Thursday, March 28, 2013

The good deal

Another aspect that has been intriguing to watch is the cultural differences on expectations of marriage between the States and Great Britain. Where I'm from in the South, many of my friends became engaged our final year at university (and the same happened to my sister when it was her final year) and were married that summer after graduation.  It was a bit of a mind-bender at first, fathoming to be married so young, but it was more exciting.

I hesitate to make generalities about Great Britain as there's still so much I don't understand, but it seems to me there's no pressure to get married straight after university, even if you dated all through it. It seems to come a bit later on. Perhaps you live together for a few years, and then get married after that. I'm not really sure.

Fran and I have dated for four years, and I can't tell you the amounts of times that I had people pull me aside and ask me when Fran was going to propose and when I was getting married. What on earth am I supposed to say.  Yes, didn't I tell you? I am psychic.  I can read every inch of his mind. It will happen on March 3, 2013 at Finchdale priory in Durham, England. Is this a trick question?

Fran on the other hand, didn't get any of this. If anything, he got the opposite. Surely you'll be moving in together now you're living in the same city. You're thinking of getting married? You're so young. Are you sure? 

Lately, Fran's been telling me what a good deal I've gotten, by him actually proposing and choosing out the ring all by himself. He said one of his co-workers recently became engaged, but she had to propose to him.  He's also told me stories of proposal by ultimatums and by hypothetical questions. Most of the time the couple go together to pick out the ring (which I would personally find horrible!) I think this is all a clever ruse to make me think him simply dazzling in comparison to anyone else. It has obviously worked. All that comes to my mind right now is a phrase of my mom's, when she turns to my dad on Christmas day after opening her stocking and says, "You did real good, honey. You did real good." So there. You did real good, Fran. You did real good.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Photo a Day

I keep hearing 'remember, enjoy, remember, enjoy.' Because I like making resolutions, or having projects, I want to try to take a photo a day for my engagement.  I didn't think of it until about ten days after it all happened, but here are the first two weeks.

March 13

March 15

March 16

March 17

March 18

March 19

March 20

March 21

March 22 (via Rachel Ferry)

March 23

March 24

March 25

March 26

March 27

Today I give a lecture on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  Tomorrow I hand in some work and board a train to head down to the sunny south. Fran is off to Leeds today and tomorrow.  He is to appear on my train somewhere around York and we head to Cornwall to see Fran's family for Easter.  Very much looking forward to some waves, some fishing, some hiking, some time with families, and some time with dogs.

Unreasonable Requests

A painting of Daphnis and Chloe in the Louvre in Paris.

I think one of the most hysterical things about brides is the amount of unreasonable requests they tend to make, unintentionally and without meaning to, I'm sure it just simply happens. Ok bridesmaids, pick out your own dresses! Colors range from cream to light brown. No, I don't like that one. No, I don't like that one, No, I don't like that. Nope, nope, nope. Here, buy this one. Wait actually no, I'll wear that to my rehearsal dinner. I find these terribly amusing, and I look forward with great anticipation to the unreasonable requests I am bound to make.  But the ones I do make won't be the ones I want to make, so I've made a list of unreasonable requests I wish I could make:

1. Read all the books I have ever read on love and discuss them with me.  Anna Karenina, Persuasion, The Aeniad, Plato's Symposium,  Malory's Lancelot and Guinevere, and my favorite classical book on love and sex, Daphnis and Chloe.  What does it all mean, I WANT TO KNOW.

2. Drink champagne with me all the time.

Those are the main ones. Then there's stuff like this:

- Have it sunny all the time
- To not to have to cap the guest list and just invite anyone I have ever liked
- To have everyone costume dress, like they just stepped out of a Claude Monet painting
- To have someone explain to me everything I will ever need to know about marriage now
- For someone to interpret British-isms (especially those of Francis): when you say this, what do you really mean?
- For some place in Durham to make really good queso

Friday, March 22, 2013

On breaking lent

View from College window

How sad is it that while tentatively making weddings plans, at the back of my mind, I keep rearranging my New Year's Resolutions: Better move 'achieve grade one on violin' to next year.  Add 'survive planning a wedding' instead.  I daily consider eloping. Wedding thoughts also make me very homesick, wishing on all my stars I was home with my mom and sister. This much happiness shouldn't be contained just within me, but shared with the ones I love most.

