The Proposal

28 Mar

Due to popular demand, and for posterity’s sake, I’ve decided to blog my proposal to Lize, in minute detail. And minute detail is exactly what you’re going to get. I apologise for the tardiness in getting this on record – getting engaged is a terribly breathless and busy thing.

Planning to propose to Lize was as far form the accurate definition of “easy” as I’ve ever dared venture in my life. It was big boy stuff. Far from the shore, without arm bands, in deep water. This is chiefly due to the fact that Lize is the finest natural detective I have ever met. The woman is impossible to surprise. Add into the mix the fact that she’s quite literally part of the fabric of my being, and you have yourself a specially terrifying cocktail of desire to please, with very little capacity to deliver.

I’m not writing this to piss you off, or be smarmy, or throw into horrifying relief how dull and awful your relationship is, but I think I knew right off the bat that Lize was someone extraordinary. I fell in love with her way, way quicker than is probably appropriate to admit. She rushed in like a flood. The smallest spaces of my life were filled with something so radically different from what I had lived before. She was so exhilarating, and occasionally mind-bendingly offensive (with the effect of being gloriously funny), that I marveled at how such great quantities of personality came out of such a small body.

We bonded over drives in the Midlands, eggs benedict (one day I will write my ode to the egg yolk), secret missions to visit her horse, our shared love of music, books, food, and bad puns (mostly on my part).

She took me horse riding – I was terrified, she was proficient. We went out with her friends – I was terrified, she was proficient. We sang in the car – she was terrified, I was proficient. But what she doesn’t know, and continues to disbelieve, is that she is proficient. I get a thrill when she sings. She’s under the mistaken impression that her voice is faulty, when in actual fact her ear is tuned to a natural third harmony. Whenever she wants, she just belts those babies out, and then cringes in shame. My brain adores harmonies, but can’t compute them. Give me a harmony, and I’ll probably give you a compelling argument to give me back the melody.

Lize K, even your failures are lovely to me.

A great deal of stock is placed in “just knowing” that your partner is the “right” person for you. I didn’t “just know”. The truth wasn’t a lonely, innate, isolated feeling, so much as a premise whose truth was smashed into me on an almost hourly basis, until I lay battered, and thrilled, in submission.

When, after the fifth day 0f seeing us together in the flesh during the Christmas visit, my dad asked when I was planning on marrying Lize, my face split in two with a smile. I already had a ring.

Well I mean, I had purchased a ring. I didn’t actually have it in my possession.

Which brings us back to Lize, and her ability to catch the stench of a secret at five miles on the most demure of breezes.

Having a small fraction of Lize’s sleuthing talent myself, I had managed to deduce that Lize had a slightly unstable obsession with Tiffany & Co, especially in partnership with her friend – and the sunniest person to have ever graced our planet – Nina.

Moreover, this obsession stemmed from Lize and Nina’s mutual love for the actually-rather-good Audrey Hepburn film, Breakfast At Tiffanys. Only a fool could miss the specific implication: Yes, Lize loved Tiffany, but she loved Tiffany from the flagship, historic, in-the-actually-rather-good-film 5th Avenue store. Which was in New York. And I wasn’t going there any time soon.

Enter Khayakazi Ngqula, former schoolmate of Lize’s, high-powered television producer, and resident of New York City’s East Village. Kazi was in New York, and would be returning to South Africa in December of 2012. But there was a problem. I had no real reason to email Kazi at this point in our friendship, and Lize had caught sight of online correspondence between us.

I could, at this point, count on the fact that Lize did know that I wanted to be her husband. We had talked briefly about marriage – about what it meant to each of us. I knew that she wanted to be my wife, eventually.

Despite all of that, I couldn’t risk her having the slightest inkling that when I eventually did propose, that it would be done with a ring from The Jewelry Store Of Jewelry Stores.

I spun the first first threads of what would be an intricate, and widely spread web of deception, ultimately involving two diamond sales consultants, one employer, two siblings, three sets of parents, five friends (including two flatmates), one work colleague, a restauranteur, four bakers, and an illustrator. Take a deep breath. All will be revealed.

The diamond sales consultants: I contacted my dedicated salesperson at the 5th Avenue store, and asked them to mock up a bogus quote, stacked with insanely overinflated prices.

I waited for one of the many typical moments in our relationship (both of us on Lize’s bed, on our laptops), opened the email from Tiffany, and sauntered off to make a strategic cup of tea.

