MARIA (host): Sooooo how did you meet? It’s a question that every couple will be asked sooner or later, and damn, some people have a really good story. Think love at first sight doesn’t exist? Dating apps are just for casual hook-ups? No one really meets their life partner when they help pick up their spilled shopping? Think again.
This series is a celebration of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. I’m Maria Passingham, this is Equal Parts.
SARAH: I was so nervous, I was so nervous.
FREDDIE: He came right up to me and rested his massive fist, it was like a bear’s paw, on my nose.
SARAH: Oh my god, what have I just said?
MARIA: Our first tale is a classic: a good, old-fashioned set-up. There’s snow, there’s trains, there’s a bit of fisty-cuffs: in other words, all the makings of a great rom-com. Here’s Sarah and Freddie, a couple of six years, now living in South London.
SARAH: I’m Sarah, I’m from Manchester, and I work in theatre as an Assistant Stage Manager
FREDDIE: I’m Freddie, my partner is Sarah, otherwise known a Gaz. She doesn’t allow me to call her Sarah, she tells me off if I call her Sarah, so it’s Gaz. I am 26 years old, I live in London, I work at a music label doing a lot of digital online stuff that the older people don’t think they can do.
SARAH: We met on the 25th January, and we like to call that whole week up until the 1st February our anniversary week, because our first date was on the 1st February which was exactly a week after we first met.
So I first met Freddie, so my friend, my best friend, showed me pictures of him. So she’d met him before I had. The first thing that I saw when i saw pictures of him was his fashion… or his, oh no his hair actually. I just liked his face. Tall, dark, and handsome. Yeah there’s this one picture which was his profile picture at the time and he’s wearing like a white jacket, and he’s standing on a roof, trying to look cool. And I thought he does look cool.
So we sat there and stalked him on Facebook quite regularly for about two weeks, up until she said, why don’t you come to Sheffield and meet him? And so I literally did get on a train to meet this guy.
And I was in, her boyfriend at the time, I was in his room getting ready to go out, and suddenly Freddie appeared at the doorway. So I just remember him and the clothes that he was wearing, and his hair, and being introduced as Gaz and Vivian… that’s a whole other story. And that was it, and I just, I just knew, that that was it.
FREDDIE: When I first met her, I was at a period of my life where I was looking for romance all the time, like quite a lot. And then one of her friends set me up. But I was so adamantly trying to do it on my own, that as soon as I saw her I was like, “oh hello, y’alright”, and then carried on walking essentially, I definitely just tried to blank her out of my mind because I was still so focussed on just trying to find love on my own, because I thought that was the way you had to do it...pft, silly. [Laughs] I was rubbish at it, I was single for two years but looking the whole time, so I dunno…
SARAH: So it started off at my best friend’s boyfriend’s house, in Sheffield. And also in this house is another friend of Freddie’s from school… they just all sort of followed each other to Sheffield. So it’s a big house party and - Fred will tell you as well that he wasn’t even going to come out, but they convinced him, his friends convinced him to come out - I was so nervous, I was so nervous, and we all went down into the kitchen and there was this living area in the kitchen, and everyone was sitting in a circle, and there were loads of people that I’d never met before.
Fred and I were sitting next to each other I think, but I just couldn’t, I didn’t have the courage to talk to him, erm until eventually, I don’t know what made it happen… it was probably Freddie started talking, and we were talking about radio and how I did the radio at uni and he always said he thought that was really cool, and from then on we just chatted and chatted, and chatted.
FREDDIE: I think the thing that caught me most then is when she started talking to me, and she was just doing loads of cool stuff. Like, she was doing radio, at her university, she was doing some TV and just started talking about loads of other stuff that I wished I was doing, at the time. I was like, ‘wow this girl’s really cool’!
And then, just after we finished talking at the party before we went dancing, we had to walk, this was in Sheffield, we had to walk to the club or the next bar or whatever it was, and er, it was snowing outside. And this is January so it was a pretty good snow, and we had a big snowball fight, and she had her big winter coat on and these little purple - I think purple plimsolls or something - on, and threw a particularly good snowball at her. Obviously I was aiming at her most than anyone else, because I already completely fancied her.
SARAH: It was really really heavy snow, and I had these really flimsy shoes on that I’d just bought, cos I didn’t even have anything to wear. So I turned up in Sheffield and had to go to Topshop, and I bought this dress that didn’t really fit me,it was too tight, and some really flimsy shoes that I don’t have… I think I probably got rid of them on the night… and then so we walked all the way down from the house into town and he was throwing snowballs at me [laughs] and I like, lost my shoe in the middle of the road as well at one point… and then eventually we ended up in this pub - I think it’s called The Cavendish.
FREDDIE: My friends were there, and her best friend from home was there. And she was the one that set the two of us up, and er, yeah I just found her absolutely amazing, and I knew actually as soon as I met her at the party beforehand that, er, I really wanted her to be my girlfriend. And I hadn’t had that before. I’d met girls that I thought were cool. ‘Ooh this person really likes this part of a film’, and I thought that was what romance was but it wasn’t really. It didn’t do anything. And then I met Gaz, and er, I don’t know, just, it was what I wanted.
