DUNCAN: She had a lot of attention that night so I was just like, ‘this isn’t going to happen, she’s the Birthday girl, it’s her 30th, she’s got, you know, a room full of friends’
ANNA: We said nothing, looked at each other, eyes lock, kissed, and then moved off and carried on [laughs].
DUNCAN: It all kicked off, [laughs] and chaos ensued, and then I didn’t really see her again, for a long time.
MARIA (host): Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. This week, a third time’s the charm tale which proves that true love conquers all: time, distance, and even garlic-sauce kebab breath.
ANNA: I’m Anna, and I’m a primary school teacher, and I live in London.
DUNCAN: Hi I’m Duncan Brown, I’m a UX designer, and I live in Kilburn, which is in North West London.
ANNA: We’ve been together for…. 12 years, we’re coming into… I guess this is 13th year? Yeah. Yeah, 12 years.
So, Duncan and I are both from the same town, and it’s the sort of town where if, er you are… wanting to drink when you’re 14 or 15 and be hedonistic and push the boundaries and take risks, everyone’s trying to do it in the same two pubs in the town. So you all see each other and you all sort of casually get to know each other.
DUNCAN: We met when we were, erm, I was kind of in my late teens, I’m like two years older than Anna, in our hometown, which is in the midlands: Grantham.
ANNA: He was part of the cool, boy college gang as far as I was concerned. Totally fit, totally thought he was gorgeous but very much aloof, and I actually started dating ne of his friends. And I can remember er, Dunc had a party, erm which always amazed me because my family were incredibly straight and I would never have dared thrown a house party, ever. Erm, but his parents were great and went away and trusted them or, you know he was cool enough to take the risk, er and it was just this sort of very cool atmosphere, it was just a great party.
DUNCAN: Erm, actually Anna was going out with one of my friends.
ANNA: Julian was in the loo, I was stood outside the loo, and Duncan sort of came up to me and we had a kiss.
DUNCAN: We had a little kiss, at my parents’ house.
ANNA: He literally looked at me, I looked at him, and he says I kissed him, and I say he kissed me, so that is still an ongoing argument. Erm but we kind of just had this weird moment in time, I can picture it now, we said nothing, looked at each other, eyes lock, kissed, and then moved off and carried on [laughs].
DUNCAN: That was around 1991, so that’s quite a while ago.
ANNA: Yeah, that was when we were 17? Erm, Duncan’s two years older, so they all soon went off to college.
DUNCAN: Obviously people kind of go to university, go off get jobs, so I didn’t really see Anna a great deal.
ANNA: And I went off travelling after university,
DUNCAN: And then… she came back from Australia.
ANNA: To Newcastle, where I had done my degree, to do my teaching course.
DUNCAN: And she was, happened to be in Grantham by chance, and I was at my erm Step Brother’s wedding, and the wedding finished and a few of us went into town, and bumped into Anna in the nightclub.
I was in a suit, which was a bit weird, because you don’t wear suits to nightclubs [laughs. Erm, and Anna was there with some friends, and Anna was very, she was pleased to see everyone, and we kind of chatted and again we had a bit of a kiss. But unfortunately Anna was way more drunk than I was, even though I’d been at a wedding and I should have been the most drunk, but Anna beat me on that one.
We were getting on quite well and then she lost her purse, and it all kicked off [laughs] and chaos ensued, and then I didn’t really see her again, for a long time. Sadly. So it was like two false starts, in a way.
DUNCAN: So the third time we got together, erm it was, I was living in London, and Anna was up in Newcastle, and we just hadn’t really seen each other for years.,
ANNA: It was crazy, we first kissed each other when we were 17, I’m now 30 and have had enough of Newcastle. I was like, I’m not going to live in the North for ever. If I wasn’t a Geordie I was never really going to belong. But I think I was just a bit bored, I just wanted to have something new. I had amazing friends, but just needed some change. And it just seems fateful now, because I was moving down south the week afterwards.
DUNCAN: It was Anna’s 30th and she was having a party in Newcastle. So my best friend, he, he got the invite.
ANNA: And so Jamie said to me “oh, Dunc Brown’s coming as well” and I was like “oh, great, lovely”, thinking ‘I always fancied him, that’s amazing’. I remember saying to my girlfriends, “oh, Jamie’s coming from Grantham, Tim’s coming, oh and another Tim, and um, and Duncan”. And they were just like “yes, no kissing any Grantham boys Anna. You know. We know what you Grantham lot are like, it’s incredibly incestuous, you’ve all kissed each other when you were teenagers, just none of that”.
DUNCAN: So I was kind of invited, and I think in hindsight my friend was playing cupid, erm, so we’re all kind of organised to go up.
ANNA: The 30th was all planned, it was July, and… it’s really horrible because it’s 2005 and that was when the 7/7 bombings happened.
DUNCAN: The london bombings kicked off.
ANNA: So completely, nothing like London or England’s ever known, and it was just eurgh. Hideous, hideous stuff.
DUNCAN: It was a big, sad event, and it was really odd. So all the trains were, were down.
