My friend and Conservative Party colleague, Steve Bell, kindly invited me to Brighton last night for a surprise party to celebrate his partner, Maria Cauldfield's 40th Birthday.
The party was lovely, and looking at the shock on Maria's face when she walked in, it really was a surprise! I met some lovely people (many of whom read this blog) including Brighton Kemptown's Chairman Peter Booth and his partner Kelvin, Steve Bell's children and his mother (79 and still going strong), local Conservative councillor Lynda Hyde (who, strangely, has her photograph on her business card, perhaps so she can remember who she is?) and local MP Simon Kirby, whose rendition of Happy Birthday to You was something to behold.
The big surprise of the evening, however, was when Steve Bell asked Maria to marry him, brandishing an engagement ring from his back pocket. It was a wonderful moment, and I am greatly honoured to have been invited by Steve, as he was clearly planning the announcement whilst arranging the surprise party. Before it appeared Lynda Hyde (who was sitting next to me) said, "I think he's going to propose, he's hiding something in his hand." Happy to accept a lady's intuition on such matters I had my camera at the ready and captured the moment for posterity. The look on Maria's face is delightful, and those of us who have known and worked alongside Steve for many years will also relish the apprehension on his!
Congratulations to Steve and Maria, they are a lovely couple and I wish them every happiness.