Carol is my first wife. I call her that to keep her on her toes! Seriously, we first met in 1979, dated from 1982 and celebrated our wedding in 1984. Carol is eight years older than me. As I write this (on August 28, 2015) we have been married for precisely 31 years and 120 days.
We first met when I joined Brighton Borough Council. A gorgeous natural blonde, intelligent and happy, tall and slim, with huge eyes and breasts. And when I found out you could cook, too – I realised the perfect woman stood before me!
We only really got to know each other when we were both working as Committee Secretaries for the Council from sometime in 1982. I quickly discovered that, as well as the considerable qualities already described, you were a kind, gentle and, above all, compassionate woman. So I decided I wanted you to be my wife, despite the fact that you were already someone else’s. And let me tell you that I do remember making that decision (although I don’t recall involving you in the decision-making process at that stage!) Eventually we dated and quickly fell in love.
We had little money, so our wedding was a simple affair. A Register Office ceremony at Hove Town Hall, followed by a small reception at home which we had prepared ourselves. After a couple of hours, we left to have the union blessed and then on to our little ‘honeymoon’ – a single night at Springwells in Steyning, West Sussex. After checking in, I remember we got changed and chuckled as hundreds of pieces of confetti fell from our clothes. Then we set out for a gentle stroll, hand in hand, in the spring sunshine before enjoying a lovely meal. And I guess that set the scene for the years to come: we have always been happy in each other’s company and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
You have given us two wonderful boys, Christopher and David. And it was you who, in 1987, just two years after Christopher’s birth, encouraged me to take the role of trainer even though you knew it would mean me being away from home regularly, leaving you to cope alone for much of the working week. But that is you – selfless to the last. Both boys have grown up as decent, hard-working and loyal lads, holding down good jobs and forming long-term relationships. And much of that is down to the values, principles and disciplines which you bestowed.
In all our years together, you’ve supported me and my career by twice relocating to completely new areas of the country – from Sussex, where you were born and bred, first to Norfolk and then on to West Yorkshire nine years later. And you’ve done all this without complaint or question, even though it has meant leaving your family and close friends hundreds of miles away. You’ve had to cope with my redundancy twice and then the period of my illness which happened so soon after we had uprooted everyone to move to Attleborough in 1999 – at which time you must have wondered, on more than one occasion, what the future might hold.
But, despite all that, we could count the amount of rows we’ve had on one hand (perhaps two). I know I can get grumpy, even morose, from time to time, but you always ride it through. The thing is, as well as being in love, we are both still happy in each other’s company; we laugh together and enjoy the simple things, just as we did 30 years ago. We go out occasionally at weekends for a meal – as we will this very evening – but, most of the time, we remain happy to be at home, to cook, have a glass of wine, enjoy a chat and watch a movie.
The things that grace you most are your compassion – both for people and for animals – and your unflinching loyalty. These are both wonderful, beautiful traits and define you as a person. Here is that little poem I wrote for all all those years ago:
When the sun sets forever
My love for you can’t go on
But, until then
Like the sun
You are the only one
When the sun sets forever
Thank you for being at my side all these years.
I love you.