I am delighted to announce that Susie and I are engaged to be married. For the record, the engagement took place on 22nd December in Franschhoek, near Cape Town, South Africa
Tradition dictates that one should seek the permission of the father to marry his daughter. The day before our engagement we were attending an Ocean Cruising Club function at the Groot Constantia wine estate. I had set a time in my mind that in theory equated to lunchtime back in England and Susie’s father Richard should be at home. As it happens he was driving in his car which thankfully has a hands-free phone. I had planned some preliminary chatter about Christmas which went along fine. Then the big moment, “Richard, I’ve been procrastinating too long, I’d like your permission to please marry your daughter?” I admit I was nervous. “Pardon?” “Can I please marry your daughter?” “Hang on, I’m pulling over”. I then proceeded to rattle off my plans for my proposal to Susie, giving Richard time to think through this rather daunting question and consider what he was letting his daughter in for. Thankfully he came back and said I had the blessing of himself and Ros. Phew – relief! Back to the wine tasting.
My cunning story to Susie was that I was treating her to a day of pampering to thank her for all she had done for the year, especially in helping sail us across the Indian Ocean. I had decided Cape Town is just one of the most beautiful spots in the world and would be a perfect place to propose. I’ve always believed in research and set to investigating where to propose. Lots of options – beaches, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens. Having visited the wine region of Franschhoek before and having always considered it to be the most beautiful wine region in the world, it seemed the perfect fit. We’ve seen so many beaches and perfect sunsets on our voyage that they really weren’t an option. I confess in my research I even had to research which hand the ring goes on – it’s always been one of those things that confounds me.
The venue I finally settled on was the newly opened Leeu Estate, owners of the prestigious Mullineux wine portfolio.
The morning of 22nd December arrived and my plans to go up Table Mountain were thwarted as the cable car was closed due to adverse weather on top of the mountain. No problem, I would whisk Susie off to the beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens for breakfast. Susie had been pestering me on what she would need to wear for the day. I told her we’d need swimwear which was making her nervous as I’ve been known to throw in the odd adrenalin involved adventure.
The biggest challenge of the day was moving the ring around. I had my mother’s ring. My mother liked Susie, I was fond of my mother and so it seemed fitting to me that the ring would have a new good home and hopefully make my mother smile. So I was trying to distract Susie throughout the day while I moved the ring on various occasions to keep it safe and hidden which was not easy.
Every stop was kept a secret until the moment it was revealed. The Kirstenbosch Gardens are beautiful and peaceful and we enjoyed breakfast and a leisurely stroll. Next off to Franschhoek –there is a longer but magnificent drive that passes through valleys and passes before revealing Franschhoek in all its glory sitting down below. We enjoyed a light lunch in a vineyard before we headed for a mosey around the small town full of old Dutch colonial houses, small shops and cafes which now it proudly boasts hosts some of South Africa’s best restaurants.
Next, to Leeu Estate. At the gates, the guard asked my name and then replied “Yes Mr Partridge, we have been expecting you”. I wasn’t too sure whether I should just be impressed by the level of service but it simply quickened my heart rate as I knew what was planned. We were escorted to our room with lovely views over the gardens of Leeu Estate and Franschhoek valley. There was no time to dilly-dally, we were off to the wine cellars to taste some of the fine wines. During the tasting Denver, the concierge who had been a great helping in suggesting a location within the estate to propose, arrived and took me off to show me where he thought would be a good spot. The weather was a bit touch-and-go so Denver had already planned a back-up of a wine cellar decorated with candles. Again, I sent Susie a red herring explaining there had been some mix-ups in the bookings and he wanted to apologise, asking if he could do anything to make it up to us; I told her I’d asked him for a nice place on the estate to have a sundowner. One needs to get creative with things at speed sometimes.
Back to the hotel, we changed for a spa massage. Susie was able to relax and enjoy the massage while I enjoyed most of it being jolted back to reality with the thought of what lay ahead.
Back in our room we dressed for our sundowner and dinner. It’s quite tricky wondering if everyone has been properly briefed but the staff were simply great. Three of them at reception jumped up as we came down the stairs, “Yes, Mr Partridge, everything is set up for you in the Bokkie Garden”. I wanted to say “Please stop being so attentive, I’m glad the plan is working but you’re also giving me huge heart attacks. To quote the Leeu Estate description of the Bokkie Garden “The word ‘bokkie’ is the diminutive of buck and is often used within the Afrikaans community as the term for ‘beloved’ or ‘sweetheart’. An expression of love, the beautifully laid out Bokkie Garden aims to create a meditative and serene space where people can reconnect with nature and one another. A small vineyard showcasing carefully selected varieties of grape has also been established, from which a very limited edition wine will be produced.”
Walking up to the garden, I was half enjoying it, half terrified – Susie was blissfully unaware and happily enjoying it. A picnic blanket with a bottle of bubbles and glasses and some nibbles had been set up. It was, truth be told, the perfect setting, I couldn’t have asked for more. We sat sipping on bubbles and enjoying the view, I almost couldn’t believe my luck – all this to ourselves. In my head I was thinking – when do I go for it? And then two kids came bouncing along and started playing in the Bokkie Garden! Not what I wanted – Ladies and Gentleman, this proposal will now be delayed by twenty minutes.
I told Susie I had one more surprise and that I had a gift for her hidden in the statue behind us and that she had to close her eyes. I even walked to the statue and back simply moving the ring one more time from my pocket. Then kneeling down on one knee in front of her I told her to open her eyes and then said the fabulous words “Susie, will you marry me?”
In doing my research, I’d read reactions can vary from tears to laughter to screaming and you may have to wait for the actual, “Yes”. Fortunately Susie came out with the “Yes” quickly and we enjoyed a very special moment in our lives. “Real men don’t cry”; tears and laughter mingled from both of us.
Then Susie wanted to know all the detail of how I had planned it but I suggested she phoned her parents who were aware of the day’s details as I’d emailed all of it to them following my phone call to her father. I had hoped and suspected they would be ready for a call and would have some champagne to hand, and indeed they did.
We then phoned my father who was eating his dinner and was surprised to say the least but equally happy for us. Hopefully he had a whisky within easy reach to ease him from the shock that his son was to be married.
No time for pausing, dinner was booked at The Tasting Room at La Quartier Francais. The restaurant offers a three-and-a-half hour South African themed tasting menu. Susie simply couldn’t stop laughing with happiness, it was a real delight, and indeed she is still giggling away. Of course she had to tell the staff of the restaurant and the bubbles flowed. It was one of the most fun evenings we’ve ever enjoyed and we were last to leave – our thanks to the team there who gave us a great evening.
The next day we headed back to Adina and on Christmas Eve we were able to have some sailing friends around and enjoy a pontoon engagement party. The sailing community is a close one and, whilst missing our friends and family at home, it was great to celebrate with them.
Many have already asked about a wedding date but we have no plans as yet. 2017 is a big year for us; we need to focus on completing our circumnavigation, we then have to move back to London and in the mix my side there’s a big birthday to deal with. Therefore, so that we can rather enjoy our wedding and planning it, we’ve said we will look beyond 2017.
We’d like to thank everyone for the kind and warm wishes we have received, they are very much appreciated; if we had just one wish it would be to share a toast in person with each and every friend and family member.
So there we go – that’s our happy little story, warts and all. Surprisingly not, boat work has been put on hold for now! Happy Christmas everyone!