It was a beautiful summer’s day. We were sitting on the side of a river bank. The love of my life was staring at me. “Lorna Prichard.”
“Will you marry me?”
I picked up a crisp. “Yeah definitely,” I replied.
“OK, thank you,” he said. “Let’s go for another swim.”
As proposals go, it was perfect. But I hadn’t expected to say “yes” to a man I’d only met the day before.
We’d first locked eyes virtually three weeks earlier. As a Cardiff-based comedian, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands when pandemic restrictions set in last March, and so, after three years of being single, had decided to try online dating. After two months with only a smattering of virtual dates to speak of – and no spark in sight – I’d decided to give up, saying goodbye to my profile with one last trawl through my messages.
That’s when I encountered Leo. He was a Brazilian engineer living across the channel from me in Bristol. He was handsome, yes, but he also had very kind, lively eyes and a big smile. We decided to meet for a virtual date one Friday night (his first, which I could tell because of the unflattering laptop angle and lighting). But despite all that, I was struck at how attracted to him I was, and how relaxed he made me feel.
We couldn’t stop talking, and finally put our laptops down at 3am. We started messaging and FaceTiming non-stop. Three weeks later, restrictions had eased enough for us to meet in real life – at a distance – so we met in a park in Bristol for a walk. It went so well, we decided to meet the next day at a river bank for a picnic.
It was there, as I swam on our second date, that I realised I’d just agreed to marry a man I’d only met the day before. What was I thinking? My family and friends were even more shocked when I said he would be moving in the next weekend. I had only told a handful of friends that I’d been “seeing” a man online; I knew they wouldn’t take it seriously, given my track record of disastrous dating and fleeting encounters. I hadn’t told my mum or siblings anything at all. So when I rang my mum with the news, she assumed it was a joke.
“Are you serious?” she asked for the third time. “Completely,” I said.
“I didn’t know you had a boyfriend!”
I started telling friends. They were all incredulous. One asked if I was having a mental breakdown, another asked if this was some sort of sketch I was working up. One asked if I was the victim of a scam, which made me laugh.
“He’s an engineer with dual European and Brazilian passports and comes from a wealthy family. I’m an out of work comedian. If it is, I’m the one scamming him!”
I tried hard to explain to those who loved me that I truly hadn’t really meant to get engaged to a man they didn’t know existed. I’d heard about love at first sight, or impulsive engagements, but never imagined it would happen to me. When Leo asked me to marry him, I was just responding to a question: it felt instinctive, as though someone had asked me if I wanted a cup of tea. I knew he was The One. I’d known it from that first virtual date.
Marriage has never been particularly important to me but I’d always hoped I’d meet someone special and fall in love. I didn’t expect to do so in a pandemic, and certainly not as quickly as I did, but with the rules constantly changing, I couldn’t risk anything that would keep us apart.
When Leo got to my place, it wasn’t as romantic as I’d imagined. He immediately started vacuuming; while we’d seemed like soulmates on paper, in reality, we were like chalk and cheese.
“There is cat fur everywhere,” he complained.
“Oh yes, they do moult a lot this time of year,” I lied. He didn’t need to know he was picking up three years’ worth of feline debris. Catro, Gwennie and Merlin were the loves of my life (before Leo came along) and none of us were very houseproud.
— Lorna Prichard (@lornacomedy) February 10, 2021
When we were allowed, Leo met some of my friends outside. Our pandemic courtship meant all those first meetings were so memorable; I couldn’t just drag him to the pub for a drunken night out. We met my friend Kay for a beautiful sunrise swim in Snowdonia; Claire and her husband and son for a waterfall walk and picnic in the Brecon Beacons. Elin cooked a beautiful garden supper, putting twinkly lights and candles everywhere, while Robin joined us for a flask of tea on Barry Island. I knew they’d all fall in love with him as quickly as I had, and they did.
I tried to learn some of Leo’s native Portuguese, while he tried to master a few phrases in my first language, Welsh. By October, he asked if I wanted to join his family for a Halloween party.
“Of course not. Over Zoom.”
By November, we’d settled into pandemic monotony: working from home, watching films, bickering. I told him I felt we had all the boring relationship stuff without any of the fun. It wasn’t like the honeymoon period had ended – thanks to the pandemic, we hadn’t had one. No late night dancing, weekend visits to the National Trust; no romantic weekends abroad. Just working out a cooking and cleaning rota, staying quiet for each other’s meetings.
Then, one weekend, he asked me if I wanted to go for a drive.
“Surprise!” he said as we pulled up to a caravan site in the middle of nowhere.
“A weekend here? In December?”
“No, this caravan. I bought it so we can go away and have some romance.”
I was secretly delighted. At Christmas we did take the caravan away – to North Wales, to my mum’s driveway, as we were banned from entering the house because of a third lockdown. On New Year’s Eve, instead of the Copacabana celebrations we had been hoping for, we sat squashed in the caravan with three grumpy cats, watching firework displays on YouTube.
We had hoped to marry this spring, but the pandemic is making that seem increasingly unlikely. The only thing I regret about getting together with Leo in 2020 is that it was too late for my dad to meet him, as he’d died the year before. They would have got on so well, and as my mum says, Dad would have been “tickled pink” at our whirlwind courtship. Beyond the initial shock, nobody has raised an eyebrow about the speed of our romance, which has been a huge relief.
I have no idea how we’ll spend our first Valentine’s Day. Probably going for a chilly picnic next to the river Taff here in Cardiff. It will feel like old time’s sake, given our proposal – even if, in the time of Covid romance, that isn’t so long.
When Lorna Met Leo: Love in the Time of Covid is on BBC Radio Wales on February 11 at 6.30pm then available on BBC Sounds
Share This Story