Episode 1: Finding her
I had given up on getting married. So too had my parents, judging by the looks on their faces whenever they enquired about the state of my love life. They insisted all I needed to do was meet the right person and settle down. My brothers and sisters had done it and so had my friends, but then again they didn't seem to be drawn to bipolar sociopaths.
I'd actually come close with the last one - close in the sense that we bought a flat together. But within a few months of moving in I found myself ditched, desolate and dwelling in a shed at the bottom of a mate's garden. On reflection, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Unlike some single men approaching their 40th birthday, I had no desire to throw myself on the roulette wheel of internet dating. "Depressed, self-loathing Scorpio with niche interests, expanding waistline and his very own thunder cloud seeks funny, beautiful and understanding (young) woman to be a warm comfort blanket for his angst. Occasional sex optional. Must smoke." It was hardly likely to send my inbox into meltdown.
But even if there was a woman out there who thought this sounded like an irresistible package, the idea of spending the evening making polite conversation with a complete stranger, let alone one lacking an encyclopedic knowledge of sport and obscure 1980s TV, was considerably less appealing than another night in the shed.
The idea of making polite conversation with a stranger, let alone one lacking in an encyclopedic knowledge of sport was less appealing than another night in the shed
I'd been in and out of relationships pretty much non-stop since my early twenties. I'd tried them all - barmaids and bankers, single mums and serial singletons. As I prepared to enter the kill zone for a mid-life crisis, I told myself this was a time for licking wounds, addressing priorities and reassessing what it was that I was looking for in a woman. Either that or try being gay for a while.
What I hadn't figured on was that the right woman would be sitting a few feet away from my desk at the magazine we both worked at. She was a good deal younger than me, and a whole lot nicer. She looked like a young Ms Charlotte Rampling but with a sexy gap between her front teeth, like Ms Vanessa Paradis, and I'd liked her since my first day in the job.
She was unlike the girls I'd previously gone for - quiet, kind to her very core and lacking any obvious behavioural defects. Sadly, I had a rule about getting involved with work colleagues, so had to suffer in silence on the occasions when she discussed her latest failure in the dating market or, worse, asked me whether I could help her find a boyfriend.
Then, before a major film awards ceremony for which we were styling the stars, I glimpsed her trying on a dress from one of the clothes rails. I can still remember her looking at herself in the mirror and my ears ringing while all around me the world lurched into a comedy slow motion.
A few months later, I did what any mature adult male would do: I got drunk and told her how I felt. To her credit, she still agreed to go out on a date with me. My chat stank but I kept the drinks coming and at the end of the night we shared an awkward kiss.
What I hadn't figured was that the right woman would be sitting a few feet away from my desk. She looked like a young Ms Charlotte Rampling but with a sexy gap between her front teeth
Things progressed slowly at first, chiefly because I was still reeling from the nuclear fallout from my last relationship and wallowing in a deeper-than-usual trough of gloom. For some reason, she persevered and then, when I was least expecting it, she blew a hole through my walls with an act of pure kindness: arranging appointments for me to view a string of apartments.
By rescuing me from the shed she had earned my mother's adoration and soon my friends were besotted too. Everyone but me, it seemed, could see that I'd hit the jackpot. Yet it took more than two years for me to tell her I loved her. Perhaps I'd been too free and easy with the phrase in the past but when I did, at a surprise 30th birthday party I'd organised for her at my house, everything changed.
Things quickly began to fall into place, and within months she surprised me again by giving in to my entreaties about starting a family. I love kids and figured a baby might make me less self-centred, which is about as self-centred as you can get. Within a few weeks the home pregnancy test confirmed it was finally time for her to be afforded the full benefits of my collection of obscure dance records, and we moved in together.
Her parents were not exactly thrilled about the prospect of their first grandchild being born out of wedlock, never mind their gene pool being polluted, but slowly we won them over. I picked my moment to seek permission to ask for her hand in marriage: her father was driving and consequently unable to lash out without causing a major pile-up. He said yes and the next day, beside a salmon river in the Scottish Highlands, I produced the vintage engagement ring that I'd bought in a rare moment of clarity, got down on one knee and popped the question.
So, having moved house and lived through an extensive bout of building works, started a new job and become a parent for the first time (our precious daughter was born just before Christmas), I now face the prospect of completing the set of the most stressful things a man can do. We're getting married. In six months. Help.