The next day, Liz confided in me that she may have seen an email from a Tiffany saleswoman, and that the Tiffany rings were completely overpriced. She concluded her brief monologue with the insistence that if I did ever propose, I was under no obligation to do so with a Tiffany ring.

Job done.

After making the most exhilarating transnational credit card payment of my life, Kazi swooped in to take collection of the “goods”. It would be another few weeks before she arrived back in South Africa for her December vacation, and the wait was agonising. Nevertheless, the day of her departure, and the arrival of Lize’s engagement ring in the country was finally at hand. After making her way through the requisite airport checks and balances, Kazi delivered the ring to an accomplice in Johannesburg, who entrusted possession of it to my eldest sister, Ashleigh.

And that’s when it really hit me. The onus was now on me to ask for her parents blessing. Particularly, the blessing of her father – a vaunted businessman and purveyor of asskickery. Mr Stefanus “Fanie” Kok was not a man to be trifled with, and I was about to ask for the hand, and life, of his daughter.

The employer: A trip to Johannesburg was required, which was no problem, apart from the fact that I had no reason to travel to Johannesburg that month. I asked my boss, Will Mellor, to write a phony work email, requiring me to travel to Johannesburg on Saturday 28 January, 2012, for an afternoon meeting with Mnet in Randburg.

The sibling: January 28 rolled around, and Ashleigh met me at the airport with the ring, before lifting me to Pretoria, to meet with Lize’s father, Fanie, and her stepmother, Lanie. After a few hours of killing time in a nearby mall, and pretending that my body wasn’t consuming itself from the inside with angst, I met Fanie and Lanie at a nearby restaurant, asked them for their blessing, and got a champagne lunch, when the only meal I was expecting was a can of parental whoopass.

For the record, this is what a newly-delivered Tiffany ring and paperwork looks like.

Quite mean.

Infinite hugs, handshakes, and sushi pieces later, I ghosted across town to meet with Lize’s mom at a coffee shop in yet another mall. I was hyper aware of the ring in my backpack. What if someone mugged me? There was not a chance in hell that I would be rational enough to just hand over the ring. In all likelihood, I would perish like a mother beaver protecting her little ones from the mighty fur trapper – bravely, but weakly. Lize’s mom, Edna, showed up, and saved me from my paranoia. It was another yes. We were in the car, and straight to the airport, where I was onto a plane, and back across the country in record time.

I had done it, but not without the help of my big sister.

The parents: Obviously it is sometimes difficult to hide your delight when you find out your daughter is going to be proposed to by a guy with a very interesting beard, but Lanie, Fanie, and Edna went far beyond the call of duty.

The only thing left to arrange before I felt I could propose was the meeting of our parents, which hadn’t yet been achieved owing to the fact that they live 600 kilometres apart. Lize and I orchestrated a small family soiree, hosted by Lanie and Fanie, on March 10 2012 in Johannesburg. Liz and I would be staying with L&F. The family braai with Lanie and Fanie, and breakfast the following day with Edna, was truly wonderful. But not as wonderful as Lanie and Fanie’s powers of misdirection.

Burdened with the full knowledge that I had asked for their blessing, and that I could propose at any time, Lanie fired out questions like “Are you guys serious?”, the whole weekend through. And at our departure, she approached me, arms spread out for a flamboyant hug. “It’s nice to see you,” and then as she leaned in close, “again!” Genius. I could barely contain myself. My whole family also knew that I planned on proposing. They indulged themsleves with small, hidden arm squeezes and secret grins around corners, but never once gave up the jig.

Their misdirection had the desired affect. Lize, the woman who is impossible to surprise, was freaking out.

“You know, if you do ever ask my dad and Lanie for their blessing, I wish you the best of luck, because you’ll have a hard road ahead of you.”

I know, I know honey. But we’ll get through it. I just need to find the time to ask him. Meanwhile, in my brain…

So I made up my mind. I would propose the following weekend, and not a month later in April, like I’d planned.

The week was mostly dedicated to fretting. I had a basic idea for how I wanted to propose to Lize, but none of the details.

Using the excuse that we had thus far had an unacceptably frenetic year, I got Lize to agree to dedicating her Saturday to a daytrip to Pringle Bay, which is not only beautiful town on the road to Hermanus, but also home to the single greatest seafood restaurant on God’s pale blue dot, Hook, Line and Sinker.

