PEOPLE: JAMES WILKINSON
Meet our first featured countryside-loving couple, northern lads Paul and Craig who visited Avebury Manor to chat with Q&C about the perils of navy life and long-distance love, and how they'll both be spending Christmas this year.
Cover photo / ©National Trust / Abby George.
Paul Pymm, 28, is from Sheffield. He works in administration and sales while also developing properties. He has been in a relationship with Craig for over a year.
I met Craig on a dating app. Our first meeting was, how can I say, very lustful and energetic. I never thought I would see him again afterwards though. I thought it might just be a one off - but I was wrong and clearly he did want to meet again. My initial thoughts about him were that he was a very attractive man and he had a very good soul.
It got serious about a year ago. He'd been away with the navy for about four months. Perhaps it would have been sooner if he wasn't in the navy. The distance delayed things. We're currently not living together as Craig is away during the week in Portsmouth or out at sea. I just bought my own property too. I'm quite the control freak - very clean and tidy, probably a little too organised. This is kind of the opposite to Craig who has a very chaotic approach to things. He's adorable, but quite messy. Though I strangely like tidying up so it seems to work well. We have created a good dynamic.
It's tough dealing with with the absence when Craig goes away with the navy. Communication can be a bit restricted because he is on the ship and there is no mobile phone coverage. There's a telephone but it's limited access. So I often have to wait days before we can talk, and then the phone call won't be very long. I cope with the absence though by keeping busy and seeing friends - and of course looking at his photos.
This Christmas we'll be spending it together with my family at the Dore Moor Inn, a countryside pub for lunch, followed by drinks with friends in Whirlow which is a really well-known affluent area in Sheffield. There'll be plenty of champagne, my tipple of choice! My favourite champagne is Laurent Perrier Rosé.
Last Christmas, Craig had one too many drinks and so couldn't drive over to see me, but we Face-timed for hours. It was just after the sad news that George Michael had died. We hadn't been properly dating long and he never Face-times so it was quite symbolic. Even his Mother said to him: "You must have a boyfriend as you never Face-time!" When Craig told me this I knew that I was on to a winner. On Boxing day we met up for a breakfast date and went for a drive, with the roof down on the Merc. It was incredible.
What do I love most about Craig? I love his bum. I love his adrenaline, he is very active, always on the go, and very excitable. Of course I like the uniform as well. It's good to announce you have a sailor boyfriend, especially being gay. I'd say the key to our successful relationship is communication and talking about our feelings. I can be quite deep. I don't have any limits to what I can discuss with Craig - I can talk about my flaws, I celebrate them. I definitely think its important to communicate well. Especially when there is a distance between us. What do I think Craig loves about me? Well, everything of course!
Away from my relationship, I love socialising with friends. I love music. I'm a big fan of Sarah Brightman - I flew to Vancouver to see her and I have met Andrew Lloyd Webber too. I even got a selfie with him! I guess you could call me somewhat of a celebrity follower as I've also met Victoria Beckham... Loads of people!
I like working out. I recently started boot camp military training exercise. I love the outdoors. It gives me a sense of freedom to be at one with the elements. I think the cold weather in the British countryside can motivate you because you can keep warm by moving about.
For me the countryside gives me a sense of clarity and peace. I can collate my thoughts there. Nature means a lot to me, because it has been around a lot longer than buildings and cars, and will stand the test of time. But I do live in the city though thankfully it's very near to the Peak District which is where I visit often. I used to have two labradors which I absolutely adored, and would take them up there. At home with my mum, we've always had British blue cats. Mine was Oscar who reached the age of 18! He was my trusted companion, and now that role belongs to Craig.
Craig Bostock, 29, is from Rotherham in South Yorkshire. He spends most of his time in Portsmouth where he works with the Royal Navy as a warfare director, in charge of co-ordinating the defence of the ship.
