No one has said that I met Christine, my fiancée, "very quickly", but obviously people think it. It was six weeks after my wife Ann died. Some people might ask, "How on earth could you look for a new partner at such a time?" I asked myself the same question. But two years down the line, I'm very glad I did. It was important to get on with life. If I had waited I might never have met her.
I met Ann in January 1989 when she was 34 and I was 25. We were set up by some friends at a party they held in their house. I opened the door to her and there was a mutual attraction. She was a very good-looking lady, intelligent and vibrant. Our first date was on Valentine's Day, the following month. We went to see Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and then had a pizza. We got on brilliantly. By April we were engaged. My family was very happy about it and we got married five months later. We're both Christians and had a big white wedding.
We weren't able to have children. It's one of those things in life that you hope you never have to face, but we did. We went for fertility treatment, but it wasn't to be. Nevertheless we had a great marriage. We were best friends, our hardest critics and our best supporters. We did everything together.
I was there when Ann found the lump in her breast in August 1999. She went to the doctor and got referred. When it was confirmed that she had breast cancer I thought, "Other people hear that, I'm not supposed to". We sat on the sofa and I told Ann that everything was going to be all right. We'd been married for 10 years and had been through not being able to have children and my being made redundant a couple of times. We knew what tough was. We cried a lot, but it brought us closer together.
She had a mastectomy in January 2000, then six months of chemotherapy. After that we decided to put it behind us. Ann went back to work as a careers adviser and we spent more time together. It makes you realise that time is precious.
In October 2003 Ann was feeling a bit under the weather and went to the doctor again. A test revealed an irregularity in her blood chemistry and liver function. I knew enough about it by then to know that she had secondary cancer in the liver and that she was going to die. We were blasted out of the water by the news.
The chemotherapy started that December and she stayed at home the following year. As she got more poorly she said she wasn't scared of dying, but she was scared of the process. She deteriorated from a woman who was full of life to a lady who was almost bedridden. She handled it with incredible dignity. During that time she made it absolutely clear that she wanted me to remarry. I just wanted her to be well. I wanted to be one of these old couples that you see at the seaside sitting on a bench holding hands.
Ann died in a hospice on 2 January 2005. She was 49. I had had a year to come to grips with it and had done a lot of grieving beforehand. At the burial I thought: "I'm not going to let some bloke from the council fill in my wife's grave", so I did it myself. It was the last thing I could do for her.
I had to get on with life then. I was a 41-year-old bloke, fairly attractive, fit and healthy, with lots of years left. There would be something wrong with me to think I would never marry again.
I met Christine, who's 34, on a Christian website towards the end of that month. I wanted to meet someone outside my circle in Nottingham. We exchanged emails and I told her I was widowed. We met up the following month and spent the day on the Isle of Wight. I told her my story and she was in tears. Ann had only been dead for six weeks.
I thought Christine was a great lady. We became friends during the summer and saw each other most weekends even though I was in Nottingham and she was in Chichester. Within six weeks I knew there was serious mileage in our relationship. I fell in love with her and by September we were a couple.
Christine was concerned about my having lost Ann so recently. So I made sure our relationship developed in an appropriate way by becoming friends. I didn't burden her with my grief at all. Quite the opposite. One of the ways I dealt with grief was to be generous when I least felt like it. It did me good.
I never wanted a replacement for Ann. I wanted something new and unique and Christine has a unique place in my life. She's a very beautiful, intelligent lady with incredible integrity. We are such, such good friends. I proposed at midnight on New Year's Eve in a club in the West End of London. We're getting married on 25 November. I'm hoping we will have children.
I'm still in contact with Ann's family. Christine has met them and we all get on well. They are very happy that I'm getting married again. We have invited them to the wedding out of politeness, but they probably won't come. It would be extremely difficult for them.
Meeting Christine has helped me come to terms with losing Ann, but I have to do part of the journey on my own. It was tough redecorating our house. We were married for 15 years. It's a long time.
I think it might be easier for a widower than a widow to find a new partner. If you lose your spouse, particularly when you're young, it can make you a far more sensitive and caring person, which I think a lot of women find attractive.
I'm so looking forward to heading into the future hand-in-hand with Christine. I love her very much. I'm very lucky to have found love twice. The love is different, because the people are different. But different doesn't mean that one is better than the other.
Simon Nicholas was talking to Julia StuartReuse content