return with a third season in the future. If you have a unique meeting story, I would love to hear it. Please get in touch via equalpartspodcast.co.uk. Ty and Stanislav, thank you so much for sharing your dreamy tale. And, thank you to all of the couples who took part this season.
Equal Parts features music from Audio Network, and artwork from a range of illustrators and designers. This week, Mar Bertran produced a vibrant piece that really captures the feel of Ty & Stanlislav’s meeting. Search for #EqualPartsPodcast on socials to find it in your feed, or go to EqualPartsPodcast.co.uk to see all of the artwork from Season 1 and Season 2. A big thank you to all of the artists who have created work for the podcast, And to Fran Marchesi who designed the Equal Parts logo. I also want to thank Sophie Shin, for her help behind the scenes. Thank you all.
And thank you for listening. I would really appreciate it if you would leave a review or rating on Apple Podcasts, or share the podcast with someone that you think will enjoy it. Ok, bye for now.
JJ & Janelle
JANELLE: I ended up taking a snapchat selfie, and I wrote I miss you.
JJ: I miss you. And it was a picture of her with a drink.
JANELLE: And I sent it to everyone in my Snapchat.
JJ: I thought that was just to me. And later I find out she sent that to like all her friends on Snapchat!
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. This week’s couple found an ice breaker, and a connection-maker in football, and fantasy football, where the weekly tactics and rankings offered a convenient excuse to stay on each other’s minds, week after week… after week.
JANELLE: My name is Janelle, I'm from Buffalo, New York, in America.
JJ: I'm JJ. I'm originally from Wallingford, Connecticut, now live in Buffalo, New York.
JANELLE: I'm a physical therapist or a physio, as it's known in the UK.
JJ: Janelle and I moved here towards the middle of last year.
JANELLE: My husband is JJ, we met eight years ago and we've been together..
JJ & JANELLE: Seven years.
JJ: Janelle, she is just one of the smartest, most dedicated person I know.
JANELLE: He is just the nicest, most kind person that I've ever met.
JJ: She's there for whatever you know is going on in my life you know, she's always there to listen, there to help out, offer advice.
JANELLE: And he's just... he has this like corny funniness [laughs]. His overwhelming qualities is that he's just honest, genuine, just so kind, and just a really great person!
JJ: She's amazing. Yeah.
JANELLE: So I, basically since I was, you know, younger, and in high school, I had kind of always had a boyfriend, and then was in graduate school for physical therapy and had a breakup and was kind of like, I'm not going to date anyone for a while, and I signed up to train for a marathon. So I was doing all these things just for myself, I think I was single for about two years. And then it was that tail end of being single that I signed up to, you know, train and do all this running.
People kept trying to introduce me to other people, and, you know, come date my friend, and whatever. And if it fit into, like, my training schedule, and my school, because for graduate school it was pretty rigorous. And I also had a few side jobs just to be making ends meet. So I was, I think, I would say I was at a point in my life where I was feeling pretty independent and strong.
JJ: When we first met, I wasn't really in the market per se, like, I wasn't looking for a girlfriend, or I wasn't sure if I really wanted to get into a relationship at the time. I would say I was kinda, maybe more on the immature side, just wanted to hang out with the boys, have some drinks, go out. I was in grad school at the time. So I really wasn't thinking of the next step in regards to a relationship.
JANELLE: So, I had my clinical place at a hospital very close by, it was in Philadelphia. There were two other students there, and their names were Matt and Mike, and it was this weird thing where we all just felt like we were, we like knew each other forever, and we were just really like minded people that just got along right away. Matt was married, Mike had a girlfriend. And they were both strangely - because I feel like guys are not usually like this - but they were both obsessed with like finding somebody for me. Because I guess they have all these cool friends or whatever, that they thought would be good for me.
So basically, Matt especially was like, I have this friend, I have this friend, I have this friend. And so I was meeting them here and there and kind of like, whatever. And then we ended up - one of I think the doctors at that hospital retired - and there was this big party at the end of the summer. And they had, you know, their significant others. I think Matt and his wife left, so I was just third wheeling with Mike and his girlfriend. And it just got to the point that I was like, “don't you have any friends that like, would be good for me?”. Because like Matt was like, you know, on this mission, but Mike never really brought anyone forward, I guess, and then he was like, you know, “I've been thinking all summer I have the perfect friend for you! But he lives in Connecticut.” I was like, “well, what do you mean, the ‘perfect’ friend for me?!” [laughs] And he just went on about how he loves soccer, you know, he's in grad school….
JJ: He knew she loves soccer. And he knows I love soccer...
JANELLE: … A few other qualities. And I was like, “ok, he's four hours away... So let me know if he's around ever.”
JJ: “Might try to hook you guys up.”
JANELLE: That was the first I heard of him. And Mike actually, I think pulled JJ up on my phone, like on Facebook and added him as a friend for me. So I can, you know, I can only see a few things. So I'm just looking through them like, I don't know. You know, he kind of looked [laughs] - my first impression was that he kind of looks like a little kid! Like he was just wearing these really baggy clothes in his like profile picture, which I don't know if it was like a themed party or something strange that he was doing, but I was just like, I don't know. And so I think a week went on and I never got an accepted friend request. So I was like, “Mike, what's up with this? Your friend doesn't want to be my friend.” I think within a minute he had texted him and it was accepted. Then we were just Facebook friends, but we weren't talking or anything.
JJ: When he mentioned, you know, hey, you guys should meet. We planned a trip down there. I mean, a few, a few of our friends, we drove down to Philly.
JANELLE: Mike texted me and said, “a bunch of my friends are coming up this weekend, if you want to come over Friday”, and I was like, “sure, I'm not doing anything, but I'm gonna run six miles first. So I might be kind of late” [laughs].
JJ: I’d say we didn't really kick it off, right at first. When Janelle came to his apartment, we were all just playing beer pong. And Janelle comes in, and it’s like, “oh, who’s that that cute girl that just walked in?” And Mike would say “oh that’s Janelle!” I was like, “oh nice!”.
JANELLE: I got there very late. They were all already kind of half drunk and doing all kinds of crazy things, playing all different variations of beer pong, and basically just about ready to get going to the bar. And I didn't know any of them, except Mike and his girlfriend, who I had just met. So I was meeting basically like five or six new people that I didn't know.
JJ: The first thing I saw was she had her hair cut, like, like shoulder length. And I remember I like, I love, I love that. And I saw it, was like, “oh, that's so, so beautiful. I want to go talk to her.” But of course, I was being a little wuss about it. I think I was playing with my buddy... Another Mike. There's a lot of Mikes. He was my beer pong partner. I was like, “hey, Mike, I think that's Janelle!”. And I think she was wearing a long sweater type thing. Yeah, that was, that was kind of the first impression there. And it must have been awkward for Janelle, because she walks into this apartment with four, five guys just being annoying, playing beer pong, and just like, “oh, which one's JJ?”
JANELLE: So I'm definitely the kind of person that is not the life of the party, I would not come in and you know, suddenly be having the time of my life, I would usually be looking around kind of like, I don't know who to talk to, I would almost never go to something like that by myself. But like I said, I was feeling like this newly independent - and I had no other plans other than running.
So I walked in, and they actually had this beer pong table set up basically right in front of the door, so I went in the door and almost hit them all, they were playing right there. And then I could tell they were all like, a little crazy, but they actually all stopped for a second, went around the room and introduced themselves. So I knew which one was JJ.
JJ: I remember it took me a little bit to actually go say hi.
JANELLE: We went to the first bar. And JJ didn't talk to me at all [laughs]. And we ended up walking into a different bar. And when we got to the bar, there was a huge projector screen, and there was a soccer game on TV. And I don't remember the game, I don't think it was any important, specific game. But the fact that there was a game on was very significant, because immediately me and JJ were like “there’s soccer on TV!”.
JJ: I just remember talking to her. And I thought she was like, cutest little thing… It was great.
JANELLE: Eventually, at the end of the night, just all went our separate ways. And I remember thinking, maybe he's not that interested or who knows, but he lives far away. So we'll see.
JJ: We hung out that weekend a little bit, just had some good conversations. And then it actually took my next visit down to Philly for things to really kick off.
I think there was a few, probably a few months in between. and we went a little bit of time when we had left the first time of not really talking. But I was in grad school, so I was still in classes and Janelle was getting her doctorate of physical therapy, so she was still in school doing her clinical. And while I was in my classes I would be writing to her on - I had a chat on my Mac. I remember one one time I wrote a -
JANELLE: The famous -
JJ: Hey, do you want to join my fantasy Premier League?
JANELLE: Do you want to join my Fantasy Premier League?
JJ: I was super romantic [laughs]. I think it kind of caught her off guard. But I don't even know - to today I don't even know if she really knew what I was talking about at the time. But she was like “sure!” [laughs].
JANELLE: [Laughing] I'd love to play fantasy Premier League. That sounds fantastic! That's like, I've never played that. But it sounds like so much fun! Because I was the crazy person who always got up and watched by myself at you know, here at seven in the morning. All my roommates didn't crawl out of bed till 11 or 12. And I had already watched you know, three or four matches by then. And so in my mind I was like yeah, like I already know like, which players are good on all these different teams because I just love watching soccer in general. So I think I would be really good at that!
I wasn't as good as I thought I would be but it was fun nonetheless. But it was good, it was a nice little way to stay in touch.
It definitely felt like, you know, friends at first and then, but I also felt like if there were the right circumstances, that it could be more, it just didn't, it felt very unknown about how that was even a possibility.
JJ: Even though we didn't really kick off that first time, you still had that feeling that it could have been something a little more than friends there. So I didn’t view it as just like, hey, let's just stay in touch as friends, it was more so I can see our time coming. I just don't know how to approach it or - she was from Buffalo, so like, to me that was like, countries away, like that was just so far from Connecticut at the time. And I'm like, I can't really see it working out. But I'm willing to, you know, stay in touch, and potentially, let's give this a shot.
So I think every time we did speak a little bit here and there, it kind of, wasn't just like I was talking to a friend, you kind of got the little little butterflies there. And I think that fantasy Premier League was just solidifying something that we would have a common interest in for - the Premier League season is so long, so we'd be talking every week! [laughs].
JANELLE: November came, and I ran my marathon. And then I was ready to go out and party with my roommates! [laughs]. So Snapchat was kind of new at the time. And that was back when you would just take a random Snapchat of something and you would send it to every single person that you were friends with.
JJ: I was actually at my buddy's house, he was having a little get together, it was pretty much the same group of guys that was down in Philly [laughs]. So I just remember being like, “oh, guys, she sent me a Snapchat!”
JANELLE: I don't know if JJ was on my mind a lot. But I ended up taking a snapchat selfie. And I wrote I miss you...
JJ: ‘I miss you’. And it was a picture of her with a drink.
JANELLE: And I sent it to everyone in my Snapchat.
JJ: I thought that was... just to me.
JANELLE: I think every single person that received it thought it was meant for them only! But I do, I do remember thinking like I wanted to send it to JJ, I just felt weird only sending it to JJ. So I just sent it to everyone.
JJ: So I was all pumped. I'm like, yeah! I was like, oh, “I miss you too”. And later I find out she sent that to like all her friends on Snapchat. But [laughs] I felt special that day.
JANELLE: I remember thinking for New Year's, that would be a cool way to just like run into each other. But I was like, I don't know how that could just like happen. I mean, I can't just like make him go somewhere. And I'm certainly not going to just go to a random bar in Connecticut and just hope he goes there! So me and my sister decided we were going to go to New York City for New Year's. And I figured that's kind of close to Connecticut. So maybe if I mentioned it, JJ would just be like, “oh, yeah, you know, we're gonna all go there too”, or something. But that did not happen.
When I woke up that next morning, I said to myself, I'm just going to ask him if we're ever going to see each other because at this point, there's not really a point in talking anymore… if we're just randomly chatting, and that's it. So yeah, I just texted him and said, “so when do I get to see you again?” And he wrote back and said, “yeah, I've been wondering the same thing.” And I was like, so why didn't you ask me that then? [laughs] Why did I have to ask you that? Yeah, he rounded up all his buddies. And they all came back to Philly the next weekend.
JJ: And I just remember, it was still... it wasn't awkward by any means, but it was just a lot of conversation, getting to really know each other. And she seemed to really bond with everyone else too, so that was really great. I think we definitely spoke a lot about just our passions. We spoke a lot about soccer, travel, she had been to a bunch of different places, she had studied abroad in Australia, it was just all these places that I truly envied, like, I want to go there. So it was a, really just took the time and really got to know each other, which I think was awesome. We connected on so many different levels and partly what we wanted out of life, but also just what we like to do for fun. And then I just remember literally waiting till like the very, very, very last minute to make a move and kiss her. So I think she was probably wondering the whole time what is this guy's issue?
JANELLE: He finally kissed me [laughs], because I think he felt, you know, his back was against the wall and he couldn't delay it any further, if we were gonna have a chance at anything. And so, yeah, he finally kissed me. And I was like, ok, I think this is happening now.
JJ: We talk about it quite often. It's all a big joke now but, it was just funny because you hear so many things where it's like, oh, love at first sight and all that. And absolutely, that happens. But it was just, it took us a little longer to get going. And I think that time period, though of the few months it was, just really allowed us to get to know each other. Because once we did finally kick it off, things just moved super quick.
JANELLE: It's interesting, we actually both graduated on the same day from our graduate programmes, so we were both in this stage where we didn't know necessarily where we were going to be working or what life was bringing next. And I think we both kind of influenced each other's decision to ultimately move to Boston, in Massachusetts. And so it was nice because we sort of moved to this new place, we were both new there, it was a nice thing that we just tackled together. And then we could finally sort of not be doing long distance and actually hang out regularly.