FREDDIE: So we then went to another bar -
SARAH: A place called West Street Live in Sheffield. It’s more of like a Motown-y vibe, soul vibe.
FREDDIE: This is the fun, upbeat, kind of soul, nightclub I guess. Kind of soul and funk, a bit Craig Charles 6 Music kind of stuff. And we were dancing there, and then er we shared our first kiss on the dancefloor.
SARAH: We had our first kiss there, and erm and then got a taxi home?
FREDDIE: I remember, she was giving me her phone number, and she took my phone and put it in, and then the next morning, ‘cause we were all staying in our friend’s house -
SARAH: I had to leave, early-ish, and so as I was leaving Fred asked me if he could come and see me in Manchester….but I was like, no i’m not going to be in Manchester, and he got really confused and thought that I went to uni in Manchester and was from Oxford, and he was convinced that that was what it was, and so I had to be like “no, I’m going back to Oxford to go to uni”, ‘cause it was in the Christmas holidays still, and, so I remember leaving the house, and him asking if he could come and see me, and I said yeah.
FREDDIE: I said, “ah I’ll call you and we’ll arrange something in Manchester”, so, she said yeah great, and we hugged and she went off. And then about five minutes later I went through my phone to find her number, just to check it was still there… I couldn’t find it!
SARAH: I think for ages he was searching for Sarah, and it wasn’t coming up, and then realised ‘oh I need to put in Gaz’, and then I think it took about three days for me to hear from him, and I remembered saying to my friends from home like “oh yeah like I met this guy, but, I’ve not heard from him yet so I don’t know but, you know I don’t want to get my hopes up but erm, but yeah” and then um, eventually I heard- and I think he thinks that three days was quite a cool amount of time to leave it.
FREDDIE: So up until this point, I’d never actually… if I met someone that I was sort of interested in, I would never - it wasn’t had the courage, but I never was really bothered about contacting them much afterwards because, I don’t know, after meeting someone new, it would be kind of fun at first, and then you might send a text, and I always found that, and then I got bored.
But then with Gaz it was different. I wanted to speak to her, so after three days - which was an accidental three days wait - I just was going out to various gigs or something with friends, I don’t think I wanted to ring her up too hungover, so I rang, actually rang her up, it was the first time I’d ever done that with a girl, and I was so nervous, so nervous. Like just pressing the buttons and press the call was difficult, and then I rang her up, and er we organised going er on a date on the weekend, the following weekend after we first met. In Manchester, so we met in Sheffield, and then arranged a date in Manchester.
SARAH: I’d just finished, I was doing some work experience at a radio station in Manchester, and so he came, he got the train about 1 o’clock.
FREDDIE: I listened to one of my favourite albums to try and chill myself out - er Nicolas Jaar’s Space Is Only Noise - which isn’t particularly a relaxing album, actually now I think about it, it’s pretty weird. But I don’t know, I was just listening to it a lot at the time, and er, I hoped it would calm me down. Which it kind of did, kind of did, but I knew it was still such a momentous occasion that I was still, my heart was actually pounding for the whole journey.
SARAH: I remember we walked down to Castlefield in Manchester, and went to Duke’s 92 and had pizza. And I remember talking - I was so nervous - and I remember we talked about driving, that was the only part of conversation that I remember, passing our driving tests or something.
FREDDIE: It was good, it was sort of flowing, but it wasn’t relaxed as it might be if you were sitting down with your friends, and it was a little bit obvious.
SARAH: And he always says that he did a really good thing to break the ice, and he sent me up the stairs to the toilet - because I needed the toilet - and he said “oh yeah, they’re just up this way” -
FREDDIE: Purposely pointed her in the wrong direction, and she walked into a business meeting [laughs] full of suited men [laughs]. And then came back down really embarrassed, but in a kind of happy way. And that sort of broke the ice.
SARAH: It did break the ice to be fair, because from then on it was a lot easier. We shared a lot that I wouldn’t of usually thought you would have shared on a first date, but it just did feel natural.
FREDDIE: We went to see this free stand-up comedy at the main theatre there, The Royal Exchange.
SARAH: Which I loved, because that’s always been one of my favourite buildings in Manchester.
FREDDIE: Which was really bad [laughs].
SARAH: Then we went to an oyster bar in Manchester, and Fred says he nearly got stabbed.
FREDDIE: It was really, really rammed. Packed full of people, it was obviously a popping bar. And we managed to find a perch on a windowsill in one of the rooms, it was quite a small room, and there were just a bunch of locals sitting around and er they couldn’t understand my southern accent, and I couldn’t understand their Mancunian accent. But we still took a shining to them, and they ended up inviting us to just sit in their circle, so we did. We got a better seat on the sofa. And Gaz started talking to this guy next to her - I can’t remember his name, but he had a tattoo of his daughter? Tattooed on his arm, the name of his daughter on his arm.
SARAH: I was too busy chatting to a man called Carl, about his daughter that he had tattooed on his wrist that he hadn’t seen in years, so I missed this whole stabbing episode.
