How we met: ‘I was smiling because it was raining and this guy gave me a huge smile back’ | Life and style
After recovering from a health scare in 2004, Liz decided to spend some time travelling the world. “Doctors discovered a tumour in my appendix,” she says. “I was working in healthcare community development in Ireland but decided I needed a sabbatical.”
By January 2006, she had been in Sydney, Australia, for several months, when she took a trip to the city’s Botanical Gardens. “It was raining heavily and I was smiling as I hadn’t seen a drop in so long,” she says. “I saw this guy give me a huge smile back. I thought: ‘Oh God, I shouldn’t smile at a strange man.’”
“I approached her because I thought she was lost,” says Jason. They began to chat and he offered to walk with her to Sydney Opera House.
She learned that Jason was a British lecturer in construction management, based in New Zealand. “I’d been in England for Christmas, visiting my three children. Sydney was a stopover for me,” he says. At the time, Jason was deciding whether he should stay in New Zealand for work or return home to the UK. The pair went for a drink together and exchanged numbers.
The following week, Liz flew to Christchurch for the next leg of her round-the-world trip. “Jason asked if he could pick me up at the airport,” she says. “I said ‘no’ because my friend had told me it was a terrible idea, but he was insistent.” Eventually she accepted his offer. When she arrived, Jason asked if she wanted to see some tourist attractions. “I thought, since she was travelling alone, the least I could do was show her around,” he says.
After their day out, he invited her for dinner at a the place where he was housesitting. “It was amazing, overlooking the sea,” says Liz. “Then he asked if he could drive me back to my hostel, which was very gentlemanly.” She hadn’t booked one, so he offered her the chance to stay in the spare room. Liz ended up staying for two weeks, and the pair steadily grew closer. “I invited some friends over one night,” says Jason. “When my friend saw how amazing she was, he said: ‘For fuck’s sake, marry her.’” They quickly fell in love, and soon knew they would spend the rest of their lives together.
Over the next few months, Liz took jobs on farms before continuing her travels, while Jason worked at the university. In the autumn, she returned to Ireland and discovered she was pregnant. Jason began to split his time between the UK and New Zealand, to see more of Liz and his children.
“I would fly over to meet him in Blackpool whenever he returned home,” says Liz.
In January 2007, disaster struck when Jason suffered a devastating brain injury. “He went out kitesurfing and it was really windy. He fell and hit his head,” says Liz. “It was a nightmare. They didn’t know if he’d survive the night.” Due to the extent of his injuries, Jason spent the next two years in hospital rehabilitation.
“Our son was born in the same hospital that year and spent most of his early life there, visiting Jason,” says Liz. “I moved into a flat near Preston hospital to be close to him. It was a really difficult time.”
Despite doctors’ predictions that he’d never walk again, Jason made a good recovery. The couple married in Donegal, Ireland, in 2009, and Jason was able to walk down the aisle. He has since completed two marathons and a triathlon.
“I still have difficulties with executive functions and seizures, which means I can’t really work,” he says. In 2016, they moved to Donegal. “Liz has been my carer all these years,” says Jason. “It was really a whirlwind romance. We fell head over heels so quickly.” Liz adores her husband’s sense of humour. “It’s such a pleasure to be in his company. We’ve been inseparable since the day we met.”
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