Anne and Mark
Updated: Oct 3, 2020
The story of Anne and Mark started when they were 12 years old at primary school. They were best friends throughout school and university. “She had a boyfriend and I had a girlfriend and we cried on each others shoulders when things went wrong”. One day, Mark realised that the love of his life was right in front of him, it was Anne. They found love in 1985 and got married on the 1st January 1986.
"I was waiting for Mark to ask me to get married, but he was too slow. So in my last year at university and I met a guy and he asked me to marry him. I said yes. We got married, and 19 months later, we got a divorce. The first person I turned to for help was Mark, my best friend. He supported me throughout the divorce, he went with me to court and helped me to move home. He helped me to restart my life in a new town. Then he just disappeared for months and I couldn’t understand why.
We didn’t see each other after that for a while and eventually I started my social life again. One day, returned home after a weekend away and I received a note, it was from Mark and it said “I visited you. If you're interested, you're welcome to come and visit me” and that was it. So I got in my car and went to see him".
Mark said, "Some of my friends had already started getting married. One night, I sat down and made a list of all the qualities and characteristics I wanted in my ideal partner. I looked at the list and realised she ticked all the boxes. I thought, she’s right in front of me and I’ve never realised. Anne is actually my ideal partner. I had not seen Anne in a long while because I wanted to give her space to heal from the divorce. When I found out she was dating other men, I started to panic thinking I might miss my chance again!"
I never asked her to marry me sooner because I was worried I would loose my friendship with Anne. Friendship has actually been the basis and strength of our relationship.
Will you marry me?
Shortly after Anne received my hand written note, she drove to see me at university. We were sitting together in her car and Anne was in front of the steering wheel. I turned to her and said "will you marry me?" She looked at me and said "sure, when?" And that was the start of our adventure together as a couple.
First we thought about eloping to get married and then informing our parents afterwards, but we realised they might get upset with us. So we got married 3 months later. Our wedding ceremony was on the 31 December 1985 at 11pm. We were officially married on 1st January 1986 and so New Year's Day is always a special day for us. It’s so funny because in those days when you rushed a wedding, people thought you were having a baby so people were watching us very closely and no baby arrived! We eventually had our first child six years later.
Mark explained, "Getting married was a no brainer. You know, you can fall romantically in love with someone and find out that six months down the line, it doesn't work because you’re not compatible, you're not friends. When you’re friends, it’s such a good base foundation to start a marriage.
I suddenly became very aware of my personal space and holding hands with Mark felt awkward in the beginning. We had moved from friends to lovers and it was very strange at first.
Although we were born and raised in South Africa, we had a strong connection to the UK. South Africa was a British colony and our news was saturated by events in the UK. Our country came to a stand still in 1981 for the Royal Wedding! Everyone was watching Charles and Diana getting married on our television sets. The UK for us was like a grandfather, it's part of you but you don’t know it very well. So we always yearned to discover the UK because it's part of our history".
In 1993, our friends persuaded us to go travelling to Europe and this was very special for us. At that time, people who lived in South Africa were not able to travel to certain countries because of various sanctions against Apartheid. When we arrived in the UK in 1993 we thought this is home and we set our hearts on living here one day and now here we are! Relocating to a new country is not easy and it is very expensive here than compared to South Africa.
In those early days of living in the UK, there were times we didn't have much money but we found ways to make the most of our budget of £20 per week (sometimes it was less) for food and travel.
When we had very little, we didn't complain. We sacrificed a lot for each other. A lot of couples fight and fall out over money issues but we just knew we both needed to sacrifice our needs and wants for the short term. We had faith that things would improve one day. We walked everywhere, we saw all the sights of London that were free, we shopped in the reduced section at the supermarket to save money. We made it work because we were both steering our ship in the same direction.
Mark tells us "A relationship is give and take. Hardship comes to everyone. You can look at a situation as something that will destroy you or it can be an opportunity to build a better, stronger version of you both. In 2008, I fell from a rooftop and I ended up in a wheelchair for months and people looked down on me. They would ask Anne what's wrong with him? and point at me! They thought I was stupid, just because I was in a wheelchair. The accident actually made empathise with people who have long term physical disabilities and how they are treated. That was a very difficult time, I couldn't work or earn money. Anne was carrying the heavy load at that time. She nursed me through the difficult time and it taught me a lot about myself and about my relationship with Anne".
After Mark recovered, they started exercising and running marathons together. In one particular race, Anne became very sick and exhausted and she collapsed, just 100 yards before the finish line.
Mark, reached over to Anne and said "We have not come this far, just to get this far. We have to get to the finish line! I picked her up and we made it to the finish line just in time. That is how our lives are and have been - we carry each other when one person falls. It's not always easy but we get to the finish line, together.
One of their favourite songs from the 1980s is 'Dancing in the street' by David Bowie and Mick Jagger.