DAVIDE: I was living in Scotland, but I felt it was not the place for me. And I was still looking for a place, where to stay...as long as it feels like home, and Nick really felt like home.
NICK: We hadn’t even said anything to each other and we just kissed, and then after a few seconds, I was just laughing because I was thinking ‘this isn’t life, this isn’t what happens’.
DAVIDE: I noticed, he took out a picture of ours, from his pocket, I was like ‘what’s this?’, and then he started folding the picture, and I was thinking ‘oh my goodness, something big is happening’.
MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves
In most romances, lips are for kissing. In this one, they play a vital part in communication. Here’s Davide and Nick who recently celebrated their third anniversary.
DAVIDE: So I’m Davide, I come from Italy, but I’ve been living in UK for the past five years, and I’m a material scientist by training, er but at the moment I’m working as a teacher for the deaf.
NICK: I’m Nick, I was born in Sheffield, and I live in Manchester, and for my job I’m a researcher, I work at a university researching sign language.
DAVIDE: Well we have a couple of anniversaries, we have one anniversary in December, and one anniversary in January, and we celebrated our January anniversary a couple of weeks ago, and it was a very exciting anniversary.
When I met him, I was just coming out of a relationship that, wasn’t very important probably, wasn’t very deep but er somehow when my ex-boyfriend broke up with me it just left me distraught and er depressed for a couple of months.
Then I met Nick, and erm, we really ticked immediately. And since then we, both of us, grew so much. One of the most beautiful things for me, of Nick, is that he let me into his life very quickly, so he wanted me to meet all his friends, his family very soon, and so many different things, and erm, it really feels like I could ‘belong’ to someone, I could belong somewhere and back then I was really looking for a place to belong to… because coming from Italy, I was living in Scotland, but I felt it was not the place for me. And I was still looking for a place, where to stay for a longer period of time that wasn’t strictly three years/five years, doesn’t matter but, as long as it feels like home, and Nick really felt like home.
So I come from Verona, and the only direct flight from Britain to Verona, back then was from Manchester, or London. So usually what I used to do was, travel by train or by bus from Glasgow to Manchester, and then fly from there. It was December 2015 and er it was Christmas time, so I wanted to go back for Christmas. And I booked my flight, I booked my train, I had to stay over in the airport, overnight.
NICK: And he had done this previously, so flying from Manchester airport with a very early morning flight. And previously he had missed that flight.
DAVIDE: So I look for a bench, where to spend the night basically, in the airport. I was waiting on this bench and I was, yeah I was coming out of this relationship and I was looking for somebody else, er so I was on dating apps.
NICK: I’ve long used a dating website, OK Cupid. Which I really liked because they ask you lots of questions about yourself, about what you think, but also cleverly they ask you how important something is, so maybe you don’t like football but that’s not important to you, so if the other person does like football but it’s not important to you then that’s ok.
DAVIDE: So you could be like yeah, I’m totally a tory supporter, but I don’t mind if he’s, or she is, a labour supporter.
NICK: Whereas, you know if you think that flag burning is wrong, and that’s a passionately held belief, then you don’t want to meet someone who burns flags every other Tuesday, so... it’s a clever website.
DAVIDE: I really believe that what brings people together are values, rather than simply like. Because you know I can go out with my friends to something I like but I need to live with somebody that shares some beliefs somehow. So you put on all these answers, and eventually Nick’s profile came up and I saw it, we were very very compatible, like 90% compatible? It’s like, no way.
NICK: I think I was at home in Sheffield, with my parents, and he was at Manchester airport. Fortunately my phone was not state of the art, so I think my phone still thought I was in Manchester even though I was in Sheffield. So, yes up he came and we had a bit of a chat. He told me that he was from Verona, which immediately made me think of Shakespeare, so all of a sudden I was one of the gentleman of Verona.
DAVIDE: We liked each other and he messaged me straight away, I was like ‘oh finally somebody who makes the first move… usually on these apps people are just like tip-toeing around which is so annoying I’m like ‘we like each other clearly, just do something’. I always have to make the first step. This time was like, mmm good. And then, yeah we hit it off very quickly. We moved very quickly from the messaging in the app to WhatsApp.
