309Write - How Ade Adepitan met Linda Harrison: ‘I was like, if he’s going to stalk me, I’m going to stalk him
in January 2010, slightly inebriated at a television awards ceremony, Ade Adepitan spotted a woman sitting alone. “As I pushed past, she smiled a huge smile at me.” He went to chat. “Linda was so warm and friendly and she had this really amazing aura and positive air about her.” Linda’s friends – they had essentially gatecrashed the event – had gone to the loo. “So I was on my own,” she says. “I remember he came across and commented on my tights.” (They were stripy.) Their conversation was easy, Ade says. “We could have chatted for ever.
Ade took a photo of them, and took Linda’s email address so he could send it to her. “I expected her to receive it, and that would be that,” he says. Instead, they got into an email conversation. Linda was a music student and singer, performing as Elle Exxe. When they met, she vaguely knew who Ade was – she recognised him as the man from the BBC ident, and had seen him present some TV programmes. When he emailed her, Ade told her he had found the videos of her singing she had put on YouTube. “I was like, if he’s going to stalk me, I’m going to stalk him,” says Linda. “I searched his name and read about everything he’d done. I was in shock that somebody could have done so much.” Adepitan was a member of the wheelchair basketball team that won a bronze medal at the 2004 Paralympics, had been an actor and now mostly works as a TV presenter. “I read that he had climbed up a volcano on his hands and knees for five hours when his wheelchair wouldn’t take him any further. I just went: ‘That’s my person.’ I didn’t know at that point that it was a romantic thing, I just wanted to know him more.
They met up about a month later in Guildford, where Linda was studying. “He was an hour late,” she says. Ade smiles and says: “We went to this restaurant, and I’ve never seen someone so enthusiastic about food in my life. She ate with maniacal fervour. I loved her more for it.” They got on just as well as they had the night they met. “We just liked being in each other’s company,” says Ade. “When we were going from the bar back to the car park, she sat on my lap and we rolled down the hill. People must have thought we were lunatics.”
There were a few obstacles at the beginning. Linda was busy with the final year of her degree, and their 17-year age gap troubled Ade. “It definitely threw me at first,” he says. Linda invited him to a gig she was performing at. “The music she played was completely different to things I normally listened to. I get there and everyone’s quite grungy, very far removed from me.” Linda smiles and says: “He called me Indie Lindie.” She had a piercing in her lip, he reminds her. “We were opposites in all sorts of ways, music, everything, but there must have been something that drew us to each other,” he says. “It was just Linda and a piano, and she was unbelievable, the stage presence was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. From that moment, I was like, I’m in love with this woman.” He even told his friend he was going to marry Linda one day.
There were still challenges ahead. Ade was away a lot, travelling on a wheelchair tennis tour, but they spoke via video call. Then they cooled their relationship briefly because it seemed as if each had different priorities. In September, Ade invited Linda on a holiday to Portugal and she wasn’t sure if she should go (her mother persuaded her, telling her: “It doesn’t have to mean anything”). They ended up having such a good time that Linda didn’t want to come home. “I was just like, I want to stay here with you and not go back to reality
Linda moved to London, but they lived separately for about five years, then moved in together about a year before they got married. “We started going out when Linda was 19, turning 20, and I knew there’s a big difference in how you feel about yourself and who you are in your early 20s,” says Ade. “By the time you’re 25, you’re a completely different person. I felt I had to wait until Linda was in her mid-20s, and if we were still together, if things were still going well, then we should [get married].”
They did, in 2018, and their son was born last year. They have sometimes had to confront prejudice and people’s judgments about their relationship. “Disability, race, age, all of that,” says Ade. “People judge all the time. They don’t necessarily say it, but sometimes you know.” Linda says some people “would look at me like: ‘You’re so good for going out with him’, basically. What? It’s so bizarre. Which is why we started a YouTube channel, just to try and dispel the strange assumptions that people make, and show that we are a normal couple. They seem to need a motive for us to be together, other than love.”
It works, they think, because they are a team. “We get each other. We understand our strengths and weaknesses, we understand the journey that we’re both on, and we support each other,” says Ade. They are, says Linda, “problem-solvers”, which means both their careers get time and focus. She says she is more prone to stress, but Ade’s extreme positivity balances it out: “I think a lot of Ade’s amazing qualities, thankfully, are rubbing off on me.” Ade says, beaming at his wife: “We try to allow ourselves to be the best that we can be