How we met: ‘He had a great tan – but I did make fun of his hair’

In the summer of 2005, Waverley Grainger travelled to upstate New York to work as a counsellor at a children’s summer camp. “I’m originally from New Zealand and was living in Melbourne. This seemed like a great opportunity to travel,” she says. “I was going to be working with the children, and running horse-riding lessons.” Dave Kwong, a student from London, was working at the same camp. Although they met early on, they had different friendship circles and didn’t spend much time together. “I do remember he had a great tan and I made fun of the [dyed] white tips in his hair,” she laughs. “They were all the rage back then.” The following summer, they returned to the same camp, but both had summer romances with other people. While Waverley came back again in 2007, Dave didn’t and, after a disappointing summer, she had no plans to return. “I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had in previous years, but something told me I should go back for one final year,” she says.

We were meant to get married last summer. We’re hoping it can go ahead in August
In 2008, they both returned to the camp. This time, they were assigned to work in neighbouring cabins and became close friends. “It was really great to see her again,” says Dave. “She was this familiar face I hadn’t seen in ages. Returning counsellors are put in the same group, and I got to know her a lot better.” The relationship moved quickly. “It’s quite an intense bubble,” says Waverley. “We did evening activities with the kids and then we would spend every night chatting.” She discovered she and Dave shared similar values, and he had a great sense of humour, while he was drawn to her bubbly, caring personality. “It was fun getting to know someone from another country too,” he says. “We love adventure travel, and wanted to do lots of exploring.”

Towards the end of the summer, they kissed, and the next day Dave told her how much he liked her. Shortly afterwards, he left camp to travel, while Waverley took the older children on a trip to Disney World in Florida followed by the Bahamas. “I missed him while I was away, and realised this could really be something.” They met up in New York at the end of August and decided to make a go of the relationship. Waverley went back to Australia to earn some money to come to the UK. Dave returned to Plymouth to finish his master’s in engineering. “I moved to London in May 2009,” she says. Later that year, they moved in together. Dave found a job in engineering, while Waverley works in retail design. They bought a home together in Colliers Wood in 2012 and live there with their cat.

Last year, Waverley’s father became seriously ill with cancer and the couple flew to New Zealand in September to say goodbye. “We had to quarantine for two weeks in a hotel, and then Dave could only stay in New Zealand for nine days,” she remembers. “He did that for me. He’s an outstanding guy.” After her father died in December, she stayed another month to support her family.

The couple, who got engaged in July 2019, spent lockdown planning their wedding. “We were meant to get married last summer but had to move it because of the pandemic. We’re hoping it can go ahead in August,” says Dave. As his family are originally from Hong Kong, part of the celebrations will include a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, and they also plan to host a party in New Zealand when it’s safe to travel again. “We’re very positive about the wedding, but we’ve decided not to stress about something we have no control over,” says Waverley.

Dave loves that his partner is so thoughtful, and always puts the needs of others before her own. “She’s always thinking of me and getting me little treats.” Waverley says that, while it sounds like a cliche, she is fortunate to have fallen in love with her best friend. “I’m still excited to see him after all this time together. He’s so genuine and funny. Nothing fazes him. He always finds a solution.”