JJ: Once we finally decided to move to Boston, it was like, oh, we're like we're finally gonna be in the same spot. We don't have to travel four or five, six hours just to see each other anymore [laughs]. That was that was actually great. When we first moved there, Janelle was in an apartment already. She got there before I did. And I actually found an apartment about a half mile down the road. But quickly, I've ended up living with them pretty much. Yeah, that was, that was that was the start of it!
We probably would not have met if it wasn't for soccer, because that's kind of what really linked us together there. But from the day we met to today, seven or eight years later, that's such a significant and massive bond in our lives that we both just connect to on a daily basis. We probably would not have met if it wasn't for soccer, our love for soccer.
Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thank you so much JJ and Janelle for sharing your story. Best of luck with the fantasy league!
Before COVID, JJ & Janelle travelled a lot, often for football. If you want to keep up with them to see where they go in the future, you can follow them on Instagram @ extratimeabroad.
The music for Equal Parts comes from Audio Network, and this week’s artwork is a gorgeous watercolour by Niamh Lehane. You can see all of the illustrations for Equal Parts on the website - equalpartspodcast.co.uk and click through to see more of Niamh’s work.
Next week - the final episode of Season 2 - dancing with a stranger until the sun comes up. And then… what next?
TY: Oh my god there goes my dream man! Not only is this man tall and beautiful and offered me a lollipop and he’s dancing, but he’s also German! I was like, this can’t be real, this can’t be happening.
STANISLAV: We were just like, chatting, and more dancing, and looking at each other.
TY: I guess because we met quite late in the night, by this time the sun was coming up, so we went down onto the rocks, and we were like dancing and watching the sun rise over the ocean.
STANISLAV: The music stopped, and I was like, ‘oh, ok, this is now over, yeah I would love to hang out with you, but…’ I can’t be so… I didn’t want to be greedy, too greedy, too like ‘yeah, yeah, I love you!’
AMIR & AAMIR
AMIR: I remember he was wearing this black top, and black jeans, and these black chelsea boots, and you know he's an emo rock kind of guy at his core.
AAMIR: I'm telling you as my outfit that made it work. I looked so good that night.
AMIR: I was like, ‘yeah, he does look cute.’ And then my friend was like, ‘you both want to kiss each other, you might as well just kiss each other.’ And we did and it just felt magical.
AAMIR: I found my family in him, and I’m blessed and lucky. That's it. I'm set for life.
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. This week, our love story starts with a familiar scene. A friend introduces you to someone they’re sure you’ll hit it off with, but you get bad vibes from the start, And your upturned nose, only puts the other off more.
Luckily for this couple, a combination of persistent friends and unavoidable proximity, created space for bad feelings to dissipate and time for a true connection to form.
By the way, there is a swear in this story.
AMIR: My name is Amir and I am one half owner of the You Don't Love Me Boys brand I suppose.
AAMIR: My name is Aamir. I work in education and I am from Bradford but I currently live in Manchester.
AMIR: We are known for the You Don't Love Me podcast and the You Don't Love Me radio show.
My partner is a wonderful guy called Aamir, as well, of course he’s wonderful, he has the same name as me! And we have been married for over a year now. And we've been together for..
AAMIR: Six years, this New Year[s].
On the surface he’s really tough, sort of, you know, a strong headed, and he is underneath, he’s a strong headed, confident person. And I'm really attracted to confidence.
AMIR: He's got a very hard exterior, but a very soft interior.
AAMIR: Underneath all that, he’s a really sweet and loving and caring individual. Everything he does, really comes from the heart.
AMIR: He is somebody who loves deeply and he's very, very passionate,
AAMIR: I had a really fiery temper, like really hot-headed, really fiery temper, and everything I went to was at 100, you know, with disagreements with friends, arguments, everything was full on hardcore 100. And what I've learned from him is patience.
I’ve also learned, on the side of that, I learned a lot more about our culture. Because growing up, I sort of neglected my South Asian heritage just because I didn’t want to be part of the religion. And for me, I didn't realise you could separate both of things, the religion and the culture, just because of the way my family was. But he taught me I could separate them, and I could, and I had every right to, you know, fall in love with South Asian culture. I love Bollywood, love all the colours, of all the music. And I learned a lot of that from him as well.
He’s a very, very astute and very smart person. And also he's just so funny. Like, I know that's really simple, but I need someone that can make me laugh every day. And he makes me laugh every single day.
AMIR: We are polar opposites. In terms of our demeanour, the way we carry ourselves, the way we dress, you know, our tastes in music, some parts of even our upbringing, you know, we're different people. And when we met, I was all about, you know, taking things slowly and being calm, and you know, very ‘Downton Abbey’ aspirations. And he was all about rock music and going out and having fun. And when the masks were off, I think I saw a soft side in him that wasn't necessarily loud. And he saw a goofy side of me that wasn't, you know, necessarily aspiring to look or try and come across as so polished. What my weaknesses may be, those are his strengths and vice versa. So we are able to support each other.
And I think that you know, love and all that tranquillity aside, a relationship and a marriage is essentially about supporting each other and enabling each other to be the best version of themselves. So for example, I might be doing something and I get anxious, and he knows that I can get involved in the granular details of things too much. And he knows when to pick that up with me and draw me out of that.
And I think that's one of the reasons why we work. We want the best for each other. I think I'm lucky to have someone like him in my life, you know, somebody who accepts me for all of my facets.
AAMIR: So when I met Amir, I think I was younger! [laughs] I wasn't as tired. [laughs] I didn't have any back pain. I was, no I, yeah, I was younger. It was actually when I met Amir it was at the very start of my career. So I was very much like, oh, I've got - not very much- but I finally got some money. So I was like, every weekend, let's go out and spend that money. Because when you first get it, it's magical. Amazing. So when I first met Amir, I think I was a very confident person, because I'm a very confident person. I was self assured with who I was. And I was a bit wild and crazy, loud party animal. And I think now I have all them facets still, but I think I'm just a more evolved version of that. You know, I think it's just a natural thing as you get older. You don't need to go out every single, you know, three days a week to get drunk off your face because… you know what? You can’t handle the hangover anymore!
AMIR: The first time I met Aamir, I actually didn't very much like him. And the feeling was very much mutual. As destiny would have had it, I moved back to my hometown, and Aamir lived in the same hometown. And I actually remembered Aamir from school days. He doesn't remember me but, but I do remember him and my friend said ‘oh, let's go on a night out. There's a guy called Amir. I don't know if you know him or not. We'll go on a night out together’... because I didn't know anyone!
AAMIR: So we met through a mutual friend. He messaged me and he was like, ‘okay, we're going out and picking up my friend Amir, you've got the same name. He's not drinking, so he’s gonna drive us to Leeds and you're gonna meet him and you’re gonna make friends, and it’s gonna be cute, kiki, and it’s gonna be amazing and sickening.
So, you know, we decide outfits. I always wear black, because you know - I try colour now I'm pushing myself, - you know and I was getting my friend to choose an outfit. It was an okay outfit. This is very important to the later story, trust me.
AMIR: I remember he was wearing this black top, and black jeans, and these black chelsea boots, and you know he's an emo rock kind of guy at his core. So you know, he revels in all things black and what have you.
AAMIR: And then I remember Amir pulled up in his car, and I got in. It was a bit awkward at first because it's like, I don't know this person and I haven't been drinking yet. And he's not drinking so it's a bit uncomfortable and awkward. And he started talking and I was like, ‘oh my god, he's so posh.’ I was like ‘who is he? How is he from this town?’
AMIR: You know, we both come from a Yorkshire town but I don't have much of a Yorkshire accent, he has much more of a Yorkshire accent. And he said, ‘oh my god, you sound so posh. Oh, my God, you sound so posh!’ And I was like,’Ok, great, thanks!’. You know, and he I think he thought I was a little bit snobby, and you know, a little bit up my own ass, so to speak... And that's not entirely untrue!
AAMIR: And then we pulled up at Bargain Booze. And me and my friend got some alcohol, for the car journey, and I could see his little eyes and the front rolling, like, ‘who these queens think they are?’ Like, ‘no they’re just trash’. And I was like, ‘who the fuck do you think you are? You're posh, pompous.’ But I was like, nope, he's my ride. He's my ride there.
We got to Leeds and, you know, for once, it was a really, really quiet night in the place where we went. But I was living because it means I got to control the DJ. So I was living my best life, I was dancing on like the pole cage or whatever it is.
AMIR: Literally bouncing off the walls,
AAMIR: You know, doing all my dance moves, living!
AMIR: Upside down and all this jazz. And I was like, ok...
AAMIR: Amir was just sort of like, stood in the corner with his like, Diet Coke, like, ‘oh, ok, this isn't for me.’ He probably thought I was really loud and forthright and like too much.
AMIR: I said to my friend, I was like, ‘I don't think he's the type of person I want to hang out with. So like, can we not do a night out together, please.’ And my friend was like, ‘ok, fine, whatever.’
And then, as destiny would have it, we ended up on another night out together. And my best friend at the time was out with me. And he said, ‘oh, Aamir looks really fit, doesn't he?’
AAMIR: I'm telling you it was my outfit that made it work. I looked so good that night.
AMIR: Aamir was wearing this mesh jumper, go figure right? November time, November, December. And I was like, ‘yeah, he does look cute.’
AAMIR: It's really strange, because it really happened organically and naturally. And nothing was forced. And we just started hitting it off and we started flirting a little bit. And then it grew from there.
AMIR: Started spending time with each other and we'd go on a night out and you know, talk till three, four in the morning. And we'd parked the car up by this nature reserve and talk about music and politics and all sorts.
AAMIR: Getting to learn a lot about each other. Just small stuff. Like, I remember being in the car and like I was ok, it’s time now he listens to the music I like, pressing the button, and all this screaming music comes out and he was fine.
AMIR: And then I remember we went on a subsequent night out and my friend was like, ‘you both want to kiss each other, you might as well just kiss each other.’ And we did and it just felt magical.
AAMIR: He took me on our first date, to a restaurant in Leeds called Mumtaz, really good South Asian food. And that was a really lovely, lovely, lovely first date.
It’s sort of a rare story within the gay community sometimes, because there was never a hookup. It was a really organic relationship.
AMIR: We just carried on spending more and more time with each other. And on New Year's Eve, we were in Leeds. And it was officially [laughs] such a gay story! But we we went to one drag queen show bar called Viaduct and we skipped along to another bar called Fibre.
AAMIR: If I remember rightfully so, between Viaduct, a drag show bar, and Fibre, like crossing the road, we had like a conversation.
AMIR: Amir was saying ‘I don't want to be with anyone else’. And I said, ‘well, I don't want to be with anyone else either.’ And he was like, ‘well, why don't you just say that it's official.’ And I was like, ‘oh, well, is that what it means to be official? That you don't want to be with anyone else? In that case? Fine. Yeah,we're together.’
AAMIR: We made it official on New Year's.
AMIR: ‘Yeah, sure, fine, we're together.’ [laughs] And then we brought the new year in as a couple!
AAMI: Then we fell in love, and then that summer went our first holiday to Budapest, which is where he lived previously for about a year. And then we moved in together after about a year. And then I was like, I'm ready to get proposed to. I knew, I knew he was the one within like six weeks. I was like, yeah, he's the one. I just knew it.
It's really strange, right? And I always wonder if other couples have this. I feel like we have some sort of telepathy, some kind of sync, we really, really really know what each other is thinking and feeling, it’s like another level. I don't know what it is, but I think we’re just meant to be, I genuinely think that's what it is.
About one and a half years in, he proposed and we enjoyed that engagement for a while, and then we got married. Really, really small wedding, intimate wedding, with our nearest and dearest.
AMIR: So unfortunately, my family were not part of my wedding and they haven't been part of my journey for a number of years now, due to their cultural and religious views. And that has been difficult for me in the past and it's something that I've overcome.
I'm sad to say, but at the same time grateful to say that I'm not the only one. There are others like me and I have connected with people who do share a similar story to myself, and are able to support each other and create our own happy gay family. That's been very, very important to me. As gay people, we do get to choose our families.
With myself, unfortunately, as a result of me being gay, my family have disowned me, and I don't have a relationship with them at this moment in time. However, what I would say is, you know, one can only respect other people's opinions, but stay true to themselves, I think it is the best course of action. And that's what I've done. I'm grateful for the people who surround me, because I thrive in an environment where I'm surrounded by people who celebrate me rather than discriminate. And I think I'm on my way to achieving that. And you know, if that means that my family, my biological family, rather, won't be part of that journey, then, you know, that's that's just the way my life is.
AAMIR: When I was, I think about 18. I started purposely distancing myself from my relatives and extended family for many reasons. They were toxic people, put my sexuality aside, they were toxic people, they were not… It wasn't a safe environment from the extended family at all. And they were horrible, horrible people. And I think some people struggle with splitting that because ‘oh, it's family. It's ok.’ I'm like, ‘family to do this’. So I distanced myself. But I think in the back of my mind, I knew for the fact that they were not going to accept me for being gay anyway. Because it's always been spoken about... if anyone's gay in our family, you know, in extended family… they're out on the streets. It's not happening. So I managed to assimilate that very, very fast. And I was like, ok, cool, it’s not gonna work. And regardless of my sexuality, I don’t want to be around people are like that. But I'm very, very, very fortunate to have a great relationship with my mum, I'm very lucky. And she's very supportive, and she absolutely loves Amir, absolutely adores him. So we were very blessed to have her in our life. So I'm very happy about that.
