After our first date I had butterflies and was buzzing. I was really looking forward to meeting again.
Nicky loves cooking, and suggested that she came over to cook for us here. I asked my carer to leave us to it for the evening, and we had the place to ourselves. We chatted all the time while Nicky was preparing the meal. It was nice to be in my own home, because everything is set-up well for me here, which makes it all much easier. She made a lovely beef stroganoff; but to be honest the food wasn’t really important, I was just enjoying getting to know her. She was starting to ask more questions, obviously thinking about the possible implications of embarking on a relationship with me. It was nice that this didn’t dominate the conversation, and it was still a lot of fun; however I did start to wonder whether the complications would be too great. My disability wasn’t the only issue; Nicky ran her business (Millie and Me) in Monmouth. I was really impressed with the success that she had had with her wedding stationery designs, and the awards she had won. Also in Monmouth she had lots of friends, as well as her Mum. And of course there was Millie, her Labrador, how would that work with my cats? Clearly, we were getting on very well, but were there too many obstacles?
My head was whirling after she left that night. She texted to let me know that she had got home safely, and we spent the next few days texting like teenagers. At the time the British Lions were on tour in Australia, and Nicky also loves rugby. We went to the Marlborough Arms in Cirencester to watch the Lions beat Australia in the first test. This was also the first time that Nicky had had to deal with emptying my leg bag; it was full and I was starting to get Autonomic Dysreflexia. It is not possible for me to get into most of the toilets in Cirencester, so I had to explain how to empty this into a special bag discretely under a table in a crowded pub. She seemed quite unfazed by doing this, and took it all in her stride. It was a morning game, so we still had the rest of the day to enjoy.
We had spoken about going to an art museum in Bristol that day, and decided that we still had time. Nicky had not been shown how to get me in or out of the car, so we were dependent on taking a carer with us. This day I had a different carer with me from the agency. It was clear that there was a bit of an atmosphere in the car, Nicky was pretty sure that the carer was interested in me. Once we got to Bristol we had time to ourselves again, and we were back to being giggly teenagers. Before the museum, we had a lovely lunch at Browns, and this led to more reminiscing about the parties in Bristol with CBA. We then went on to the art museum. Nicky had studied art history at school and UCL so dwarfed my knowledge of art. Rather than trying to feign it, I went down the route of saying what I did and didn’t like, and tried to get Nicky to explain why a completely black canvas was a piece of art. Don’t get me wrong, I like art, but I don’t understand some of it. I can however appreciate how some artists make huge amounts of money from gullible wealthy collectors. Anyway I digress. The art obviously triggered an overwhelming desire to have our first proper kiss; so there it was.
When we got back, after a still slightly frosty journey with the carer in the back seat; I asked Nicky to stay for a bit longer. In the house, I got the carer to transfer me onto the sofa. Once on the sofa we could finally snuggle up and kiss properly; It’s not that easy in a wheelchair with such a height difference, and it’s really hard to get in a position that’s not awkward; spontaneity is not possible. It was obvious that we felt a lot for each other, and I didn’t really want her to leave. Unfortunately she had to go back to Monmouth. Our texting and telephone conversations got more silly and flirty over the week, and I couldn’t wait to see her again.
On the Tuesday I went to Cardiff for wheelchair rugby training with the Ospreys, and diverted to Monmouth on the way home; apparently I had to be vetted by some of her friends. We went to the King’s Head, a Wetherspoons in the centre, which seems to be where everybody just drops in throughout the day. Over the few hours I was there I was introduced to most of the population of Monmouth. I was there for some time, and was introduced to a constant stream of friends, and friends of the family. Apparently her friends, Anna and Natalie, and several other people, had to approve me if we were to take the relationship any further. I was informed later that I had passed the initial screening process.
The following Saturday there was another Lion’s game taking place in Australia. We decided to go to the pub again to watch the game; it was great that she loved rugby too. The owner, Giles, is always very accommodating of me; moving people to give me a place by a table where I can see a screen. Shortly after I arrived, I realised that my catheter had become disconnected from my leg bag, so I had to get Nicky to put her hands down my trousers in the middle of the pub to reconnect it, whilst explaining how it works and what to do. She managed this, and we were able to stay to enjoy the game; the Lions were amazing again, but just missed out by one point. Afterwards we went to Graze in Cirencester and had a nice meal. It’s quite a relaxed atmosphere there, and I remember being there for some time, just chatting. It all felt so comfortable and enjoyable; we never seemed to run out of things to talk about, but when there were silences, it didn’t feel awkward.
