Darren and I first locked eyes across the dance floor at our Coventry University fresher's night, he a swimmer studying Civil Engineering and me a cheerleader and soon to be physiotherapist.
I knew he was a keeper early on when he climbed a fence to tie a balloon to an old abandoned boat outside my halls of residence window.
Soon after Darren asked me to be his girlfriend in the middle of a street crowd scuffle after a football match, a beautiful moment among the chaos. We spent weeks growing our friendship, months cementing our relationship, and what became 10 years building to the long awaited proposal.
The possibilities had been endless and I thought he would never 'pop the question'. Years living together in Dubai saw many a romantic beach stroll, boat trip and picturesque dinner but still the question did not come. We were blessed by a Monk in Thailand, hiked stunning glaciers in New Zealand; he even got down on one knee in front of the Taj Mahal, only to get back up again with a wink and playful nudge. He presented me with a large box in front of 1000 or so eagerly expectant diners in black tie during a formal night on our Caribbean cruise, accompanied by singing waiters. A handbag. A beautiful one, but still!
Twenty five countries visited together, so many wonderful memories but the final piece in the puzzle still missing. I thought the moment was coming last summer at an Ed Sheeran concert at Wembley Stadium where he brought food, champagne and bubble machines, which he shared with the crowd around us. I was wrong!
We visited South Africa in October last year and stayed in an incredible treehouse called Pezulu near Kruger National Park. It was a hairy journey in the dark relying only on the treehouse coordinates and a very temperamental GPS system. The treehouse overlooked a plain where giraffes would readily stroll past the open air shower and zebras would stare into our Jacuzzi window. We woke daily to monkey footprints all over our rented car and to the same friendly ostrich at the foot of the tree supporting our makeshift home. One particular morning we woke up on the balcony having spent hours that night watching thousands of stars whilst listening to our favourite Ed Sheeran songs. The 5am sunrise rivalled the opening sequence of the Lion King and Darren insisted we have a photo before getting ready for our safari.
He was in his boxers and I hadn't even looked in the mirror, but somehow it didn't matter. After taking an initial picture he went back to check it, unbeknown to me switching the settings to video. On returning he took out a little ring box and got down on one knee. With a pause and a smile he asked me to marry him and after stunned silence, tears and his assurance the proposal was finally real, I said "yes!"
We ran down to our awaiting jeep proudly announcing our news to the complete strangers accompanying us. We had the most incredible day on safari; we brought the only bottle of champagne available in the national park and sat on the rack at the back of our jeep basking in the most incredible moment that had happened that morning.
We phoned my parents at sunset that evening from our beloved treehouse balcony, and I was so proud to learn that Darren had asked my dad's permission several months before over a cup of tea and a tearful eye. He had intended to propose at the concert after all but had broken his temporary ring on the journey and decided that day was not his day!
Darren told me he had arranged a party for me for when we got home so we could tell the rest our loved ones in person, such a rare treat in today's world of social media.
We continued our engagement celebrations at the incredible Dawson's Game and Trout Lodge who arranged an engagement photoshoot for us and the most incredible picnic by the lake. Several days later we flew to Cape Town and during the descent spotted a picture of the most wonderful ring on the back of a magazine in the seat pocket in front of us, and made it our mission to find it. After several days of hunting, we found the store, Browns the Jewellers, and sure enough, the exact same ring that we had seen on the plane was soon safely on my finger.
It has a guardian angel on the inside and I plan to engrave the coordinates of where we got engaged which I had safely stored having been our lifeline in finding our precious treehouse to begin with.
The jewellers gave us a bottle of champagne which we drank on the beach while watching the sunset over Table Mountain to celebrate. We cage dived with sharks, snorkelled with seals, went wine tasting and met the world's smallest ostrich! It was the holiday of a lifetime. When we got home, Darren threw me the most amazing party. He spelled out "engaged" in big silver balloons and we got to relive the joy over and over again as people arrived. He had a display of all our travelling photos and had even organised a cake in the shape of a boat to replicate the 'balloon boat' from all those years before. A long awaited proposal yes, but it was so definitely worth it!