The leap year question

Chris Tavner engagment ring
The last couple of weeks have been nothing short of life changing, not to mention busy.

As I wrote in my last blog, me and my girlfriend were in the process of buying a house together. Thankfully that all went through and we moved in to our first home together on Friday 19th February.

It felt like such effort just to get the keys, with everyone involved chasing their solicitors up (seriously, it’s like they don’t actually want you to buy a house). But that was just the start, of course. After you get the keys comes moving all the boxes in, unpacking, moving and positioning furniture, arranging deliveries of white goods, etc. Not to mention setting up to pay all the new bills whilst keeping a nervous eye on your finances.

After all this though, we went away on holiday on Saturday 27th Feb. It was my girlfriend’s idea and had been organised for months. We were going to stay in Northumberland in a cottage, the idea at the time being that because we were living in a shared house, it would be really nice to have our own space. So while a holiday is always a nice idea, it was rather annoying that it came just as we had moved in to our own house. Really, it would have been nice just to stay there and enjoy finally having our own place.

But, that aside, it’s still nice to have a holiday. Not to mention we had already paid for it!

The cottage was in Embleton, a small village by the sea. A really nice setting. Over the weekend we travelled around, taking in Alnwick Gardens (and the fantastic Barter bookshop in Alnwick as well, which is in the old Railway station), Lindisfarne, and plenty of nice places to eat and drink.

One thing Sally really wanted to do on Monday 29th February was to go to the National Park for stargazing. It’s designated as a ‘dark skies park’ which means there is very little light pollution, so the view of the heavens is meant to be magnificent. Emphasis on meant to be, as there was thick cloud cover that night.

It was also very cold, so I did suggest that maybe we could go another night, as what is the point in going to a park just to see what it’s like when it’s very, very dark? But no, Sally was determined we were going to go, and it had to be that night. Who am I to argue?

There was meant to be a specific car park to be used, but we struggled to find it. I was getting a little tetchy as the information Sally had on its location was vague to say the least (she just had the postcode NE66 – I mean, come on!). Eventually we found a spot and got out. My thinking at this point was that we could take in the silence and darkness for a few minutes, and then get straight in to the car and head for food somewhere warm!

Sally didn’t seem to want to leave any time soon though, which made me even tetchier. Not outright rebellious, but a little irritated. I got even more irritated when she got a big envelope out and started getting sheets of paper out detailing the constellations in the sky – which we couldn’t see because of the clouds!

“What are you bothering with that for? We can’t see any stars?” I whined. I was definitely ready for dinner now.

Sally handed the envelope to me and said “Actually, there’s something else in this envelope, can you get it out whilst I tie my shoe laces?”

“Fine”, I said as I took the envelope.

I reached in and there was a piece of cardboard. At this point, I started to realise what was going on. Especially as I could see Sally in the corner of my eye on one knee still, looking up at me. Her laces perfectly well tied as they had been before.

I pulled out the piece of cardboard, and it had a message written on it – “Will you marry me?”

In the O and A she had cut out holes where two rings were placed.

Being a comedian and improviser I am of course skilled in knowing how to say the right thing when put on the spot, even in high pressure situations. And this was certainly one of those. This is one of those situations where what you say will be ingrained on the hearts and minds of both of us forever.

I giggled and said “you sneaky little fucker!”

Suddenly all the hints about this night came up in my mind. She had mentioned several times about how the 29th is traditionally a day when women can ask men to marry them. Now I understood why it was so important we come to the park despite not being able to see any stars, and why we had to come on holiday despite knowing our house sale was about to go through. It was all about the date.

She was still down on one knee, looking up at me hopefully. The phrase “you sneaky little fucker” not really answering her question.

There was no doubt in my mind. I said “of course I will”, and she jumped up and squeezed me with all her might. Just the two of us, alone in the darkness, in love and committed to each other.
Chris and Sally engagement leap year
Back in the car (providing both warmth and light), we put the rings on each other’s fingers. The significance of the rings is important.

My ring that she had bought for me was a band with titanium in the inside (which signifies the strength of our union) and African blackwood on the outside (the same material clarinets are made from, which I play, and signifies my creative side). There is also blue tac wedged in it (which signifies that she doesn’t know what size fingers I have). In fairness, the method available for evaluating this was to tie a piece of paper around my finger when I slept, so probably open to some issues of interpretation.

The ring she has was given to us by my Mother, and was my great Grandmothers engagement ring. She had it valued a while ago, just so she knew for insurance purposes. It is valued at around £35. Needless to say, it is in fact priceless.

As is she.

As for the future one thought springs to mind – I thought moving house was expensive…