Saturday dawned. My palms were sweating, my mouth was dry. Was I wearing underwear? Yes, Simon, you idiot. You’ve checked twice already. Why would you forget to wear underwear? Please, pick something less arbitrary for your angst.

It was true. There were more than a few things that I could have worried about. Friday afternoon, and Saturday early morning had been frenetic. Friday afternoon had been dedicated to rustling up a picnic basket, taking possession of a blank book, getting said book to Woodstock in Friday afternoon traffic for it to be illustrated on my lunch break, before tearing back to the city to have the second hour of my one hour lunch break with Lize, for the sake of keeping up appearances. Friday night’s epic round of planning, will be revealed later. But for now, let it be said that Lize’s marathon early evening nap eased the stress of matters considerably.

What we have here, is a logistical miracle.

Saturday morning was even more breathless, but it would have been more so if the colleague, Richard Hardiman, hadn’t agreed to a phony SMS exchange, in which he would ask me to open up our work premises at 08h00 on Saturday morning, requiring me – desperately unfortunately – to be away from Liz for a few hours.

I didn’t open up our office in that time, but I did take possession of two sets of incredible custom cupcakes, which had been commissioned earlier in the week, and the now fully-illustrated book, but more on that later.

So I had good reason to worry if she spot the picnic basket in the boot, packed to the brim with every kind of favourite treat of hers, including custom unicorn and “Will You / Marry Me” cupcakes from Charly’s Bakery, her favourite macarons from Cassis, two kinds of salt and vinegar chips, Creme Caramels, turkish delight, milk buttons, a milk chocolate polar bear, two kinds of milky bar, Lindt 75% dark with sea salt flakes, miniature cupcakes, and one love letter.

Type 2 diabetes in a wicker basket.

The Charly’s Bakery crew were unfrickinbelievable.

Would she see the ring, which I had been hiding for months behind a Gerald Durrel novel in my book case? We set off for Pringle Bay at 11h30. It was an incredibly beautiful drive. I cut a CD for us to listen to on the way up, and smiled far too much. She remarked at how happy I was, but didn’t suspect why that might be the case.

Lunch was served, including a starter of mussel soup – Lize’s favourite – which had been specially placed on the menu by a forewarned Jaqui, the restauranteur. I struggled to keep a straight face over the starter with Jaqui winking at me every 40 seconds.

We followed up with hake and chips.

And rounded out the meal with the single greatest creme brulee every made.

This is where the flatmates come back into the picture.

During the course of the meal, I had been in intermittent text message contact with Gen Akal, and Oliver Berard, who were fulfilling strategic duties. Oliver was priority one. He was actually in Pringle Bay, and was awaiting my instructions. What instructions, you may ask? Well, my friends, the best kinds of instructions. Instructions regarding the strategic placement of a bottle of Veuve Clicquot that Lize and I had been saving for a special occasion, namely, me asking her to marry her. The bottle had undergone a small adventure of the previous 18 hours. While Lize was catnapping on my couch, I arranged for her housemate, Nick, top open her her house in Newlands, and for Gen and her boyfriend, Harry, to fetch said bubbles from Lize’s room, and bring them back to our flat. Once this was achieved, the champagne, and two flutes was entrusted to Oliver, who traveled to Pringle Bay. Before Oliver left, he and I held a strategy meeting, where two points were picked for The Proposal.

Plan A involved proposing to Lize on the walkway to a spot on Pringle Bay beach, which had sentimental significance to us, owing to our first visit to Pringle Bay, at the start of our relationship.

I would go ahead, scout plan A after lunch, and should I give the go ahead, Oliver would stash the champagne near the walkway while I took Lize on a distracting walk. We would turn back, I would propose, and chilled champagne would be at hand.

But even the best laid plans have variables. We finished lunch at 14h30, and I bought time for Ollie by diverting us to the book store, where we became poorer.

Ten minutes later we were at the beach. This could be it. The ring box sat awkwardly in my back pocket. Under no circumstances would I let her put her hand around my waist, lest she brushed the ring box. We ambled on to the beach, and it was obvious. A stunning day, and a wonderful scene, but too many people. Way too many.

Don’t laugh. They were all behind me.

Still my girlfriend.

I texted Oliver. “GO WITH PLAN B. 15 MINUTES.”

And then, sitting on the beach, waiting for the 15 minutes to wind down, Lize pointed towards the point where we would be heading. “Whales!”

Indeed, there were whales. And sea birds, and seals. And obviously, fish. I couldn’t stall any longer. Oliver, we were coming.

