I was sitting in Kelly's Cellars in the city centre, nursing my pint of Guinness and listening to the new accents of the locals around me.
I saw Lee at the table across from me and thought him a nice looking fellow...gulped my Guinness and approached his table. I hadn't really thought it through, but said 'haai' anyway, and asked his opinion, as obviously a local, where a tourist should go in the city for some proper Irish-ness. He looked uncertain and said...'um, here?'
'Well', I said, 'I've already been here...where else is good?'
Lee told me that him and Seamus where going to go to Maddens, just down the road after their pint and gave directions to my then travel buddy Stuart. We left the bar and found Maddens. We weren't there for long before Lee and Seamus arrived and joined us and we found a table in the cosy upstairs of the bar. Well, the craic was mighty and we talked and we discussed music and travel and sang songs and drank Guinness.
But sadly, the night drew on and we all had our separate ways to go. We exchanged numbers for if I were ever in Belfast again and I returned to my sad and cold hostel.
I checked out a few days early and flew back to England and found a temporary job in Cornwall helping a single dad look after his 3 year old son and his farm. A few days after Christmas I had a surprise message from Lee asking where I was. I heard from him occasionally over the next few months, his messages always a happy surprise. The biggest surprise was when he announced his plans to come visit me. At that stage I was working and living in a wee country pub in the middle of the Chilterns. The weekend after I came back to work after a month at home visiting my family in South Africa, Lee arrived at the pub. It'd been five months since we'd seen each other and we were both nervous.
At the end of September, Lee took me to Paris. On our last day in France, while out on the lake in Versailles, Lee asked if I'd marry him. After rowing us safely back to land, we celebrated with Sancerre in the terraced cafe in the palace grounds.
I returned to Hambleden and the village pub by myself and the next day, I flew from Stanstead to Belfast City, where Lee met me and drove us home. We moved into a rented apartment in the docks overlooking the city.
I think it was the first day in 2010 that was sunny. That was also the day the Icelandic volcano exploded, pretty much stranding a lot of our guests in Northern Ireland. We heard news of it over breakfast the next morning. And so, our first week of marriage was mainly concerned with airports, flights and the news. Everyone got to where they needed to be at the end of it.
And now...now we've moved away from the city for a while in order to save for our own wee house. And we'll have it soon too. Then we can concern ourselves with decorating it and furnishing it and filling it...
We moved into our own wee house on the outskirts of the city in March of this year (2012). We got the 'sale agreed' in the same week we discovered I'm pregnant. The past three or so months, between the dreadful nausea have been all about making our house our own home, shopping, decorating, building up flat-pack furniture and day dreaming about getting the nursery painted and decorated and getting to meet our wee baby.
I like our story.