Exotic new ways to pop the famous question

Saturday January 12 2013



A guy from my village caused a sensation a year or two ago by having this message flashed up on the screen before 50,000 spectators at Saint James’ Park, home of Newcastle United, during a Premiership football match: “Susan! will you marry me?”

It was the first time I ever heard of men proposing in public, but finding exotic new ways to pop the question is now a growing trend and agencies are proliferating to help lovebirds plan their romantic gestures.

“It’s gone utterly crazy,” Daisy Amodio, director of the newly-established UK company Proposers, told The Observer newspaper. “Men are getting competitive. They want their mates to be impressed as well as the girl.”

Many people are happy to pay for an idea that suits them, then go away and carry it out. Others have their own ideas and Proposers does the organising – not always easy.

One potential bridegroom wanted to propose while dressed as the proverbial “knight in shining armour”. Said Ms Amodio, “We had to find him a castle and decorate it and persuade him out of wearing the complete metal helmet”. Kissing gets tricky that way.

Another love-struck suitor ordered a horse-drawn carriage for two to clip-clop down London’s famed Horse Guards Parade while he made his move. And property developer Nick Candy proposed on bended knee to actress and singer Holly Valance on a beach in the Maldives Islands; a row of flaming torches behind them spelled out “Will you marry me?”

It is not everybody who chooses the public route. Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in a lodge in Kenya, the country he describes as his second home, and the vast majority of couples prefer a quiet walk in the park. If for no other reason, worldwide fame might lead to worldwide shame.

A baseball fan proposed in front of 10,000 people in an American stadium, and a viewer asked TV show host Ellen DeGeneres to put the question on his behalf. They both got a swift “Thank you, but no thank you”.

And what about Susan at the football match? In true romantic tradition, she told Michael “Yes,” and their partnership of two is now a family of four.

* * *

It is not the biggest subterranean railway in the world, nor the busiest, but the London Underground – known worldwide as the Tube – is certainly the oldest, celebrating its 150th birthday today.

Along with Big Ben and red double-decker buses, the Tube is an international icon for Britain’s capital city, with its famous circular sign, its route map and that warning to alighting passengers: “Mind the gap!”

The network consists of 10 separate lines covering 249 miles; it has 270 stations, 426 escalators and 164 lifts; it carries 1.1 million passengers per year and the busiest station is Waterloo.

Statistics apart, the Tube is an integral part of London’s history with its share of good memories and nightmares. A fire at King’s Cross station in 1987, probably started by a dropped match although smoking was banned, killed 31 people. But during World War II, the miles of tunnels provided safety from German planes bombing London above.

In the Tube’s earliest days, coal-fired steam trains plied the lines and that era was being recreated today with the 1898 engine, Metropolitan Locomotive 1, repeating the first Tube journey of 1863 from Paddington to Farringdon on the Metropolitan line.

* * *

The children’s charity, Barnado’s, appealed for unwanted Christmas gifts for its many UK charity shops. It received a set of false teeth, a human skeleton, a crocodile head carved into an ash tray, a bishop’s mitre, a set of used lavatory brushes, a 10-man canoe and a suit of armour.

Business manager Tracey Brooks said: “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure. Something one person would never buy in a million years is exactly what someone else has been searching for.”

* * *

A cat was arrested entering a jail in Brazil with files, drill bits, a mobile phone and earphones strapped to its body.

The newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo quoted a prison spokesman as saying, “It’s tough to find out who’s responsible since the cat does not speak.”

* * *

No dictionary has ever been able adequately to define the difference between complete and finished.

At a recent linguistic conference in London attended by some of the best linguists in the world, Samsundar Balgobin, a Guyanese, was given the following challenge: “Some say there is no difference between complete and finished. Please explain the difference in a way that is easy to understand.”

Samsundar replied: “When you marry the right woman you are complete. But when you marry the wrong woman, you are finished. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are completely finished.”

His answer was received with a standing ovation lasting five minutes.