Christmas was good. I got engaged! Christ, I feel like a proper grown up now.
Robert came to my family’s for Christmas, which meant the unromantic setting of dog wee in the kitchen (he is a very excitable boxer dog, who kept trying to shag him). But the more romantic setting of introducing Robert to my extended family and getting fat together on the sofa with the Eastenders Christmas special.
On Boxing Day, Robert was rather adamant that we go for a walk in town. He was very nicely dressed- unusually so for a tramp like him- so I followed his lead and dressed up a bit, too. He was quite insistent in walking to the River Lagan, as when we were first together as teenagers we used to go for walks there. Then we went to this little bandstand area, in blue lights, little steps, a bench. He gave me a kiss, extremely nervous. I realised what was happening and asked to sit down, and he knelt down in front of me. I’d gotten him this notebook he loved, an old, leatherbound one, which I said he had to put something lovely in as it was too nice for hastily scribbled swearwords. He pulled it out of his pocket, started to read me something he had written, and asked me to marry him. When he took the ring out I said, “I bloody knew it!” as he had been somewhat dropping clangers. But it was lovely, all the lovelier really as it meant I was as nervous as he was.
Anyway, we kissed and walked back. On the way across the bridge, a woman barked, “Let me see the ring!” and I thought I was being mugged. She worked there, and the whole thing had been caught on CCTV. Hooray!
The ring did not quite fit, so we choose a new one together, a pink sapphire, which is beautiful. The ring which doesn’t fit me is now his wedding ring, which I’m wearing around my neck on a chain, and will put on his finger on our wedding day. He gave me the new ring at the bus station where we first met, when he came to visit from London when I was 14 and he was 18 after eight months of phone calls and letters, and where he looked all shy and pretty in is suit and make up and took my hand, and I pulled it away because I was dissolving with nerves.
Afterwards we rang my sister who came into town with my brother and we had a bottle of Prosecco. We want to get married in August as it’s the only time we have free. I got a bit excited talking about it all but truth is, god knows what will happen. We are completely broke and neither of us want a big do. We don’t know if we will have it in Belfast or London yet- Belfast would be good for my family, but for the ceremony I really only want a very small number of people there. We are not traditional, and we’re not formal. I asked my sisters and Robert’s sister to be my bridesmaid (and my big sister to be my maid of honour!), which is one of two concessions to tradition we’ll give as they mean a lot to me. But they can wear what they like! Since my dad obviously can’t give me away (being dead and all), my brother wants to give me away in a leopardprint tophat and we are finding uses for the battery powered LEDs I have, so. We’ll see. A party afterwards would be nice but the whole thing boils down to the fact that we just want to marry each other and have a day with people we love! No white fancy bullshit!
(This stuff is already making my head spin. I want my London friends at my wedding and I can’t afford hotels in Belfast, but my family cannot afford to help AT ALL so it’s all on us. Also, Robert’s mum can’t take any time off in August so she wouldn’t be able to come to Belfast for a wedding. AAAAAARRRRRGH).
It was a bittersweet day. When we came back to my mum’s, Robert got a phone call informing him his grandad had died. We knew it was going to happen and the love his grandparents had is what spurred him on to propose. His mum told his grandparents- his granny was delighted, and his grandfather (who was a lovely man) died knowing, so she said that was nice. But it was kind of heartbreaking. We had a big cry- about him, about the possibility of losing each other and the inherent madness involved in spending your life with someone, and in being in love. It is strange to be engaged to Robert, after our messy, complex history together. I have loved him since his first letter dropped on my door mat when I was 13. He makes me happier, more comfortable, more myself (as myself as I can be drugged to the nuts) than I ever imagined I could be. Now we are getting married I feel the pain of losing him one day acutely- but it’s worth the life we could have, I know. Then we went to sleep.
We went to my friend Stephen’s the next day, Robert rocking up drunk as he sold his Dulwich Hamlet scarf in a pub for 4 drinks and £12. Stephen and Aislinn’s house is fairy tale beautiful, and we couldn’t believe someone we knew lived there.
We played a board game called, “Us and Them”- about the Troubles. It had green cards with questions about Catholicism on them, and Orange cards about protestantism. There were also Innocent Victim cards, with questions like this:
No questions about punishment beatings, though, bollocks.
Back in London now and it all feels quite surreal. But I keep looking at the ring. I’m still happy, so is he, so, all good!
HOLY SHIT SHINY ETC!
My family, and Robert and Freddy would both be even if we never got married. But it’s nice to make it official.
And I start my placement on Tuesday, argh!