ANNA: Part of that was, the boys that were all coming up from London couldn’t come to the party. So, ok, there’s bigger things than my Birthday.
DUNCAN: And suddenly I was like, damn I really wanted to see Anna.
ANNA: Jamie, the great friend that he is, was like “I think I‘m going to go and get the boys from London.” He drove all the way down from the North East, to London, picked them all up and drove them back again, all so we could all have this party, which… I still don’t really know why, why he made such an effort. He’s a great guy.
DUNCAN: Erm, so we managed to get a train out up to Grantham which was like the halfway point, because the trains were like just really up in the air as you can probably imagine, after all that bombing business. Erm, but anyway, we stayed at my parents’ for the Friday night, and then kind of journeyed up to Newcastle and made it to the party which was wicked. Er, and got to see Anna.
ANNA: We had this big party, in… I’m going to say the Pitcher and Piano, which sounds really naff, and it is in every other city but Newcastle. Only because the Pitcher and Piano in Newcastle [laughs] and admittedly it was new and exciting then, it’s on the banks of the river Tyne, and the entire floor to ceiling glass walls, which again, this sounds really ridiculous this many years later, but at the time it was very nice [laughs]. My Birthday’s in July so there’s an outside bit and it you know, it felt great. And all these people came up from London going “ooh actually Newcastle’s really lovely [laughs].
DUNCAN: Arrived at the pub, it was like this lovely pub overlooking the Tyne, and there was Anna, at the centre of everything and, she was er, she was lovely, she was so warm and friendly with all of her friends, and all her friends were like, just a great bunch. And I was quite kind of, taken aback.
And she looked amazing and I was just like ‘wow’. I was definitely interested. I think eventually we got talking, obviously she had a lot of attention that night so I was just like, ‘this isn’t going to happen, she’s the Birthday girl, it’s her 30th, she’s got, you know, a room full of friends”.
ANNA: I just remember having an incredible time, and we then after the pub, we went off to this local nightclub. Now I don’t know how much you know Newcastle but it doesn’t have the reputation for the coolest nightclubs particularly, but World Headquarters is the bit, the club that we sort of discovered when we were students.
DUNCAN: It’s funny ‘cause [laughs] we had a little kiss in the venue, which Anna doesn’t remember, ‘cause she was having a great time and she’d drank a lot of champagne. Erm, she thinks that the first kiss was when we got to World Headquarters which is this kind of meat market in Newcastle [laughs], erm she remembers that, but I remember the bits before.
ANNA: I think, this is the problem. I can’t actually remember when we had our first kiss, and we have debated this. Now I’m told it was outside of the Pitcher and Piano, erm which we then did a staggering walk to World Headquarters, then proceeded the very exciting - snog session I suppose you’d say? Of me and Duncan going from the three floors of World Headquarters trying to sneak off and have little cuddles and kisses away from the masses of everyone at the party. Erm I think we probably didn’t want everyone going “oh my goodness”, so yeah that was erm a lot of fun, and we were just having the best time. And I remember that really really vividly.
DUNCAN: It was like this multi-floor horrible club full of nutters, and we just kept sneaking off up to the next floor to have a little kiss, which was yeah, which was great, ‘cause I’m like “it’s your Birthday and you wanna come and do this with me?” it’s like, lovely.
ANNA: After World Headquarters we all, really classily went, as you do, to the kebab shop [laughs].
DUNCAN: [laughing] which was like, yeah of course she would do that. And we had a kebab and then kind of said our goodbyes.
ANNA: And I can remember us all standing there outside, and him giving me the “so…”.
DUNCAN: I think I was a gentleman, and was like, wasn’t pushing to go back to hers in any way.
ANNA: “Can I come home with you?” [laughs] and it was great because he really couldn’t. Because I was moving down south the week afterwards, and this is the weird thing. He lives in London and I was planning to move to Brighton that very next week, everything was done, my house was packed up, I was staying at my friend’s, so he couldn’t come and stay.
DUNCAN: I also think she probably had a house full of people, so that was never going to happen. But mainly I was being a gentleman and didn’t wanna push it.
Erm, and also when I got back, ‘cause all the guys were staying in this kind of like rented er kind of like apartment thing, and I got home, and a friend had filled my erm my favourite trainers with water and put them in the freezer! [laughs] for some bizarre reason, but he was really mad because it actually cleaned them and they felt brand new again, which was really cool. He got really mad. And I also think he liked Anna a bit.
ANNA: The next day we all planned to meet each other, erm post hangovers, compare stories you know all of that. And so we met in some really random weird pub that the boys had decided because it was near where they were all staying, and I just remember that you know, that nervous thing of you’ve just kissed somebody the night before, how is it going to be?
DUNCAN: I was like, really hungover, an a bit nervous, it’s like ‘is Anna gonna remember anything? Is she gonna like… what’s gonna happen?’ and er -
ANNA: The first thing he did was he just came up to me straight away and gave me a kiss.
DUNCAN: Luckily she just came up and came and gave me a big kiss and it was just like ‘yep that’s great’.
ANNA: And I just thought that was great.
DUNCAN: Thank god, this is a good sign.