NICK: We kept in touch, he was in Italy, I was here. And then I flew to Australia for a conference, a few days before he flew back to the UK to continue with his research.
DAVIDE: So, we couldn’t meet for basically one month. So we text each other for one month, we skyped at some point, which was really nerve-wracking.
NICK: I remember, being nervous about it. And also he was in his house, the family house in Italy, and he was using his mobile phone, so it was one of those situations where you can’t find anything around you , any surface, on which to rest the phone and it ends up toppling over, so one minute it’s him, the next minute the ceiling, and a bit of wall in the corner, and some cobwebs… all sorts of different things that I could see, so I really got to know his house quite well but I didn’t really get to see that much of him while we were skyping.
DAVIDE: And on top of that, after a few texts, erm I realised he was deaf. You know when you text somebody you don’t need to know that he’s deaf or not… and I’m not sure I picked it from his profile, I should have because he mentioned sign language a couple of times, but… so when we skyped the first time I was really scared that he wouldn’t read my lips or we wouldn’t be able to communicate in anyway but it was fine.
NICK: I do remember that it was quite easy to lipread him, which was a nice surprise for me, because that was something that I was worried about I think, the first time as a deaf person I was chatting with him, trying to work out whether that side of things, the communication side of things, whether that was going to work or not, so it was quite a relief to find out that it did.
DAVIDE: So I found out that Nick was deaf, and at first I was a little bit like ‘oh my goodness’ I had known nothing about deaf people. He was a tiny little bit, preachy, or anyway he put on his teacher hat, or his like, activist hat, so he was like “yeah deaf people, deaf community, deaf culture...blah blah blah” I was like “wow”, but I was super eager to learn.
Actually, er months later I found out in my old diaries that on my to-do list for the new year was sign language, so it’s funny that somehow, it was years back, I wanted to learn sign language but was in another country so it wouldn’t have worked anyway, but now finally I’m learning sign language.
NICK: So I was teaching him some signs. I remember filming myself going through the paradigm of questions - what, who, where, when - that kind of thing. And then sending them to him, and then he would film himself and send that back, and it was so beautiful, I mean we hadn’t even met but he was trying so hard to learn my sign language. But the thing is, I mean when you ask questions in sign language your eyebrows are really important, you have to raise or lower your eyebrows and his eyebrows were going all over the place.
So I gave him a sign name, which we deaf people do, we give people like a sign, that becomes their name. And this sign is just two fingers that represent the eyebrows going up and down quite wildly, very sort of franetic. So that’s Davide’s sign name, and that’s continued until this day really. And it wasn’t until the 15th of January that we met in person.
DAVIDE: The first time we met was, erm, a little bit of a gamble but we knew that we really wanted to date each other basically. We felt really confident that it was going very well. So we decided to meet halfway. I was in Glasgow, he was in Manchester, halfway means the Lake District, so let’s book a weekend together in the Lake District, as soon as possible.
NICK: So we met halfway, in Penrith. And I suppose I was a bit nervous, but also I felt very relaxed about it in some ways, because, I don’t know we, I felt at ease with him, it was… I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be difficult, that there were not going to be any surprises or anything like that.
DAVIDE: We booked a B&B, he planned everything, I have never been to the lake District before so it was a total surprise and holiday for me as well. Erm, I booked a train ticket on the Friday night, I went down to Penrith. His train was a little bit delayed so I was really really nervous, waiting in the waiting room.
NICK: I remember the train journey up to Penrith. I remember making sure I was minty fresh, and um, and then I got off the train onto the platform, and there he was.
DAVIDE: And I like, basically jumped very nervously towards him, and we straight off kissed each other. So it was a very beautiful kiss on the platform, in Penrith. It was very very dark, it was cold, freezing cold, but it was very very beautiful.
NICK: He had made um, a paper rose, with like red tissue paper.
DAVIDE: I always think that, I would be so happy if my date erm, would bring me roses, flowers, on a date, so I thought ok, now it’s my turn, but instead of bringing like fresh flowers because you know, we were going on a walk, it wouldn’t have been feasible, so I just made er paper roses.