AMIR: Manchester is a wonderful city. And I'm really, really glad that me and Aamir have moved here. One of the main reasons why we moved here was because we were drawn to a more cosmopolitan environment, and we wanted to live somewhere that's a little bit more open, open minded and a lot more sort of accepting. And I think there's many, many places like that in England now. But Manchester is just such a great, edgy city. And I think here we really can feel like we are surrounded by our gay family. And, you know, there's a wonderful drag queen, who's who is family to us, called Val Qaeda. She's been instrumental in helping us be, you know, be settled here. And she’s one of Manchester's premier drag queens that I, I will forever be grateful for in terms of, you know, not necessarily rescuing us from from where we were before, we had a great time where we live before as well, but really helping us see more people like us and really supporting us, you know, that, that really has meant a lot to us. And, you know, there's there's been drag queens who have you know, sent us messages saying, and other gay people saying you know, ‘welcome home’, and we do really feel at home here.
AAMIR: We were living in, you know, a small town near a difficult city to live, and we like, we ended up there, that's how it is, you know. But with lockdown, we learned a lot. So what would usually happen outside of lockdown in ‘normal life’, I call it now, we went on like five, six holidays a year, we were out in different cities every other weekend. So we could, outside of work, we could sort of escape our reality, so to speak, of what was going on around us and not being able to live our truth. When lockdown came, we couldn't go anywhere. So you are forced with your reality. And we're smart thinkers and we’re quick thinkers, thinking, ‘uh uh, this ain’t for us, we’re moving’.
I can't be old and look back and regret ever. So I look back at our last chapter: amazing. That was an amazing chapter. We had successful careers there. We built our relationship there, we got married, we came out, we did so many amazing things. Now it's time for a new chapter, where we are going to be surrounded by a gay family in Manchester. And it's going to be an incredible chapter and then I'm excited for the next chapter after that, because who knows where life's gonna take us. But I know we're both open to anything.
AMIR: I think for me and Aamir, there is a huge unknown in terms of what the future for us will look like. I think there is an excitement around the unknown. I think right now we really want to enjoy our time in Manchester. Reach out to any queer people, particularly queer people of colour who resonate with our stories and would like to be part of a larger, wider community, really regardless of sort of race, religion, creed, you know, we sort of want to promote queer safe spaces, and very much be part of that. And I think, you know, wherever that leads us, we'd be happy to follow and I also play an alter ego called Lady Bushra, which I won't talk too much about, but you know, I'm really looking forward to taking her on the Manchester gay strip and in Manchester gay village, and see what we do with it, and have a one woman show! I'm excited for that as well.
AAMIR: Love and falling in love is amazing. Love between friends and family and even pets. Anything is amazing. Love is incredible, and I've been in situations that people are like ‘love is disgusting’ like ‘no, love is an amazing thing’. It's the thing that's going to push and keep the world going. Go and share love, and if people don’t give you it back, don't waste your breath. It's not worth it. If coronavirus has taught you anything, ‘why are you wasting your breath on these arguments and on these people, when you can talk to someone that will celebrate everything you do, and you can celebrate them, you can uplift each other?’
And I always call myself fortunate. And it's really weird, because like when people with me and Amir, they’re like ‘oh family situations and this and that’ and yeah, life is hard for everyone, everyone's been difficulties, but my god am I fortunate to have found such an incredible human and such an incredible person, and a partner, husband and someone so understanding and caring and like that's my family. I found my family in him. And I'm blessed and lucky. That's it. I'm set for life.
AMIR: You know, one of the mottos of gay marriage was, was that love wins. And I think after getting married I realised that when you do get married love does really win and it does conquer all because, you know, homophobia, attacks, condemnation, whatever, doesn't matter. Because guess what, you reached your end goal, you were together and you got a legal stamp on it and it's recognised by the state that you pay taxes in like, you can't you can't get more of a sort of validation than that, and your love for each other is what brought you there.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Amir and Aamir, thank you both so much. I can’t wait to party with you in Manchester!
If you’d like to keep up with Amir & Aamir, you can follow them on Twitter & Instagram, look for You Don’t Love Me Boys, and listen to their podcast, where they explore topics like representation, race & sexuality, from a gay South Asian perspective. Search for You Don’t Love Me on Apple or Spotify and subscribe now! Of course there’s links to all of these in the show notes for this episode!
Audio Network provides the music for Equal Parts, and this week’s artwork comes from Danielle Casimiro. It’s a joyful, colourful, pattern-ful piece. Go to EqualPartsPodcast.co.uk to see it, or search #EqualPartsPodcast on socials to check it out.
If you found yourself smiling while listening to this episode, please let others know. It’s really helpful if you rate and review Equal Parts on Apple podcasts, or share the link on social media. Thank you so much!
Next week.. When soccer breaks the silence.
JANELLE: So I walked in, and they actually had this beer pong table set up basically right in front of the door. So I went in the door and almost hit them all. But they actually all stopped for a second, went around the room and introduced themselves. So I knew which one was JJ.
JJ: I remember it took me a little bit to actually go say hi.
JANELLE: We went to the first bar. And JJ didn't talk to me at all. And we ended up walking into a different bar. And when we got to the bar, there was a huge projector screen. And there was a soccer game on TV.
JJ: ‘Hey, do you want to join my fantasy Premier League?’ Super romantic [laughs]. Think it kind of caught her off guard. But I don't even know if she really knew what I was talking about at the time. But she was like ‘sure!’
JANELLE: I'd love to play fantasy Premier League. That sounds fantastic!
CLARE & RANDY
RANDY: ‘Hey, how would you feel if I came visit you in a month or so?’
CLARE: I know, it does sound absolutely insane actually spending money to buy tickets to Arizona, to end up meeting somebody, but I wasn't in the slightest bit concerned.
RANDY: All the way from England, just to see me?’
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves.
Today’s tale is one of gazing at the night sky, and into each other's eyes.
Connecting initially through a major astronomical event,
This couple realised an undeniable force was pulling them together,
from opposite sides of the world.
CLARE: My name is Clare. I'm a private tutor in Manchester. Maths and Physics... and a bit of astronomy.
RANDY: I'm Randy and I grew up in Wisconsin back in the States. Then lived in Arizona for a while, before I met my wife, Clare, and came here to Manchester to be with her.
CLARE: So my partner is Randy, and we've been together… well, since 2015, as far as when we started, essentially started a relationship. But as far as physically being in the same country together? That's been four years.
RANDY: When I met Clare, my dad had just recently passed away, and I was living with my mom at the time.
CLARE: I was trying to sort my life out! [laughs] In that I was living with my parents for a brief amount of time, I had been considering moving to North America, that's absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I ended up marrying an American, that, they’re completely separate coincidental things!
RANDY: I was having a hard time out of work and spending lots of time online.
CLARE: Since I was living with my parents… and they lived kind of in the middle of nowhere. So I was spending a lot more time online than I had been while I was living in Manchester,
RANDY: My dad had set up a big backyard observatory, before he died. And so I was using the telescopes to take lots of Astro-photography pictures like the Pleiades here. And following lots of space stuff, including the New Horizons Pluto flyby mission, which was how I met her basically.
CLARE: It was on Twitter, and we were both interested in the same things... we were particularly interested in the Pluto flyby that was happening. New Horizons was just a spacecraft that was flying by Pluto, which I know sounds like it's maybe a ‘non event’ flying by Pluto because it's not like it's landing on it or anything. But, we didn't have any good pictures of Pluto or much information about Pluto at all until that point.
RANDY: Something like five years earlier around 2005, 2007, something like that, they launched the New Horizons spacecraft, which because Pluto is so far away took a look like something like 10 years to get out there. And then in July 2015, it actually passed by like, the actual like payoff was just like a couple of hours zipping past Pluto. And then, then waiting for the data to be downloaded because the bandwidth from Pluto really sucks!
CLARE: It became quite a special thing because we had all these lovely pictures of Pluto now, and it kind of looks like it's got a heart? I don't know if that rings any bells with people?
RANDY: Pluto’s heart - I think it's officially called the Tombaugh Regio, after the discoverer Clyde Tombaugh, whose, whose ashes were actually on the spacecraft as it went past.
CLARE: It was a really exciting thing for people who were interested in space especially, it was in astronomy discussions on Twitter a lot.
RANDY: There was lots of anticipation amongst the nerd crowd. So we were both on Twitter and following the official flyby and some of the more humorous accounts, like the one one pretending to be Pluto.
So, I don't remember exactly what she had posted. But one of us made a joke and then the other commented on how clever that was, or something like that. I think in private chat at that point.
RANDY: Then we just started talking from there and sort of realised that we really liked each other, and then that we really liked each other. One of the earliest things that sorted of made me think you know, more than just a nerdy friend on Twitter was, I referenced a Red Hot Chilli Peppers song, not one of the really well known ones - ‘Feel the Pain’ - and I like quoted some lyrics to it in a joke that I didn't think she would get, and she, she totally knew what I was talking about. I was like ‘woah’.
CLARE: We ended up having a lot of dm conversations. And then eventually, we ended up actually contacting each other on Skype.
I certainly wasn't concerned about Skyping somebody who I only messaged on Twitter. It is very different, especially if you’ve got the video. It was strange, because I'd not actually seen him.... I think that there'd been a few photographs that he shared. But it was definitely different seeing him ‘in person’ that was initially a bit strange. But, it still just felt very natural. And we were having quite an intimate relationship even, before even meeting, and that was all via Skype.
RANDY: Within a month or so, she’s like, ‘hey, how would you feel if I came visit you in a month or so?’ and it's like,’ all the way from England? Just to see me?’
CLARE: It does seem quite bizarre looking back in that the timeframe would have been very small, but nothing seemed like, ‘oh my god, I'm taking this huge jump’. Even - and I know, I know, it does sound absolutely insane actually spending money to buy tickets to Arizona, to end up meeting somebody, but I wasn't in the slightest bit concerned. And I, it could be partly because I'm just the sort of person that I do do things impulsively, sometimes, like, I sort of think I want to do this. And I'll go and do that.
I had romantic kind of ideas of when he…. because he was picking me up at the airport, at Phoenix airport. And so like, I was really excited thinking that he would be there waiting for me when I come out. And he wasn't because he hadn't got there yet.
He was driving from Tucson. So it's not like he'd forgotten about me or anything like that, it was just that it was a long journey. And timekeeping isn't his strength. But once I'd got inside the car, he leaned over to kiss me and we kissed, it was a lovely kiss, but I was kind of a little bit flustered because it had been a long journey, and then a lot of hanging around an airport. And then the stress of trying to spot which car was his... it was all a little bit exhausting. So it was a lot better…. afterwards!
RANDY: I had made like big lovely plans for a great seeing of all the all the sights of Arizona, and we went a little bit through New Mexico, Nevada, California. So took her on a big tour.
CLARE: It was out of this world. I mean, he showed me so many things -
RANDY: Telescopes, you know, the professional… top of a mountain ones!
CLARE: We went to… oh god, how many different places did we go to?
RANDY: The Grand Canyon and saw Hoover Dam.
CLARE: I'm not very good at remembering names of things.
RANDY: Joshua Tree National Park,
CLARE: And we camped in Death Valley!
RANDY: You know, the reputation Death Valley has for being you know, the hottest driest place. When we went there….. It rained overnight on us. We woke up with a wet tent!
CLARE: And the thing that made that pretty awesome is because then the following spring, there was actually like, beautiful blooms in Death Valley!
RANDY: I think she, she brought with her I blame her!
CLARE: I think that's what I did [laughs].
CLARE: I remember, like only a few months after, we'd actually met in person, that I just was like, okay, shall we get married? And he said he was annoyed because he wanted to ask me! [laughs]
RANDY: So next, I went to visit her and met her parents and everything. And then we did another like, in much the same way as I had shown her Arizona. She showed me around Britain.
CLARE: He's a big fan of Wales. He's a quarter Welsh... So that's one thing, and also, he's, he's quite into the kind of Gaelic type stuff and, and so I knew that that would be interesting. And so we went to Betws-y-Coed - there’s The Fairy Glen there.
RANDY: I kind of awkwardly, because I found things were not in my pockets.... I meant to propose to her while we were visiting a little place called Fairy Glen.
CLARE: But when we were there, he was like looking in his pockets -
RANDY: And I discovered that, oh, I left the ring back in the hotel room drawer!
CLARE: I was like, ‘what have you forgotten?’ And I was pretty sure what he'd forgotten but I asked anyway.
RANDY: ‘Oh, nothing, no, nothing special going on here.’
CLARE: And he said ‘nothing of consequence’. And, um, yeah, he’d left it in the drawer in the B&B!
RANDY: And then later at night, did it over dinner at the lovely Cafe Betws-y-Coed.
CLARE: And he did it properly with a ring and everything.
RANDY: We've gone back repeatedly since then, for the memories a lot, but also because it's just really good food!
CLARE: I don't know how much people know about actually trying to marry an immigrant. But it's not as easy as people might think.
RANDY: There wasn't much keeping me attached to Arizona, and she does have more attachment here, especially doing her tutoring work here. And as far as the, the whole political environment goes, I was feeling less comfortable with how The States was trending.
CLARE: We had to get a fiance visa, you've got to send evidence that it's a genuine relationship, which involved us having to send conversations we'd had and also I had to prove that I was earning sufficient money.
RANDY: I had to get all my stuff packed up and figure out how to move nearly a household's worth overseas, which was complicated and kinda painful.
CLARE: And so while that was going on in the summer, I was also planning a wedding! And since he's a fan of castles and mediaeval stuff, I thought, well, it'd be nice to get married in a castle!
I found now Naworth Castle in Cumbria, but the problem was, because of the laws, before we could actually get legally married, if he had to be living in the UK for a certain amount of time, and it had to be proven that he was living in the UK for that certain amount of time. And we weren't going to be able to have that before the 22nd of September, which is when we wanted to get married, because that was the autumnal equinox. So it was like, right, okay, we can't legally get married then.
