It’s been some time since my husband, and I have taken a proper holiday. We’ve had a couple of mini breaks over the past few years: a cottage in the Cotswolds for a few days, the odd night spent in a hotel, or visiting our dear friends down in Bexhill. But we haven’t been abroad since goodness knows when, probably a few years before my dad passed away and we visited him in Spain.
So, we have been more than excited to have our first ‘couples’ holiday together since our honeymoon in 2013. And guess what? That’s where we are going – back to the same hotel in Antigua where we got married.
Third time lucky!
It is our tenth anniversary and we always promised that we would return to our little piece of paradise to celebrate it. It’s been an interesting, and at times, harrowing decade, but this is a post to celebrate the wonderful man, husband, director of theatre, and many more things, that ‘Martin’ is. That’s ‘Mar-teen’, not ‘Mar-in’ as some would pronounce in Norfolk – he likes to hear the ‘T’.
Firstly, as I reminisce about our wedding ten years ago, I recall how Martin had some concerns that I was going to bottle-out and not turn up to the beach for our wedding. He was right, I was having cold feet since I’d been married twice before and had sworn I would never do it again.
I believe our choice of spouse has a certain element of luck – and third time lucky has never been more fitting. I was very young and naïve the first time I married, and wanted to prove my father wrong when he said, ‘It’ll never work out,’ and of course, he was right. There was no love involved, just a desire to become a mother and find someone that would help me achieve that. Obviously, at the time, I was stupid and naïve with my choice.
The second time, there was love involved, but I fell for the wrong type! It was a case of falling for the bad guy, with domestic abuse (both myself and my daughter) that eventually took its toll. The divorce was horrific (and expensive) and it caused a split in family loyalties as well as difficulties with my children.
So, third time – I felt like I was marrying my best friend. At forty-five years old, I still didn’t know if this was right or not. I was nervous, insecure, scared of failure, and terrified of another divorce. However, I needn’t have been.
Secrets of a good marriage
We never know how we, or our partner, will change once married, and, of course, we all do change with time. But, with Martin, change has all been for the better. I was a shy and slightly ‘damaged’ individual when I first moved to Norfolk, but he saw something in me that I hadn’t yet seen in myself. He built my confidence and showed me true love, something I had never experienced in my life before.
Martin’s support and acceptance of me allowed me to grow and develop, I started to believe in myself, and he has never stopped bringing out the very best in me. He’s supported all my ventures, never stopped me from doing things I’ve wanted to do, and likewise I have done the same for him.
This is what the secret to a good marriage is (IMHO)… you grow, both together as a couple, and individually as you discover yourself. You allow the other person to spread their wings without feeling threatened, but also wind your way together through life. Think of a tree… the branches grow in different directions but the roots remain as one.
For the first time, I am in a marriage that I ‘choose’ to be in, not ‘need’ to be in. Of course, it has its problems like any marriage does (snoring springs to mind!) but the most important thing is communication. To talk, to listen and to understand. Never go to sleep on an argument and choose to see the good in each other.
But enough waffle about marriage, let me tell you about this extraordinary man who is my husband.
You would think having been brought up as an only child, that he would be a little selfish or individualistic. This is not the case. Martin is the kind of person who cannot help but reach out and support others. He always puts everyone else before himself, and, quite frankly, he treats me like a princess.
He’s the sort of guy, that can’t say no. When the theatre group needs a spare hand, a set needs building, or a show requires running, he will jump in to help.
He’s the sort of guy that takes time to speak to the customers in our Café, gets to know them and makes small gestures of kindness when needed. He constantly thinks of the Cromer community and other small business, campaigning to get the government to give the financial support needed, offering free meals to kids in the holidays, or coming up with ‘the gifting tree’ to feed the homeless or underprivileged. He’s one of the good guys in this world.
He is also the sort of guy who gets out of bed at 2am to go and get me chocolate biscuits. And I’m not even pregnant!!
Passion is contagious
Martin’s passion in life is the theatre. Ironically, I used to do drama and dance classes in my teens which I never thought I would ever have any use for!
He ushered me gently into his world when I first trod the boards in ‘Animal Farm’, which he directed. I loved it! This was followed by ‘How the other Half Loves’, and then, with much persuasion, I auditioned for one of CSOD’s musicals on Cromer pier and played Widow Corney in ‘Oliver’. It was scary, and very much out of my comfort zone, but it was equally exhilarating – it reignited my childhood passion.
I have watched Martin come alive both on stage and off. I have never felt prouder than the moments I’ve watched him expertly turn into characters such as ‘Proctor’ in ‘The Crucible’, the more humorous role of ‘King Arthur’ in Spamalot, and, off course, ‘Edna’ in Hairspray. (It was rather alarming seeing him dressed as a woman!)
Martin’s directing of shows makes me equally proud. Shows that he has directed (which I was not in), such as ‘Elephant Man’, and musicals’, ‘Sister Act and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, all won awards that confirmed what I already knew – this man has an amazing creative talent.
So, whilst there are times when I could complain that I have become a ‘theatre widow’ (since amateur theatre takes up a great deal of time), I quite enjoy the time I spend by myself, and, I know that I can always get involved, as I am with the upcoming show that he is directing, Evita! (My favourite all-time musical).
