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.