365 päivää sitten tein illallisella ratkaisevan muuvin pääruoan ja jälkiruoan välissä eräässä lontoolaisessa kortteliravintolassa, jonka seurauksena pakkasin kimpsuni kaksi kuukautta myöhemmin ja muutin Lontooseen.
On kulunut 365 päivää siitä, kun meistä tuli Richardin kanssa pari. Meidän suhde eteni varsin suoraviivaiseksi eikä siinä tarvittu mitään epämääräisiä välivaiheita – johtuen tosin varmasti siitä, että tätä edelsi puolen vuoden ystävyys.
Kirjoitin viime helmikuussa tarinan siitä, kuinka tapasin elämänkumppanini. Halusin jakaa tarinan erityisesti siksi, että jos voin sillä valaa uskoa ja luottamusta muihin pitkäaikaisiin sinkkuihin, niin olen siitä suunnattoman onnellinen. Paras neuvoni kuuluu edelleen:
Luotat vaan. Luota ja nauti sillä välin täydestä sydämestä koko elämästäsi ja seikkailuista!
Eräs seuraajani kommentoi helmikuussa, että olisipa hauskaa lukea Richardin versio meidän kohtaamisesta. Kysyin mitä hän tuumisi ajatuksesta ja hänhän heittäytyi siihen täysillä (tosin täytyy kyllä sanoa, että tämä tarina on hänen kertomanaan vieläkin mehevämpi livenä, joka tuli todistettua viime talvena illallisen äärellä Inken ja hänen miehensä kanssa!). Siispä vuosipäivämme kunniaksi saatte lukea Richardin kirjoittaman tarinan siitä, miten kaikki oikein meni.
Vuosi on mennyt tosi nopeasti. Lontooseen asettuminen oli alkuun haastavaa, mutta nyt tunnen oloni kotoisaksi ja rakastan Englantia. Olen nauttinut etenkin tästä syksystä joka solullani. Meillä on tosi ihanaa ja hauskaa yhdessä ja paljon yhteisiä haaveita. Lisäksi Richardin perhe, sukulaiset ja ystävät ovat tosi ihania ja ovat ottaneet minut avosylin vastaan. Vaikka olemme Richardin kanssa yhdessä joka päivä eikä minulla ole täällä juurikaan ystäviä, tuntuu etten saa hänestä tarpeekseni. Löydän koko ajan uusia ulottuvuuksia omasta itsestäni, toisesta ja yhteisestä elämästä.
Tänään juhlistamme meidän vuosipäivää Skecth-ravintolassa. Olen halunnut mennä sinne jo pitkään vain sen vuoksia, että ravintola on vaaleanpunainen. Toivottavasti myös ruoka on hyvää!
Pidemmittä puheitta, päästän Richardin ääneen:
”My first memory of Katja still makes me smile to this day. It was the day I arrived at a yoga retreat in Italy, June 2018. I sat pool-side in the afternoon sun, chatting to a friend and another arrivee. A flash of red caught my eye and I turned to look across the swimming pool to see a beautiful red headed girl walking around its perimeter towards us. Bold as brass, she walks straight up to me sticking her hand out to shake, and introduces herself to the group “Hello, my name is Katja, what’s yours..?” in her sweet Finnish accent. Katja sat down to join us and we all got to know each other a little, exchanging yoga stories and how we were looking forward to practicing with our teacher John Scott.
I had found yoga after coming out of a long term relationship a couple of years previously. That experience made me realise I wanted to live differently, more wholesomely and create a better energy that what had been characteristic of my life until that point. I thrived on the new way of being, found myself connecting more to my true self, and consciously decided not to look for the ‘next’ relationship and instead enjoy the forming of new friendships with those I met from UK and abroad on the yoga retreats I joined.
Over the following two weeks in Italy, the group of 30-or-so yogis gradually bonded under John’s teaching.
I booked onto the retreat originally together with four friends who I had met on another retreat with John Scott six months earlier, so in the first few days of the retreat we went out on day trips to explore the local area in a rental car. I remember a conversation in those first few days with Katja, who enquired whether there was room in the car for her to jump in with. I was disappointed to say that the car was full!
In between the day trips I made sure to get some time by the pool the relax in the sun, unwind and expel the effects of London life from my system, and repair my body after the morning’s Ashtanga practice. The pool and garden area made a lovely sun trap which attracted a batch of regular sunworshippers… Marieme… Jennifer… Olivier… Beatrice… and Katja!
Mine and Katja’s afternoon chat/snooze/soak sessions by the pool were formative in the development of our friendship. I was struck by her warm, down-to-earth and grounded nature during a conversation where she completely downplayed all the wonderful things she has achieved and is continuing to achieve, in her life. And for my part, well Katja learned to appreciate how attractive I was when I snored/drooled!