So we had a humanist wedding ceremony that was everything official except for legally binding, but then we had to get legally married. So we did that in a registry office in Manchester. And that was on the 31st of October. So we've got two cool anniversaries. We've got the autumnal equinox, and we've got Halloween [laughs].
We had a kind of almost a space theme, because of the way that we met was, regarding the Pluto flyby. So there was kind of like that theme in there, and the best lady... So essentially the best man in that it was Randy's friend, but she's a lady. She works for NASA. So it had an extra bonus space theme going on! [laughs] And my dad ended up having a waistcoat which had the planets and stuff on, like a really cool waistcoat.
To begin with, I kind of wanted everything to be comfortable straight away, in that I kind of wanted us to be like a couple that had been together for longer than we had been, when that sort of thing just has to happen naturally. I suppose things are just a slower pace now I think would be a better way of putting it.
RANDY: Just this past summer when we took our little holiday while we could, our first stop was at Kielder Observatory in the North. It's basically the best dark sky site within England to see the stars, and so they have an observatory there. It was billed as an aurora night, though it was, you know, fairly unlikely is auroras, England is not the best place to do stargazing!
CLARE: The heart on Pluto was something that admittedly was very useful for kind of callbacks. Once there was like, an anniversary kind of card that I made for him, which had the picture of Pluto, like, you know, somebody had kind of drawn it, emphasising the heart and stuff. So, it was, it was very good for our relationship as a sort of romantic thing.
Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham.
Clare and Randy, thank you so much for sharing your meeting story.
Thanks also to Audio Network for the music.
For every episode of Equal Parts, I ask an artist to create an impression of the story.
This week’s tale has been immortalised in a super sweet image by Big Art. You can find the illustration at EqualPartsPodcast.co.uk , where you can also find links to more of their work.
Of course, the website is also the place to go for transcripts of every episode.
Next time - Getting past awful first impressions.
AAMIR: It was a bit awkward at first because it's like, oh I don't know this person and I haven't been drinking yet. And he's not drinking so it's a bit uncomfortable and awkward. And he started talking, and I’m like oh my god, he's so posh. I was like, who is he? How is he from this town?
AMIR: You know, we both come from a Yorkshire town but I don't have much of a Yorkshire accent. He said, ‘oh my god, you sound so posh. Oh, my God, you sound so posh!’ And I was like, ‘ok, great, thanks’. You know, and he I think he thought I was a little bit snobby, and you know, a bit up my own ass so speak. And that’s not… entirely untrue [laughs].
Amaka & Toby
AMAKA: When you want something, and then when that thing comes to you, you're almost like, I'm not ready for it!
TOBY: This is my goal. And this is my motive, really. And I didn't expect her to kind of have a reply at that time.
AMAKA: I felt like I wasn't ready for it. I was like, ‘what?’
TOBY: That was like, you know, from zero to 100, in like 24 hours.
AMAKA: ‘Who does that?’ I was like ‘what are you talking about?’
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. This week’s story centres on a shift in perspective.
When someone you’ve known your whole life is suddenly cast in a new light, and years’ of a solid, slow, friendship, accelerates to a deep, loving, connection.
TOBY: My name is Toby, and I'm married to Amaka.
AMAKA: My name is Amaka, I just moved back to Manchester. And I am married my husband, Toby.
TOBY: We have two lovely children, Diamond and Royal.
AMAKA: We've been married now for five years, oh my goodness, where did the time go?
TOBY: That was actually incredible to think about, like, we've known each other for way longer, but we've been married for five years.
AMAKA: Toby is a gentle man, I see him as a, as a very strong person, in a gentle way, he’s quite sweet.,, When he wants to be! [laughs]
TOBY: So Amaka is a, is a very passionate person. She's someone that loves God, so you will not meet her without really knowing about her faith, it will, it will come out one way or the other. And when she's doing something, she really puts everything to it. And she does her best to make sure that is very good. And she, she thinks a lot about what she does, and she you know, reasons very well. And she gives great advice, I feel very privileged to be able to, you know, get advice from her.
AMAKA: He's very intelligent, he's very smart. He's knowledgeable about so many things. And he is quite loving as well.
TOBY: She's a very cheerful person, and she dances a lot and she, she's lively and you know, it is never boring around her, definitely not boring. It’s difficult to describe her in words, because sometimes you just feel that words don’t do justice.
AMAKA: Our families knew each other, our parents knew each other. I was closer, I was friends with his younger brother growing up.
TOBY: Because they were age mates. So they used to play a lot, they went to the same class. And were in the same year in school.
AMAKA: He would play football with my, you know, older brothers, they would hang out, we went to the same church, we went to the same school,
TOBY: We were like, very close family friends, even so people actually sometimes mistake us to be, you know, siblings.
AMAKA: He was almost like a brother. It was like, oh, that's my other brother. Like I never was, I wasn't thinking about marriage with Toby, it never crossed my mind, because I just saw him as another brother. It's a different kind of knowing somebody when, you know, you get into a relationship. So we had to go through that. And I believe we've become really better individuals together.
This was back in Nigeria, we grew up in Nigeria till I was about 11.
TOBY: We were actually neighbours in Nigeria. And when they, they first moved to Jamaica, and then from Jamaica, to the UK. But we've always kept in touch. So I used to - not just her but the entire family - I used to, you know, email or have phone calls. And I just call the family and speak to them really, as well as when I moved to Denmark. I used to go over and visit them sometimes go and visit the brother, and just really go over and spend some time with them.
AMAKA: He would email me, he would also maybe email my brothers as well, so it wasn't really anything at the time. So it was completely normal, I thought [laughs]. But it was, much later, when he moved to Denmark that he started inviting me to come to visit him in Denmark. And that took three years, it took years before I was able to do that [laughs].
TOBY: I think for me, one of the turning points was actually when I went to Nigeria to visit my family. So my younger brother - at that time, I was also very single and just busy doing my work really not bothered about anything - so my younger brother was like, ‘hey, you know, have you considered Amaka, I think you guys would be very good, you know, very good match.’ I was like, ‘hey, just, just stop it.’ You know, like, ‘come on, she's like a family friend’. I just shut it down. And he's my younger brother. So he was just, you know, making a nice suggestion to me. And I, I was like, you know, he's, he's just messing around. But after that, I kind of really started thinking about it. And I was like, hmm, you know, not, might not be a bad idea. But I was like, I needed to be sure for myself, you know, I needed to kind of take some time, think about it, pray about it, to figure it out for myself. So I was like, at some point when, you know, the whole… how will I put it... the whole idea started growing more within me, I thought you know what I would like to invite her to just kind of speak to her a bit different, in a different setting, obviously is always me going over, and it's like with her family, but I just wanted to use that opportunity to kind of find out 100% you know if that was really what I wanted.
So for me as well, I was not really interested in just dating or you know, just being girlfriend, especially also for her, so I had to be sure of what I wanted as well before even making any move in that direction. So when I was, let’s say I was like 80% convinced, and then I invited her because I wanted to kind of be sure, it was during that visit that I kind of became more sure that you know, this is what I want.
AMAKA: Oh my goodness, was it a romantic thing for him? I think that he was looking for something. I think that he was looking for a wife, right? And so when he was inviting me, although he said that, you know, at the time, it wasn't anything, you know, it was that family friendly, it was just that, okay, I'm inviting this family friend that I've always known, he would say to his defence, that as much as he was inviting me, he was also inviting my brothers, I’m like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
He kept asking, and he wanted to meet up or invite me, and then I would ask him, like, ‘ok, just me, and you? You know, it's not you just coming over to the family where I have my family and my brothers, and there's a group of people, just me and you?’ So it was like, yeah, you know, just as family friends.
I didn't have a relationship in my mind at the time, because at this point, I was already one year, just me and by myself, I was single, and I was just trying to focus on my relationship with God, honestly. But he kept asking and asking, and it's funny how it all happened, because I don’t know, I think he really asked and asked and asked, and really persisted. And yeah, I was like, do you know what, if you're so serious about this. Ok fine. I need a holiday anyway, like, work is crazy. Maybe I just, I'll just take this as a holiday. Yeah. And I said, ‘ok fine. I'm gonna, I'm gonna come visit you.’
I remember when I, when I said, yes, that I was going to go. And, you know, I told obviously, my siblings, ‘hey, I'm going to see Toby’ you know, and my sister made a joke. She was like,’ wow, are we expecting a Mrs -’? You know, his last name? And I was like, ‘how could you say that?’ Like, I was completely not thinking that anything was gonna happen. I was just like, ok, let me just oblige this guy. So that he was not disturbing my life.
TOBY: Obviously, I did pray a lot about it. So I take my spiritual life seriously. So I prayed a lot about it. So I was kind of convinced at that point. But when she, she visited Denmark, she was in the UK, she agreed to come, after, you know, she'll, she'll always say, like, you know, she didn't have time. And then suddenly, she agreed to come. So for me, that was like, a miracle. Because normally she's like, hey, she never even had time. And when she walked out from the airport, she was just like, very casual.
AMAKA: I just arrived with my dress on my slippers. Like I didn't, I don't think I had makeup on To be honest!
TOBY: No makeup, sandals or something like that, you know, just very casual and natural.
AMAKA: And this was something that he said that caught him, how simple I was when I arrived!
TOBY: For me at that point, when she walked in, I was like, you know what, that, that's, that was special.
AMAKA: I'm not really the girl that likes to, you know, be heavily-anything, because I don't like to draw attention to myself.
TOBY: And at that point, it came to like 90%. You could say that, and then we had some time to talk and and I was like, definitely, this is 100.
AMAKA: I remember arriving. And I spoke to my mum and I said, ‘oh, I've arrived safely. We're here now’. And my mum made jokes. And you know, I just didn't understand it. Because I was like, I'm on holiday. Like, this is a holiday, I guess they were seeing something that I was completely oblivious about.
My mindset at the time was ok, I'm just single, I'm just trying to build my work with God. And I'm not ready to be in a relationship. That wasn't what God had for me. Anyway, so we settled down, and he made some food, he prepared things, and we started talking. He literally told me that same day, he wanted to marry me.
TOBY: The next day I even told her my intention.
AMAKA: So that's when everything changed.
TOBY: Probably a bit weird, but [laughs] I kind of wanted to, like just keep this straight and say, ‘ok, this is, this is my goal. And this is my motive, really.’ And I didn't expect her to kind of have a reply at that time, because that was like, you know, from zero to 100, in like 24 hours.
AMAKA: In that moment, when he said that he wanted to marry me, I think I was a little bit confused. I didn't understand it, because I never experienced anything like that before. But at the same time, because I wanted God to bring the person that would be my husband, I didn't want to just have another boyfriend. So when he said that, I was like, wow, you know, he's not saying, I want us to date, I want us to, you know, I want us to court, or whatever. It was surprising. When you want something, and then when you... when that thing comes to you, you're almost like I'm not ready for it, you know? It was kind of that moment for me. It came and I was, I felt like I wasn't ready for it. I was like, ‘what? Who does that?’ I was like, ‘you're crazy. What are you talking about?’ And then he started explaining that he doesn't want to just be in a relationship that is for nothing. That he wants something long-term and this is his plans for our relationship.
TOBY: I think she was probably a bit shocked and like didn't know what to say, or didn't - she didn't reply. She was like, she had to think about this. And you know, let me know. But you know, it was, I appreciate that, you know, it's a. it is. it is not like. it's not a light talk, right. So I was also prepared for her to like, you know, take the time, she needed to get convinced for herself and to be sure for herself as well.
AMAKA: So that's kind of where things changed from my, my mindset and everything, the way I looked at him, kind of changed. And I was like, ‘ok, we need to work this thing and just see how and where it goes’. Of course, I was leaving the next day. And this was going to be a long distance relationship as well. So we kind of started talking, and started getting to know each other more, it was a little bit easier, it was a little bit easier, because the background was kind of there already, so it was more so trying to, you know, get to know Toby in, in that level, in that way. The more we talked, and the more I prayed as well, I started feeling that, ok, maybe all of this is how it was supposed to be, how I was supposed to meet Toby, and everything else. And I just started feeling like it was the one!
TOBY: I think my faith definitely plays a big part in our, in our relationship. And for me is also one of the key areas. One, I wanted someone who shared the same faith with me. And actually, I also want to say one who will also pray about, about something, because I do understand our limitations as as human beings, and God has been that thing that is kind of, for me, and for us actually, a kind of a steadfast trust and love that is just beyond us. And having that relationship with God, for me meant, meant everything you know, and, and sometimes it's just knowing that you can always talk to God and kind of get assurance and confidence and clarify things also that you couldn’t maybe fully figure out yourself.
So that for me played a big role, and I think it did play a big role for her as well, in making that decision. Even before I made the move, I really had to take some time to really pray about it and you know, seek... to kind of dig deep into it to really figure out if this is the right thing to do.
AMAKA: So we tried to meet up every three months or four months or whatever, as much as we could. So, I went in August, we talked for about two months, or three months trying to work this thing out. And in November, we got engaged.
TOBY: The families were very happy. And they were also friends, so things - it made things a lot easier for us if you can, if we can put it that way. And today also both families are still good friends. My brother was happy because he was the one that you know, brought the idea. So he was, was happy. But he also knew that I had to own it as well. If it was going to be anything.
AMAKA: Looking back now I'm just thinking girl, you were so naive, like you were totally naive, because he was always around me, but I didn't see him in that way. I didn't see him in that way. Although when you would come for Christmas, you know, like sometimes when you look at things, you know, retrospectively, you kind of start connecting the dots a little bit, you know, like looking back now I could see some connections, you know, back then, you know, we had pictures that maybe when we went to church, the Family Church here in Manchester, you know, we had pictures from like seven years ago that we took, and we're holding hands and I'm looking at those pictures. I'm like, ‘what, what was happening there?’