NICK: The fact that he had, gone to the trouble to make something and he had the courage to bring that, it was beautiful, it was so moving. And I think if I remember it wasn’t just paper roses, he also made some soap, in the shape of a heart. I think that was homemade soap, pink in the shape of a heart, and I’ve still got that as well.
I mean it was just the most romantic thing, we just walked towards each other and kissed so and, we hadn’t even said anything to each other and we just kissed, and then after a few seconds, I was just laughing because I was thinking ‘this isn’t life, this isn’t what happens’ you know ‘this is something from a very bad or a very good Hollywood rom-com, it didn’t… I didn’t realise that I would ever experience anything like that, but it was the most romantic moment of my life. I’ve never had anything like that, before or since really.
DAVIDE: The following day we made a very long walk around, he had planned everything so… We really liked each other, we got it, so we, yeah we didn’t need much talking or much… we just need to get to know each other, but we had skyped so much and we had text so much, we had talked about many many different things, important things for each other, so yeah it was all very very easy.
NICK: We decided to go for a walk, I think I’d printed off a route already, a very ambitious route I think, we were supposed to be going 28 miles or something which obviously didn’t happen in the space of a day. It was very cold, I mean it was mid-January, and there was lots of snow around if I remember, it was very beautiful, I mean, very cold but beautiful. And we both like noticing things and spotting things, so we saw icicles that were dangling from um, suspended from branches over the river, and there was frost covering the stones and the hedges and things like that, it was very romantic.
DAVIDE: We went by a castle, and I said “oh, are we not going to see the castle?” and he was like “mm no, I thought we wouldn’t go this time, we’ll go another time, let’s just say ‘hi’ from afar”. I was like “ok fair enough, it doesn’t matter”.
NICK: There was a henge, a neolithic henge -
DAVIDE: A prehistoric thingy with a single stone in the middle of a circle, which is very beautiful, only the built the M6 next to it, so it was super loud with cars… it doesn’t matter for him because he’s deaf [laughs].
NICK: And so we stopped there and I’d brought us a flask of coffee - I’m a practical Northerner - we had a flask of coffee and some cake, and I remember sitting at the edge of this henge, so this sort of flat circular area with this embankment around it, and I looked at him, and I remember thinking this is a really special person. I mean, I’m not sure I would said I fell in love with him there, but that was a moment where I just thought ‘this is special, there’s something special going on here’.
DAVIDE: We’ve talked about weddings on the first date, because I really wanted to make clear that um, I was looking for something long-term and that my plans, or dreams, or wishes in the future were, I didn’t want to scare him off, but I felt he was the right guy to talk about it early on, to show that I could commit. Nick somehow gave me the opportunity for a plan in the future, like with him it really felt like yeah, it’s a long-term commitment.
NICK: There was a really strange moment when we had to say goodbye, I mean again, we were at Penrith train station, it seems to be the emotional centre of the world to us, or something like that i don’t know, but um, he had to go North, and I had to go South so, I remember saying goodbye, and wanting to sort of punch the air, because everything had gone so well. But then, feeling that I would miss him, and wondering how we would make the transition again, from being present with each other and then going back to being apart, and wondering how that would work out. And I think we weren’t meeting again for another two or three weeks, and that felt like quite a long time.
But for me, I think the advantage of him being in Glasgow and me being in Manchester, it was that it kind of gave our relationship in the early days, a bit of pace, so it meant that we didn’t have to rush into things, that wasn’t a kind of overkill. I mean, I’m a very old-fashioned sort of person in some ways. My parents tell me about courting, back in the 70s, when everything sort of moved forwards inch by inch, and it was all so incremental, and you’d meet every Friday for twenty years, and then you’d meet twice a week, and that was the big change, so… and I think that there is something in that in a way, something hopeful about having a sort of a paced introduction.
So the fact that we lived in different cities actually gave us a bit of space and it gave us some time to kind of grow into each other.
NICK: So, a couple of weeks ago, when we were celebrating our anniversary -
DAVIDE: I said “shall we go on a walk somewhere nice?” and he said “where do you want to go?”, I was like “shall we go back to the Lake District, we haven’t been back for a long time?”. He said “ok fair enough, I’ll think about booking, sorting it out”, I was like “ok you do it”.