One two minute drive later, and we were at The Point. Oliver told me he’d hidden the champagne “under a bush, near a concrete slab”. We pulled up. Oliver was out of site, the point was devoid of human live, and it was unspeakably beautiful. I exhaled. It was perfect.

Proposal Point. Shot by Oliver on his BlackBerry (shame, man).

We clambered over rocks, and from our perch we watched nature show off. Whales cruised the water, not 40 metres from the shore. Sea birds bombed into the midst of shoals of fish. Seals tried their best to get in on the action, but failed to steal the limelight from the whales.

We climbed down, a little closer to the shore, and at all times, I was sure never to turn my back to Lize, lest she see the jewelry in the back of my pants. The whales went out of site for just under a minute.

“Come on, let’s go.”

Lize wanted to wait, on the highly probable chance that the whales would reappear.

“Na, they’re not coming back.”

She was bemused, but followed. I helped her off the rock, and as she reached a suitably grassy patch, I looked behind her. “Whale!”

She turned. There was no whale.

“Where?”

She turned back, and I was on my knee.

Cue hyperventilation, and manic laughter.

And, she said yes!

Having rather enjoyed surprising her thus far, I made a roll of it, by leading her over to the chilled champagne.

Suddenly! Le wild champagne appears!

One freshly-engaged fiancee.

We toasted, we drank (not too much). We lived the moment of our engagement.

The drive back to Cape Town included a few stops on isolated beaches to frolic, and the unveiling o the heretofore secret picnic basket, the contents of which were not touched for the sake of our constitutions. And that was it.

Except, that it actually wasn’t.

In addition to ghosting the champagne from Newlands to Oliver, Harry and Gen had also been placed in charge of setting up our flat for the welcome return. They got out of their literally 15 seconds after Lize and I arrived. My fiancee was greeted by Billy Holiday, Eastern Food Bazaar curry (and garlic naan), a view, chilled champagne, candles, fresh flowers, a view, and the book that I had had illustrated the day before by our friend, Lauren Fowler.

“Promises for sixty winters”

A letter, written at 08h37 that morning, explained that we would use that book for our wedding planning, and for promises that we wanted to make to each other, for lives given over to one another. Oh, and there were also two films for us to watch, Annie Hall, and My Blueberry Nights.

We whiled away the night talking, calling our family, and actively being engaged. It becomes a verb when it’s this intense.

It was the best day of my life, so far.

178 days to go before I can say that again.

Who is this who looks down like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awesome as an army with banners? – Song of Solomon, 6vs10

Lize, I am yours, forever more.

All my love
SC

P.S.

I know that the written word is not always the clearest medium of communication, so for your edification and clarity, here’s a map of every significant point in Pringle Bay, on the day of our proposal:


View Simon & Lize’s Pringle Bay Proposal in a larger map

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9 Responses to “The Proposal”

  1. Lee-Anne Geldenhuys March 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    So beautiful – I may have sniveled a bit…

  2. indieBerries March 29, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    Well done you! Haha (could be my current severe hangover) but this definitely made me shed a little tear 😉 wish you and lize all the very very best for an amazing life together 😉

  3. Samantha March 29, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    What an absolute fairytale! 🙂
    All the best of luck kittens. x

  4. Susan Hayden March 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    Okay, the groom’s wedding speech is going to be nothing short of astonishing. I, for one, cannot wait.

  5. Ash April 7, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    What a freaking kiff story and high five to you both! Stoked I got to be a part of it. You guys are so cute! 🙂
    xxxxxxxxxx

  6. Stacey Vee April 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    First I read this, and briefly thought of smacking my husband upside the head for being so mediocre in his proposal (compared to your’s). But a seed has been planted… I’m going to be romantic. Not romantic… ROMANTIC! I may also send someone to follow you around and take notes, so if you see someone trying to look inconspicuous while scribbling furiously, it’s okay, it’s just my minion. Congratulations on your engagement! May all your long years be filled with Polaroids, sunsets and bubbles (because it’s hard to be cross at each other when you’re blowing bubbles).

  7. Betz April 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Priceless man! I came upon your blog in a round about sort of way, and reading your story was a rush. Well done! I wish you and Lize the apex of happiness.

  8. stiletto_j June 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    when i read the title of the book, tears sprung up! i wish you both the happiest of marriages. congratulations!

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  1. Reads of the week – 2012 – 13 « Hope In Love - May 7, 2012

    […] The proposal – Simon Hartley […]

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