We had six months, from when Tom first got his paperwork, to physically get him to the UK, get married and submit the next round of paperwork. Apparently there are people who think you can just walk into a Registrar’s office with a couple of witnesses and that’s a marriage sorted. Not true. There’s a lead time of at least a month on the quickest of weddings, and if you wanted something a bit more involved and romantic, the 6 months of moving to marry visa will not allow it. Most people spend more than 6 months making wedding arrangements. One of the upshots was that we did not attempt to do a handfasting at the same time.
We had two years, before the next round of paperwork, which included a hefty form and Tom had to pass the rather silly Life in the UK Test. A heady mix of the painfully obvious, and things no actual resident ever needs to know around what the Queen can do but mostly leaves to the Prime Minister.
Getting married was a hasty process, and we didn’t have the luxury of time to enjoy it as much as we might have done. The knowledge that we only got two years, and then officialdom could, in theory, force us apart, has been really hard to live with. I’ve felt it as a physical weight on my body, most particularly my heart. But, paperwork dragons have been duly seen off, and this week we had confirmation that Tom has been processed and can stay forever. Last night I was crying with sheer relief. It’s taken us four years, from the point of declaring love to each other, to get to a place where we can live together for as long as we choose, without having to get permission from anyone. Having that which many straight couples can take for granted, for the first time in our relationship, is a really big deal. And yes, this process has made me even more sensitive to the plight of other people whose freedom to love and marry is restricted by law, but that’s a rant for another day.
It took me a while to realise that I hadn’t felt able to handfast because of the paperwork, and the permission to stay. We’ve talked about this one a bit. We are free to commit to each other totally now, because we are free to be in the same place. It also seems like a good reason for some celebrating. So I’m thinking about where, and when, and how. Somewhere public that anyone who wants to be with us can get to, would be the first consideration. We’ve got one volunteer for the celebrant team already, we’ll be looking for others, and there’s going to be cake, and ice cream, if I get this right. I’ve vows to ponder, and a dress to buy, because this seems like a fine excuse for buying a dress. And a thing to make for the tying of hands together. Perhaps a broom to make, too.
Alongside this, we’re house hunting, and talking to publishers, and all the things that constitute our lives and futures are starting to fall into place. Exciting times. It’s been a long, hard fight to get here, but we have a future and a lot of scope to chase dreams right now. It’s been a relationship built on dreams from the very start. For some people, dreams are flimsy, untrustworthy things, distractions from real life. For me, they have always been the essence of what I do. Dreams of better things, dreams that turn into books and images. We dared the dream that we could be together, that we could work together and do what we love. It’s not been an easy path on any count. And while ‘living the dream’ tends to imply ease and convenience, with a bucket load of cash, in our case it means living out our beliefs and values, making ideas into realities, and so forth. Often that’s not an easy path to walk, but we’ll keep doing it, hanging on to each other when times are tough, as no doubt they will sometimes be.
Happily ever after, for the first time in my life looks like a realistic option.