Hi folks, we're back. Sorry it's been such a long time between drinks. We've emerged unscathed (and engaged) from our Man vs. Wild-esque trip through England in a campervan. We took on England's summer with nothing but a dodgy van, a fridge that could barely fit a six pack and a road map we picked up for £1.99 in some convenience store and we came out on top. But we'll tell you more about that adventure in the next blog entry. This one will be all about our engagement!
Yep, that's right folks. I did a Paul McCartney and went down on one knee. And for some crazy reason, Jess said YES! It just goes to show: you take internet accesss and clean showers away from a girl for two and a half weeks and she'll agree to just about anything to end the nightmare.
Before I describe how the proposal actually went down, it might be a good idea to describe how I initially planned on it all going down. That way you can see just how badly I screwed everything up. You see, this is kind of the theme for our trip: I make detailed plans for each place we visit, nothing proceeds according to my plans, I subsequently freak out and have a mini tantrum in a public place and narrowly avoid getting arrested, and the cycle repeats. And so it was with the proposal.
After seeking and receiving approval from Jess' family to marry their daughter just before we left Australia, I started to research exactly where and when I wanted to propose to her. I finally settled on Turville - a tiny little town of less than 300 people in England's Chiltern Hills. It's famous for being the fictional town "Dibley" in "The Vicar of Dibley", which is one of Jess' all-time favourite TV shows.
Then there was not-so-small issue of the ring. Knowing that Jess is prone to violently rummaging through my bags at any given moment (especially when she's looking for food), I wasn't confident that I'd be able to smuggle a ring on our trip and keep it from Jess' snoopy little eyes. So I decided I'd get a token at some point along the trip and then we could pick out a ring together later on. To get a token ring, all I had to do was find one afternoon in the first 2 months of our trip where I could have time away from Jess to wander around the shops. Do you have any idea how hard that turned out to be? I would've had better luck negotiating a peace treaty on the bloody Gaza strip!
In the end I managed to steal a few cheeky hours in Glasgow to purchase a charm for her Pandora bracelet in the form of a British double decker bus. Primarily because the charm came in an engagement ring type box. And a week later, I managed to pick up a £2 children's toy replica of the ring worn by Mary Queen of Scots from the Edinburgh Castle gift shop while Jess was in the loo. They had another toy ring for only £1 but I figured you only get engaged a handful of times in your life so don't be a cheapskate and splash out on the good stuff!
So now with my token items in place, I had my fool-proof plan all ready to go.
Step 1: I take her to Turville. She gets totally blown away by the fact that I found the real "Dibley" and doesn't suspect the forthcoming proposal.
Step 2: I take her up the small hill where the big white windmill overlooks the town.
Step 3: while Jess continues to take snaps of the windmill (she's obsessed with windmills), I go on a little spiel about how nothing ever goes according to plan in our lives but that's ok because we always make it work in the end and I want to keep on making things work with her until I'm old and no longer able to take myself to the toilet anymore etc…you know, all that romantic stuff that people say.
Step 4: I go down on one knee and whip out the box with the little toy ring.
Step 5: She says yes, I then bring out the bus charm and we stroll off into the sunset happily ever after and with the aim of getting a real ring soon.
Easy enough right? Yeah I thought so too.
Step 1 went pretty much according to plan. But from then on it was all turning up lemons. And I had to do some quick thinking on the spot to make something that resembled lemonade. That small hill with the windmill? Turns out its bloody massive - a lot bigger that it appears on Google images. And I just happened to be wearing my nicest, most uncomfortable clothes on a relatively hot English summer's day while we climbed Mt You've Got to Be Kidding Me! Once we reached the top, we discovered that the windmill was on private property and the odds of getting inside there were worse than the odds of Mick Malthouse smiling anytime soon. No problem. A proposal at the top of the hill, kind of near the windmill, but sufficiently far away from all the middle-aged bushwalkers who were also climbing the hill would have to suffice.
With Jess still not suspecting what was coming, I started my "things don't always go according to plan" speech. Actually, to call it a speech is an insult to speeches. It was a ramble. I was puffed out from the climb, stressing over not being able to get to the windmill and making no sense. Thankfully Jess, as usual, wasn't really paying much attention to a word I was saying.
I finally decided to just go down on the one knee, figuring that Jess would finally understand what the hell I was trying to say and put me out of my misery. But as I began to bend my knee we were interrupted by ANOTHER middle-aged couple walking their dog right past us. Slowly. So I just kinda froze there in a semi-squat position like I was about to take a dump in the grass with my jeans still on and made up some crap about catching my breath from the climb that was over 20 minutes ago by this stage. Add to this image the strained and pale look on my face from the realisation that I had totally made a mess of the whole planned proposal, and you can imagine how this must have all looked to Jess. Not pretty.
With the dog walkers finally out of sight, I flopped to one knee, opened the box and exasperatedly asked Jessica Sartori if she would marry me. It was only then I realised that I hadn't put the toy ring in the box. So, on top of all the confusing kerfuffle she had just witnessed, Jess was now staring at a Pandora bus charm instead of a ring. And yet in spite of all this, it only took a handful of statements like "What??", "Is this a joke?", "Are you sure?" and "Yeah we probably should because you're getting close to 30" before Jess said the one word I'd been waiting to hear all day: Yes. Yes Gary, let's get down from this hill because it's bloody hot and yes we can stop for a beer at the pub down there. Oh and yes I'll marry you!
So there you have it. Hook, line and blunder. Just like Nick Maxwell's footy career, my proposal wasn't pretty, it won't be replayed and glorified for years to come, and most people will think they can do a better job themselves. But in the end, all that matters is the result. I got the right one. And so did Maxy!