We went up to Penrith again, on a Friday night again, we just wanted to stay for one night, one day. Um, we booked the same B&B that we should have stayed three years before, but back then, the owner of the B&B had to go away on a weekend, so this time we said “ok, we’re going to stay in the place where we should have stayed three years ago”, perfect.
This time, he said “I’m going to take you to the castle”, it was like ‘ooh exciting’. So we went to the castle, and then we continued our walk, and I said “are we going to do a different walk?”, he was like “no shall we do the same walk, I mean, it’s being our anniversary so we might as well”, fine, I was being very very silly. And at some point I was doing the Bird Box challenge, so I pretended to be blindfolded and he was like guiding me, erm anyway, I was being this silly, I was walking around and jumping around, and he was behind me.
I stopped at the big stone in the middle, and he reached me finally, and I noticed he took out a picture of ours, from his pocket. I was like ‘what’s this?’. Does he want to like, uh, hide it in the ground, or like, I don’t know, put it down as a memory for the future? Like ‘oh that’s such a nice idea’. And then he started folding the picture, and he was so moved he was in tears - Nick gets moved so easily - and I was thinking ‘oh my goodness, something big is happening’ and he folded the picture into a ring origami, which is very very sweet, and it was a perfect ring with a diamond in the centre, and he folded it so quickly, and I was, I didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh, he knelt down, and it was all muddy, so I was worried as well like “please please please, it’s muddy” [laughs] anyway he said “vuoi sposarmi?”, so in Italian “do you want to marry me?”, I was laughing a bit, I was, not crying but very very moved, and of course I said yes, so yeah now we are engaged, officially [laughs]. In a very funny way, like we do most of our things.
NICK: I always knew that that was going to be the place that I should propose to him. So that’s beside the M6, but you see the thing is about being deaf, you don’t hear the traffic… he did, poor thing, but for me it was, it was silent and frosty, and we could see the snow-covered mountains of the Lake District in the distance, and it was really quite something.
The thing is we’d always talked about getting married, so we both knew it was something that we wanted to do. And then I wanted to get married in my church, so they are hopefully going to change the rules in a year or two. So I told him that I wanted to wait for that, but then in the meantime, I thought ‘life is too short’ so there are other churches that we could get married in now, so… I changed my mind and I decided to propose to him. So I think that’s why he was surprised, because he thought that I was set on waiting another year or two before I asked him.
DAVIDE: We’re both religious, he’s Methodist, I’m Catholic, so Catholic will never, er let me get married, and it’s fine, but with Methodist, they’re deciding about it, and they might agree on it next year. So we said “ok let’s wait for 2020 and then let’s get married in 2021, it’s fine.
There was no question about if, it was a question of when. So, now we know when… or we don’t know yet but we know that it’s happening very soon.
He’s so good at lipreading, one day he told me “you know that you say ‘love’ wrong”, and I was like “sorry?” and he was like “yeah yeah, you say love like Italians, and you should say love.” I’m like [laughs] “but how do you know that I say love or whatever?”, he’s like “I can see from your lip pattern” I’m like “what?!” so yeah [laughs] I think he could pick up a lot, my accent, the way I was saying words wrong, or whatever, or different. I think if I do it in a very funny, cheeky, Northern way it’s much easier to say love rather than saying love, no no it’s doesn’t, I can’t make it [laughs].
MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and congratulations to Davide and Nick on your engagement.
Hannah Lyons created the gorgeous artwork for this week’s episode, which you can see on our website.
There’s also a transcript for this, and every episode, of Equal Parts, for those who are deaf or prefer reading. You can find everything at equalpartspodcast.co.uk
Next week, a match made in musical heaven, even if they now disagree on what that music was.
JAY: She worked in the bar, and they had one of these digital jukebox things where you’d just mess around with the songs and I think, weirdly enough we both went up at the same time and was gonna choose the same song.
BECKY: And my friend who was the landlord, said to me, randomly out of nowhere, “oh you’re going to marry that guy” and then walked off!