FREDDIE: So I was talking to the rest of the group, because Gaz was wrapped up in this story, and then this one guy who, who was really drunk in the corner and was only half really following what was going on, and beforehand, he had shown us these er scarrs, on his back, which he said were stab wounds. And he was a big bloke, so it was pretty intimidating, and er this guy’s daughter was sitting on the other end of the table, and I think she asked me a few questions about what I was doing with Gaz, and where we were thinking of going, you know like, whether we were enjoying Manchester, and then this guys gets angry because he thinks I’m hitting on his daughter. I’m like “nah, na na na, I’m on a date with this girl, I know she’s not talking to me right now, but I’m on a date with this girl here”.
He sort of like, staggeringly wavered at me, and then he was like - and Gaz had no idea this was going on, she was busily chatting to this guy who hadn’t seen his daughter in years - and er he came right up to me and rested his massive fist, it was like a bear’s paw, on my nose, like rest- and I thought he was joking, he was obviously very confused… and then the rest of the friends all get up at that point, and realise it was all getting a bit lardy, so they take him outside.
And then I go [whispering] “Gaz, Gaz, Gaz, Gaz” and I get her attention and I was like “we have to go, right now”, so I basically drag her out, I was like ‘wow, great introduction to Manchester!’ So that was our first date and then er -
SARAH: We had to run for the train, because we both had to get the last train back. And this was the other thing, was that I was, he kept on asking me what time I needed to leave and what time I needed to go home, and I was really scared and I didn’t want to like - so I just said oh 6 o’clock. And I think I said that I had to look after my sister or something, who’s only like two years younger than me [laughs], and then somehow I forgot about that and I stayed until, yeah half eleven [laughs].
I remember being in the foyer at Manchester Piccadilly-
FREDDIE: In the main hustle and bustle of the station we had a little
FREDDIE & SARAH TOGETHER: We had a kiss
FREDDIE: I guess our second kiss
SARAH: [cringe laughing] and...oh it’s so awful [laughs], so we were saying bye and then, um, I said “I love you” and... I didn’t think he heard it because he didn’t react, but I was like, ‘oh my god what have I just said?’ thinking I - I just meant it as if I were saying goodbye to a friend. But it happened just after we kissed so it was just awful.
FREDDIE: [laughs] It’s the kind of thing that would definitely have freaked me out back then, massively. So I just very quickly, subconsciously pretended I hadn’t heard it because she said it so quietly.
SARAH: Oh my gosh. And then we both went our separate ways. And he had to go to one platform and I went to the other, but it ended up that my train was sitting on the platform for ages, and Fred was also waiting for his train, so I ended up seeing him, on the platform, whilst on this train, just waiting for it to move, and I’d just told him that I loved him! [laughs] After a week of knowing him, and two weeks of stalking him on Facebook, so you know… bit creepy.
That took a few months for that to come out and for me to learn that he did hear me… and he just had to push it out of his brain because he was a bit freaked out by it. He definitely like talked to his friends about it, erm, I hope he just knew that I was just nervous and just said it. Quite funny.
FREDDIE: I forgot about it until, I think two months later, when her best friend - Emma, Emma’s boyfriend - Josh, asked me if I’d heard anything, heard Gaz say anything at the end of the date, and then I was like “oh my god she said I love you at the end of the first date… she didn’t think that really, did she? That’s crazy” and I freaked out for a little bit and then I was like ‘nah she can’t have meant that, it must have just been an accident’.
But it was funny, because I think after six months of our relationship, I brought it up again, being like, “oh yeah at least I didn’t say I love you on the first date” and she cringed pretty hard.
SARAH: That’s a great story, I love that one.
SARAH: I always remember thinking that, like, ‘oh he’s really carefree’ which was something that I was never, so that was really nice, because I went on loads of adventures with him.
FREDDIE: I think, the two of us together, just er, I don’t know, we clicked in certain ways that made everything very easy to do. The fact that Gaz was at university at Oxford Brookes, and I was in Sheffield, was really easy. Even though we got - we saw each other every couple of weeks, or maybe longer. That was alright because, I don’t know, we had found the right thing and it was really nice. And we didn’t really ever argue - we don’t really argue now either.
I’m still finding things out about her, that still amaze me, like some small things, some, I don’t know, big things as she changes and moves on with her life and works out what she wants to do with her career and, yeah I’d say it’s still really easy between the two of us.
SARAH: He’s just, kind. And I think a lot of people would probably say that… and funny. They’re kind of clichés but it’s true.
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and to Sarah and Freddie for sharing their story.
Each episode of Equal Parts has an accompanying piece of original artwork, produced by some of my favourite artists, designers, and illustrators. This week’s image was created by the wonderful Fran Marchesi of lettersandshapes, who also designed our logo. You can see her creation and find links to more of her work at equalpartspodcast.co.uk
Next week, a story spanning decades and the length of the country.
DUNCAN: It was Anna’s 30th and she was throwing a party in Newcastle, so my best friend, he got the invite.
ANNA: And so Jamie, said to me, “oh Dunc Brown’s coming as well” and [laughs] I was like “ohhh, great, lovely”, thinking ‘I always fancied him’.