Eight years ago Debs and I and our families and friends were on the Amalfi Coast of Italy in the stunning village of Ravello.
Ravello is dramatically perched high on the edge of a mountain, like a pretty little bird on a tip of a branch.
We had found it some years previously when travelling through southern Italy.
We were badly organised on that holiday, a trait which has followed us through our married life. We arrived at Ravello to discover that neither of us knew or had any record of where we were supposed to be staying.
We walked into the village, hot and sweaty, dragging heavy cases and arguing, each insisting that it was the other’s responsibility to know about the accommodation.
Then we stepped into the square. The beautiful crumbling piazza with its panoramic views of the rugged coast.
We stopped, looked at each other and both said ‘This is where we have to get married’.
And then we went back to fighting again.
As I recollect we ended up in the tourism office where a bemused assistant was reading us the names of all of the local hotels until we heard one which sounded familiar.
We stuck with our instincts and two years later, eight years ago today and after overcoming several bureaucratic and church-erected hurdles, we married in that same village in a tiny stone church.
The week before Gary Lineker and Danielle Bux had also wed in Ravello.
Ours was a slightly more modest affair but rich in love and laughter.
I remember the poolside party the night before. Every person who was important in our lives was there.
I remember the fun of trying to make sure we didn’t see each other in a tiny village before the ceremony. Sending my little brother on a covert mission to recover my wedding socks and tie which I had left in our shared hotel room.
I remember having some quiet time with my brother Paul, my best man, who I very rarely see. Just sitting chatting over a beer before we went to the church.
I remember laughing through the service. The lovely priest had gone to the trouble of learning some phrases in Irish, only to discover that not a single person in the congregation knew what he was saying.
I remember all the Ravello locals coming out of the shops and restaurants to greet us as we walked through the narrow, stone streets, showering us with rice as we passed.
I remember, I’ll always remember, how beautiful she looked on that day. How I felt like the luckiest man in the world.
The reception was unconventional. We didn’t have a disco, instead a nine course banquet of beautiful southern Italian food in a tiled taverna right on the edge of a cliff.
Hours of eating, chatting, drinking and laughing.
The tired orange sun finally sank into the sea. The night was clear. Far below forest fires raged on the side of the mountain, as if they had been laid on for our entertainment.
We had been worried about the weather. But it had been beautiful throughout. The day after the wedding the rain came. Rain like I’d never seen, rain which you think will never end.
We didn’t want our time there to end. But end it does. Life must move forward.
The time since has been eventful. Work crises, personal crises, health crises.
But we’ve kept going. Kept moving forward.
Even in the worst of times. When I’ve had breakdowns, when my communication to the outside world has been disabled, I’ve always been able to talk to my wife.
I now can’t imagine any sort of life without her. Don’t want to imagine.
Yes we drive each other crazy.
She’ll never understand why I insist on picking the furthest parking space away from where we’re going.
It’s lashing with rain today. We’re doing the school run. My wife is frantically pointing out parking spaces.
‘Look, go in there! There’s another one! Where are you going?’
‘The sign says those spaces are for the staff.’
‘But we’re only stopping for a minute. Look all the other parents are going in there! Where are you going….’
Similarly I’ve calmly explained countless times to my wife that if she just rinses the bowl quickly after eating her cereal it stops the cornflakes sticking to the sides.
But yet when I come downstairs this morning there’s a bowl from last night on the sideboard, some rogue uneaten cornflakes glued fast to the white porcelain.
That’s just the way we are. We both know we’ll never change. I suppose that’s what marriage is, learning to work round what is different about each other.
But so much is the same as well.
One of our favourite things is those couple of hours at the end of the day. When all the work and chores are done. When our son is asleep. When we can snuggle together on the sofa. Watch some nonsense on the telly. Tell each other about our days.
Or just have a laugh.
Because that’s what the last eight years have been. Tears yes, but many more laughs.
The joy of shared time together. The solace of that intimacy.
That’s why it’s always worth making the effort. The occasional bunch of flowers. A hug when it is least expected.
Making a little fuss over the anniversary. Taking time to pick the right card.
We wish each other a happy anniversary. We exchange gifts.
We open the cards.
We both begin to laugh……