This week’s Beginning of Us comes from Dan over at DannyUK – He’s the self proclaimed Bearded Blogger! He’s also one of the most helpful bloggers I’ve met – always the first to offer help and support to other bloggers. A really top guy! He writes about his life in Chelmsford as well as detailed reviews and often giveaways too. Definitely check his blog out!
Over to Dan to share his story…
“Find a girl, settle down,
if you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.”
Cat Stevens gave the above advice in the guise of a father in the song Father and Son. It was advice that I took on board. I met Mel, the mother of my four kids, at a relatively young age. Settled down. Got married.
There’s not one part of that song which covers the part of life when things go pear-shaped and you divorce, though.
“Would you ever marry again?” was a question that was fired at me many times by various people. After breaking up with Mel, I had dated a few people and nothing ever lasted.
I had never been the type of person that was overly worried about getting married. I did it because I thought I would be with Mel forever, and I was certainly in love with her, but marriage was just an expensive way of proving your togetherness.
Would I ever marry again? God no! Never! Never ever.
Although I settled down and married, it was coincidence that led me to meet Mel, rather than taking on board the words of a seminal pop song. And it was coincidence that led me to meet Elaine.
What seems like an eternity ago now, I decided to sign up for Twitter. This was years ago. Back in the days when it was fairly rare, where celebrities – as few as there happened to be in the Twittersphere then – replied back, and when searching for keywords like “Chelmsford” would bring up maybe half a dozen results from the previous week.
Unfortunately, I managed to lock my original Twitter account. Looking through my tweet history tells me that the first tweet on my @DannyUK account on 10th August 2009 reads:
– Created a new account as Twitterfeed wouldn’t disconnect from my old one and kept double-posting 🙁
I remember being massively annoyed at deleting the account as I had built up a fairly decent group of online friends and followers. I also remember that Twitter feed was annoying as Hell and I couldn’t find any way to fix the double-posting.
What I hadn’t realised until now was that I didn’t start following @NearlyErica until later that year. My first tweet to her was in January 2010. A retweet and a comment:
RT @nearlyerica It’s endorphins that get you feeling frisky after a hard workout. <<< Is that why my local gym has so many pregnancies? 😉
I thought nothing more of it.
I’d followed Elaine after searching for local users, or tweets labelled Chelmsford. I caught on fairly early that Twitter was a fantastic way to get local news quickly, and the best way of doing so was to search for Chelmsford.
Elaine had been visiting Chelmsford with her then-husband and had tweeted about the traffic being horrendous. I followed her account, wondering why someone would simply have red shoes as their profile picture, and thought nothing more of it.
Had I known at the time that the visit to Chelmsford was a rarity and that she was in fact based up near Liverpool then I suspect I may not have bothered following her at all.
As the year progressed, I found myself talking to her more and more. Nothing amazing. Nothing flirty, even. Just general chit-chat that you get on social media.
Later that year she revealed she was visiting London with a friend for the weekend. I had entered a brief but memorable “must go out and meet people” phase of my life which lasted for a few weeks before the realisation that most people are idiots hit me again. We arranged to meet.
So we did. In the midst of a weekend trip to London, she arranged to meet me in Trafalgar Square for coffee.
If it sounds romantic, sexy or sordid, it shouldn’t do. This was a woman whose photo I hadn’t even seen (other than that of her shoes), and whose phone number I didn’t have. This was just two online friends meeting for coffee.
I sent a Direct Message saying that I was by the fountains in Trafalgar Square. Elaine had my photo – after all, I’m nothing if not happy to share my personal life all over the internet – and shortly after she found me, said hello and we headed to Caffe Nero.
That’s the story of how we met. Me, a dad-of-four, still picking up the pieces from a shattered marriage and the aftereffects of having to start all over again in life in my thirties. Her, a mum-of-two, seemingly happily married and armed with plans should we ever enter a zombie apocalypse.
We had coffee. We checked the time. We moved to a pub and had drinks. Conversation flowed, I told her what she should check out in London, she revealed that she was desperate to find the toilets which rise out of the ground at nights (I kid you not), and then an hour or so later we went our separate ways.
Good day: Son’s foot was only bruised, not broken. Met @nearlyerica & was blown away by how lovely she is, and got a lift home to Chelmsford.
We continued chatting online. We still had no other contact apart from Twitter. I still remember feeling happy that I had mentally ticked a box in meeting someone, and that maybe, just maybe, not everyone is an idiot.
That was that.
As time went on, we started growing closer. No, not in THAT way. I started to really feel as though she was a friend and someone that I could trust.
Eventually, we swapped emails. She impressed me with her NaNoWriMo attempt. I impressed her with my suggestions for improving her NaNoWriMo and we chatted on and off throughout the weeks.
January came and with it a new job for me. Field based, covering the South East, but for some reason they wanted me to shadow someone in Liverpool for a few days. Eurgh.
With no other plans other than to sit in a restaurant and then a Premier Inn on my own, I asked Elaine if she fancied meeting up for coffee when I was up. I’d not been to Liverpool in years and could do with a guide.
She agreed and we met for dinner and then ludicrous amounts of drink. The conversation flowed again and I realised that I had a friend in real life here, rather than an online one.
As last orders rang in the bar, I ordered her a taxi, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
So how did we end up as a couple? I’m not entirely sure.
Her marriage was falling apart. We got closer. She confided in me about her marital woes, I confided in her about being in love with my best friend (no, not Elaine) and we were there for each other.
When she split from her husband all I wanted to do was to tell her that things get better. They get easier.
A few months later we met again. It was different to when we’d met in Liverpool. There was electricity between us. A charge of energy that hadn’t been there before.
Despite the ridiculous distance between us, we started seeing each other. I’d like to say we were dating, but the reality is that it didn’t feel like dating. It was a very loose arrangement where we would see each other when we could, sometimes meeting halfway in places like Leicester or Birmingham for dinner.
Then something happened. We both realised that the odds were against us. 250 miles by car separated our two homes, and neither of us was prepared to up and move either with or without our families.
But it seems as though absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
One night it struck me just how much she meant to me. Eurovision night, for whatever that adds to the story. As hard as the whole situation was, I realised that actually I wasn’t happy without her. I missed her constantly, and the thought of driving several hours whenever I wanted to see her face paled into insignificance alongside the thought of not seeing her at all.
We fell in love.
Years later, I still feel as though we are in the honeymoon phase.
We see each other as often as possible, though it averages to somewhere between two and six weeks apart each time.
I never thought I would ever feel the way I feel about her about anybody. I’m sat typing this, completely in awe at my feelings towards her and how to convey them. I can’t. She is, quite simply, The One.
“Would you ever marry again?” is still a question that I get asked by friends a lot.
“Yes. In a heartbeat,” is my reply these days, and that’s how they know it’s true love.
Thanks Dan for sharing your story. I have to admit, it’s one of my favourites and whoever said you can’t make a long distance relationship work was obviously very wrong – love knows no distance.