We had like, you know, jokey names for each other. And I remember, you know, one time when he came over from Denmark, we were talking at some point and we were holding hands, but I didn't really call any of those things, anything.
TOBY: Amaka actually moved to Denmark after our wedding. She was so gracious to do that. We lived in Denmark for - is it two or three years? I can't even remember how much time flies. But after a couple of years in Denmark, we decided to move back to the UK to be closer to family. Our faith is also a big part of the big decisions that we make in our life. We also felt that, you know, that was what God wanted us to do at that time. And we are happy we took the step.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham.
Thank you so much Amaka & Toby for your time. If you want to learn more about them, you can follow their YouTube channel - just search for Amaka Toby TV, or find the link in the shownotes for this episode. There’s also a link there to buy the books they’ve both written! What a power couple.
Audio Network provided the music for this show, and
Today’s accompanying artwork comes from Sharna Neil, and I love how Sharna described her inspiration for the piece:
“They mentioned in the episode that they'd look back at old pictures and saw themselves holding hands. I thought this was a nice visual to capture, alongside the growing vines symbolising their increasing connection and interconnectedness over the years”. Just gorgeous.
You can find the piece on socials using the hashtag #EqualPartsPodcast or by visiting EqualPartsPodcast.co.uk
If you’ve been enjoying the love stories this season, I would really appreciate you sharing the show. If you can take a moment to send a link or a recommendation to just *one* other person, it would really help get the podcast out there. Thank you.
Next time… Finding love in Pluto’s heart .
CLARE: Well, we were both interested in the same things... we were particularly interested in the Pluto flyby that was happening.
RANDY: There was lots of anticipation amongst the nerd crowd.
CLARE: It was a really exciting thing for people who were interested in space especially it was in astronomy discussions on Twitter a lot.
RANDY: “Hey, how would you feel if I came visit you in a month or so?” and it's like… “All the way from England, just to see me?”.
Robert & Felipe
FELIPE: He was almost like, present with me all the time, and the feeling kept coming bigger and bigger, until we just told each other what we felt.
ROBERT: It's kind of eerie really, from this very day to that day in July 2017, there hasn't been a day when we haven't spoken.
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves.
Today’s guests connected through their shared love of art and literature.
and at first the daily DMs, video calls, and voice notes made it easy to forget the distance between them.
So how did a Brit and a Brazilian end up together in France? Let’s find out.
ROBERT: My name is Robert. I recently completed my PhD in History of Art and English. I currently live in France. And I'm currently applying for postdoctoral funding in Brazil.
FELIPE: I'm Felipe, I'm from Brazil, and I'm an art historian. I'm currently doing my PhD in Art History in France, well... I'm doing it in Brazil, but I'm in France for a period abroad for my research.
ROBERT: We met in 2018. So we've been together for…
FELIPE: About two and a half years.
ROBERT: More than anything else, I would say that he's very kind, and very thoughtful.
FELIPE: very creative, and very intelligent and sensitive.
ROBERT: Very warm, and caring, combined with him being very intelligent, and someone who I can have very interesting conversations with.
FELIPE: He’s a very quiet person, although not with me, because we talk all the time [laughs]
ROBERT: Someone who I think has helped me to change for the better, has made me think more about myself. And yeah, someone who I've felt I've grown with.
FELIPE: I mean, we've always been quite similar since the beginning, and we've realised that as soon as we started speaking. But there's lots of things that have become more intense, in a way. I don't know, like, I think, you know, a, we've got more and more similar, even in terms of awkwardness sometimes [laughs]. Because, well, I guess, being in a relationship with a Brit increases that! And I'm from a region in Brazil, where people are also known for being a bit awkward.
I think I followed him on Instagram first. We're never quite sure, but I think I followed him first. Or rather, I saw some of his photos on my Explore feed on Instagram. And I liked them. And maybe he liked mine and followed me or I followed back or, I don't know, something like that.
ROBERT: We started following each other in the period, like the Christmas period 2016 to 2017, that kind of in-betweeny time and I, I sort of got a hint, I suppose because he would often, he would like my posts, practically all of them whenever I posted anything!
FELIPE: I just saw that he was also an Art History PhD student, at the time. So I remember seeing that and finding him really cool. Sometimes he would leave a comment.
ROBERT: And vice versa, actually, but we never actually spoke.
I, on my side, felt that guys can be quite creepy online. I didn't want to be presumptuous, or I didn't want to seem oh, yet another guy going into his DMs, etc. And because he was a very, very good looking guy. I wondered if that was the case. And so I actually didn't think I had much of a chance until I just decided, well, I'll just send him a message.
FELIPE: This one day in July, because I remember it being winter in Brazil, and it was a bit chilly, he replied to an Insta story of mine, where I was complaining about this evangelical guy at my gym, who was trying to convert me. So he replied to that. We started talking and we talked a lot about things that we liked, about what we did, about art history and books. And we talked a lot.
ROBERT: Seeing that he collected old photographs on, on his profile, that was something I found really interesting. And also the fact that he had, well has, a tattoo on his chest that's based on a design by a 19th century French artist who I loved, still do, called Gustave Doré. And it's an image from Dante's Divine Comedy. We obviously had some mutual interests.
So I sent the message to him in July. And, in essence, we spoke everything single day, after that every single day, it's kind of eerie really, from this very day to that day in July 2017, there hasn't been a day when we haven't spoken.
FELIPE: When we started talking, for a while, we kind of decided to be on friendly, only on friendly terms. Because, well, it was complicated. He was there, I was in Brazil. And so we didn't really want to immediately make it romantic. But we soon ended up like, because we talked so much ever since. After talking to him for maybe a week or even less, I talked to him on video for the first time.
ROBERT: I think on that first, just before that first occasion when we video chatted, because I think we did it, so soon, after we first started talking, I hadn't really had time to think about it. So I did treat it quite casually, it was still light outside, and so we could see each other clearly, I was just very, very intrigued. Because, you know, I'd seen his photos and just seen how good looking he is. And I don’t know, when you can see someone, who you have only seen in photos, there, even though it's on the other side of the screen, you see them moving and talking… You, you do get a better sense of them.
We'd actually sent each other audio recordings of our voices so that we could hear what we sounded like. And we sent each other recordings, reading poems that we liked, or extracts from novels. And I remember actually even just hearing his voice, I thought he had a lovely voice and a very nice accent. So that’s actually, yeah, something I really like about him is his voice. So we had already heard each other before we, we spoke on video,
FELIPE: He was almost like, present with me all the time. Because well had my phone. And he was basically like, someone was with me, in my hand, all the time [laughs]. But the feeling just kept coming bigger and bigger. Until we just told each other what we felt.
We talked to a lot on video. And after we realised we loved each other... We did it almost every day. And then and then it was different, because I mean, I was already supposed to come to France for a research trip. And I said, oh, I'm going to go to the UK so I can meet you and stuff. And we can do things, but also I have friends there.
But initially, I mean, I think I knew, when I said I wanted to do that,I knew why I wanted to do that, of course. But initially when we first decided I would go and see him, it was also just on friendly terms. So I was supposed, he said like, you can stay in the lounge, etc. and live in a shared house. Okay, then that was it. But this period of me thinking I was going to go there and sleep in the lounge was very short, because soon I knew there was going to be something else.
ROBERT: [Sighs] Oh that day was such a lovely day. So he came on the Eurostar from Paris to London. And then he got the train from London to Oxford. And so I went to meet him at the train station in Oxford, very ‘Brief Encounter’.
FELIPE: I was, I was a bit nervous. And Robert probably was a bit nervous too.
ROBERT: Very very nervous, in a sort of giddy way, just hoping that everything you've seen sort of on a video and all the messages we had exchanged, whether meeting in person would feel the same, be the same. And I remember, I realised his train had arrived and all these people were coming through the barriers. All of a sudden, he turned the corner. And there he was. And it felt so both strange and lovely. That someone we'd only seen in videos was just suddenly there.
FELIPE: It felt natural, because we already talked so much that it was not one of those situations when you meet someone in person, and if it feels awkward. I think immediately as we met, we hugged and kissed. It felt very intense and nice. It almost feels like a surprise and like oh, is this finally happening? Almost like I was … being electrocuted? Electrocuted I mean in a good way, can I say that.
Being physically close to him felt really nice. And it felt right. Yeah, it was like this perfect hug and kiss, from the very beginning.
And we got a taxi to his house, and for hours I forgot, completely I forgot to message my family and message my friends, or anyone. So my mum later was, was quite worried, especially because she knew I was going to meet someone I knew from the internet. I think she was scared, maybe I don't know, she was quite worried because they had completely forgotten.
ROBERT:. And then basically, he was originally only going to stay for one week in Oxford. But by the end of that week, we obviously had gotten so used to being with each other, and we were just so enjoying it, that it just filled us with dread, the thought of having, him having to go home.
So he actually, on the morning that he was supposed to leave, he actually phoned up his airline, and changed his flight to a week later. So that we got to stay together for another week in Oxford. And I remember that morning, just the feeling of relief. And we'd been, the week he had been there, we'd been rushing around doing quite a lot of stuff. So it was, we knew that we had this week where we could just be a bit more relaxed and do what we wanted to do and just enjoy being together, before he had to go back to Brazil.
We started living together, about a year ago now. There are certain things you only know about a person when you live with them. There are these periods in a relationship, particularly when you're an international couple, when things will be a bit more stressful, because obviously, there are things you have to consider which couples who are from the same country don't have to think about, but you realise that those are things which eventually, you'll sort them out. And you can find ways to get around them or get through them. And that doing those things, helps to strengthen your bond, essentially.
FELIPE: Well, first thing, I didn't expect to be getting married in France in the middle of a pandemic. And now here I am doing this, you know, it is quite crazy, if you think about it.
ROBERT: We came to France because it was where Felipe came to do his PhD research. And it's somewhere that he's always been interested in and always loved. And he learned French when he was very young. So I, I came to join him here and you can love a place, but there are still things which do make life difficult. And the language, for me particularly because I don't still fluently speak French has been difficult. But fortunately, Felipe is fluent in French. So we've, we've got through all right. But there are, yeah, there are those difficulties, which is why eventually we would like to settle in a country where one of us is a national citizen, because it does make things a bit easier.
FELIPE: We're already going to get married in a month's time, basically. And after that, we go into Brazil in December. And well who knows after this where we might end up? But normally we should stay in Brazil, for two years or so and move to the UK. Because, well I guess it is only fair, after living in France and Brazil, all because of me, that we go to the UK.
ROBERT: I feel like I've gotten to know not just Felipe himself, but also, I've gotten to know another country. Brazil isn't somewhere that I had ever - I didn't know much about it, before I knew Felipe and I had obviously never been there and I didn't think I ever would. It seemed so far away. And besides getting to know him, there was also discovering this really fascinating country and the culture there, [sighs] ah the food! The amazing food! And the art and, and the literature as well. That's something during our early conversations that we talked a lot about, we kind of exchanged things and he told me a lot about Brazilian artists and authors who I might like... and also the language as well, which I'm still, still just starting to get to grips with, but Portuguese is a beautiful language.
FELIPE: It's very hard not to learn Portuguese when you are in Brazil as a foreign person, because most people don't speak English so you're kind of forced to learn it.
ROBERT: It does feel now somewhere that I've gotten to know better and I do feel like it is home there. I have family there now and yeah, it's, it's a nice feeling.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham.
Robert and Felipe, thank you so much for taking part in the show. And, congratulations! This gorgeous couple were married in October and recently moved to Brazil. May you have many joyful years together.
Thanks also go to Audio Network for the music in this podcast.
For every episode of Equal Parts, I ask an artist to create an impression of the story.
This time, Rosie Shead - aka RosiePaperArt - used intricate layers of paper and card to capture the essence of Robert & Felipe’s love story.
You can find the gallery of all artwork so far, at EqualPartsPodcast.co.uk
Also on the website is a transcript for every episode of the show. Accessibility!
If you’re enjoying Equal Parts Season 2 so far, please consider becoming a Patron to support the show. You can find a link to my Patreon in the shownotes for this episode. Thank you.
Next week... Suddenly seeing what was in front of you all along.
TOBY: I was not really interested in just dating or you know, just being girlfriend, especially also for her, so I had to be sure of what I wanted, as well before even making any move in that direction
AMAKA: Do you know what if you're so serious about this, I'll just take this as a holiday. I said ‘ok fine, I’m gonna come visit you’.
TOBY: Let’s say I was like 80% convinced, it was during the visit that I kind of, became more sure that, you know this is what I want.
Graham & Jules
JULES: Casually, he just said, ‘would you like to go out for dinner? Let's go out.’ And I literally ran across the dance floor to my friends. I'm like, ‘give me a pen, give me a pen. Somebody! Gotta be a pen, he wants my number, give me a pen!’
GRAHAM: I still have that piece of paper. And on the one side, it's the message from the Royal International Hotel. And on the back, it says Julie H - 70650.
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves.
Today’s tale is one of coincidences and giddy young lovers.
But, before we get into their story, I want to quickly tell you about another podcast I’ve been working on.
It’s called Hope This Finds Me Well, and it’s about writing to our future selves, and reflecting on our past selves.
I’m one of three hosts for the show, and we speak to people who have recently received a letter they sent themselves years before, to ask if life turned out as they expected.
I have so much more I want to say about this show, but I’ll be sharing a full episode with you soon, and there’s a little teaser at the end of today’s episode, so keep listening past the credits!
But now, let’s get to our couple.
