Like most modern day love stories ours starts in a bar in a University town. As the only gay bar in Reading, a town about an hour and a half outside of London, The Granby always seemed to have an essence of desperation about it. Bearing in mind this was 11 years ago, and well before the days of Tinder etc, if you didn’t meet the love of your life there on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night you had another week/ month/ year, (depending on how often you could drag your friends there), of banter-less days and nights to look forward to.
This was a Sunday night in 2005. Pool was a pound a game and the Granby was it’s usual dark, foggy self as you could still smoke inside. Me and my friend Dyke Jenny, who was my lesbian mentor (4 years before she had showed me But I’m a Cheerleader for the first time while we drank bottles of Lambrini and she convinced me to break up with my boyfriend), had gone for a few drinks “to get away from our women troubles”. Not period pains. But the dilemmas we had gotten ourselves into with some of our ladies…
And then I met Jot. Or Jo as she was then. She was smoking rollies, she had one of those weird caps on with a tiny, pointless peek, and the most unflattering sweatshirt I’ve ever seen. I can’t even describe the colour as I don’t think Pantone have a name for it for it. Think old washing up water. I was later to find out that under the grotty sweatshirt was an equally horrid, and slightly ironic Nike vest. Ironic as she hasn’t worked out in her life.
My approach was the standard, make friends with her mate – find out if she’s single – find out how my advances would be taken – make move. Later that night after impressing her with my pool skills I offered to walk her the 5 minutes to retrieve her bike and then, when she was leaning against it trying to look cool I politely asked if I could kiss her (great move). Back in my room I forced her to look at all my art and watch One Tree Hill by candle light. My light bulb had gone weeks ago and so I’d been living in darkness for a while. That actually makes the situation sound pretty romantic but it was just standard student living.
Texting her the next day proved to be tricky as although I knew I’d put her number in my phone, I’d forgotten her name. As this was just before Facebook, even casual stalking was impossible. Fortunately she’d written “Jo was here” in fridge magnets so I was able to use my detective skills – asking my housemates if they’d recently had anyone called Jo over, to work out who to text and ask for a drink.
Three weeks later and I was completely in love. And I wasn’t at all cool about it. If I remember correctly I let her know by congratulating her on the fact that I liked her 100 out of 100. And that that equalled love. As three weeks is unacceptable to say that to someone she looked suitably alarmed so I retracted the statement for another month or so.
I was in my final few months of a four year fine art degree and Jo was in her second year of teaching and art. We spent our time drinking snakebite, drawing moustaches on each others faces in permanent marker, eating waffles and cheese in the middle of the night and discussing who would wear a sweater-vest and who would wear a tie on big nights out. I had a misguided pink mullet and she only had one pair of shoes, we couldn’t have been happier. Our favourite thing to do was to go to this Secret Garden type place on campus that we thought only we knew about. We’d make what is still known as Favourite Sandwich, and I’d give her a backie on my bike until we got to the tree we liked to sit under to gobble them up. I knew our relationship was serious when I got my bike, Cecilia, fitted with pegs at the back so Jo could stand on them as we cruised around campus. Looking back I don’t know why she didn’t just ride her own bike…
Ten and a half years later and here we are in Sydney. We’ve been in Oz now for 5 years which surprises us every day as we don’t really remember deciding to move from Brixton to here, or know why we did. We’d just bought an apartment in London and our lives were filled with friends, wine, laughter, love and more wine. But we booked tickets, got horrendously drunk at our leaving party, and off we flew to the land down under. Another constant shock is that despite that on our initial flight over the air hostess questioned the age of our tear stained faces and made us show her our passports before she’d give us any champagne, we are both in our mid 30’s!
We still ride around on our bikes, apart from that now Jot’s is a motorbike and mine’s a scooter. (We are a few months off being able to give each other backies but are very excited about it). We still get drunk and draw on each other with Sharpies, but now we have to make sure we scrub it off properly before we go to work. We hi-five after each meal we eat together. And there is nothing that excites us more than planning a hand-in-hand amble to a secluded spot to eat our lovingly prepared Favourite Sandwich.
Although I haven’t had a snakebite for years…
Sometimes we worry that we aren’t as grown up as we should be. If one of us has something serious to talk about a Business Meeting is called in the Meeting Room. The Meeting Room is actually a washing basket that we sit with our heads in and discuss important things. If the Meeting Room isn’t free we make a tent out the bed covers. Many important decisions are made in the washing basket.
Most of our friends are married, lots have kids and are buying places. Which was our plan. We are both doing well at work but it seems we’ve got itchy feet once again so our notice has been given in and another leaving party booked for a month’s time. Once again we’ll be leaving people we love and brilliant lives. But we want to experience a different kind of life for a while. So the bus life it is. As for where we’ll go, we’ve booked the three of us (Jot, Bus, and me) on the boat to Tassie in mid Jan. After that there’s the rest of this beautiful country to explore for the next year or so. And after that. Your guess is as good as mine. And I couldn’t be more excited for the unknown adventures ahead with my person and my best friend, Jot.
Jot. It feels very weird to have written “Jo” for the last 5 paragraphs”. For to me, and many of our friends and family she is called Jot. I started calling her that about a year after we had been together. For it didn’t make sense to me that two little letters together could make someone’s name. There’s lots of reasons why we went with the “t” at the end but that is one of our secrets.