We met on a dating app on my phone, the usual way of meeting people these days. My first thought was 'God he is handsome' and I didn't know whether he'd be interested in seeing me again. We met again not long after that first time, and exchanged numbers to keep in touch.
I had to go away for four months with the Roayal Navy not long after we'd met. I knew something could progress as I got a text from Paul every so often asking when was I going to be back which was really sweet. I wondered why this guy was texting me, when he could have had anyone he wanted. After the four months of being separated, as soon as I was back home on leave Paul asked me if I wanted to go out on a date. So we met up just before Christmas 2016 and have spent almost everyday together since then.
We got serious really fast and made it official just after News Years 2017 as a couple. We kind of knew straight away from our first date that there was something special happening.
We don't currently live together, but when I get back to Sheffield I go to see my family first and then head over to Pauls, often spending the weekend with him. Paul has no bad habits but he has got a thing about always cleaning up after me. Maybe he is a bit too serious on the cleaning, a little bit of OCD? Sometimes you don’t have to do the dishes right after dinner is done. He is very talkative, and after he's had a little bit to drink he doesn't know how to shut up, he talks a lot and I sit there listening and smile to all the things running through his mind. It's very sweet.
With the navy I am away during the week. When I am on a ship I can be deployed anywhere from a couple of weeks to nine months, maybe longer. The longest time that I've been away in my career is six months. I am being deployed after Christmas which will be the second time since we have been together. As I've had a couple of relationships before I feel I can cope better than Paul as I'm used to mentally preparing for it and being apart from family and loved ones. I focus on the work. I know I am out there to do a job, but it can still get to you at times and you do miss home a lot.
As I am sure any person in the military will tell you, having the ability to detach comes with the job. That's what we have to do, and we have to try and put things on hold the best we can until we return. It helps that Paul is very close to his family and he has great friends to support him while I am away.
This year we will be spending Christmas together with Paul's family for Christmas dinner, and I am going to meet his Nan for the first time, who he is very close to. We're going to a country pub near the Peak District. After that we will be going around to some friends for more Champagne... A lot of champagne! Hopefully we'll be on our best behaviour. Earlier this year we went to a family birthday party and it was the first time that Paul had met most of them. We were getting quite cosy and my mum asked us to stop kissing. We couldn't keep our hands off each other. At 29 years old I was being told off by my mum!
I am a bit of a nerd. I like gaming, superheroes and Japanese anime and I play a card game called Yu-Gi-Oh. I even go to tournaments. I spend hundreds of pounds on these cards and sometimes eight-year-olds beat me. Other than that I like cars - I'm very much a petrol head. I also want to take up surfing as a new hobby - that is next on my to-do list for the next holiday.
What I love about Paul is that we are opposites. I love that we are totally different to each other and it totally works, opposites attract and all that. I also love that he doesn't want to change me, and he supports me in anything that I want to do - whether it be personal or work related. I have to make a lot of sacrifices due to my career and he supports the decisions I make. That means a lot. The fact that he is gorgeous as well doesn't hurt.
We both have different approaches to life, and have different viewpoints to each situation we face. Like he says, he's really deep. I am not going to say I am shallow, but I don't convey my emotions as deep as Paul does, it takes a lot for me to share my emotions. But I can’t hide anything from Paul, he knows exactly how I feel and what I am thinking just from the look on my face and in my eyes. He helps bring my emotions out in me and I help him not be so serious all the time and bring the fun and humour to the situation. We play off each other really well and compliment each other perfectly, everyone says what a lovely couple we make.
I don't mind living in the city centre, but there's too much traffic for my liking. I prefer maybe being on the outskirts - close enough to nature but handy to town if I need to do a spot of shopping. Living in the countryside might be a bit too out of the way, especially if you don't get phone signal. How would we cope with that these days? Let's just say I am on the cusp of existing between country and city life.
Fancy being featured in Queen and Country magazine? In 2018 we will be looking for more country-loving couples. If you are a couple and you live or have a connection to the countryside we would love to hear from you. Please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org