Lifestyle

How we met: ‘She stood right next to me. I assumed she fancied my PhD student’

Although Chris Moulin and Céline Souchay met at a scientific conference in France in 1999, they didn’t make a lasting impression on each other at the time. “I remember that Chris had long ginger hair,” says Céline. “I asked him some questions about a presentation he gave, but couldn’t understand his response, because my English wasn’t good.” She says he sounded “a bit posh and pretentious”, but it was “probably due to the language barrier”.

By 2004, Céline had moved from France to Plymouth to work as a lecturer, while Chris was living and working in Leeds. In September that year, he invited her to a British Psychological Society conference he was organising in the city. Although he had read her work, he didn’t recall having met her five years earlier. “She stood right next to me at the evening reception and I assumed she must fancy my PhD student,” says Chris. But Céline thought he was amazing. “I didn’t recognise him, but he looked so trendy and happy. I was frustrated, because I wanted to speak to him, but there were lots of people around. I stood nearby to show I was interested.” Although there was a spark, they kept things professional. “I asked him to read something I had written, as an excuse to keep in touch.”

In January 2005, Chris invited Céline to another conference, in London. “I took her around the city to see the sights,” he says. That was when they discussed previous conferences and realised they had met before. By this time, Chris knew he wanted to be with Céline, but was coming out of another relationship. “I tried to explain that we were breaking up and sorting out the mortgage.” They stayed in touch via text message and shortly afterwards Céline applied for a job in Leeds. The pair became a couple when she went for the interview, then moved in together after she got the job.

The following February, Céline proposed to Chris. Desiring something fuss-free, fun and different, the couple arranged a surprise wedding five months later. It took place in Bristol, Chris’s home town. “We pretended it was so our parents could meet,” says Chris. “Céline’s parents were visiting, and we told both sets of parents to dress up so that we could go to the Wills Memorial Building.” Instead, they took them to Bristol Register Office. “My mum was worried she didn’t have a hat for the surprise wedding,” laughs Chris. “Céline translated the ceremony for her parents line by line.”

The couple’s sons were born in 2007 and 2009. In 2012, they moved to France. They live in Grenoble with their children, two cats, a dog and three chickens. Although their relationship has been happy, it has been complicated by Céline’s health problems. In 2010, she went to hospital after becoming seriously ill; Chris was told she wouldn’t survive. “They didn’t know what was wrong, so they prepared me for the worst and told me to say goodbye,” he says. Céline underwent emergency surgery to repair damage to her colon, which was linked to a genetic condition that her doctors still don’t fully understand. “I did recover, but now live in chronic pain, which impacts our everyday life,” she says. Since Covid hit, the couple have been shielding. “We’ve noticed how much casual discrimination there is towards people with illness and disabilities throughout the pandemic,” says Chris.

Despite the difficulties of the pandemic and Céline’s condition, they adore each other’s company. “I don’t like staying in bed, so we work on lots of projects together, like doing up houses,” says Céline. Chris loves his wife’s positive nature and dark sense of humour. “Everything has been an adventure with her. She’s motivated and inspired me on every level.” Céline appreciates her partner’s patience. “He’s also really artistic, and plays music. When we first met, he made me a CD of all his own songs.” As well as working in the same field, they share the same interests in music and film. “We were on the same page from the start,” says Chris. “We’re kindred spirits.”