Nothing sums up the loyalty and friendship of this lovely couple more than the fact they took a detour on the day of their flight to Latvia to get married (!) to make sure they saw me on my birthday.

And, they’d found time to make me a really thoughtful present to boot.

We are so grateful for Mike and Ilze and with their wedding now so close, I wanted to celebrate our many happy memories together in a couple of blog posts.

Hope you enjoy them.

I first met Ilze as an undergrad at Nottingham, through Rick although we didn’t really get to speak much. Think I was probably just Rick’s annoying friend from home to be honest!
So when I found out a few years later that Rick was spending time with her and her boyfriend Mike, legends on the Latin Ballroom dance circuit, I recognised the name – it is quite distinctive – but didn’t really have a point of reference.

We then hung out in Pete Janowski’s hall watching Chelsea and Liverpool play out an astonishing 4-4 draw in the Champions League. We were in a rather typical noisy mood but it went down well. And that was the start of a beautiful friendship.

So many special things I  could touch upon.

Let’s start with a subject close to my heart. Food.

From early on, it was clear they were into their food but I hadn’t realised quite how much until I was brainwashed by watching three episodes of Student Come Dine With Me.

This spinoff show starred a long haired Mike and showcased his love of courgettes and his disdain for those of less cultured taste than himself. Absolutely hilarious.

And wow have we been treated to some feasts in our time by Mike and Ilze.

Christmas Dinner sprouts have been revolutionised but this pales into insignificance when confronted by the turducken, an incredible hybrid of turkey and duck. How much work went into that?

Mike and Ilze inspired us to start making fresh pasta, involved us in the greatest tapas meal I’ve ever had and probably ever will (!) and have even managed to serve us a three course meal with courgette as a theme! Nice.

In the earlier days of our friendship, I have very fond recollections of Fondue nights at their house, introducing me to this awesome evening as well as setting me off with a host of ridiculous puns, eg “where is your fon-shoe?” “I’m hanging with my fon-crew” or “is it fon-true?” Mike graciously laughs at these…Ilze shakes her head but I know she’s smiling inside.

Invariably dinner parties at their house end with Mike busting out chords to “There’s a rat in my kitchen, what am I gonna do?” All together now…

This has usually been fuelled by a lot of red wine, held in a very sommelier like fashion. The rest of us can’t pull off the look in the quite same way.

Every occasion spent with Mike and Ilz is a cultural experience. Ilze – because she radiates culture, sophistication, class and linguistic excellence. Mike – because we like to assume that he is Chinese and is therefore amazing at everything stereotypically Chinese.

To his credit, he is amazing at areas such as cooking Chinese food; however his reading of Chinese characters is slightly sketchy as discovered memorably at a restaurant for Chinese New Year, his martial arts skills leave a bit desired – despite being Mr Hong on the new Karate Kid and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Joseph Gordon Levitt, and his Chinese style table tennis serve is not the most reliable serve in the world.

(And actually Ilze started wearing Christmas jumpers this year so I might have to take that back after all!)

Keeping with the foreign influences, I am so excited about heading to Latvia to see where Ilze is from as I’ve always been curious about it, possibly overly so (if that’s the case I’m sorry. Even last week I was badgering Ilz for phrases. Es mieljo Latvija!)
We have been treated to so many different Latvian experiences in England. The superhero part of their amazing New Years party didn’t really fit that, but Ilz slaving over the hob later so we could create metallic creatures, or painting eggspainting eggs and doing Easter eggs hunts over the Easter weekend just give little hints of her heritage.

The wedding will be fascinating