I couldn't stand him, says URSULA KENNY
Aged 26, I went on an extended break to Sydney in Australia and was, temporarily, knocked senseless by love. His name was (and probably still is) Brad. We met through a friend, and for weeks I worshipped from afar, until our mutual friend stepped in and told him how I felt. I can remember feeling sick with nerves in another room, and then he came in and the first date was arranged. We went to see Stranger Than Paradise.
And then it was bliss. There are many kinds of love; this kind made me feel giddy with joy. I can remember, maybe a month down the line, walking along a Sydney street revelling in just how unbelievably happy I was, doing deals with God if he'd let me live a very long time. With Brad.
I really thought that I had met the person I would and could spend a lifetime with, doing ordinary things that were rendered extraordinary as long as he was there doing them with me. I say this in self-defence because I really did love him then, in spite of what happened later.
Anyway, I returned to London, to work, to my old life, to tell everyone about this man I had met who was wonderful and would be joining me just as soon as he had (I still wince at the memory) wound down his life in Australia. He was the one who had never travelled, who didn't like his job, so it made sense that he should come here. He didn't come straightaway, which probably didn't help; we spent six months on the phone, swapping love letters and parcels, reaching a fever pitch of anticipation. Love in limbo works; we had now spent longer apart than together.
Then D-Day came and I sat in Arrivals for an age, wondering what was holding him up, until I registered that the message coming across the tannoy was for me. There's nothing more sobering than being taken in to an interview room in Heathrow and probed about the nature of your relationship. Eventually it transpired that he was being held because immigration officers suspected that he had plans to work and hadn't just come here on holiday.
Finally I got to see him but I knew almost immediately that, for me at least, it was over. I can't explain this except to point out that it wasn't the best of beginnings. Months later my friend Janice and I laughed until we cried about the damage a pair of cowboy boots can do, but although they didn't help I'm not quite that shallow.
The truth is our relationship, such as it was, wasn't really up to this sort of "real" stuff. We were reunited in the presence of immigration officers, and he was crumpled and confused and really, really fed-up and I was angry. Why had he dealt with this so badly? Why hadn't we thought things through properly? Why was he so defeated? I now felt responsible for him but I didn't want to.
Eventually we got back to my flat and I immediately left for a stiff drink and a "What the hell have I done?" chat with a bemused neighbour. The following days were farcical. I had to keep telling people what had happened over and over again. Friends called with advice about how to fight deportation. (Brad had been allowed to stay for six days.) I rang my MP - which is what you do in these situations - and he said that he had Ethiopian refugees to deal with and didn't really have time to help.
All this, and I knew more and more forcefully that I didn't want to be with him. I was sharing a small room with someone I didn't know or recognise from six months of daydreams.
Days passed in a daze and I longed to go back to work and escape from wondering what would happen if he stayed. I suppose we were put to the "What are you like in a crisis?" test way too soon and his complete lack of resolve and backbone infuriated me. I'm sure I infuriated him but he didn't say that I had.
Two days later, after a row about what a horrible country I lived in, I told him it wasn't going to work even if he was allowed to stay in Britain. Four agonising days later he left. Several weeks on he sent me a postcard asking me for money. We haven't spoken since.
We're happily married, says GILL MAY
It was not the most auspicious of starts, I have to admit: a poky tent in a field in Sweden, with a guy I'd taken an instinctive dislike to from the beginning.
It all began on a post-graduation Scandinavian jaunt with some university friends. Ash was a last-minute addition to the group and the only one I didn't know. "You'll love him," enthused the holiday organiser, Tim, "he's a bit of an Action Man."
I had my reservations. Ash was a Home Counties southerner about to go to Sandhurst. My shameless Northern prejudice translated this into a chinless contender for Upper Class Twit of the Year.
We met for the first time the night before catching the ferry to Sweden. I was grudgingly impressed: firm chin; cool handshake; beautifully modulated vowels - damn it, no trace of twittishness, apart from his habit of talking about his girlfriend when I suddenly, inexplicably, wanted him to talk about me.
I knew I had to work fast - we had only two weeks together and if I didn't use them wisely I might never get another chance. Thus I spent the next day's sea crossing whipping up a fervent, if vague, enthusiasm for all things military. When that failed I deployed a rather different tactic - an outrageously tiny black bikini.
It worked. He surrendered. For the next 14 days we were inseparable. It was one of those glorious fortnights when the sun never stops shining (and it doesn't on Midsummer's Eve in Sweden) and the thrill of falling extravagantly in love keeps you awake all night.
Then, suddenly, it was over. After a fortnight of hedonism, it was time to sober up and make some decisions. On our last night together, back in my South London flat, we promised to finish with our partners.
The next day, I took my unwitting bloke for his last supper. It was difficult telling him it was over. Especially as he wouldn't shut up about how much he'd missed me. And, in a synchronised display of steely-heartedness, Ash "exed" his girlfriend.
We met the following evening in the West End. I was up till 1am in a frenzy of eyebrow-plucking, leg-shaving and face-packing. What if we didn't get on without the holiday crowd to smooth over any awkward gaps in the conversation? What if he was going to explain that any relationship would be too much while he was immersed in officer training at Sandhurst?
There were elephants tangoing in my stomach alongside the fluttery chorus of butterflies as I walked into the bar. For an anxious moment I couldn't see him. Then he spotted me, and we looked into each other's eyes, and I realised this was it. The whole Mills & Boon deal. Love.
The next four years were not easy. We spent them largely apart, while Ash's Army career took him to Bosnia and Germany. Yet the distance kept our romance alive - at any rate, I seemed to spend a large portion of my time and income catching planes to wherever he happened to be posted to.
And now - proof that holiday romances can work, given enough time afterwards in which to get to know each other in the cold, grey light of everyday life - it's our fifth wedding anniversary in June. He's promised to take me somewhere special to celebrate it. I've got this funny feeling that it's going to involve camping.Reuse content