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This week, my boyfriend and I celebrated our anniversary; we met three muddy years ago at a festival in Oxfordshire. It’s a tale I’m quite smug about: besides the odd fling during my school days, I’d never met someone in person before and had it stick. It had always been either a string of messy Tinder dates or bumping into someone, intoxicated, at a club. We celebrated our victory, lovingly, with prosecco.
We met on the final night of the festival. As cliché as this may sound, a Sunday night headliner is always special, fireworks and all. We bumped into one another in the middle of a mosh pit, inundated with that unique sense of excitement that encompasses the end of a fest: everyone is covered in glitter; smiling drunkenly, beaming up at the inevitable streamers popping out from canons on the front row. It’s euphoric. We’ve been joined at the hip ever since.
Except, there’s one detail that didn’t quite fit our fairy-tale fantasy: I was one week away from moving to Norway to study for a year. I told myself that I wouldn’t take his phone number as I left his tent at 5am because I’d end up breaking my own heart. I knew that my move was imminent; that this would hurt. And yet, he managed to find me – amazingly – on Instagram despite my unique surname.
“Did you get the train okay?” flashed up on my screen as I stumbled for the 10:24 back to London. I’d been up since the early hours packing up my tent and the four-day hangover was beginning to hit. I remembered that we’d had a conversation about our surnames whilst lying with our heads in the grass at the very bottom of the campsite at 2am, shortly before we committed to doing star jumps to keep warm under the moon. I was glad that he had somehow managed to remember; somehow managed to find me. We wouldn’t be here today if he hadn’t.
Five days later, we met up spontaneously for a date in London. I’d had three glasses of wine with a friend the night before and she’d convinced me – dared me – to text him asking if he’d like to go on a date, two days before I was due to move. “Hopefully see you soon!” we smiled as we shared a hug on the platform at Oxford Circus, saying our goodbyes. Six weeks later he was in Norway with me, asking if he could officially call me his girlfriend.
What got us through those early days wasn’t just the omnipresent comfort of instant messaging. It was actually the album listening parties we hosted for each other.
Meeting at a festival, we shared eerily similar tastes, and coming up to autumn, bands of our mutual liking began, in their swathes, to release new music. With each shared interest, we’d make a pact to stay up until midnight and listen together. Because I was in Norway, that meant staying up until 1am so that we could listen in unison despite the slight time difference. These are some of the fondest memories I have of those days; the most heart-warming.
Typically on FaceTime for hours prior, we’d have Spotify ready to go as it came up to the album release time. “Ready? 3, 2, 1…go!” we’d say, pressing play simultaneously so that we could listen and, where appropriate, chat away or do the odd quiet thumbs up as a silent signal of approval.
For one particularly important album release, my boyfriend was away travelling in Uzbekistan. We’d been together for a couple of months at this point, but we’d promised from day one that I’d wait for him to get back so that we could listen to ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 2’, by Foals. It was almost a week’s wait, but it was worth it. This one was particularly important to us: Foals had headlined the festival we’d met, just before we found each other, and the meaning that held was so special.
That album listening party was one of many precious nights we spent discovering new music together, each one bringing its lot of new memories and significance. It brought us closer, and helped us cope with the cloud of loneliness and separation.
I remember one particular time when we stayed up until 4am afterwards, just chatting sleepily on the phone. I could hear the birds chirping outside the window of my often unnervingly quiet university halls in Bergen, as could he from his bedroom in rural Oxfordshire. We were hundreds of miles apart, and yet, the music united us. Despite my homesickness and his longing to be there with me, experiencing it all in technicolour, we had that commonality.
Through music we were – and still are – constantly reminded of how we met, and how lucky we were to have met under those circumstances. I’m not a huge believer in fate, but I think this might’ve been the very definition.