ANNA: There was no kind of ‘oh I’m going to act all cool and pretend last night didn’t happen and de dah de dah.’ I just loved that erm and then, I don’t know we hung out for an hour or two and then they all had to make their separate ways, and I can still remember him walking off, you know as we’d all said our goodbyes, then turned around and looked back.
DUNCAN: I was like, you know, ‘maybe something can happen’. But, then we played that game where it’s like, we’ve got each other’s phone numbers, it’s like who’s gonna send a text, how long do you wait, I don’t want to seem overly keen although I was dying to obviously send Anna a text.
ANNA: And it was great because he texted I think the next day or something. He didn’t do that horrible, let’s wait forever and yeah, which would have been… urgh.
DUNCAN: I think there was a text, maybe a couple of days after the party? And I don’t kno who it was from. I’m gonna say Anna [laughs], she was more keen to chase me. No, I doubt it, I think it was probably definitely me, yeah.
ANNA: So he, texted the next day, or fairly promptly, maybe two days later, and then we started this text thing that week and I was like ‘how do you ever shift it, now from this to moving it on’.
Erm, the following week was my brother’s wedding. Got completely emotional, drunk and emotional as you do at weddings and I was completely overawed by the grandeur of my brother getting married. And so, after oodles of wine and dutch courage, I just thought ‘stuff this, I’m not doing this keep it cool’ you know, and I just remember sitting by, outside the wedding, by some, you know dumpster or something I don’t know, by the bins… calling Duncan, half crying, because I’d just cried about how emotional I was about the wedding, and he was at a party.
DUNCAN: And she called me from her brother’s wedding and I was so happy. And we talked for quite a white, and then I kind of bored the entire party with this Anna that I’d just been talking to and everyone was just like… they could see how happy I was.
ANNA: Somewhere there we must have made a plan that we were going to see each other…. I think I was coming to London to go on holiday perhaps? Because it was coming up to July and I’m a teacher, and I think my summer was pretty planned. I seem to think I had two holidays planned, but er we made some sort of plan where I was coming through London and I was going to see him.
DUNCAN: I remember she got off, she got a train up to Brighton and I met her in Victoria on the platform.
ANNA: I went to his in Willesden, his place, and he’d made a real effort, and did a barbeque in the garden, and he was very quiet I remember that night, he just seemed to be, we just seemed to be quite… looking at each other? And I was gibbering on as I do… that was our first sort of proper, one-to-one date I guess, in his back garden in Willesden in the summer, which was absolutely fantastic.
DUNCAN: I knew that I wanted definitely to be long-term with Anna, but there were just all this kind of, holidays in the way, and erm distance in the way, but I think it just kinda sorted itself out, we just started, got into this habit of, I would come down to Brighton straight after work on the Friday and stay with Anna and then vice versa, we kinda like started to take it in turns.
ANNA: Sunday evening are the best time to just be snuggly and together and chill out and have your downtime together.
DUNCAN: I don’t remember the moment where we decided that we were a thing. I probably decided in my mind, that, you know, that, right at the party in Newcastle.
ANNA: I think we both knew we wanted to be together and it was where we were going to live. You know, we’d done three years of long distance, and it’s like, where do we live, London or Brighton? Duncan had been in London since he was 18, I’d only just moved to Brighton three years ago, I was loving it…
I think actually I was happy to move to London, I just wanted to know that Dunc would move to Brighton [laughs]. We had chats about it, but I just remember one day, Dunc went “I’ll move to Brighton” and that’s when I remember saying “great, that’s brilliant, I want to move to London” [laughs] and he’s like “brilliant! I don’t have to leave London!”, I just needed to hear him say he would have done, yeah. And I cannot imagine living anywhere else now, erm we’ve, we moved in together nearly 10 years ago, got our flat, made that our own together.
DUNCAN: Anna is… probably the happiest person I’ve ever met. And the most fun, and the warmest, and friendly, and she’s just amazing.
ANNA: In the last however many years I think it just changes from, you just feel so safe and secure and content I guess, yeah.
DUNCAN: Does Julian know we kissed? Erm I’m not sure, but it was really funny because a few years into Anna and I being an item we got invited to Julian’s wedding [laughs] and Anna was like “oh my god, should we go?” and I’m like “what you talking about, of course we should go, it’s Ju, he’s getting married!”. Yeah I kind of pulled Anna’s leg saying there’s going to be this big Graduate scene, in the middle of the wedding where Julian turns around and goes “no, Anna, Anna’s the one for me” but no, that was a wicked wedding. I passed out on an EasyJet flight on the way home [laughs].
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and of course, to Duncan and Anna.
Each episode of Equal Parts has an accompanying piece of original artwork. Sophie Linney drew this week’s image, which you can see at equalpartspodcast.co.uk. There’s also links there to discover more of her work.
Next week, reading the signs.
NICK: He had made a paper rose, with like, red tissue paper.
DAVIDE: I always think that, I would be so happy if my date would bring me roses on a date, so I thought ok, now it’s my turn to bring flowers.
NICK: The fact that he had, gone to the trouble to make something and he had the courage to bring that, I mean it was just the most romantic thing.