IT’S Valentine’s Day, and I’m screwing up the courage to propose to my boyfriend 3,500 feet above the Dorset-Wiltshire border.
We’re rattling about in a Piper PA-28 Warrior 161, a four-seater trainer aircraft winging its way to Old Sarum airfield in Salisbury. I’m not sure whether I feel dizzy through altitude sickness, or nerves.
I’m sat in the back, while our flying instructor, Chris, a burly South African (who has not been let in on the secret), teaches my boyfriend how to handle the controls at the front.
They can communicate via headset mikes, but I’m not in the loop. Sunshine dapples the patchwork fields far below, and, as the plane banks steeply, I wonder how I’m going to pop the question with one of us in radio silence.
Like a lamb to the slaughter, the boyfriend has trotted trustingly beside me, as I drive him out to Compton Abbas airfield for a ‘surprise’.
What he’s yet to realise, though, is that approximately 1 hour into our first flying lesson, I’ll be at the controls with a Tiffany engagement ring clenched between my thighs.
We touch down at Old Sarum for tea and cake, and when we climb back into the plane, it’s my turn in the cockpit. The instructor points out buildings of interest such as Guy Ritchie’s house in Tollard Royal and another huge pile that ‘belongs to the guy that owns The Mirror‘. I’m too busy worrying about crashing the plane to take much notice. Luckily, piloting is distracting me from the more terrifying prospect of asking my boyfriend to marry me.
Flying a plane is surprisingly easy, although my confidence diminishes as the sunshine fades and a line of ominous dark grey clouds steal a march on us.
Gillingham to my left, Mere to my right, spread out like toy towns. Shortly after I take us in and out of a mercifully brief hailstorm, I drop the ring into his lap. His eyebrows fly up. He gasps. He looks at me.
He nods; not once, but several times, with a look I’ve never seen before in his eyes. (Fear? Gratitude? Shock?) Relief and joy flood through me and I’m blinking furiously, trying not to cry. We hold hands tightly. We try to mouth words at each other.
We’re not sure if Chris knew what was going on. He seems quite busy concentrating on bringing us all back down to earth. I’m afraid to say that nothing sank in as he walked us through our debrief.
Never propose to your boyfriend on an empty stomach. It’s mid-afternoon, we’ve had no lunch, and our lives have suddenly changed direction. We drive into Blandford and order ham, egg and chips for two in the Gorge Cafe. We eat quickly. It’s fair to say we’re both in shock.
Nearly two weeks later, we’ve both got used to the idea and have broken the news to our delighted parents. Now we’re busy bickering over the usual wedding questions of where, when, how. (Who and why was answered a long time ago.)
The ring’s been sent back to Tiffany & Co – as I had to guess the size, it was miles too big, and although it looked very nice on the website, on his finger it looked like a brass curtain ring.
So there’s not much more to say, apart from Miss P is very much looking forward to becoming Mrs S.