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A lot of our readers who follow along on Facebook will know we've recently been away on a trip to the UK. What most of you won't know, however, is that David (my long-time boyfriend and co-editor here on the site) used that trip as an opportunity to propose – and I accepted.
Since there's a bit of a British TV connection to this proposal, I thought I'd share the story here.
The Backstory: How We Met
Ten years ago, I flew into Boston to give a presentation and help with a seminar at the Harvard Club. The first day there, I grabbed pizza with a fellow presenter – David – and we became instant best friends.
I liked his brains, his mischievous nature, and his entrepreneurial drive – but most of all, his kindness. He's the sort of guy who fosters and rescues animals, carries bugs outside instead of squishing them, and feeds weak bees he finds on the porch. He even has his own microchip scanner so he can check stray animals that wander by, just in case someone's missing them. In our years together, we've released rehabilitated pelicans and wrestled an injured turkey into a car. When his mother was sick, I saw him drop everything to take care of her for months, ensuring she didn't have to spend her final days in a nursing home.
In short, he's a keeper.
We never had any particular reason or need to get married, but as we were closing in on a decade together, we decided to start moving in that general direction. Over the next year or so, we chose a stone, designed a ring, and planned a trip to Scotland to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the day we met.
Given the circumstances, I didn't think David would be able to surprise me when it came to proposing. I even went out of my way to drop comments about the ridiculous pressures on men to come up with over-the-top proposals, and to let him know that no matter what he did, it would be perfect because we'd be together AND in Scotland, which is already incredibly fortunate.
Little did I know, David had been secretly plotting with Maralyn Shine since January. If you've ever watched a special about Loch Ness, there's a pretty good chance you've seen Maralyn's husband, naturalist Adrian Shine. Since we run a British TV site, we've seen a lot of Mr. Shine and we've really come to admire the work he and his team do. At one point, I can even remember saying, “I know there isn't much chance of seeing anything out on Loch Ness, but I think it would be almost as cool to run into Adrian Shine.”
At first, it might sound a little silly to dedicate one's career to looking for sea monsters in Scottish lochs. Can you even imagine a typical teacher's reaction if you put something like that on the “when I grow up” assignment in primary school?
It didn't take long to realize there was a lot more than that going on. In pursuit of unknown creatures, Shine and others gathered tons of valuable data about the ecologies of large and under-studied bodies of water in Scotland, particularly Loch Ness.
At the same time, he's provided an enormous service to the local area. Tourism is a major source of income for the Scottish Highlands, and you couldn't have a better unofficial spokesman for the Loch Ness region than Adrian Shine. Though a skeptic, there's a certain sense of wonder that comes through, and that's rare in adults. Even while debunking various hoaxes and theories, he makes two things very clear: (1) that it's quite unlikely 1000s of people are lying about the sightings they report, and (2) that if ever there were a place for sea monsters or dragons to live, Loch Ness would certainly be it.
You can't help but be drawn into the mystery.
Anyway, back to the proposal…
The day of the proposal, David wanted to go to the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition around opening time. While I wandered the pretty gardens around the centre, he ran on ahead to get tickets. Or so I thought. In reality, he was handing the ring off to Maralyn, his co-conspirator.
Suspecting nothing, we went through the exhibit and had a great time. If you're curious, we talk a bit more about the exhibit itself HERE. I highly recommend it. As we were leaving, we spotted Adrian “randomly” as he was busying himself with something related to the exhibit. After a bit of chatting, he offered to take us back for a better look at Machan, the tiny submarine you see above.
There was another couple in the room as he pointed out some facts and features about the submarine, and I remember being somewhat distracted by the fact that they were watching the pre-recorded video while the real expert was right there in front of them.
As he opened the top of the submarine, he noticed a paper bag and commented that it looked as though someone had left their lunch in there. He asked David to retrieve it, and as you might expect by now, the bag contained the ring. David dropped to one knee to propose, and I accepted immediately.
As if their presence and assistance wasn't enough, the Shines and the Loch Ness Centre bombarded us with wonderful gifts afterwards – champagne, flowers, an autographed book, and a thoughtful card. Unfortunately, I was getting over a touch of food poisoning and the thought of anything but water and crackers made me queasy, so there would be no champagne toast that evening. We named it the “Shine Wine”, though, and we've set it aside for an anniversary.
Overall, it was more perfect than I ever could have imagined, and I greatly appreciate everything David, Maralyn, and Adrian did to make it such a wonderful day.
