Portsmouth to Gloucester: A Fledgling Romance
When George and I got together nine years ago we did the whole long distance thing for a while. He was in Gloucester and I was in Portsmouth and we took it in turns to schlep from one city to another, an infuriating journey that was punctuated (from my end) with an hour’s wait at Bristol in order to turn back on yourself and make the final part of the journey on to Gloucester. The trials and tribulations of living in a different city than your loved one will be all too familiar to some of you. I’m not sure which is worse; endlessly living out of suitcases and having no free time for friends and family because you are always either en-route to your love, frantically trying to make the most of every second you can with one another before you are forced by work and other real life commitments to separate once more, or the inevitable tension caused by this alien situation. Starting off long distance like this does not allow your relationship to develop naturally but rather forces your hand, creating the familiarity and intimacy of a well established relationship one minute and the awkwardness and uncertainty of relative strangers the next.
Our frustration with the situation wasn’t helped by the fact that neither of us had a place of our own and although we were both blessed with lovely and accommodating housemates (I lived with friends, he with his wonderful mum), we desperately craved the space and privacy to allow our fledgling love to flourish. I imagine this kind of challenge is enough to put many young couples off and break ups are inevitable – for us it speeded things up and very soon George had ventured down south to sunny Portsmouth, where we moved in together and he began his epic journey into academia. This fast track relationship business obviously didn’t do us too much harm as we are still together nine years later and two years ago we got married.
Brighton to Quito: A Marathon, Not a Sprint
Looking back those train journeys back and forth from Portsmouth to Gloucester seem like a heartbeat compared to the 5,717 miles between Brighton and Quito. When George left for Ecuador in March of last year I felt so positive and strong, and waved him off certain that we could do the long distance thing. As I have talked about before, I loved my life and I think perhaps I was in denial. I was so happy, probably happier than I had ever been, and I didn’t want it to end. It very quickly became apparent that good jobs, lovely homes, and strong communities are wonderful, but if you are missing the person you love, life just isn’t the same. I made the decision to leave England and join George in Ecuador and I am very glad I did because I don’t know how I would have coped being apart from him for 18 months – 5 and a half was more than enough.
We live in the age of technology and for that we are truly blessed, but it is easy to forget that technology is not as accessible in other parts of the world – not everyone has super fast broadband at their fingertips. When we were separated last year Skype became a stressful source of resentment as the time difference (5 or 6 hours depending on the time of year), and the terrible Internet connection colluded to keep us apart. It is immensely upsetting to watch the person you love, that you miss so much, freeze mid sentence, or dissolve into pixels. I know that it could be far worse. Every day people around the world say goodbye to their loved ones in terrible circumstances and my heart goes out to them. I can’t imagine the agony of sending the person you love off to war. for example. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
George and I have been apart for a month this time and I am trying to see it as positively as possible – that means just one month to go! It also means I can make star shapes in the bed at night, and my mornings are stress free as I don’t have to spend about an hour trying to wake him up (he is not a morning person). The truth is, I just miss him. Since those early days of doing the Portsmouth to Gloucester trek every fortnight we have been a couple that has spent a lot of time together. We have the same friends, many of the same interests, and thanks to his seemingly endless career in academia he has been at home for much of that time. For the last year it has basically just been the three of us (me, George, and Dooki), and I miss him terribly. On bad days (and there have been quite a few of those of late) I miss him being there to cuddle me and make me feel better. There have been a lot of good days too here on the sunny south coast, and I wish he could have been here for those. I know he would have loved dancing in a field to The Flaming Lips, Dooki seeing the sea for the first time, and getting back into beast mode at the Box. I always thought I would do a marathon one day, just not this kind. We’re at about mile 23 now I reckon – it hurts, I’m exhausted, but if I stand on tip toes and squint a little I can just about see the finish line on the horizon.