A couple whose romance began near some of the best waves in Mauritius have renewed their wedding vows in the place they call home.
Harry and Jeannette Nightingale renewed their vows in front of friends in Ulladulla on Tuesday, January 29 – 25 years after they married at their local Anglican Church in Bondi, 1994.
If you watched Bondi Rescue, you would recognise Harry. ‘H Man’ retired from his 16-year stint as lifeguard at one of Australia’s most iconic beaches, Bondi, in 2015.
Following his departure from his lifeguard duties, the couple moved to Ulladulla. Harry’s youth was spent riding some of his favourite waves on the South Coast, and it was always his dream to move, Jeannette said.
Incredibly in a district with scant public transport, hey still do not own a car.
“Harry uses his push bike,” Jeannette said.
“I use the community service taxi fare. We are over 65, we don’t have a car. So I use them to go to Nowra to go to the doctor, [and I] use them to go to Wollongong to see a specialist.”
When Harry and Jeannette first moved to Mollymook, the big change affected the Mauritian-born woman.
“I was working in a hostel in Bondi. I meet different people, that was me. It was really a challenge, when I stopped working, I think I missed all this,” she said.
So Jeannette went back to Mauritius for a three-month break.
“I’ve found this difficult because when we moved to Mollymook I didn’t like it. My daughter said to me ‘why don’t you come over’? Harry said ‘you go’,” she said.
“When I came back I was more relaxed and I’m happier in Ulladulla now.
"There is lots to do here.”
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The couple also found connections at the Anglican Church of Milton-Ulladulla.
“I go to church every Sunday. I was born and raised as a Catholic, but when I met Harry, Harry was Anglican and I go to church with Mum and Harry,” she said.
However, their move to Ulladulla was not as challenging as the permanent move to Australia, Jeannette said.
“It’s hard to just leave, we speak Creole. Now I have to speak English all the time. Harry says ‘no you’re speaking French and Creole, all together,” she said with a chuckle.
Language, distance from her daughters and grandchildren, and people’s opinions weighed on her mind.
“It was really hard because remember I got two daughters in Mauritius and at that time I had a few grandchildren,” she said.
“I said to my daughter ‘I’ve met a man, he’s Australian’.
“She said, ‘Mummy, this is your time, you sacrificed your life for us. This your turn’.”
The early beginnings
When Jeannette met Harry in 1993, ‘H Man’ was having his annual surf trip to Mauritius after working 60-plus hours a week labouring to afford the airfare and expenses.
Both were invited separately to a party, Harry by his surf mate and Jeannette by her friend.
“On first sight, I thought...’nice,but too loud’,” Harry said.
Jeannette, a divorcee, wasn’t ready for another man in her life.
“So when Harry walks in I was sitting and talking. Then [my friends] told me, ‘Look, look, he’s looking at you’. I said, ‘Guys, please no, I don’t want any men in my life’.”
Eventually the pair started talking, Harry in his best “Franglais”.
“We spoke French together, I didn’t realise I switched French to English,” Jeannette said.
“Harry realised I speak English too. This is how we started.”
Their first test came a month or so after when Jeannette visited her daughter for three months in Belgium.
“I gave him my daughter’s number. You know what he did? Harry would ring me every day,” she said.
They persevered and moved to the next step of acquiring a temporary tourist visa. After a few months in Australia Harry asked Jeannette for her hand in marriage.
“So, I now had a wife and an instant family. Jeannette had three grown daughters,” he said.
Their marriage was blossoming, but Jeannette had to return to Mauritius three months later to apply for permanent residency. Harry went back with her to help process paperwork.
They waited six months, but Harry had to return to Australia when his visa expired.
“Little did I know,but a half an hour after I left her, her paperwork arrived,” he said.
“I was in Perth, I rang her and, lo and behold, she said, ‘I’ve got my residency’.
“Still I had to wait for three months as she had work obligations, but finally the day arrived and the end of 1994 saw us together.”