The Daily Telegraph

‘I was in a turbo relationsh­ip, now we’re engaged’

- Karen Hodkinson

Sixteen weeks of lockdown. Sixteen weeks since we decided to listen to Jenny Harries who told couples who live in separate homes to “test the strength” of their relationsh­ip and move in together.

Andy and I had only been together under a year. Both widowed, we have five children aged between eight years old and 17 between us, so blending our families together wasn’t a decision we took lightly – but it was one we felt was right.

The first three weeks were a baptism of fire. We all stayed home, just going out for necessitie­s or exercising. Food shopping was a military operation. Long queues outside the shops meant we had one chance to make sure we had enough food for the week to feed our now family of seven – which included two vegetarian­s and two fussy eaters.

We had to operate as a couple who were suddenly in parental mode 24/7; negotiatin­g with teenagers who weren’t allowed to hang out with their friends. The rhythms of home and work life became one big Frankenste­in mash-up with no light at the end of the tunnel. The lives we had pre-lockdown seemed like a lifetime away.

Cabin fever set in and there were meltdowns. But we adjusted. We understood which children weren’t morning creatures; Andy learnt to read my state of mind just by looking at my expression­s and I now know he needs to have a solid night’s sleep. The children coped so well with our new family circumstan­ces that we gave them lockdown presents following the July 4 easing of restrictio­ns.

And through this, we all became closer. Andy and I also discovered a mutual passion in pottering around the house. Making time for each other at the end of the day was our decompress­ion during the darkest days. He surprised me with his gardening and cooking skills and he put up with me buying frozen burgers for barbecues.

Cycling was something we both enjoyed. So when Andy asked me to go for a bike ride at the weekend, it seemed like a normal thing to do. Then when we stopped for a rest, he surprised me with a proposal. I was thrilled. So, next on the to-do list is to plan a wedding, making adjustment­s as we go.

 ??  ?? In at the deep end: Karen Hodkinson and Andy Gray put their relationsh­ip to the test
In at the deep end: Karen Hodkinson and Andy Gray put their relationsh­ip to the test

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