How we met: ‘At the start he was too British to argue – I had to teach him’


In October 1985, Edward Morris was invited to spend a year as an academic guest at ETH Zurich, a research university in Switzerland. “I’d just finished my degree in physics when I went on the exchange programme,” he says. He planned to take the ferry to mainland Europe from Dover. “First, I had to take the train from London to the coast and I arrived at Victoria station with lots of luggage.” Edward realised there was a mistake on his ticket and he needed to speak to a supervisor. He spotted Anja Langenstein standing at the station and asked if she would watch his bags. “She looked lovely and was very tall so she stood out.”

When they arrived at Dover, he saw her again, struggling with her own ticket. Edward went over to help and they struck up a conversation. “I asked whether he would sit with me on the boat,” she says. “I’m from Germany and we have a reputation for being very direct.” Edward says he was “bowled over” by the request. “She was so pretty,” he says. It was a warm evening and the pair played cards on deck. “It was such a clear night, we could see the stars and both sides of the coast,” says Edward. They chatted continuously for four hours, with Anja describing him as “a very British gentleman”. She told him she had been in Wales visiting friends and had stopped in Shrewsbury, staying just 10 minutes from where Edward’s family lived.

When the ferry arrived in Belgium they went their separate ways. Anja was travelling to Stuttgart, where she was studying, while Edward was heading on to Zurich. “I gave him my address, but he didn’t give me his. Apparently, he didn’t have one,” says Anja, with a laugh.

“We were really sad to get on different trains. I decided to write to her as soon as I got to Zurich,” says Edward. For seven months, they wrote letters, which they have kept. Then Anja decided to visit. “Because of the post, I didn’t have much notice that she was coming,” says Edward.

“It was me taking the initiative again to get us to meet up,” she says. They spent the weekend together before Anja returned to Stuttgart. A few weeks later, Edward went to visit her and they became an official couple. For the next year, they travelled between the two cities to see each other. Edward’s stay in Zurich was extended, but he returned to Manchester in June 1987 to do a PhD. Anja joined him shortly afterwards and continued her training as a librarian. From 1988-9 she was officially based in Stuttgart to complete her studies, but found she could do much of the work from Manchester. “I asked Anja to marry me at the end of 1988,” says Edward. “We arranged the wedding for September the following year in the UK. By coincidence, the vicar spoke German so we had a bilingual wedding.”

In 1990, Anja became pregnant and the couple moved to Bavaria in Germany. “Being from different countries, we had to decide where we wanted to settle,” says Edward. Their son arrived in February 1991, followed by a daughter in 1995.

Edward transferred to the electronics and software industry, while Anja spent her career working in libraries and book stores. “I had a book shop for eight years and now work in the international office at Munich University,” she says. The couple share a passion for travel, and often visited different European cities before the pandemic. “Anja is great at planning holidays. She plans nine months ahead,” says Edward. “Yes, I’m definitely the pushy one,” she adds, laughing.

Anja appreciates her husband’s reliability, and says they are best friends. “He’s so English and such a polite gentleman. I still fall for that. At the start he was even too British to argue – I had to teach him.” Edward loves his wife’s zest for life. “Being a physicist I like new things. She’s always coming up with new, unexpected suggestions,” he says. “After all these years I still love her so much. We speak every day, even when we are apart.”