We carried on meeting on Tuesdays and Saturdays for a few weeks, and then one Friday Nicky suggested cooking for me at home again. As before I got the carer who was with me at the time to go out for the evening. Once she had gone we had quite a lengthy conversation about how the relationship with the carer works; should Nicky be cooking for her too? It is a whole new dynamic that most people never have to deal with. It had become second nature to me, and I hadn’t really given much thought to how weird this must have been for her. It was obvious that if she was starting to contemplate issues like this, that this relationship could really go somewhere. We had arranged that she would stay the night…this is where things got really weird; rather than just getting up and going to bed, I had to call the carer, get them to transfer me onto the bed, and undress me. It all takes about 30 minutes, while Nicky had to wait in the other room. It’s a bit of a passion killer, and feels a bit like being prepared for an operation.
Once I was ready, Nicky came in and everything was ok again. It was lovely to cuddle up together and to be intimate. Although I can’t feel anything below my chest, my neck and ears are very sensitive. We seemed to be very comfortable together, and stayed awake for hours; there was definitely more than a spark. Nicky wanted to know how things were for me, and what she should do. She didn’t seem at all concerned about my catheter; I have a supra pubic catheter from a hole just below my tummy button, which I’m very self conscious about. This is connected to a night bag, and can’t possibly be sexy; I thought that this would be off-putting. What concerned Nicky more was that she felt selfish; she was concerned that I wasn’t getting any enjoyment from it because of my lack of sensation. I reassured her, and explained that just the intimacy and being touched sensitively where I do have sensation was good.
In the morning we just lay there together snuggling, until this was interrupted by the carer coming in to get me up. I can’t remember whether we discussed it then, but Nicky wanted to know if this was the way things had to be; would I always need to have a carer to get me up and dressed, to put me to bed, and to get me in and out of the car. It started to feel like this was going to be a deal breaker. I explained that the only alternative was that she could learn how to do this, but that I didn’t expect her to.
The following week I had tickets to see Jools Holland at Westonbirt Arboretum. I really wanted to take Nicky, but this would mean her having to get me in and out of the car if we were going to go together. She was up for the challenge, and my carer demonstrated how it was done, and how to take the chair apart to put in the back. It’s quite heavy work, and there is no elegant way of doing this. It often results in lots of bumps and bruises. Again unfazed, Nicky did this with no problems, and we set off for Westonbirt. The next obstacle was the grass and rough ground at the concert. She had to struggle with helping me to get to a good position, as well as carrying a picnic and fold up chair. Although it was hard work for her, we had a lovely evening; it was great to be out just the two of us.
Soon after this, I was due to go to a party to celebrate my Uncle’s 70th birthday. Although it was quite early days for us, it felt so right, so I asked Nicky if she’d like to come. This would mean meeting my entire family, including my parents, all in one go. There was also the issue that Nicky had not yet met Zoe, and I felt that it was wrong for that to happen for the first time at a party along with everybody else. We agreed that we would go out to a restaurant with Zoe the week before the party. Chinese was Zoe’s favourite, so she came over and we drove down to the town. I remember, it was pouring with rain, which makes transferring in and out of the car really difficult because I don’t slide well. Nicky managed this, and we went inside, both looking a bit disheveled. It is obligatory with Zoe to have crispy aromatic duck, and she showed Nicky how I have these put together so they stay together in my hands. They got on fantastically, uniting to make fun of me, but I didn’t mind because it was a relief to see them getting on.
Zoe came with us in the car to the party, so we had a long journey for them to get to know each other better. Competing for the iPod, Nicky and Zoe were picking some very girly tracks, mainly musicals, so that they could have a good sing-a-long. They were getting on great. Nicky was very nervous about meeting everybody, but she took it all in her stride, and in no time was circulating and chatting with everybody. I have a very close family; they are all good fun and easy to get on with. By the end of the party we were outside with the kids and big kids for a game of softball. It was a huge success, and Nicky felt comfortable with everybody. Also Zoe seemed very comfortable with Nicky. Seeing how caring Nicky was, and how well she managed helping me with everything, I think that my parents were very pleased that she was in my life.
Anyway, things moved on quite quickly after this, and we started to talk about Nicky moving in, and how that might work. It was difficult with Nicky living so far away, and with her work commitments. She decided to leave where she was living, and the ball was in motion.