Words by ITV News Multimedia Producer Ann Yip
It's a love story that may have been met with incredulity in 'normal' times: a couple who fell head over heels with each other before meeting face-to-face. But it is the reality many singletons are faced with today.
While finding love in lockdown may seem like a daunting task, Greg Unitt, 28, and Sydney Hardcastle, 27, will soon be marking their one year anniversary and they say lockdown “got rid of time wasters”.
They have also been fanning the flames of their relationship with Facetime dates, which involved a lot of Netflix shows and takeaways.
The loved-up couple are excited to be moving into their new home in Pontyclun, Wales in April.
They had only been messaging each other for a week, and had one Facetime call, before Boris Johnson announced the first lockdown.
From then on, they were messaging each other “pretty much every day”.
“It’s weird thinking about it now," Greg, who recently moved to Pontyclun and works as a support worker, said. "It’s horrible and so weird because we were invested in each other but we could just never meet. We could not legally meet.”
He continued: “Telling people that I really like someone, they say: ‘How do you like someone in lockdown? You cannot meet them.’ It seemed really immature. It’s weird thinking back to it now.”
Sydney, a retail worker at Sainsbury’s, said: “It’s so horrible to explain it to people, because it sounded wrong. It just sounded silly.
“If someone told me they were in the situation I was in, I would’ve been like: ‘Oh, how does that work?’ It was like missing someone you’ve never met.”
Both believe the lockdown has made their relationship stronger, with Greg explaining that having to talk to each other online for months “got rid of time wasters” as “a lot of people wouldn’t have bothered”.
Speaking about what drew her to Greg, Sydney said: “I wasn’t really looking for a relationship. It was my friend swiping through my Tinder. Everyone was sending really cheesy coronavirus lines and Greg was the only person who was like ‘Hey, how are you? How was your Sunday?’ We were just having general conversation and he was just nice to talk to.
“We had so much in common from the start.”
Greg said: “One of the main things was also, Sydney was nervous to tell me she was in a 12 year relationship prior. I was in a nine year relationship. For me, it was a huge level of maturity. That was the main reason I started talking to her, and looks of course.”
“It was good flow, good banter, good chemistry. It was simply getting on.”
When restrictions eased last summer, Greg and Sydney met in person for the first time by going for a walk. Greg said: “We walked for hours but we couldn’t touch each other.”
One of their most memorable dates was when they watched a film under a cinema tent in Greg’s garden. Unluckily for the pair, it started raining later that day.
At the time, people from different households were not allowed to meet indoors, but could meet in gardens.
As restrictions eased further, Greg and Sydney formed a support bubble and were able to properly see each other in the months before the second lockdown in November.
Now back in lockdown, Greg and Sydney have returned to Facetime dates, with plenty of Netflix time and takeaways. They will be spending Valentine’s Day video calling each other.
They have also been sending each other gifts, both serious and fun ones, with Sydney sending Greg a “mini Syd” - a doll cushion with Sydney’s face.
The couple are looking forward to putting an end to the days of not seeing each other due to lockdown rules.
Greg said: “Once we live together, all of that is going to be a good but distant memory.” But he also added he would “definitely go through this again”.
Imparting some advice for dating in lockdown, Sydney said: “Stick it out. It’s horrible knowing you cannot meet someone and get to know them in person, but actually with technology, it’s so easy to get to know people without meeting them face to face. It takes away all the time wasters.”
She continued: “We had so much fun, watching Netflix together, trying to sync our volumes together. Ordering a Papa John’s pizza at the same time.”