In even worse disarray than my New Year goals are my goals for lent.  Every year they are much harder than I expect.  Read a poem a day from A Heart's Time. I am twenty days behind. I am hoping I can at least get to the holy week poems before Easter Sunday hits. Try not to go out to eat. I found myself eating fish and chips three times last week. Since when do I ever eat fish and chips? Attend evensong more. I've attended it maybe twice and one of those times I entered the Cathedral holding a cardboard cut-out cow.  I feel like Lent may not even be about keeping your lists of goals, but more about watching yourself break them blatantly, again and again. There's something about that that genders humility in me.

I'm thoroughly looking forward to the East holidays. We'll be spending a few days in Cornwall with Fran's family, some in Southampton, and then a few in Scotland.  It'll be nice to be traveling again.  Right now the wind just sounds wicked outside of college, and the forecast says snow. Days like these I am so thankful for LL Bean boots. xo

Monday, March 18, 2013

How it began: the first

View from my Robertson's Close bedroom

How does one write how it all began? It began without my knowing, without my prompting, without my willing it into existence.  If it was an act of creation, it wasn't mine. And looking back now, its even difficult to discern a thread of beginning encounters: they blur, they blur with the people, the countless groups of people, always in droves, the wonderful closeness, a make-shift community of first years at Uni, away for the first time, embracing all manner of things for the first time, and how to go back and say clearly, yes, this was the first time I saw your face.  But those first thoughts of meeting you are all nebulous, a cloud of unknowing, and how to say, to pinpoint when it was that I first knew you?

You were sat, Francis, in a cloud, and one night, a club themed with foam and bubbles, belligerently dancing,  and without possibly meaning to and with no romantic intention, I laughed and found you adorable.  Perhaps you were in adorable in the way a child learns to tie his shoes, but I couldn't say.  They are remembered beyond my memory.

I found it all very British.  The clever jokes, the drinking rules, the formal familiarity, and it felt like I was no longer at home. Even the Christians were seemingly different, more real somehow, the way they belted out their hymns in church, not cowering in front of white screens or slumped in their plastic chairs.  And the food, the Sunday lunches! Will my life ever be the same?

And amidst the hymns and the nights out, the journeys around Holyrood Park and the 3 am bed times, I simultaneously expanded and shrank. I was daily impressed by my utter naivety. At times my flat in Robertson's Close was like living in the book of Revelations. We were tested with fire and not burnt, we were poisoned and not killed, we were threatened with knives in the shower, and were not harmed in our beds at night. Amidst this broadening and winnowing, one cold night in February the entire group walked me home, and somehow, near the door, you slurred to me that you wanted to go traveling with me that summer. I was surprised and sober. You were not. You didn't remember saying this the next day, and when I told you, you were surprised and sobered.

Try for the life of me, I'll never fully know why you decided to come, why you didn't simply say no.  It wasn't for romance.  You had known enough of heartache then.

It frightened us, I think, being singled out, together.  What did I know of you?  I was surely not impressed. You lived and watched a dream-world go by, clouded and detached. And you, what must you have thought of me? A twenty-one year-old nun? Naive and kind? Bat-shit crazy?

Despite all the jokes, despite all the bets, despite all the rumors, you stuck to your inebriated word. I was simply baffled, baffled and frightened. It was odd being shoved together, each the other's means to an end. And that end was glittering Europe, glittering, sunny Europe.  But with you? How could I know. How could I have known?