Martin is my biggest fan in everything I do too, from setting up my own ‘Tropic’ business, to becoming an Author and speaker. Not many husbands would sit and listen to chapters read aloud repeatedly or help you with performing your speeches! He takes an interest in everything that I do and boosts my confidence when I feel it waning.
Apart from theatre, we both invest in our two dogs, Mabel, and Chester, who have become like the children we never had together. I never knew I was a ‘dog’ person, but now feel I will never go back to cats. They bring so much joy, happiness and laughter into our lives and encourage us to spend quality time exploring beaches and countryside in North Norfolk.
We began our dog journey with Sacha, who was my first ever dog, and the reason I love Labradors so much. I already had her when I met Martin, and in many ways, she brought us together. Before we started dating, Martin suggested that I bring her to Cromer one weekend (a place I had not yet explored) to take her for a walk on the beach. We chatted and laughed, went to a party – I got drunk…and the rest is history!
After losing Sacha to cancer, we were left with good ‘ol’ Chester, who Martin fell in love with since he reminded him of a previous collie that he once owned. After moving out into the back of beyond (Upper Sheringham), Mabel landed. A bouncy and ‘in-your-face’ black Labrador who is utterly adorable and so full of character.
They say dogs are like their owners… well Chester is getting old and creaky now, and he snores like a steam train. Guess who his master is! And, Mabel, is a bit of a live wire, sometimes a diva, and likes attention on her terms. No mysteries there!
Ups and downs
The registrar in Antigua who married us, told us to keep all our ups and downs between the sheets! Our reaction was captured in the header photo of this blog!
All marriages have their ups and downs, and I don’t want to dwell on this section too much, but it must be mentioned how this man truly honours the words ‘in sickness and in health’.
We have had a lot of traumas over the last ten years, but none more so than the last three or four years.
I will never forget how Martin held me through 2019 when I broke my back. Whilst trying to get to grips with our brand-new café, he was dashing backwards and forwards to the N&N and dealing with all the difficulties that were involved. We didn’t know if I would ever walk again, and our life was thrown into orbit. I’ll never forget when I said to him, “I’m so sorry for doing this to us,” and he replied, “You didn’t do this to us, mental health did this to us.”
He also told me that great things would come from the experience, and he was right. It led me to writing my memoir and becoming an advocate for mental health as well as an ambassador for Back Up spinal charity. He practically became my carer for a while during the period when I had to adapt to my disability and learn to find my ‘new normal’. Thankfully I made a miraculous recovery, and I find myself nagging him these days that he doesn’t need to be my carer anymore. (Such is his desire to do too much for me!)
During times when I have been utterly ‘broken’ – such as last year when writing my poetry book – Martin has held me gently. By this, I mean, he has never complained or tried to fix my pain, but rather, knelt down beside me and told me, ‘take as long as you need, I love you whether you’re broken or not, I love YOU.’ God, I’m welling up as I write this!
So, through tragic times such as having a psychotic episode, breaking my back, losing my father, and more, this man has been a rock. He has filled the void of missing family, or (at times) the right medical support, and risen to each challenge with love and patience. Nothing phases him, and I appreciate how very lucky I am.
Lockdown was a strange time for everyone, but for a gregarious, outgoing character like Martin, it was particularly tough. We switched roles for a while, and I had to put on my caring hat and help him through a time that was beginning to affect his mental health. That is one of the many things Martin has taught me, to find kindness and caring for others during their difficult times – something that we all need to do. He has shown me care, compassion and unconditional love, where others have judged or criticised me. He makes a great role model to follow.
Laughter keeps you young
We both had our 50th birthday in the same year, and Martin is now 56 (I enjoy these couple of months before I catch up in June!). He seems to be getting more handsome in older age (I have a thing about grey hair), although the shock of being with me the last ten years seems to be turning his gorgeous locks a paler shade of white now. (I’m renown for getting my expressions and sayings wrong!)
Whilst we both already have our ailments (isn’t that what all old people talk about?), the one thing that is unchanging in our marriage is laughter. This is a man who taught me the belly laugh. Do you know the one I mean? The one where you’re glad you have a Tena lady in place, and the tears roll down your face while you snort and splutter like a pig who’s lost their shit.
We laugh in the middle of the night when I say something in my sleep, we laugh at the sound the seat-belt alarm makes (it sounds like the Birdy song), we laugh at ourselves laughing! It is good for the soul, and it keeps us connected.
A New Generation
Martin became a grandfather – which took him a little while to get used to initially, but he couldn’t be prouder of his wonderful daughter, Mollie, and her gorgeous boys, Oliver, Zeb, and number three who is due any day soon. I’m very lucky to be a ‘step-nan’ to such beautiful and good-natured children and hope we can see more of them when we get back from Antigua.
Final thank you
I will finish by saying thank you directly to Martin, who will be forced to read this post in Antigua.
Thank you for making such a success of our café and your endless endeavours to make it the best it can be. Thank you for working tirelessly on our home, always ensuring it is well decorated, and tidying up behind me!
Thank you for doing all the extra jobs that I cannot do due to my mobility struggles. Thank you for holding my hand when I feel insecure or need support. Thank you for believing in me.
Finally, let it be known…if we were to be renewing our vows on this trip back to Antigua, I would run to the beach screaming ‘I do’. I have no hesitation after spending the last decade with you, in saying, you are my soulmate.
Thank you for being my best friend.
Here’s to another ten years!!