Brought together by chance and mischief,
Graham and Jules learned just how small the world is, despite growing up on opposite sides of it.
Quick head’s up, there is one minor swear in this story.
GRAHAM: Hello, my name is Graham. I was born in 1964. And I met Julie in 1986.
JULES: So my name is Jules and I'm married to Graham and we live in Hitchin.
GRAHAM: We've been married for 34 years. And I, I met Julie on the other side of the world. Even though it turned out she lived in the same street as me.
JULES: I would describe Graham as a dreamer. Big ideas, big adventures, just fearless. Just the absolute opposite to me.
GRAHAM: She's very funny. I think she's one of the funniest people I've ever met. She's lovely. Julie is lovely.
JULES: When we met, that was the first thing. He was just like a lightning bolt. I was 17. And very quiet, very shy, it was a very small town. And from the minute he looked at me, it was like, he was holding up a little mirror to say, this is who I see... changed my own opinion of myself really, weirdly. Because I'd always, always thought I was shy and quiet and invisible. And, no, I wasn't.
GRAHAM: I like to dramatise it and so we met at a wedding I gatecrashed.
At the age of 18, my parents emigrated to New Zealand. And when I was 21, they came home, and I stayed because I liked it there. And I was living in digs in a place called Whangarei, New Zealand. And I was a pipe fitter on an oil refinery construction site. And most of my friends similar age to me, worked on the site. And I had like, really good friends like Kevin Hibbertt and Cockney Dave, but you kind of... anyone who was a Brit on the site, you kind of knew. And there was a bloke called Tony Evans, who was from Essex, and Tony was getting married. So we were all going to the wedding, but none of us had invitations. But we went to the chur- we didn't just go to the nighttime bit, but we went to the church and the service!
JULES: My friend Loretta, and I had been invited to a wedding reception, a friend's wedding reception. It was the first time going out to something like that, I was only 17, it was very exciting. I felt like a grown up, rushed out and bought this gorgeous red dress and got all dressed up. And it was just the most exciting day, we took all day to get ready.
GRAHAM: And I see a girl in a red dress, blonde, beautiful girl in a red dress on the dance floor with her friend Loretta, who was in a blue dress. And I said to Kevin, we're gonna dance with those two, you're taking the one in the blue, I'm gonna dance with the one in the red dress.
JULES: Loretta was like, ‘oh, God’ [sighs] you know? ‘Who are these guys?’ And er, clearly didn’t fancy the one she was stuck with, literally stuck with. And she was this beautiful girl and I remember thinking ‘they’re both going to want to dance with Loretta’.
GRAHAM: I went over and started dancing with her and introduced myself.
JULES: So we had a, a bit of a groove, and it was all very nice, and he was super cute and really smiley and then we got the cringe moment, the music... [laughs].. the slow song started. So we did the classic freeze on the dance floor. What do you do? So we kind of hung on to each other and swayed around for a little bit and did the awkward slow dance thing. Yeah, had a little bit of a kiss, had our first kiss. And I was like, wow, this guy's amazing.
GRAHAM: And then afterwards, we got talking. And this was February the 22nd 1986. I'm 21. She's 17, which did freak me out a little bit.
JULES: It just, just couldn't, couldn't get enough of each other, talking and talking, and talking at 100 miles an hour. And he wanted to tell me so much about our adventures and what he'd like to do with his life, and his ideas, and he had just had so many big ideas. And I was like just completely swept away with it all. And we talked and talked and then he just casually, he just said, ‘would you like to go out for dinner? Let's- let's- let's go out.’
GRAHAM: Can I have your phone number?
JULES: And I was like, ‘oh yeah’ you know, trying to act really, really casual.. ‘Yes, er, ok, just, just a minute.’
GRAHAM: And she said, ‘yeah, have you got a pen?’ And I said ‘no’.
JULES: And I literally ran across the dance floor to my friends. I'm like, ‘give me a pen, give me a pen. Somebody! Gotta be a pen, he wants my number, give me a pen!’
GRAHAM: And while she ran away to get a pen, I'm looking for a bit of paper. So I opened up my wallet and there was a note in the wallet that had, a few weeks earlier me and Hibbert had stayed in a hotel in Auckland, and another mate of ours James Rio had wanted to contact us and he left a message for us at the reception. And it was the piece of paper with the message for Mr Hibbert to call Mr. Rio!
Got a pen, ran back and wrote as clearly - my name and my number - as clearly as I could, so he had no way of not knowing how to get hold of me.
GRAHAM: I still have that piece of paper. And I've put it in a little plastic sleeve thing here. And on the one side, it's the message from the Royal International Hotel. And on the back, it says Julie H 70650.
But it turns out that although I thought that was the first time I'd met her, I had actually met her about an hour before, but didn't know!
JULES: There were a lot of English guys outside. And they were decorating, shall we say, the wedding car.
GRAHAM: Tying tin cans on the back of this white Hillman Hunter, and drawing on the side of the doors with lipstick, and... it's not very tasteful. what we were doing. Anyway, we ran out of lipstick, I don't know where we'd got this lipstick from, but we'd run out, and two girls walked up -
JULES: One cocky little guy, sparks out-
GRAHAM: ‘‘Scuse me, girls, can we have your lipstick?’
JULES: Trying to get us to join in, or help out-
GRAHAM: And they basically told us to get lost... or something.
JULES: So we got all haughty and strutted off in our high heels and went into the room.
GRAHAM: And she was one of them. But I didn',t and it was to be fair, it was dark. So I didn't really see her properly until you know, she was on the dance floor.
But the crazy thing is, you know I said to her while we were chatting, and while I was falling for her, I said ‘where abouts in town do you live?’ and she said ‘Tikipunga’ and I said ‘no way’. I said ‘before my parents left and went back to Britain, we lived in Tikipunga’. I said ‘where abouts?’ and she said ‘Tapper Crescent.’ And I said ‘we lived at 56 Tapper Crescent’. She says ‘I live at 23’. And so she, she came from the same street. And our house was right next to a public footpath and Julie used to walk down that public footpath every day on the way to school. And my bedroom had stickers on the window from Piccadilly Radio in Manchester, and Radio City in Liverpool. And she used to walk past that every day and go ‘wonder what that's all about?’.
We get to like the end of the evening, and she says’ so you live in Otaika now’ I says ‘yes’. She says ‘how you stay getting home?’ I said ‘I'll probably just get a taxi’, ‘cause you know, I'm drinking, I didn't bring a car, I didn’t own a car back then. She said, ‘well, my mate Loretta will give you a lift home.’ So like we'd already kissed. But we got a left home in the back of Loretta’s mini. And as we drove out of the car park, I looked out the window and I turned to Julie and I went ‘oh shit’. And she said ‘what's the problem’? And the bride and groom had left earlier. And the car was still there. It wasn't Tony's car! Some perfectly innocent person had gone to somebody's wedding in a white Hillman Hunter. And I still to this day don't know whose car we did that to.
Then the next day, I called her up on this number 70650 which is one of the few phone numbers I can even remember.
JULES: And we went out every night, from then on, till we got married. It was a, it was like a crash crash bang, for both of us. It was just like, this is, this is it. No one for a split second ever - and because it was only 18 months later, we were married - no one at any point said ‘oh, you sure?’ You know ‘you're a bit young’, you know, no one ever needed to say that. We became instant friends. And instant fancy. It was just easy. It was so easy. It was, we’re so lucky. So lucky.
So, first date that we went on was in a Chinese restaurant, a little hometown, not a lot of restaurants, not a lot of choice. It was pouring with rain, and my father was going to drop me off. And right at the last minute a friend of mine pulled up in his car and he says ‘oh I'll take you. Come on jump in.’ And so this guy parked outside and he's like, there you go and as we pulled up Graham was already at the door - standing in the doorway. waiting. My friend is like ‘is that him?’ I was like ‘yeah yeah’, he's like, ‘he looks alright. Looks good. He's early. I like it.’ You know? So yeah, ran and it was at classic movie moment - running in the rain to the doorway. And he was standing there and we kind of kind of crashed into each other a little bit and it was like, ‘oh, hi!’, you know, it's like, kind of a moment.
I just remember it was just, continuing to realise that considering we were from different such different places, different families, different sort of backgrounds, that we had so much that we agreed on, you know, things we liked and things we wanted to do. And I was like, ‘oh, you think that? oh, I think that!’ you know, it was that, kind of like finding someone that was just like your little buddy, it was just like, we just never been apart.
I do remember, not long into the relationship. Graham, rented a car I was like, ‘wow!’, my family, we'd never rented a car in our lives, we'd always had our old bangers and you know, cheap cars, and so we rented, he rented a car, so we could go for a drive all around the bays, and I could show him all around my home and hometown, and it was like a scorching hot, because February is hot in New Zealand, and we drove around. And we've got lots of photos of us in the sunshine, and the beach, and driving, and it was a bit of a road trip day and some really cheesy pictures of you know, lying on the grass looking, you know, looking off into the distance and you know, lots of [laughs] just unbearably romantic, just, just, just, we were we just couldn't get enough of the romance really.
GRAHAM: But the thing with the construction job is they end. I knew I was going to be out of work. And I'd already planned to come back home to Britain to visit my parents, and then go back to New Zealand, I was always going back to New Zealand. And you know, I said to Julie, I said, you know, I've got this trip that I'm going to do and I've got a couple of mates from England flying out and we're going to have two weeks, we've rented a car, we're going to drive around Florida together the three of us, and we're going to do that and then I'm going to carry on to to the UK. And then I'll come home, and I don't know how long I'll be, I just, you know, when I've had enough I'll come back. Because I didn't have any work commitments, I had this massive redundancy - to me at my age - this massive redundancy payment paid out. I was just going to go and have some fun, have this great holiday and then go back to New Zealand and then you know, look for work and, and carry on.
And the weird thing is, while we were dating, you know from that February up until like the May/June, I think it was June, I took the flight, I would always refer to Julie as the lady in red because she was in this red dress when I met her. Well, I get to Britain, and the Chris de Burgh
song is out. And this is song called The Lady in Red. And it's a big hit. And it's on the radio all the time. It's on every jukebox in every pub I went and it was just, there was no escaping her! She was you know, calling me back.
JULES: We hadn’t been together very long and he went away, and came back with no money, no job, no car, nowhere to live, just came back to be with me. Very good for my ego, but was a very steep lesson in what love is. Because up until then, you know it was just dating. And when that sort of thing started to be on the horizon - he was going to come back and, going to go through some really tough times just so he could be back. It was like wow, this is, this is what real love is like, this is, I need to, I need to be sure. I can't let him come back if he's, if I'm not sure.
And Graham, while he was away, he wrote a letter - very old school - wrote a letter every single day. I've still have them. He wrote me songs. I have quite a few cassettes - cassettes! - of songs he’d written, Julie and Julianne, which is my name.
GRAHAM [singing]: ‘Julianne, didn’t know what I was looking for… Now I found you, now I'm sure…’
That was a, that was the tune and I recorded it on a cassette. And we went out to a restaurant. And I told her I'd written a song about her. And I asked them to put it on, and they played it in the restaurant on the cassette.
JULES: So getting letters... so they would arrive in groups and - Graham will probably cringe at this - but I used to sit and read them with my mother! With, with, because they were really romantic and you know, when you write a letter every day, it's not all romance. A lot of it is everyday things and I was really getting to know him. And I was getting to know him at home with his family, he was like in his own hometown. So he was talking about things and I was still learning about him. So the romance and the connection didn't stop while he was away. So it was like ok, I'm sure. I'm sure he's, he's the one.
GRAHAM: We used to go for days out in the car, and we used to go to the Bay of Islands, which is only about an hour north of Whangarei. It's beautiful up there. And in Paihia, which is kind of the main town in the Bay of Islands. There's a stone church right on the waterfront, which is very unusual in New Zealand. It's a very young country and most of the, most of the buildings in the area are made of wood. To find anything made of stone is very unusual, but there's a stone church! It's more like a chapel. It's very small. It's called St Paul's in Paihia, and we will walking past it one day, and I said to Julie I said, ‘be nice to get married in there’. She said, ‘oh, yeah’, I said, ‘yeah, but I bet you have to be, you know, a Christian for a start! Or, you know, a member of the parish or a regular attendee of the congregation.’ She said, ‘yeah, so that wouldn't happen’. I said, ‘well, look, there's a number on the board here. When we get back home - because there's no mobile's back then - when we get back home, we'll, we'll give them a call. And I'll just ask, worst thing they can say is they'll say no.’
Now I was brought up in Great Sankey near Warrington. And a lot of my friends were from Penketh, which is very close to Great Sankey. And just next to that is Widnes. Anyway, I rang up the this number and the Reverend answered the phone, and it was a lady from Widnes. And I said, you know, ‘we've seen the church and you know, we'd like to get married there, what are the chances?’ and she said, ‘come and see me.’ So I went and saw her and we had a chat. And she said, ‘yeah, fine.’ So not only did I go to the other side of the world to find the girl from the same street, we ended up getting married on the other side of the world by a lady who used to live within five miles from where I grew up. So it was all, it was all meant to be, wasn't it?
JULES: Do I believe in fate? I don't actually. I just think it was just a moment in the chaos, I just think it was just luck. We've told the story a million times and people say you know, it sounds like you're, you know, laying it on a bit thick. But this is exactly how it was like, you know, these things - this is how it happened. I have very bad photos to prove it!
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham.
Thank you so much Jules and Graham for your time, and thanks also to Audio Network for the music you heard in this episode.
Each episode of Equal Parts is transformed into a piece of art, and there’s a gallery at EqualPartsPodcast.co.uk where you can view them all.
This week, PollyDraws created a gorgeous illustration to capture Graham and Jules’ story.
