It’s a story that involves a little bit of love for rugby, a little bit of love for Canada, a little bit of love for travel, and even a little bit of a love for sharing a beer with friends after a day at work.
But most of all, it’s a simple love story — a perfect reminder about what Valentine’s Day is all about.
In December, 1998, the 22 year-old Canadian woman who would eventually marry and change her name to Andrea Slade had just wrapped up a year working in Florida with the Disney corporation’s international program, where she picked up “the travel bug” and decided to see some of the places she had heard about from workmates. She told her parents to either expect her back in Canada in two weeks, or two years, and boarded a plane for England. If she found a job under her two-year work visa, she would stay. If she didn’t, she’d be back in two weeks (she had a return ticket), looking for a job in Canada.
Meanwhile, in England’s scenic Lake District, in a town called Kendal that boasts the castle inhabited by the sole surviving wife of the notorious King Henry VIII, a young teller for Barclay’s Bank was settling into his life in the town to which his family had moved from West London at age 11. He played a little rugby on weekends, and would finish his day at the bank before punching the clock across the street at a pub known as “The Fleece Inn” — in reference to the Kendal’s former status as a wool-producing region.
It turns out there was a “Help Wanted” sign in The Fleece Inn’s window. It turns out Andrea’s first destination after landing at Heathrow was The Lake District. It turns out that, once she was employed, she needed to set up a bank account…
…And it turns out Andrea’s parents weren’t going to see her back at home in two weeks.
“A single young Canadian walks in the door of the bank? What am I supposed to do but make sure she comes to my window?” asks Clive with a grin. “So I opened up her bank account.”
It would be five years before Andrea’s parents would see her back in Canada for good. She had to return temporarily two years after her Heathrow touch-down, to renew her visa. But there was a big twist to that story.
On July 1, Canada Day, 2000, Andrea and Clive were married in England. A bunch of Canadians came over for the ceremony. The honeymoon was back in Canada: The first portion of it spent whitewater rafting on the Ottawa River, but the next portion spent in the nation’s capital, worrying about whether the newlywed Andrea would be granted another visa to return to England.
“We spent part of our honeymoon in Ottawa with 10 people who were refused entry into the United Kingdom. So it was kind of stressful,” Clive comments.
Andrea was not one of those refused. And some of the other travels the couple undertook during the intervening years were not so stressful. In keeping with Andrea’s desire to see different parts of the world, they recall wonderful visits to Egypt, Cyprus, Europe and California. They also made sure to visit many parts of Clive’s home country — including scaling the highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales.
Eventually, a love for Canada led to a decision to cross the ocean for good. Five years after seeing that attractive Canadian emerge through Kendal’s revolving Barclay’s Bank door, Clive found a job with RBC Royal Bank — initially in Tillsonburg, then later in St. Marys. They say the Stonetown was “an 18-month plan” because it was a small town and they dreamed of settling in a larger centre.
“But it really grew on us.”
Their first son Alex was born just before they relocated to St. Marys in July, 2005. Owen was born two years later. The boys have now settled into school and hockey — as well as, to Clive’s delight, rugby during the summer at London’s St. George’s Club — and the family no longer dreams of a larger city.
The latest addition, just last year, was Harry, the English Springer Spaniel.
With the Canada Day wedding anniversary, in addition to the fact that the couple shares the same birthday, Clive jokes that “I’m the model husband. I don’t forget the wedding anniversary, and I don’t forget the birthday. What more could you ask for?”
What more, indeed?
So there you have it: A love story unfolding in England, between a born-and-bred Englishman and a travel-loving North American. It’s not Four Weddings and Funeral, perhaps, but who knows? If word gets out beyond St. Marys, maybe one day Hollywood might come calling?
“It’s kind of fun,” Andrea admits with a smile, watching Harry bound through the backyard snow in search of another chewy treat, and listening as Alex and Owen bound down the basement stairs with a friend to resume their game of floor hockey.