How we met: ‘I cried because the bar didn’t have any pizza and he comforted me’

When Philippa moved to Sheffield from London in 2018, one of the first things she did was join her local Labour party. “I was studying for a PhD in housing and planning and was already involved in a tenants’ union,” she says. “I was very active socially, but I lived alone, so it was a bit lonely for me.”

A year after moving up north, she began supporting the 2019 general election campaign. “We’d send groups from different areas to go leafleting and door knocking,” she says. “Olivia Blake, who we’d been supporting, won her seat, so she put on a little victory party just before Christmas.”

Although she was happy to see Blake win her seat, Philippa admits it was a “sad event” because the Conservatives had won the general election by such a landslide. “I’d gone out in the cold to have doors slammed in my face,” she says. “The overall mood was quite low.” Afterwards the group went to a nearby bar and she started crying. “I was really hungry and overwhelmed. When they didn’t have any pizza, it put me over the edge.”

That’s when she met Jack for the first time. “He campaigned for the election too, but we’d been door knocking in different areas, so I hadn’t seen him before. He put his arm around me and said it was OK. Then we sat down and chatted for the rest of the night,” she says.

She discovered that he worked for a local theatre company, alongside his job in a bookstore. “At the time, I was looking for something with more security, and applying for teaching assistant jobs,” he remembers. They quickly bonded over their shared values and interest in politics. “Philippa seemed like an exciting person and I thought I’d really enjoy spending more time with her.” Despite their connection, they didn’t exchange numbers that night, and Philippa went home to get something to eat.

‘It was like being a teenager on our first date,’ says Jack. ‘I had heart palpitations at first, but we laughed a lot straight away’

A few days later, she decided to visit Jack at work while she was out Christmas shopping. “At first I just assumed she happened to be in the bookstore,” he laughs. “But when she came to the till with her books I suggested that we go for a drink before Christmas. She was going away, but we exchanged numbers to meet up in the new year.”

Their first date went perfectly. “I really felt he was someone who understood me,” says Philippa. “He had a very open heart and a strong moral core.” Jack admits he was incredibly nervous. “It was like being a teenager. I had heart palpitations at first, but we laughed a lot straight away.”

From then on, they started seeing each other a few times a week. “We had a conversation the first evening about being exclusive, so I never had any questions about what either of us wanted. We knew it was going somewhere straight away,” says Philippa. Neither had the money for expensive dates, so they spent a lot of time at each other’s flats eating dinner together.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, they made the decision to isolate together. “I went to stay with him and then immediately got sick with flu-like symptoms,” she says. “We had no idea if it was Covid as there were no tests. Luckily, I got better quite quickly and we stayed in lockdown together.” Bar a few tensions over shared work spaces, they got on “really well” and the experience cemented their relationship.

As well as their shared interest in politics and social justice, they love hiking, going out dancing or to gigs, and keeping fit at parkrun. “We like to travel when we can. Our first holiday was camping in a village in the Peak District, and since then we’ve been to Greece, Slovenia, Whitby and lots of festivals,” says Jack.

After four years living in Sheffield together, they plan to move to Spain in September. “I’ve been awarded a postdoctoral fellowship for two years near Barcelona, and Jack’s going to come,” says Philippa. Jack, who qualified as a teacher in 2022, hopes to get a job at a local school. They plan to marry in Sheffield before they leave.

“The number one thing I admire about Jack is his creativity and sense of optimism. He sees the best in situations and assumes the best in others,” says Philippa. “It helps me to be more generous, less cynical and more open-hearted. I love being in a team with Jack, because we have fun together and always have each other’s back.”

Jack has “never known anyone as tenacious as Phil”. “She thinks everyone deserves the best and is not easily defeated. I think a lot more seems possible than if I was going about this life alone.”


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