Curtain up on the next great adventure: our return to Europe. And marriage. We've been an unconventional couple from the start – the Archers have struggled with that, but their daughter has made so many unconventional choices already in her life. A marriage at barely seventeen would not have suited anyone – Alessandra needed to taste the freedom of the world beyond swimming and school, needed to fade a little from a national consciousness that was troubled enough by her decision to study law.
Five long years of small roles with the struggling NZ Opera – finding a teacher, letters back to Maestro back in Milan, appealing to his sense of romance, I've found the love of my life in the antipodes, I know what I'm giving up, but wouldn't you do the same? Five years of watching Alex learn and grow and fall in love with the law, despite encountering all the sexism and elitism that could be thrown in her way.
Odd conversations at odd hours, over glasses of wine in my minuscule flat, or her bedsit out the back of her family home – the Archers really have been terribly forgiving of the madman who stole their daughter. Slowly she opened up to me about the years before Rome, cried in my arms over Andy, railed at the Gods, wept again for her lost friendship with Maggie. A friendship that was closer than anyone around them ever realised. Built up as famous rivals, Maggie had an unforgiving, competitive mother, but the girls themselves managed to be remarkably close. Listening to Alex talk about Maggie, I wondered how Maggie would describe the relationship.
Now Alex wants to marry me – a decision that stunned me but to which I have no objections. A decision that will make many things easier and yet which I suspect will change little between us. But it will make many people happy and there's a part of me that leaps with joy. Though I wonder how her mother has convinced her to wear a dress for the wedding.
After the wedding and a honeymoon, and a round of goodbyes that will criss-cross these two islands, we'll be getting on an airplane to travel back to Europe. It will be the first time back for both of us since 1960, and this time it's to England. Alex topped her class and was accepted at Somerville in Oxford, and I'm booked to debut with a Manchester company.
The band plays on, and Alex is ready. And if she can gather herself for an assault on the rest of the world, then so can I.