You can also use the #EqualPartsPodcast hashtag to find the artwork on socials, and leave a comment.
If you want to read or search for a specific moment in this story, you can find a transcript at EqualPartsPodcast.co.uk
Next time, an insta-connection, a forever love.
ROBERT: We sent each other recordings, reading poems that we liked, or extracts from novels. I thought he had a lovely voice and a very nice accent.
FELIPE: We kind of decided to be only friendly, only on friendly terms. Because, well, it was complicated. He was there, and I was in Brazil, and so we didn't really want to immediately make it romantic.
ROBERT: All of a sudden, he turned the corner, and there he was, and it felt so both strange and lovely, that someone we'd only seen in videos was just was suddenly there. As I said, strange but also lovely at the same time.
MARIA: I’m back. As promised, here’s a little taste of what you can hear on my new podcast: Hope This Finds Me Well.
This clip is from the first episode, where we spoke to Marie about her family, finances, and life purpose. The ‘we’ there, is me, and my co-hosts Sophie and Steph.
First, you’ll hear Marie read the letter she sent to herself a couple of years’ ago, and then part of our conversation that followed.
MARIE: This is a letter from September 2 2018.
Dear future me, this one is public. So I'm censoring a little bit. It's been almost 80 letters to date and over five years of writing to the future. There have been a lot of dreams lost and realised over the years, heartache and love with the same man, wonderful kids and beautiful grandkids. For the readers of these anonymous letters - a little about me, us. Today, I'm 50. But will be 51 in December. I'm a very young 50, most people can't believe that, or that I have three kids and six grandkids. So to me, I'm not old. But I do feel like I should know what I want with my life. And I don't.
When this letter is received, our main goal is to have all of our debt paid, as well as an emergency fund. Next goal: a paid for house. You have four years. Oh, and sex at 50 does exist. It's just different, better.
SOPHIE: Is debt something you think about a lot? Is that why you want it in your letter? Or was that to like hold you accountable? Like, I need to be debt free by this day, so I'm gonna do it because I'm having it in writing.
MARIE: That was holding me accountable. But I, we have passed many dates by, because for the longest time, my husband was not on board. He thought we'll be in debt forever. There's no reason to do this. So it took, I honestly was on this journey since 2004. And I figured out how many years we need to be debt free. And that time came and went, and came and went, and came and went. Because as I'm trying to do things to get out of debt, my husband's buying a new car, buying a new motorcycle, you know…
SOPHIE: Very different ways of thinking there..
MARIE: Exactly so, so then in that case, you can't get out of debt because you're still, you're just filling one hole with another. But... we are debt free!
MARIE: We are! I do have to say that it's my husband who helped us finally get to this point because when he finally saw, we might really do this - and as soon as he was able - it didn't happen until this year, as soon as he was able to start working overtime, he has been working 10, 20 hours overtime every single week for a few months. So if he wouldn't have done it, we still would have been debt free, it just would have been a few months later.
STEPH: But in order for him to see that future, he needed you for 16 years seeing it for him. Yeah, right. Which is really a summary of I think all hetero relationships in my like point of view, but like, yeah, I mean, like you saw the goal, and were encouraging him for 16 years, and then he finally was like, ‘ok, I'm starting to see results. I will get on board.’ And I mean, yeah, props to him. But also kudos to you for being able to keep that goal in your mind for 16 years.
MARIA: I think it also brings out another part of your letter, like, even more sort of stark, erm starkness, sure. You know, you talk about being with the same man for a long time, and sort of, you know, good times and bad times it’s really powerful that like that, you know, money is a huge issue in people's marriages. And, that was not big enough for you know, anything bad to happen to you guys. It's very sweet that there's obviously enough love there to ride those waves.
MARIE: That is absolutely true. And the money thing is one of the easier things we've been through.
And we've been together for 31 years, so…
MARIE: Thank you. We always say it feels like forever, and it seems like just yesterday. Because we, he's the only man that ,I to me that I've ever been with, and he feels the same way. But yet, it wasn't 31 years of drudgery. It was... I mean, we did definitely have our ups and downs. And, and there were probably a few times we could have gotten a divorce. But, um, we love each other. So we work through it.
SOPHIE: Oh, my God. And er, the sex at 50’s not so bad.
MARIE: It is not. No, it's better. Because you, you, you know each other so well. You know the likes, you know, the dislikes... I mean, it's it's all it's mind, body and soul.
MARIA: Want to hear the rest of Marie’s wisdom? The full episode will be in your feed soon,
and there’s four other episodes out already if you want to binge the season so far.
Just search for Hope This Finds Me Well in your podcast app, or find the link in the shownotes.
Tash & Marthe
TASH: It was that movie moment, the sun was literally shining directly to her, and her eyes were like ka-ding!
MARTHE: I was so happy when she was sitting next to me, and our legs were touching, and I was just super aware of everything.
TASH: And there was definitely energy between us.
MARTHE: And I was like ‘Ok, Marthe, just kiss her. I have to do it or it will not happen.’
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, Season 2! A series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves.
If you’re new to the show, there’s 8 romantic tales already out, just waiting to be devoured. You can lose yourself in the peak district with Davide & Nick, bond over a jukebox with Becky & Jay, or renew your faith in dating apps with Lucy & Ellie, and Liam & Jess.
If you’re a returning listener, welcome back.
This season we’re ignoring geography and traveling around the globe each week.
For today’s season opener, it’s fair Holland where we lay our scene. And Bali. And London.
Our first couple, Tash and Marthe are currently navigating finding a forever home amid a global pandemic, and together run Breaking The Distance,
an LGBTQ+ visibility blog and podcast about loving and living apart…. And then suddenly being together 24/7.
MARTHE: Hi I'm Marthe and I am from Holland. I'm 29 years old, and I work as an oncology nurse and I’ve been with Tash for almost two years.
TASH: I am Tash, I am one half of Breaking the Distance. My other half is Marthe. She is my Dutch half actually. So I, as you can hear from the accent, am based in the UK, in London, and Marthe is from Holland originally.
MARTHE: I definitely changed because of the relationship. I was working as a nurse, I have my own apartment and I had a really like, in a way comfortable life. I have my social network, it's all very safe. And when I met Tash, I was really like, in the beginning I was sort of in awe of her because she was like a freelancer and she was working as a performer, but she was also a personal trainer, and she was also doing this and then she was doing that. So like ‘oh, you can actually do more than one thing’. And I was like, ‘well, what would I like to do? I like to write, I like yoga. Ok, what are my dreams?’ and it really inspired me.
And also she's super supportive of those things. And she's also super positive and no matter what happens she would like, you know, see the good side of things, and of people.
TASH: Marthe is incredibly funny, an absolute perfectionist, incredibly kind, very, very sexy.
MARTHE: I would describe her as very open, spontaneous, funny, and the best smile ever.
TASH: She's like, ‘she's really sarcastic’ is what she'll say about me, for sure.
MARTHE: So when we met, we met in Bali two years ago, and I was a solo traveller. And she was as well. And when I met her, I felt like ‘oh my god, I just made a friend’. That's, that's what I said - I looked at my messages later to my friends, like what I said about her - and I was just really happy to see her. She was just very friendly, just very chatty.
TASH: So I was actually in the middle of ending a relationship. I was very much wanting to be single. Whilst ultimately I do want to meet somebody, not right now, was how I felt... probably up until like the day that we met. I was in that, in that headspace. So yeah, it's kind of even more ridiculous that we ended up being together forever.
MARTHE: So I go away every year around January to a warm country. And I just broke up with a guy actually, the beginning of January, we have been on and off for nine months, and I was so over and I was like, ‘yeah, I don't want to see you anymore’. And I already booked a trip that I was going to travel alone, I was in my head for already a year. And I wanted to go somewhere that was safe to travel for women. And I've been to Thailand, and I was like I want to, I want to go somewhere else. So yeah, Bali was the perfect place because I want to surf. And then my idea was to see more of Indonesia as well.
TASH: I had gone to Thailand first and I met my then girlfriend, who it was very, very rocky. And I wasn't in a very good place. I was, I think, really coming to terms with the fact that this isn't the relationship I wanted. So I left her and she went back home to the UK. I left that part of Thailand and carried on travelling and we essentially went on a break.
I then flew to Bali. That was my one stop in travelling that I knew I was going to go to, everything else was sort of unplanned. But Bali was definitely planned. And I'd already booked my accommodation there. So I arrived in Bali, technically on a break. And Marthe actually arrived the same day. And we met that day, had a very brief general getting to know each other chit chat, and thought nothing more of it.
MARTHE: I was like, holding on to her like, ‘oh my god, I made a friend here in Bali. And she's really cool.’ And when I got over that first step, I was like, ‘oh my god, she's also really beautiful. Wow, this girl's amazing.’ Then I already had a mini crush on her. So that was also because she was like super confident. She looked just really cool. And she gave that impression that she was just like, I can face this world and I’m this really cool woman.
TASH: I'm not a lesbian that assumes every woman I meet is gay. So my assumption was that she was straight.
MARTHE: Quite soon, I had a feeling she might be gay. So I remember I think it was on the second day. I just had this jolt like ‘oh my god, like she might be a lesbian’ and then I found her even more interesting. I was like, ‘oh my god, this is so cool.’ And then I guess because I don't really look like the stereotypical lesbian, I think she didn't know that for me but she was in our way a bit flirtatious also with our text messages and she would like help me out, and bring me to my spa, and because I was new to the place, and she wasn't... I just didn't know what to think about it because she was also very friendly to everyone. So I was like, well, maybe it's just because she's just like that.
TASH: That first conversation, I can tell you, literally the exact details of it is gone and got a burrito from my favourite Mexican place in Bali, and got back to the accommodation. And it was evening It was dark already. So it's like 8:30/9 o'clock. And anybody who's seen pictures of Marthe, you'll notice that the first thing that you notice about her is her blue eyes, piercing blue eyes. Now it’s 8pm at night, it's super dark, I don't see those eyes. So all I see is just you know, nice looking Dutch girl, brown hair, very sweet, really interesting accent.
Yeah, and the conversation, I remember there was another guy there. And the place that we're staying at has very few guests, I think it can hold about 16 maximum, but often sits around 10 to 12. And this guy was quite a bit older. And he was a bit awkward. And they had been talking and I kind of came into the conversation, and I'm a performer, so I'm not afraid to just introduce myself and be like, ‘hey, what's up?’. And I kind of felt like I was a little bit saving half from that conversation. And then we just carried on between us, and we had surfing the next day at like 6am. So it's not like we could really stay up late.
To be honest, the first real conversation that stood out to me was, we were sitting having lunch and the tradition at this place was for everybody to sit on a long table, and we all have lunch together, and they bring food, and it's like family style. And afterwards, we were sat around talking, a couple of us, and this place has a lot of - women tend to stay there because it's really safe. And as a solo female traveller, you want someone that feels safe and secure, and it just naturally attracts that kind of a traveller. So obviously, you know, girls sitting around, what, what's the main conversation like relationships, who you're seeing blah, blah, blah. And one of the girls are talking about guy that she was seeing and how they've been sleeping together, and he hasn't really texted her since she's been away. And we're all giving advice and chipping in. And so then it led me to be like, ‘well, actually, I'm kind of on a break. And this is my situation.’ And I was really open and honest.
MARTHE: She was saying that she had an ex girlfriend, and I was very subtle. I was like, ‘oh, my ex girlfriend lalalalala…’
TASH: Huh. That was really subtle... the way you told me about your girl friend there. Ok, I see what you're doing. You're trying to let me know [whispers] ‘I’m a lesbian too’!
MARTHE: I was like, oh my god. Yes! I thought I knew. But yeah, that was like, amazing.
TASH: And then I sort of really then properly looked at her. And that was the moment I saw the blue eyes. She was like, the way she was sitting was, it was that movie moment, the sun was literally shining directly to her, and her eyes were like ka-ding! And Marthe has really long eyelashes too. And I was like, ‘oh, she's kind of cute. She's obviously interested in women. Does that mean she's interested in me? I don't know, whatever, I'm just gonna… No! Tash don't even get into that you're still in one like, calm yourself.’ So yeah, that was probably the first real like, click moment, I guess.
MARTHE: We were in the beginning the two solo travellers. So we were just hanging out loads, we went everywhere together, we went for dinner everywhere. And I just remember I just wanted to be close to her all the time. Like, I was so happy when she was sitting next to me and our legs were touching, and I was just super aware of everything. And then we went out for drinks, and it was all very like, flirtatious, but also, I just didn't know if she was into me. I was like, ‘ok, I just want to be her friend, and I don't want to make things complicated. I am single, I'm in Bali, and I want to have this travel experience for myself. So I don't want to fall in love!’ That's what I said to everyone when I left for that trip, like, ‘oh, this is going to be my trip, it’s going to be my year and I'm not going to fall in love. And it's going to be the best. It's just going to be all about me, myself, and I.’
I also did not want to make things complicated for us because we were having this great friendship, but once you cross that line, then you crossed it and you can't go back. So yeah, I remember, I really wanted to kiss her that evening. And that didn't happen. And then I was also confused. So I was just like,’ ok, just let it go, friendship is beautiful.’
TASH: My girlfriend that I was on a break with, we arranged to have a call which was essentially like a breakup conversation. So I was in a really weird headspace when Marthe and I met, because I am also kind of traditional in some senses. So once that had ended whilst there was definite chemistry between myself and Marthe, I felt very guilty about that, you know, like it feels a bit - if feels like there should be some lag time between, from one to the next and it felt a bit disrespectful and I really pushed against it for, for a little while. Just as I tried to figure out how I felt about that. You know, going away to Thailand with one girlfriend and potentially coming back with another just didn't feel right. And I wanted to respect that relationship. So yeah, it was a bit confusing... It was a lot confusing in those first couple of weeks, for sure.
