How we met: 'I actually used the word ding-dong to describe him'

Heather Simmons was at university studying drama in December 2007 when she wrote to the Theatre Royal Bath to request a work placement. “I was offered the chance to help with a school pantomime project, working on mini productions of Aladdin. Before I started in the new year, they invited me to go and see the main show at Christmastime,” she remembers.

“I was told I would meet a man called Feargus, and I was expecting a much older guy with a wife and kids.” In reality, Feargus had only graduated the previous summer and had taken a job adapting the pantomime as a two-man play for local schools. “I thought Heather would be a work experience kid helping us with the shows,” he says. “That day, I rang one of my friends and told him I’d met the perfect girl,” he laughs.

Heather was also impressed. “I remember saying to my mum he was attractive and actually used the phrase ‘ding-dong’ to describe him. It’s become a running joke in my family and was even incorporated into our wedding speeches.” Despite the attraction, Heather had a boyfriend at the time, one she was happy with. Over the next few months, she and Feargus worked closely together on the panto project and became good friends. “I ended up becoming part of the show, and we acted out the panto together in schools,” she says. “We had so much fun.”

Heather’s relationship ended that summer, and she returned to Bath for her final year at university. She found a job at the children’s theatre The Egg, where Feargus was also working. “I found her so funny and loved hanging around with her,” he says. “Initially, when she had a boyfriend, I thought I had to get over my crush so we could be friends, but when she was single I really wanted something to happen.” Their friendship blossomed quickly and, by the end of September, they realised they wanted more.

Heather (second left, blue hat) and Feargus (second from right, yellow waistcoat) in Crimes on the Nile at Theatre Royal Bath in 2019.
Heather (second left, blue hat) and Feargus (second from right, yellow waistcoat) in Crimes on the Nile at Theatre Royal Bath in 2019. Photograph: Pamela Raith Photography

“One day we were at my shared student house watching something dull on TV and being silly, when we just kissed each other,” she says. “I think it had been building up for a while, but it took me a little while to see it.” They had their first date in a local restaurant and became a couple straight away. It was no surprise to their friends and family, who had already seen the sparks flying between them. “I kept talking about her, and we were fairly inseparable,” says Feargus. “They knew we were in love before we did.” From the very start of their relationship, they loved working together and began creating and performing sketches at local cabaret nights. They went to see lots of plays, and Feargus would regularly join Heather on her student nights out with her friends. “I felt like the creepy sad sack reliving his student days, despite only being 18 months older,” he laughs.

When Heather graduated the following year, they lived together in a flat in Bath. They married in May 2012 with a DIY reception at a countryside village hall near their home, then moved to Frome in Somerset. Before the pandemic, the couple were running comedy shows together at the New Old Friends theatre company. They make comedy audio dramas to stay creative. “Nothing can replace live theatre, but we’ve enjoyed making them. I think we would have gone crazy without it,” says Feargus. They managed to do one outdoor, socially distanced performance in December between the lockdowns. “It was fantastic. It was cold and pouring with rain, but people were so happy to be enjoying some theatre,” says Heather.

Feargus describes his wife as “the funniest person” he’s ever met. “I really admire her kindness, too. I think we both feel really lucky to have each other.” Heather appreciates her partner’s drive and inspiration. “He has this ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ attitude, which I love. It gives me the courage to try new things.

“We’ve been through a lot since we met. The one thing that’s brought us through is that we always manage to laugh and be silly.”

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