Who says blind dates don’t work? Damon and I are in Carcassonne this weekend celebrating our 25th anniversary – and we first met on a blind date.
A photograph of a group at a party was what led to my finding the love of my life.
It was January 1995 and my boss was sharing some pictures taken at her birthday party a week earlier. “Who’s that?” I asked, pointing to a stylish young chap in a striped waistcoat.
“That’s Damon,” she said. She paused before adding, “You’d like him.”
(I don’t have the picture she showed me but I do have one of Damon in the waistcoat, taken a few months later…)
Later that morning, my boss emerged from her office triumphantly – and passed me a Post-It note with Damon’s number on it.
“I’ve told him all about you,” she faux-whispered. “He’s expecting your call.”
We met soon after… and then again a few days later.
Now, here we are 25 years on. A lot has changed in the meantime – including us both – but, I’m pleased to say, that we’ve changed and grown together.
We moved in together in September that year and bought a place together a year later. Then, in 2000, we moved from London to Brighton and lived there happily for many years.
Along the way, in 2007, we had a civil partnership ceremony (the gay equivalent of a wedding at the time). Here we are outside the venue, the Pavilion in Brighton, on our big day.
In 2011, we visited south-west France in mid-winter and fell in love with the place. Slowly, we began to conceive of a future there, turning our passion for cheese and wine into a business.
It started as a bit of a daydream. Then, after the disastrous Brexit vote in 2016, we began to wonder if we would still be able to do it at all.
A chance job advert proved a turning point. It offered a role at one of the world’s largest holiday reservation websites, based in Lille.
I knew straight away that Damon would get the job – and that this would be the start of our life in France.
And so it transpired.
Now we live in France and are on the cusp of flowing our dream by opening a cheese-and-wine bar in one of the country’s most beautiful villages.
This weekend, though, we are in Carcassonne. It’s somewhere we’ve always wanted to come.
We’ve treated ourselves to a stay in the five-star Hôtel de la Cité Carcassonne. The restaurant has a Michelin-starred restaurant and we’ve booked a table for tomorrow evening, our actual anniversary.
Today, we’re off exploring the city – and, ahem, possibly trying a glass or two of the local wines. If you get a chance, please raise a glass with us.