By the end of the retreat after a wonderful two weeks I counted Katja and others as friends, Facebook friendships had been formed, and offers of places to stay in each others countries of residence had been made.
Back in London a few of weeks later I was very happy to receive a message from Katja, explaining she was going to be in London for a couple of days on business and would I like to meet for lunch. We made the date and enjoyed a lovely couple of hours in the warm sun in Covent Garden for some lunch and ice cream. The conversation flowed easily (as did the ice cream into my beard, though Katja didn’t seem to mind), and I realised I thoroughly enjoyed Katja’s company. So when Katja was in touch later that day to ask if I’d like to join her for dinner with a friend the next evening, I didn’t hesitate for a second in accepting. I did however have to cancel dinner with my Dad, who interrogated me on who this Katja was, and if there was anything romantic going on. I protested that no there wasn’t, but I think that was the point when I began wondering where this might lead.
It was from that point mine and Katja’s Facebook messaging experienced a huge spike with a regular conversational flow. And it did flow, feeling neither pushed from one party nor self-conscious or contrived. Over the next month or two we found ourselves enjoying humorous good-natured conversation from week to week, learning about each other as time went on and liking what we learned.
At some point in September, Katja wrote to say that she was going to be in London on business once again in November, would I be up for putting her up in my spare room as I had previously offered over a long weekend and would I be up for working with her on a client’s content collaboration for the photography. I had barely had a chance to say ‘yes’ and ‘yes’, before another message came through explaining that the long weekend would now actually be two weeks, and would I mind…? I didn’t need to think for a moment, knowing that it would be great fun and told Katja yes and that I was looking forward to her stay.
From that point on I began planning. I was grateful that I had my spare room renovated earlier in the year but knew that I had to sort a bed for the room out. At that point I still didn’t have a clue about where our friendship could lead, but I knew I didn’t want to be that guy that would try & create an unwanted romantic encounter and ruin a blossoming friendship. So I set out to kit my spare room out with a nice bed. However the one challenge I was facing was that my spare room is TINY. The available floor space was too small even for a small single, so I hunted online for the best fold-up guest bed that money could buy, along with a set of nice of crispy white bed linens to finish things off.
The weeks passed amongst a steady stream of entertaining Facebook conversation, and the day of Katja’s arrival finally arrived. My flat was clean (by my definition). The spare bed was set. I had washed my hair and trimmed my beard. All was ready. Katja successfully managed to find her way from Gatwick Airport to my local tube station on a Wednesday evening, I collected her and we chilled out with a pizza, a glass of wine and good conversation at home.
The next evening after my day at the office we met for dinner in a buzzy relaxed restaurant area near my home. The conversation was good, we laughed about the poor night’s sleep Katja had on the fold-up bed amongst other things, there was no flirting between us and I was simply enjoying getting to know Katja properly with no expectations. So imagine my surprise when in between our main course and desert that Katja looked me in the eye and calmly asked if she could sleep in my bed that night.
My mind raced as I tried but failed to interpret Katja’s intention. There was no alluring look or saucy pout to indicate her desires, instead just a clear open gaze from her beautiful blue eyes. A wave of yogic calmness entered my body and I replied naturally, “Of course!” as though Katja had asked if she could simply borrow my coat, or something similarly mundane.
As we walked home, I gradually extracted further clarity over what exactly Katja meant by this. Did she intend for me to sleep in the bed also? Yes. So I wasn’t expected to sleep on my own sofa. Would she rather sleep on my sofa bed (a double!). No. Ok, so she definitely wanted to sleep in MY bed, AND with me in there. But I was still left with a slight suspicion that this was some weird Finnish social practice where friends of opposite sexes sleep together platonically. The result of scrambled brains from their messed up daylight hours no doubt.
We enjoyed a cups of tea on my sofa and more conversation, before getting ready for bed. I let Katja get ready and into bed first, before I freshened up and put on my best boxers. I walked into the bedroom, got into bed as Katja opened her eyes, and leaned over to kiss her good night. I offered my cheek, and as our faces made contact I felt her head turn and slowly our lips met.
The last 12 months have been a wonderful blur. I was amazed by Katja’s bravery and instincts, to make the first moves on me (count them) three times, and quickly fell I love with her for these and many other qualities that I have been honoured to experience. In the weeks following this first meeting of souls we travelled to Goa on another retreat with John Scott, soon after I joined Katja in Helsinki for the new year and met her lovely parents. In the middle of January Katja packed her bags and left Helsinki to live with me in London. Throughout, I never had any doubts, fears, insecurities or concerns, I just felt a quietly confident rightness in the whole experience.
I write this on the eve of our first anniversary, looking forward to celebrating our first year together tomorrow night, but even more looking forward to spending many more years ahead with Katja.”