We sniffed each other out, cautiously like strange hounds encountering each other for the first time, slowly circling.  Paris? Yes, why not Paris. D-Day in Caen? Yes, that too. And vaguely, then firmly, Bayeux, Madrid, Salamanca, Granada, Berlin, Barcelona, and Seville.  I didn't know what to think.

I was determined not to like you in that way. I was adamant and resolute. There was so much I was not proud of, and I was through, and it could make things very awkward. Your beliefs were so different from mine, and I was leaving to go back home.  I embraced all logic and prepared myself very carefully. But logic, you flimsy fool, you pale compared to belief.

Our Eurostar passes arrived, our exams ended, we met for a pint in the Grassmarket before meeting up in London.  I came back to our Robertson's Close flat-of-trauma to the wonderful Gillian Watson, steadfast companion through all our woes.  "Nat," she says, "I've made a bet. Ten pounds you and Francis will never get married. Leo bets ten pounds you do."  I eased onto the bed and laughed, "Easiest tenner you ever made in your life, GW."

The Day, One Day

Fran and I wish were doing this: [getting married in a fever] [or eloping]

But instead, we're doing this:

This is just to say, we've set the date and we're having a January wedding.  1.4.14. xo

Friday, March 15, 2013

So far: post engagement


1. Holy Cow.
2. How do you wash your hands? Anyone, anyone? Beuler?
3. Stateside wedding. Ceilidh reception in the UK.
4. Wedding to be as Southern as possible.
5. The winter.
6. How can life ever go back to normal? How do I still have an essay due in two weeks?
7. Whatsapp is my favorite and best thing ever.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How he put a ring on it

[I will just say, I'm desperately sorry if this turns into a gushy blog. I don't think it will, but in case it does, here's this. Slightly explicit, but hilarious.]

I'm not very good at describing romantic details.  So this story is probably hackneyed rather thoroughly.

It started off on a beautiful Saturday. Gorgeous. Clear skies. Blue. Crisp and clear. And Fran was acting rather strangely.  At first he said he was off to Newcastle and would meet me up in the afternoon.  I had Chad's Day festivities (the inexplicable pictures of me with a cow outside the cathedral) and was participating in those on and off. But after the service, he called and asked to meet up for breakfast. Heck yes!

He seemed excited and kept saying, "I want to tell you something but I can't!" And after breakfast cryptically rushed off and I didn't hear from him for the rest of the gorgeous afternoon.  I hung out in the MCR. Watched movies, played croquet, enjoyed the lovely day, and the amazingness of Chads.  It wasn't until 5 I heard from him, and this was strange again.  On Saturdays Fran and I are generally inseparable.  He wanted to meet up immediately. Why and wherefore? To watch Wigan of course.

Me and Jessica enjoying game of croquet on Chad's Day

When I went to meet him he was on the phone.  He looked a bit different.  Not only had he shaved his three day goatee, but had his hair cut! Without my prompting that I was dating a homeless man? Inconceivable! And he was happy to see me, but kept his distance like he didn't want me to hear his phone conversation. So I galloped off to poundland and left him to it.

He found me minutes later thoroughly excited and exhilarated. He was practically bouncing up and down.  Must be because Wigan is actually being shown on television today, I thought. But he kept saying, I want to show you what I bought, but I just can't.

So we wandered to a pub to watch the Latics. Fran was thoroughly agonized (they lost badly), but in the midst of the game, he received a phone call on skype, and without more than four words, ran out of the pub to take the call-- with no jumper or jacket. He was gone 20 minutes. Twenty minutes of his favorite football team went by. Our food arrived and I tried not to eat all of the scampi myself.

When he finally showed up, he was freezing but very happy. And only responded to my raised eyebrow with, "Ah good! Food's here!"

That night at Chads Day we played laser tag, dressed up and had our photos taken in the camera booth, watched others screaming aloud to their silent disco headphones, and watched several other films. It was a late night.