Where to Watch Adrian Shine & the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition
Great Canal Journeys – Fawlty Towers fans will recognize Prunella Scales and her husband Timothy West in this documentary series about travel along mostly British canals. In Series 6, they venture down the Caledonian Canal, passing through Loch Ness and stopping off to talk with Adrian Shine of the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. Unfortunately, this episode has not yet been released on DVD. If you do happen to come across this episode, the Loch Ness bit starts a little after the nine minute mark.
It's also worth noting that Prunella suffers from a form of dementia that has progressed very slowly over the years. Great Canal Journeys is a really touching portrayal of what it's like to deal with those kinds of issues while still traveling and leading an active life. I highly recommend it.
Naked Science – This 50-minute documentary program includes some great footage of Loch Ness, the general area, and some local experts. It's also worth noting that while many full-length programs on YouTube are unauthorized uploads, this one is a fully legal upload on a verified account.
Rick Steves' Europe: Scotland's Highlands – In Season 10 of this popular travel series, Rick Steves takes us through a whirlwind tour of Glencoe, Loch Ness, Inverness, and the battlefield at Culloden. He briefly interviews Adrian Shine at the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. The episode is available for streaming purchase HERE.
Secret Scotland – In this recent series, pleasantly spunky comedienne Susan Calman visits popular tourist spots around Scotland, offering a closer look than what you'd normally see. In episode 3, she visits Loch Ness and Drumnadrochit. This series is available on DVD HERE, but please take note, you'll need a region-free DVD player to view it in North America.
History Classics: History's Mysteries – This interesting series from the History Channel includes an episode on sea monsters – and of course, you can't talk sea monsters without a mention of Nessie.
I'm almost definitely missing a few, so please feel free to add others in the comments!
To say David did a great job with the ring would be an understatement. He knew the standard diamond solitaire wasn't really my style, so instead of trying to pick something on his own, he enlisted my help. While it might seem like that would take all the fun out of it, it was actually really neat being able to design it together – especially since I once took some gemology classes on a whim, and I find the science and business behind the whole shiny rock thing to be quite fascinating. Apologies in advance if I geek out a bit on this section…
We figured out pretty quickly that we wanted a green to green-blue sapphire. While emerald would have been lovely and much easier to source, it's a lot softer and more brittle than sapphire. Only a handful of stones can really stand up to daily wear on a hand – diamond, moissanite, and corundum (aka ruby if red, sapphire if it's any other color).
Nice-colored green sapphires are relatively hard to find, especially if you want one that's well-cut and large enough to really appreciate the interplay of colors we hoped to find. Most are sort of pale or muddy or olive green in color.
After a few months of searching, we found an extremely talented lapidary in Australia named Doug Menadue. You can check out his site, Bespoke Gems, for loads of sparkly eye candy. Since we were also concerned about the environmental/social impact of gemstone mining, we were delighted when he had exactly the stone we'd been looking for, straight from the minefields of Queensland, AU. Australia has excellent human and environmental protection rules in place, as opposed to something like the illegal sapphire mining in Madagascar that's killing lemurs.
Depending on the lighting and viewing angle, the stone can look more blue, green, or black – and often, it's some combination of the three. It reminds me of the Northern Lights, or those shimmery feathers on many bird necks (or the blue-green tail and flight feathers on my little parrots).
Fun Fact: There are some naturally-occurring sapphires in the Hebrides Islands in Scotland, and they look very similar to the inky blue to blue-green sapphires you see from Australia (examples HERE). Because the area was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, no mining is permitted. A handful of stones have made it to the market in various legal ways, but they're extremely small, rare, and expensive compared to the sapphires coming out of Australia.
When it came time to set the sapphire, we couldn't find exactly what we were envisioning so we opted to give the unique stone an equally unique setting. With the assistance of Green Lake Jewelry Works in Seattle, we were able to get a ring designed to our specifications – complete with thistles engraved on the sides. We always said that if we got married, it would be in Scotland – so it was the perfect touch.
While it's a bit too soon for details, we're aiming for a castle wedding in Scotland in mid-2020. From a reader perspective, it may be a bit of a letdown after the big royal weddings of the last year or two, but we'll definitely set up a planning journal for anyone who's interested in what's involved in arranging a destination wedding in Scotland.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook or sign up for our newsletter if you'd like to get more details when that launches. Users on desktop can find the newsletter signup form in the right sidebar, and mobile users can keep scrolling down after the post until you see the form.
But Did You See Nessie?
Unfortunately, no tartan-clad plesiosaurs rose up out of the water to greet us 🙂 We did, however, bring home a small stuffed Nessie for our cat who loves plush toys.
Maybe next time…