Thursday, 13 June 2013

My courtship story {part 2}

So, where were we?

I had his phone number.  Finally.  So, after much thought and deliberation I quickly decided that it was about time that we actually TALKED!

I chose a Sunday afternoon, as I knew we would both be available to talk.  I got the phone, punched in the number...and couldn't quite bring myself to actually CALL!  I "ummed" and "ahhed" until my Dad came along, asked what I was doing, and told me if *I* didn't do it, *HE* would.  Well, that was enough of a prompt, so I called the number.

The phone rang, and his Dad answered.  I asked if I could speak to Robert, and he said he thought that would be acceptable, and would go and get him.  The next thing I could hear him say "Robert, there's a young lady on the phone for you", followed by the excited shrieks of his Mum and sister!! The next thing I heard was Robert's voice.  Now, bear in mind I had not talked to him for about 7 months!!! It was a such a joy to finally hear his lovely voice again.  I think the feeling was mutual!

And so began the next "phase" of our relationship.  Talking.  Which I can do very well.... There was a funny element involved.  Well, a bit funny.  When I phoned Robert we could talk as long as we wanted.  When he phoned me, we had 1/2 an hour.  "Why?",  you ask.  It was the days with no "call free in the UK", and I paid my parents for my own phone bills (do you remember itemised phone bills?...sitting scoring out Robert's number and writing down how much I owed.... worth every penny!!!), whereas Robert didn't.  As his Dad was footing the bill, he put a limit on it.  So, we squashed a lot more into those 2-weekly, half-hour calls.

That brought us even closer.  Talking, as well as continuing to write, cemented the fact that we needed to meet up again.

At the beginning of May, a turning point occurred.  Robert's parents invited me down to visit!! Now, when I think back, it was quite a MAJOR thing, to let your 17 year old daughter go and visit a family who my parents had only ever met at the Annual Bible Conference.  I look back with thankfulness that they said "yes"!!  I had even recently got a new job, following the end of HIgh School exams, working in a Nursing home.  I was fairly sure they would say "no" to time off, so soon after starting.  However, God's hand was in it all, and the dear lady who was my supervisor said "yes"!!!! The planning began, and my hard earned money went into buying a train ticket from Glasgow to Ipswich. I would go for 5 days - Monday to Friday.  I had to get a VERY early train on Monday morning - I can't recall what time it was, but it MUST have been early.  I  know this because we went to an afternoon meeting at the Church Robert's extended family attended, and we had time to go to Robert's parents FIRST! Having a quick look at now-a-days train schedules, I think my train was just before 6am, and I would have left home not long after 5am!

I was so excited the morning of departure, but SO nervous as well.  I had a funny dream.  I dreamt I had been writing to the "wrong" brother.  That the one I THOUGHT was Robert, was actually Edward, and when I met him it was the "wrong" brother, visually.  I managed to put the dream to the back of my mind, and decided even if he WAS the "wrong" one, I had been falling in love with the young man in the letters.  I enjoyed the train journey, even if the scenery got progressively flatter as we got nearer Ipswich! (I *LOVE* my mountains!!!) The journey passed in a flash, and before I knew it, I was pulling into Ipswich train station. I had the good old "butterflies in my tummy" syndrome, as I got off the train to look for Robert....who was NOT THERE! I was rather anxious, as I went to the front to wait for them. Anxiously, I looked at every car approaching to see if he was there, and, before too long, out jumped Robert! An inward sigh and an outward smile as we finally met again.  The long-awaited for moment was here! Now, I can't remember whether we hugged or not, but being quite shy about those kind of things, I am not sure that we did. (I will ask Robert and get back to you on that one...)

The next couple of days were then filled with moments where I wondered if he would "ask me out" - formally make us "girlfriend and boyfriend".  Between the afternoon and evening service that first day, we walked down to Pin Mill. (As a side note, if you have ever read Arthur Ransome books, you WILL recognise this place.  It is REAL, and I was so excited to be there...I still get teased about my mentioning Swallows and Amazons so much!) It was a lovely walk, and I thought that Robert would just go ahead and ask me, especially in such a romantic setting.  But nope, it was not to be.

That evening we went for supper to his Grandma's farmhouse, which was FILLED with endless relatives of his.  I found that quite lovely, as I had no living uncles, and never had any cousins. Robert sat down with his supper on a sofa, and I went to sit next to him.  Not wishing to look too "forward", I left a seat free between us.  His Great Aunt Joan came up to me, and in a stage whisper said "you CAN sit closer to him if you like"!!!! So, I did.  I mean, when you get permission from the Great Aunt, you don't decline!

