PEOPLE: QUEEN & COUNTRY AND OUTDOOR LADS
The Outdoor Lads Family Christmas offers its members an alternative festive celebration. The couple behind the event tells Q&C about combating loneliness this holiday season, escaping the festive family nightmare, and their own special Christmas proposal.
Danny, 33, a property manager originally from Liverpool, and Andrew, 38, an engineer from Over Alderley met on a day walk for Outdoor Lads in Monsal Head in the Peak District in February 2011. They didn’t get closer until Manchester Pride that year, before Danny invited Andrew out for dinner via Facebook.
Despite proclamations from Andrew that Danny would find him boring and not very interesting, the pair immediately got on well, before making it official a few dates later. They even didn’t kiss till their 4th date - or so they say.
Andrew proposed to Danny at the Outdoor Lads Family Christmas event two years ago, an annual event which the boys launched, offering its members an alternative festive celebration. Q&C finds out more…
What is the Outdoor Lads Family Christmas event all about then?
The Family Christmas event was on the radar for Outdoor Lads for a number of years as we always knew that Christmas in particular was the one holiday where people were at most risk of being alone or perhaps felt the need to escape and want to try a different Christmas.
The snag was most of our leaders had families and/or didn’t want to commit the time to such a big event so Andrew and I took the plunge together and we launched Family Christmas 2015 which took place at Beverley YHA, an old friary in the heart of the town. It was a roaring success with a great mix of people.
We then moved the event to Malham in the Yorkshire Dales in 2016 and it went from 24 people to 35, again a fantastic success in a somewhat more remote setting. This year, 2018, we head to Eskdale YHA on the west of the Lake District deep in Wainwright territory. There’s little over a week to go and we cannot wait! We have around 30 people attending so far this year with space for another 10, so get booking if you fancy it.
What brought about the marriage proposal at the 2016 event? Tell us more about what happened?
Well before that event in 2016 we’d both been playing a game of cat and mouse about who was going to propose. Honestly we were both holding out for the other to propose. It became a funny discussion amongst friends who kept asking - when are you going to ask each other. It turned out that Andrew proposed to me on Christmas Day 2016 at the hostel at Malham.
I had just returned from a short walk whilst Andrew made a start on Christmas lunch. On my return he suggested we head to our room and quickly open our presents. Once there Andrew presented me a card which said- “I love what we have and would you marry me?” - to which I jumped up and said yes. Amazingly we kept it a total secret from everyone at the hostel until we served dinner and I then announced it.
Where will you be spending Christmas this year?
This year we return to Family Christmas for our third year and it is in Eskdale, Cumbria. Roaring fires, mountains and rivers - a perfect setting! Just need some snow now.
“I love what we have and would you marry me?”
What elements are needed to make it a great Christmas for you?
Our friends are just as important as family really and so many friends from Outdoor Lads that we have gotten to know over the years come to our family Christmas event so friends is the important thing.
What’s been your best Christmas experience?
Well I can’t say I can top being proposed to on Christmas, but there’s been other exciting times on these Family Christmas events including at the first year at Beverley. All of those attending had clubbed together to buy us a wall poster with all of the Lake District mountains on in the format of the London Underground map. A great gesture from our Outdoor Lads family!
And your worst?
Perhaps waking up on Christmas Day 2010 to a burst water main in the street where I lived in Liverpool at the time. We got taken in by friends nearby who weren’t affected by the water issues so it was a good result in the end.
Will Santa be emptying his sack for you this year?
Due to our wedding planned for early next year we are having a modest Christmas in terms of presents in anticipation of having a great gift to look forward to in February.
Plans for New Year?
We have a touring caravan and we are headed back to the Lake District (once we have returned home and done a few wash cycles!!) to Hawkshead to spend a few days with some other Outdoor Lads friends and Andrew’s Mum and Dad as they also have a caravan.
What do you like and dislike about the festive period?
I love the social events and the cold nights and warm mulled wine as you wander the Christmas markets in whatever city you live in or near - something about the smells, the music and the general feel of the atmosphere is fantastic. The dislike is overkill of the festive tunes - we all love them but sometimes it gets a bit much.
What ODL events are you most looking forward to in the new year?
We are both heavily involved in our flagship BIG Spring Camp event in May - that is 500 attendees normally from all over the country. We have our bar there, on-site climbing wall, entertainment and so many other walks and additional activities. It is such a fabulous event. One not to miss whatever you want to do and however long you have been a member.
Christmas is usually a time to reflect on the last year. Any highlights of 2018, and any regrets?
Not seeing family enough is the one for me as I am regularly reminded by my dad! We spend so much time making everyone else happy in Outdoor Lads that it is easy to forget your own family even though we love them dearly. A commitment for next year is to focus more on them and the wedding has a very big family theme as a result. A highlight was our caravan holiday to Devon with friends. It was 7 days of glorious unblemished sunshine thanks to the heatwave.
I don't know about you, but Christmas normally gets me quite deep and thoughtful. What would you say then is the meaning of life?
The meaning of life for me is to be happy within yourself - not to try and please others but to ensure you are happy and then everyone else around you should be the same! Don’t try to impress, just be you and be proud of who you are and what you have achieved in life thus far.
And getting a bit mushy, what do you love about each other?
The fact that we can be together and not have to say a word means a lot. Our relationship isn’t about having to always speak, we are happy in silence with one another or in full conversation together or with others. I love Andrew’s eyes too, when I first met him, his eyes just grabbed my attention. He has a wonderfully cute look about him. We really fancy each other. That helps!
For more details about Outdoor Lads events at Christmas and in 2019, please visit their website here: www.outdoorlads.com