The moment I knew: ‘I told her my dream was to become an author. She didn’t laugh’

New to London and ready to party, the last place Jonathan Seidler expected to spend Notting Hill Carnival was indoors discussing books with his future wife

I arrived in London in the summer of 2018, around the same time as the dating app Hinge. Having been unceremoniously dumped a year before, I’d gone through the classic late-20s crisis playbook and quit my job, upped sticks and moved to the other side of the world on a work and travel visa.

My first two months in this foreign city were marked by an absolute frenzy of dating, in which I tried to repair my broken heart, but more importantly, like the perennial sad case I was, figure out where all the good restaurants, venues and pubs were without having to do it alone.

I had circled the Notting Hill Carnival in my calendar well before I’d even landed. That’s how determined I was to immerse myself in proper British culture.

An old school friend had invited me to a house party on Portobello Road, but I had no real intention of attending. All I wanted was to be right in the thick of it.

The UK had been blessed with a once-in-a-century heatwave for months, but it came to an abrupt end that August weekend. When I finally alighted at Notting Hill station, it was bucketing down so hard that I could barely see ahead of me, or open my phone.

The entire parade became a grimy mudbath, with ravers fleeing for cover as I desperately looked for somewhere to take shelter in a city that has never believed in awnings.

Eventually I remembered the party I’d been invited to and battled my way over, drenched, water pooling in my Reeboks. I was still trying (and failing) to dry out my jeans when Keren arrived half an hour later.

Our very first conversation concerned books, which I later realised was something I hadn’t been able to talk about in depth with anyone else sitting in my app inbox. We discussed what we were reading, the writers we loved and gave each other recommendations. I told Keren my dream was to become an author one day. She didn’t laugh.

Chatting books in a sodden sweater wasn’t how I’d imagined a weekend famed for its debauched and kinetic atmosphere, but for some reason, it felt extremely right.

When the sun came out and the carnival kicked off in earnest, I stayed at that party until about 2am, engrossed. I was already starting to imagine this woman might one day choose to become my wife.

After a few months of trying to present the most attractive version of myself to complete strangers, I’d finally found someone with whom I had no qualms being authentic, which is to say a total nerd.

I woke up the next day with a significant hangover and a stack of pings from the app. I deleted it so fast that I forgot to remove my profile first. (Apparently it’s still hanging out there, the ghost of me from five years ago dropping one-liners about olives and indie bands.)

Jonathan, Keren and baby Rae at home in Sydney.
Jonathan, Keren and baby Rae at home in Sydney Photograph: Jonathan Seidler/The Guardian

Even through the lingering fog of lager, nicotine and tequila, I knew that my search was over and that Keren was the one.

Fortunately, she didn’t disagree. We moved in together, moved to Australia together and really did get married. When I eventually decided to make good on my dream and started putting together my first book in 2020, she was there every step of the way, reading, reviewing and offering suggestions.

Many writers work in isolation, but I’m fortunate to have found a partner that is not only an avid reader but actively involved in making my stories better. She’s also dramatically changed my own, in much the same way. Together we’ve even started a new one as parents of our baby daughter, Rae.

I’m currently writing my second book, a novel, based on an idea of Keren’s that we’ve been discussing for years. It centres around a single person in London in 2018, something we both know a thing or two about.

In the last book, Keren was thanked in the acknowledgments. This time she’s going right up front in the dedication, where she belongs.


Jonno Seidler

The GuardianTramp

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