The next day, Robert had to work.  His Dad had a business (as I have mentioned before) as a tomato grower.  They had huge glasshouses that had thousands of tomato plants.  It was hard work, and he needed to help his Dad. I went out and watched, and chatted.  I can't remember much about that day, but I DO remember that, in the evening, as the sun was setting, Robert was sent up to the field at the top to turn on the electric fence around the lettuces.  We went together, and it was getting chilly, so Robert lent me his fleece.  It was so pretty, with the beautiful sunset, I was sure he was going to ask me out.... but no, the moment was not, apparently, yet right.

The next day we had been looking forward to.  It was the Suffolk County Show.  A large country show, with displays of various kinds, tents representing companies, and stall after stall selling art and craft items. It was a lovely day, despite a drizzly start, and I was in my element.  Being a Townie, I didn't get to events like that.  Just wandering around, seeing so many interesting things, and the freebie food was a bonus, too.  We sat down to watch the Heavy Horse display, at the central arena. You know, big, massive, Shire horses?  We were sitting on the grass, side by side.

Robert: "Do you still like me, then?"
Me: "yes"
Robert: "How much?"
Me: "A lot"
Robert: "Enough to go out with me?"
ME: "Maybe"
Robert: "WILL you go out with me?"
ME: "YES!"

I was just waiting for those words.  I think hearing girl after girl in school being asked "will you go out with me" by young guys, it was the special words *I* was waiting to hear!! It seems silly now, but it meant a lot at the time.

Of course, SUCH a romantic moment, too.  Watching the HEAVY HORSE display.... at least it wasn't cows or prize pigs!

We spent the rest of the day hand in hand, with big smiles on our faces!!!

The next day we managed to get some time, and went for a lovely walk in the afternoon, and then the day came to go home. Sadness.  In a BIG way.  And, so began MANY sad good-byes.  I only ever travelled by train one more time, as it was costly.  We began to travel backwards and forwards on the coach, from Glasgow to London, often stuck in traffic, in a hot coach, and then from London to Colchester.  Glasgow bus station and Colchester bus station were places of sadness and tears, as we said good-bye, because we didn't get to see each other a lot. Only in holidays, because I then began my University degree in the September, and only Christmas and Easter were times to meet up.

I also did something else MAJOR.  I worked for his Dad in the summers.  I would go down when Uni finished, and work for the long, hot summer.  It was HARD work.  It was emotional at times, working for your boyfriend's dad, miles away from home, under a lot of pressure.  But, it was character-building, and it meant we could be together!! The things you do for love!! The summers got shorter, as my Uni terms got longer.

We didn't have particularly "romantic" courtship years, by the standards of some.  We did have lovely trips to the beach, in the summer days, if we got finished work in good time.  Nice walks in the countryside around where Robert lived. I particularly loved that we started the day together, spiritually, when I worked down there in the summers.  We would do our devotions together, in the dining room, and those words we read, and the prayer time together, strengthened us for each day. We hardly ever went out for meals ( I say that, because I would actually say *NEVER*, but I may have forgotten some random occasion!...we were poor students, and did not have the money for such things!!!)

We went out for 4 1/2 LONG years before we could get married.  NOT something I would recommend to others, but it was what God had planned for us. During that time, Robert began a 4 year Theological course, at a Bible college, as well as me doing my Physiotherapy degree.  Our visits changed to me sometimes visiting him in Northern Ireland.  We got engaged in 1998, on a plane between Scotland and England (no, he didn't get down on one knee in the aisle...) and married at the end of 1999, on a chilly day in December.

We have been married for 13 1/2 wonderful years, and I am VERY blessed.

So, there you have it.  Our story.  We learnt a lot, and it formed our thoughts on how we would advise our children regarding relationships and courtship.  There were highs and lows along the way, but all of it was God's plan, and perfect.  We continue to grow, learn and most importantly LOVE, and SO appreciate that there are no more sad good-byes.

This was our verse, that helped us through the years as we waited for marriage....

 "Love....Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
I Corinthians 13:7


  1. That bought back so happy memories...I remember that first phone call!! Also I remember you wearing yellow leggings on your visit!...and thinking well if Caroline is wearing them they must be stylish!! Love you buckets and very glad you are me sister in love! Anna xxxx

    1. I think they were slightly more hideously lime green than that... long jumper with leggings. Long gone are the days where I could pull that look off! So very glad you are MY sister-in-love, too! And, I was never, and WILL never, be the measure of "stylish". Love you, too.

  2. Caroline,
    What a wonderful story! So fun to see your beautiful wedding picture! Ah...just makes me smile to read it!
    Hope you are getting all the rest you need...and not feeling too confined by it! Looking forward to that story as well!...
    Kirsteen posted a sweet picture of her precious bump! My daughter, Sarah, is going to get to see her (and said bump!) in person when she visits Anne. So much excitement going on there on your side of the pond!
    Have a lovely day!