MARTHE: From there, the more time we spend together, the more I fell in love with her. And it's only in a few days, but remember that we’re together all the time, we're surfing together. So it's not like you have an evening, a date night, and then you see each other next week. We're spending so much time together, and we're talking, and you're in this amazing place, and it's all very beautiful. So yeah, you get to know each other quite quickly.
TASH: Bali kind of does that to people. It sort of makes everyone, you know you're away from home, you're away from everybody you know, you're travelling, it's a bit whimsical. So I'm also very aware of that.
MARTHE: Even till the last moment I thought ‘is she really into me?’ because, I don't know, like we’re holding hands sometimes and touchy feeling, like being super flirtati[ous]... But until the moment that we kissed, I was not sure.
TASH: There was an event like one of the girls, it was her birthday that evening, and we were all going out for dinner. And I got there and there was, the only spot at the table left is next to Marthe. And it was one of those places where you will sit on the floor, really low tables. And we're like sitting next to each other, and we're very like close and legs are touching and all that kind of thing. And afterwards, I said about going to a bar, I was really just up for going out and not getting crazy, but just, like the night doesn't have to end at 9pm guys. And she was really up for it as well. She later said to me that it was basically anything that I had suggested she would have gone along with!
So we headed over to a bar called Pretty Poison, and it was really cool, I'd never been there before. And it looks like a, just a generic cement building from the outside. And you walk in: sofas everywhere, there was a band, and a bar, and then you walk through and it opens out into what is an old swimming pool that is actually a skateboarding bowl. And there's all these skateboarders and everyone sitting around like drinking- it was the coolest thing, we were like oh my god I feel like we’ve stepped into an alternate universe.’ And we hung out there that night. And it was like a really cool experience, and then we ended up on one of the sofas and there was definitely energy between us.
And I was like, ‘ok, Marthe, just kiss her, do it.’ And because I'm used that, for someone else to take the first step. And that was not happening. So I was like, ‘ok, I have to do it or else it will not happen’. Er yeah, that was a very interesting experience for me.
TASH: In the couple of days beforehand. We had both been really honest about our previous relationships and our relationship history, way more honest than you would with somebody on a first date. Because we hadn't been in that headspace for the first sort of 48 hours. But we had been with each other a lot in that 48 hours, you shared a lot of your, just life just in general, what you do, what your job is, who your family are. So it's like, yeah it’s like that high school style relationship where, because you're together so much like a week is like a year. So it kind of changed the perspective. Like even when we talk about it now, we talk about the things that we were discussing. We’re like ‘no! That was only four days? We'd only known each other for four days? What?’ So yeah, it was already quite deep, by that point.
MARTHE: We have all this time to get to know each other. But also, I remember very vividly that I didn't want to think about what happens next. I was like, I want to live in the moment. I want to live in today, and right now. Because my friends and my family were messaging me ‘be careful, don't fall in love’. Because I've been in a long distance relationship before, and it's very challenging. And I was like, ‘I don't want to think about what happens when we're back in Europe. I just want to enjoy this moment.’ And that's also what I said to her. But yeah, of course, I was also madly in love. So yeah, I was like, ‘I will deal with that later.’ And that was amazing, because Tash was, I think a little bit more in her head about it. Also, because she just came out of a relationship. And now she met me. So yeah, that changed things for her. And I was just like, ‘we're having fun, just let it go’. That kind of vibe. Yeah, it was just a perfect place to fall in love, really.
TASH: We were actually both supposed to leave that place after a week of that resort. And we independently kept extending without kind of like, I'd go down to reception. I'm like, ‘Hi I'd like to extend’ and then Marthe would go and they'd be like, ‘oh, Tash just extended’. And she's like ‘what?’, and then it kind of kept happening like every couple of days.
And actually, before anything had happened before us, like in that very first 24 hours of knowing each other, we had both said like, ‘oh, what are you, where are you planning to go after this?’ And I said, ‘I'd really like to go to Ubud. And she's like, ‘oh, I really wanted to go there too.’ And I said, ‘well, maybe we could go together when we're done here.’ And that had been arranged before anything. So that was also this thing sort of hanging between us as we got through that first sort of week that we kind of had this conversation about going to Ubud, is that still going to happen?
MARTHE: So the question was, are we gonna leave the resort together and travel together? So when she decided she wanted to do that with me, and we left the resort, so we were just the two of us with no other people, no other distractions... I think that also really allowed her to fall in love with me, if that makes sense.
TASH: There was nobody else around us, it was just the two of us. And I really felt like I could let myself go, and really be, be in it and experience it.
MARTHE: Just to let, let go a little bit more. And we had these five days together, and they were just amazing on an island, and we're just like scootering and diving, and playing music. And one of the evenings, we had a lovely dinner, and we came back to our place, and there was a beautiful sky, you know it was like, the stars, and I put on - [laughs] so cheesy! I put on the song Yellow by Coldplay, and we were dancing on the street. Because of the stars, yeah, this is all so romantic! But when I think back of it, I was like, oh my god, we have really cheesy moments. But because you're so in love is like, so perfect.
TASH: We were like a couple on honeymoon there. Infatuated with each other, just always just loved being together 24/7.
And then there was a very obvious slip up where I'd obviously been like, ’you know, we're not we're not actually girlfriends, though. Like, this is not official.’ But like I'm very much in that headspace. I was like one day putting sunscreen on her back. And she was like, ‘don't put too much’ and I was like, ‘yeah, well, I don't want my girlfriend getting burn- ohhhh’ she said ‘what did you say?’ I was like ‘nothing! I said that I just don’t want you to get burnt. Here you finish. Bye’. We just didn't speak about that moment. And there was a couple of things like that that kept happening.
MARTHE: For me, in that week. I really started to think about what next because I was like, oh my god, I am really into her. And I don't want this to stop or end, ever.
TASH: So yeah, by the time we left Nusa Penida, we had said I love you. And it was, yeah, it was signed, sealed and delivered. We were a thing.
MARTHE: But even till the day we parted, I had no idea how things would go back home because she was quite reserved in her feelings. And I brought her to the airport. And I still had five days left. And she booked me a plane ticket to London. She was like ‘what weekend are you off?’ And I was like, ‘yeah, this weekend’. And then she was on her phone, and she was like,’ I just booked you a ticket to London. So we see each other in three weeks.’ And I was like, ‘oh, wow, that says a lot.’ And yeah, that was amazing, because then we said goodbye knowing that we would see each other again.
TASH: So I actually left Bali on the 15th of February, obviously you remember that because it's Valentine's day before. It was traumatic, it was horrible. I sobbed the entire way home on that plane. And partly because I was leaving Bali, and it always makes me cry when I leave Bali, but also because I was leaving her in Bali. And she still had two weeks there left. So then we were on a different time zone for like two weeks, which is also awful, and I was doing shows because I'm a performer and I had a week of shows, and like every free moment we’re like on the phone to each other, texting each other, FaceTiming each other all the time.
And then and then after like two weeks or so, and it's just getting to like the last 48 hours until we see each other - so she arrived in the UK on the first of March - and then all of a sudden you get this fear.
MARTHE: Oh I was so nervous. But we have been in contact non-stop. So I think that really helped me because I think if it was a bit like a message, or phone call here and there, I would have felt less confident and way more nervous. But yeah, I was just really nervous to see her again.
TASH: Oh my god, we met each other in this perfect place. It was like this perfect destination. We were on holiday, we were both like the best versions of ourselves. And we don't know each other in our normal lives.
MARTHE: And now we have to deal with real life. And she also had to work that weekend. And I'm gonna see her place for the first time. So that brings a lot of pressure.
TASH: It’s like what happens if we get here, and it doesn't work, and we don't like each other, and she's got loads of annoying habits that she didn't do in Bali, you know? And always kind of like fears suddenly set in and we were really nervous, so nervous, to see each other, but also like really excited and so secure that it was going to happen. And that was actually - when she arrived at the airport - the first thing I said to her was ‘will you be my girlfriend?’ and I asked it in Dutch to make it official.
And then that first weekend was incredible. It was like nothing was different. It was so easy.
MARTHE: We were still so so in love. So yeah, that was amazing.
TASH: So then it made the next 10 months of being long distance.... I mean it made it worth it, but also a real challenge because we really understand how good we are together, and how we really function so well together. So it was really hard not being together for 90% of our time.
MARTHE: I was like, ok, it's not ideal, but it's, it's doable, it’s, yeah, we can, we can make this work. I think also with experience of being in a long distance relationship before it was the Philippines. And now it’s London. So in that way, things were way easier. Yeah, we can, we can do this.
TASH: At the end of December last - last last year, sorry, yeah, two years ago, Marthe moved to London. And we then went travelling, we got engaged, we came back, and we're like, ‘yay, we're gonna come back to London now and be engaged together in our house in London’. And we got back, the day that lockdown was announced in the UK was the day that we arrived back, we're standing in Tescos, trying to find toilet roll. That was our first - so this is the thing, we've been like long distance all this time. We've now travelled together, which is like together all the time, but it's like travelling, it's fun. And now we are isolated in a two bedroom apartment for 10 weeks, is our first six months of living together. So we've done every version of a relationship, like every configuration
MARTHE: When we met at the surf resort, Tash has already been there. And the owner is actually Dutch. So we came back a year later, and we got engaged there. So that place is so special for us.
TASH: I think that I am originally Indonesian in another life, because Bali is literally, when I go there, it feels like home. And the first time I discovered Bali was back at the end of 2017 going into 2018, I believe. And I went there to a surf retreat for three weeks. And it was the most incredible three weeks of my life. It was quite literally life changing, just in about how I I started to see myself and the world, and and then the following year, I went back again the second - so exactly a year later. And that was the year that I met Marthe. So I always joke that this place every single time I go there, my life changes massively. And that first year was a massive shift in my friends really saw a difference in me when I came back. So the second year, I went there, and I met Marthe, and my life definitely changed. And then again, we went back together the next year. So that was my third time there. And she proposed, so every single time I go to Pelan Pelan in Bali, my life has a massive shift.
MARTHE: I remember so vividly that I was actually, I was gonna book a different surf yoga resort because that was a little bit cheaper. But the woman never got back to me, and then I googled a little bit more and I found this service are owned by Dutch woman and I was like this sounds really cool. But if I would have been there a different week, or I would have gone somewhere else, then we would have never met and my life would have been so different. It's crazy.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and thank you Tash and Marthe for sharing your story.
If you’d like to keep up with Tash & Marthe, you can follow them on Instagram at _breakingthedistance, visit www.breakingthedistance.com or search for Breaking the Distance in your podcast app, and on YouTube. There’s links to all of these in the shownotes for this episode too.
For each episode of Equal Parts an illustrator or artist designs a piece of original artwork. They only listen to the audio and create an impression of the story. Tash and Marthe’s romance has been immortalised beautifully by Zaina Mayat.
Visit equalpartspodcast.co.uk to see it! You can also find there all the artwork for season 1, and information on the artists.
And finally, there are transcripts for each episode of Equal Parts for those who are d/Deaf or prefer to read. Visit equalpartspodcast.co.uk
Next week… wedding crashers and love letters.
GRAHAM: We're gonna dance with those two, you're taking the one in the blue, I'm gonna dance with the one in the red dress.
JULES: He wrote a letter every single day. I used to sit and read them with my mother!
Season 2: Coming Soon!
MARIA: Equal Parts is back. With stories of holiday romances becoming life partners, social networks disappearing oceans, and first impressions that are hard to forget.
AAMIR I could see his little eyes in the front rolling, like, [sighs] ‘who do these queens think they are?’
TASH: It was that movie moment, the sun was literally shining directly to her, and her eyes were like ka-ding! And I was like, ‘oh… she’s kinda cute!’
JULES: Casually, he just said, ‘would you like to go out for dinner? Let's go out.’ And I literally ran across the dancefloor to my friends. I'm like, ‘give me a pen, give me a pen. Somebody! Gotta be a pen, he wants my number, give me a pen!’
GRAHAM: I still have that piece of paper. And I’ve put it in a little plastic sleeve. And on the one side, it's the message from the Royal International Hotel, and on the back, it says Julie H 70650.
MARIA: In a time marked by separation, escape to scenes of lovers finding each other.
This season will transport you across the world, from Nigeria to New Zealand, to dance, explore, and fall in love under the stars.
TY: We just had this night where we just sat on the beach, just talking, all night long. And I remember watching the constellation of Orion, kind of, move across the - like it rose up above the horizon and moved across the whole sky, and I just remember thinking like, [sighs] ‘universe, this is what I want!’.
AMAKA: He literally told me, that same day, he wanted to marry me. So that’s when everything changed.
STANISLAV: And to tell someone that you love them, and dead silence...it got like longer and longer, it’s just like awkward, and just being like, ‘ok, did I destroy everything?’.
FELIPE: It was not one of those situations when you meet someone in person and it feels awkward, it almost feels like a surprise and like ‘oh is this finally happening?’, almost like, er I was being electrocuted? Electrocuted I mean in a good way.
MARTHE: Ok, I just want to be her friend, and I don't want to make things complicated. I am single, and I want to have this travel experience for myself. So I don't want to fall in love!’ That's what I said to everyone when I left for that trip, like, ‘oh, this is going to be my trip, it’s going to be my year and I'm not going to fall in love. And it's just going to be all about me, myself, and I.’
TOBY: It’s difficult to describe her in words because sometimes you just feel that words don’t do justice.
MARIA: The A.V. Club calls Season 1 "life-affirming and hopeful".
Subscribe now to Equal Parts. Season 2 launches on Valentine's Day.
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.