How we met: ‘I’m a staunch Brexit critic – but it did lead to us falling in love’

Tom and Nara met in a queue last year. “I’d spent three years living in the UK,” jokes Ireland-born Tom. “I’d picked up some of your ways.” Forced to relocate to Madrid because of Brexit, he had been in town only three weeks and had a friend visiting from Dublin, so he was ticking off some of the local attractions.

“We’d done most of the tourist stuff, so we ended up in El Retiro park, queueing to go on a boat ride,” he says. Waiting in front of them was Nara. “There was a vibe from the start. Nara is beautiful and has this warm personality that I could see when she was talking to her friend, even though I couldn’t understand the words she was saying. She’s gorgeous, open and friendly.”

His ice-breaker was hardly the stuff of romcoms. “We were in the queue, exchanging glances, and I think I said something very basic like: ‘Do you know how long we have to wait?’ It wasn’t exactly a Hollywood opener.” He and Nara, who is Mexican, and their friends Paula and John decided to hire a boat as a foursome. “I trapped her for an hour on a little rowing boat, so she had to listen to all my nonsense,” Tom says. “My friend John and I did most of the rowing. We were showing off a little bit, I suppose.” The lake is small enough that you can cover it in half an hour, but they were there for an hour. “We took the piss a little bit.”

The attraction was mutual and immediate. “I was trying to stop myself, of course, and take it step by step,” says Nara. “But it was the perfect timing. When we met, I was single. Also, for me, Tom was so perfect that I was surprised he was single. Everything was just perfect.” After their time on the lake, the quartet went to a bar for tapas and a drink. “Paula and John were enjoying it, too,” says Tom. “But it was clear as day, I’d say, that Nara and I were falling in love.”

Tom, an engineer, works for an EU project called Galileo, which is why he had to move from Southampton to Madrid. “I am a staunch Brexit critic,” he says. “I think it’s a regressive idea and too divisive, but in this case it did lead to falling in love. It’s a cliche and all of that, but it was instant and amazing. If I’d written a list of all the characteristics of the perfect girl, she ticked every single one.”

The couple had been together for about four months when Tom was due to fly to Thailand for a month-long Thai boxing training camp in the middle of the forest. “I didn’t know if I should cancel, because we’d only just got together,” says Tom. “But Nara is a synchronised swimmer – she was once on the Mexican Olympic team – and appreciated the importance of an active, physical, adventurous life.”

“I basically said: ‘This is your personality, this is who you are, if you don’t go and do it I’ll kill you,’” Nara laughs.

Although he had not met Nara’s parents by this point, Tom got in touch with her father, Carlos, to ask if he could fly to Mexico and surprise her at Christmas, after he’d finished in Thailand. “He said that I was making her daughter very happy, that I’d be welcome any time. He gave me the nicest reaction,” says Tom. “Both parents were so lovely.”

It was quite a journey. “I went from Madrid to Thailand, then from Thailand to China, China to Canada and finally Canada to Mexico. They were the only flights that weren’t €10m.” By flying so slowly through so many time zones, he managed to have three Christmas Eves and two Christmas Days. When he arrived, Nara’s father collected Tom from the airport while Nara was in bed, somehow managing to keep the entire thing secret. “When I came back to the house she was asleep,” says Tom. “I think her cousin has it on video, but she just didn’t know what was going on.”

Almost exactly nine months after that surprise reunion in Mexico, Tom and Nara’s daughter, Chloe, was born in hospital in Madrid. “I can’t wait to tell Chloe this story of how we met,” says Nara. “I think she’ll love it.”

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