67 Jennifer & James
"My partner, James, and I have been together for nearly six years and during that time have had lots of setbacks, tragedies and bad luck. We feel it's about time our luck changed!
Although we met at Primary School in the nearby village of Datchworth, James and I fell in love about 10 years later after my boyfriend at the time broke my heart and James was around to pick up the pieces. We've been together ever since, and plan to spend the rest of our lives together, but circumstances certainly haven't made things easy...
At the beginning of our relationship, I had just started a degree course at the University of Hertfordshire and hoped to enter into a career in event management. James was also successful in his application to join the Royal Navy as a Trainee Officer, and although I didn't see him very much, absence made our hearts grow fonder.
The first sadness that came into our lives was when my Nan became terminally ill. She lived alone in Cheshire and my dad spent many long hours travelling up and down the motorways, firstly to visit and then, after her passing away, dealing with her belongings and house. On his way back home late one night he was involved in a car accident, luckily he was unharmed but his car was badly smashed up. Not long after this, he was made redundant from the company he'd worked in for over 30 years, which began over a year of searching for employment. This put added pressure on the family, and being so far from James, it was hard for me to cope without him. He had been, and continues to be, my rock; the only constant in my life.
Things got worse for me and my family, as my dad was then diagnosed with a heart condition and had to have a pacemaker fitted at the age of 53. Instances like this always bring to the fore priorities in life, and I knew that my family was mine, and even then, I considered James a part of this.
James and I began looking for a home together, and were so excited when we found a perfect Victorian cottage with a garden big enough for his pride and joy - his ex-military Land rover. We planned our future life together, but were hit in the hardest way with the news that the staff at the Naval College had changed the pass mark for James's last exam; he hadn't achieved the new score and lost his job. Devastated, we had to let our cottage go, and continue to live in limbo, constantly aware of the unfair pressure we were putting on our families for support.
By this time I had graduated but had been unable to find a job - it was the beginning of the recession and it seemed as if the events and hospitality areas were the first to suffer cutbacks. Both of us were penniless, and stuck; we couldn't start our lives together.
Picking ourselves up and starting again, I started work in a local nursery, which inspired me to want to become a teacher. I applied to join a postgraduate teacher training course at University, and James found a job working for a local business man on a farm, which he loves, but he has to work seven days a week which leaves no time for us. It is almost like our dreams of an independent life together keep slipping further out of reach.
My parents have now moved to Bournemouth for Dad's job, and have settled into their lives by the coast. I miss them so much, and am so grateful to them for their help during this tough time. I am acutely aware of the financial burden I am still putting on them, especially due to the pressure they are under too with Dad's work. James and I are currently living in my family Tewin home, and I am nearing the end of my degree after a very intense year, and am now applying for teaching posts in Hertfordshire. The family home is going on the market next week so more tough times lie ahead! James and I will soon be moving out and, hopefully, if I'm incredibly lucky, I'll find a job so that we can rent a flat together. James has started a company with a friend, but due to other commitments, this hasn't taken off. He works so hard, and I am so proud of him; despite all the set-backs he is still determined to create a future for us, as am I.
Winning the Big Fat JACK wedding competition would not only be beyond our wildest dreams, it would also be the best possible start for mine and James's future life together, and all the more special because it's such a beautiful local venue, sentimental due to the close proximity to where we met. After coming through some hard times, I would also be over the moon to be able to surprise my parents - not only would they be delighted that we could finally get married, but it would also take away so much of their financial worries. It would also be the best way for us to say Thank You for their love and support. James and I deserve this day, as we have both worked so hard not only to try and get jobs, but to keep our relationship as good as it is. We are the best of friends, and, living away from my parents, I could not have done my teaching course without him. Our luck needs to change and this could be a way forward, please help us make 2011 the best year ever, and help us forget all the heartache."
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