The next day, Fran flopped on my sofa and couldn't move.  "I'm so emotionally spent," he said. "I've had all these emotional conversations and I'm not used to having them without you around. Let's watch  some Scooby Doo." This in itself was astounding because we had planned to go to a car boot sale.  Now, if anything comes between Fran and a car boot sale, so help him God. So we hung out at my house until noon, watching Scooby Doo. Then at 12, Fran bounded up, seemingly fully recovered and announced we were going to go to Finchdale Priory and walk to the pub from there. We'd have plenty of time to get back from our evening 5 pm service.

We had been to Finchdale Priory before and loved it.  This time we knew there was a pub we could walk to. After a game of "Pooh sticks," (in which I lost), we meandered to the pub.  We thought it'd be a delightful walk in the woods.  It was a country road meaning no sidewalk, mud splattered, mole-hilled, cars-careening-around-the-bend road.  And the pub wasn't a real pub, but a golf course.

the golf course

We walked into the little reception and they had three items on their menu. I am now a firm believer that no matter what pub in Britain, no matter how dodgey, the safest thing to order is fish and chips.  Which were delicious.  It had a coal fireplace and was rather empty.  Fran was delighted because when he first moved to Durham he had tried to play golf at this very place, but had never managed the time, and lo and behold we were there. He even asked me to take a picture of him, because Fran loathes photos. Simply hates them. (Had you scrolled through facebook and wondered why you couldn't find more of Fran?)

the "pub"

the picture fran demanded I take of him

After lunch, Fran gave me a sideways glance and asked if we wanted to do some driving.  I happily agreed, and we spent the next forty five minutes perfecting our swing.  We walked back to the priory along the life-threatening road.  We kept trying to hold hands which led to one of us either being shoved into a hedgerow or being nudged into a car.

the golfer

the bungling amateur

We came back to the path that led down to the priory.  Now the priory is on a river and the hill beside it is rather high, and we happened to be on this high hill.  We walked down until we were on eye-level with priory and the river just below, and as we were walking this kind of excited energy began between us.  It happened on our first (real) date to Arthur's seat and again, in a moment outside the Louve in Paris.  It had always led to big things. (Outside the Louve, I realized that as hard as I had tried not to, I really liked this stoner. On Arthur's seat, we started dating for real.)

By this time we're both really excited, and Fran bursts out, "I have something I really really want to show you." And he's so excited, he pulls a green box out of his pocket and opens it. There was a darling ring, and he asked me a rather important question, and then realized he wasn't on one knee. So he quickly crouched, and I quickly said yes, and the ring fit.

And then we promptly freaked out.

We were happy, but the magnitude sort of hit us in the gut. We played a game of Pooh Sticks (I won this time.) We wandered around the priory, and kept saying quietly aloud, "We're really engaged. We're really getting married," like we couldn't hardly believe it ourselves. We kept having to convince each other.  We demanded a stranger take pictures of us. We were going to head back to the car (just in time to make our 5 pm service).   But then we realized we needed a walk, so we walked along the river and talked and let our legs expend some energy.

the moment I won pooh sticks

He told me how he picked out the ring.  How he wanted to go to Newcastle but saw that in Durham there was a nice store that was having a very large sale.  How he wanted white gold, but didn't like any of them. How he reluctantly looked at real gold.  How he saw it and just loved it. How it was the only one left.  How it fit his wee finger perfectly. And how it fit mine just right (despite all my other fingers being jammed from years and years of basketball).  We were more overwhelmed than excited.  I called my sister.  She was more excited than we were.

the moment we demanded strangers take a photo of us

And then we called our families.  Turns out Fran had talked to his parents all afternoon on Saturday.  Turns out the phone call in the pub was him asking my dad.  Turns out he had met with our Durham pastor who explained the importance of Ephesians 5. And the flood of lovely calls and texts were completely overwhelming.  Not in a thousand years would I have ever guessed so many people would be this delighted to wish us well.

And how do we feel now, you ask? Overwhelmed, exhausted, but very happy.