It was sometime in the early 1980s when I first met him.
He was wearing a paisley green shirt, a pair of deep purple trousers, socks and sandals. He wasn’t at all the kind of man to whom I would ever be attracted. To me his most unattractive feature was not the full, shabby, ginger beard but that he was an Englishman. A Pom.
New Zealanders then were still very bigoted. So much so that one sports radio personality had begun a national anti-Poms campaign. People thought it was funny. It was taking a jab at the strong unionists, many of whom were English who were challenging the government of the day. Some Kiwis supported the ‘humorous’ campaign with bumper stickers on their cars that read, ‘Punch a Pom a Day.’ It horrifies me now but back then people thought it was a bit of fun.
We shook hands and I noted the softness of his skin. This was new and the tenderness of his touch. Over the years this man became a friend, then a good, warm friend, then a fellow sporting competitor, then an irritant, an adversary, an antagonist, even an enemy. We reached a dead end. I walked away… for a time. Then I turned around and started back along a pathway towards friendship, then a warm friendship, then a very close friendship, leading into a long and deep love affair.
The socks and sandals had long since gone, the beard had been shaved off, the wardrobe had improved tastefully when with deep love and pure happiness I held those soft hands and said “I do.”