I had decided before Christmas that I would propose to Alyson on New Year's Day. 2011 has health-wise, been a tough year all round for us so I decided that the perfect way to begin a New Year was to look forward and not back and what better way of doing that than by proposing marriage?!
We've been together now for 2 years and a week (since Boxing Day 2009) and you know when friends and family are constantly asking when will there be an announcement that in the eyes of the wider world, this was the next logical step. Thankfully for Alyson and I, it was also how we saw it. We have spoken about the future and getting married so it wasn't exactly an 'out-of-the-blue' proposal but having said that, I wanted to get it as right as possible.
With Alyson being an only child, her family are very close and they have made me feel like a part of the family over the past 2 years. So it was only right that I do the traditional thing in advance and ask for parental blessing for me to ask her the question. Again, I did this in the old year and because they are so close, I asked both her mother and father for their blessing and not just her father as is the traditional way of things. I'm glad to report that they consented!
That brought the final question of the 'where' and the 'when'. The 'when' as I had decided above would be on the first day of a New Year. The 'where' was not so straight forward. With the weather over the New Year here in west Wales so changeable, I was owing much to luck.
In the end, I left it to my father to decide. Dad's is a south Pembrokeshire family and I spent the first 17 years of my life living down near Loveston and Martletwy so my roots are firmly planted in the soil of the south. Dad passed away back in 2003 but we have fond memories of him and a wealth of his home-made videos which he would customise from home on his editing suite. Many of those videos started with the views of the sunsets in the west Wales sky and the one that always stays with me are those sunsets at Landshipping on the Cleddau Estuary played to a relaxing classical music back-drop. Landshipping as the crow flies can be no more than 4 or so miles from my paternal home and barely a mile or so from Martletwy where I attended Sunday School and where my father's sister Aunty June and her family, my cousins, live today. My great-Aunty Dolly lived in Landshipping too and I vaguely recall visits down to the village and to the same quay there from where my father filmed much of his video footage.
Down at the quay also is the small monument to Pembrokeshire's greatest mining disaster when, on Valentine's Day, February 14th 1844, 40 miners drowned in a horrific accident at the Garden Pit mine there. The shaft was 67 yards deep and much of the workings ran beneath the estuarial waters of the Cleddau and Daucleddau rivers. Miners were at their work when the usual water seepage, which was encountered at this mine suddenly began to increase in volume. This concerned the miners so much that they left the mine only to be sent back after being reassured that all was well. One hour later the sea broke into the workings in such a deluge that 40 miners were drowned, unable to escape the torrent.
In 2002, the bilingual Memorial Plaque there was erected by the community in memory of a disaster that tore the heart and soul out of the community. I haven't been to Landshipping in that time and it's quite likely that my father never saw this plaque before he passed away in 2003. The names are of young men and children of the village and it struck home with me to see that the surnames of 5 of them was 'Cole'. Indeed, 3 of them were John Cole. My name is John Mark Cole. My father's first cousin is John Cole. Indeed, when my paternal grandfather Benjamin married my paternal grandmother Maud, she didn't have to change her name - she was already a Cole from a different branch of the name .Such is the popularity of the Cole name down in south Pembrokeshire! It was from her side of the family that great-Auntie Dolly came from and she as I have stated above lived in Landshipping. So I intend to investigate into my family history on my father's side as I expect that it quite sadly may be the case that a number of these names on the plaque, are distant relatives of mine.
The Big Ask
So, being a sentimentalist at heart with a close association to my family history, I chose to go back to Landshipping for the first time since I was a child and I proposed to Alyson there down at the quayside. Tradition being as it is and many have asked me this over the past 24 hours, I can now confirm that I did get down on one knee and propsed to her in Welsh and she did indeed say yes!
The weather wasn't the best but during the time we were there, we were fortunate enough to have had a lull in the showery rain that had persisted all day. We drove back to Llanboidy to Alyson's home to tell her parents the news. On the way, I called my mother and spoke or left messages with my 4 elder siblings to tell them the news also! Everyone I'm pleased to say, was delighted!
So, there you have it! I am now engaged and may I take this opportunity of thanking everyone who in the past 24 hours have shown such love, affection and friendship on our happy news. Mine and Alyson's Facebook page has gone absolutely insane on the news! I've had over 200 'likes' to the status and relationship updates and innumerable messages of goodwill from friends near and far. Alyson can account for the same.
So 2012 is here, it's a new start for us and looking forward, may I wish everyone a happy and a positive year.