Monday 19 February 2018

How Alex's bright eyes burned fire into Colum's heart

Entertainment journalist Colum McCormack Crowe is just about to marry Alex Thomas, four years after their civil partnership

Alex Thomas and Colum McCormack Crowe say they are opposites in personality. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Alex Thomas and Colum McCormack Crowe say they are opposites in personality. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Colum McCormack Crowe has always had a thing for French men. So when he spotted Alex Thomas in the barber shop he owns in Cork six years ago, he was instantly smitten. That evening he went for a drink with his friend Helen, and told her about the brief encounter with the man with beautiful eyes. The next day, she phoned him and said that a French guy called Alex with really bright blue eyes was sitting in the bar she was working in, and he was to get himself straight over.

Alex was with a group of friends, and, as it happened, Helen was great pals with one of them. When she finished her shift, she and Colum joined the group, and by the end of the evening only Alex and Colum remained and they chatted until 3am. "Alex walked me home and gave me a small little kiss, and we went for dinner the next night," says Colum.

At the time, Alex was just out of a long-term relationship and was seeking something fresh, and Colum, he says, was very fresh and had a lot of entertaining stories. He liked his sallow skin and tattoo, although alas for him, Colum is in the process of having it lasered off.

Alex invited Colum to go surfing in Lahinch, as the Corkman pretended he loved it although he had never stood on a board. Much to Colum's relief, it rained the whole time and surfing was off. Alex was also amused when Colum invited him for dinner, but burned the sauce and had to ask for help cooking the steak.

"We have had similar upbringings but we're complete opposites," says Colum. "We don't have similar interests or the same taste in fashion and music, but I have learned so much from Alex about food, wine and French culture and he keeps me intrigued."

Alex says that he enjoys that Colum is so creative while he is more practical. He proposed to him in Nice after a year and a half, and they held their civil partnership ceremony six months later in Kinsale. It was the most amazing day of their lives, but they are very excited about their forthcoming marriage on the same date, September 19. They had the big day out with the civil partnership, so this time around, it will just be the legalities in front of a couple of witnesses, followed by a nice lunch. There will be a lovely second honeymoon though, they laugh.

Colum was born in Cork and has one older sister. His parents separated when he was very young and he didn't see his dad after that apart from a couple of years in his 20s. When he was six, his hairdresser mum Phil moved the family to Brighton, principally to obtain a divorce. It was a wonderful place to live, says Colum, and all of the holidays were spent back in Cork. He enjoyed the contrast between the hip and trendy Brighton and slower rural life just outside Carrigaline.

"I was a bit eccentric and a little bit 'out there' as a child," he says. "I was a bit of a diva and a drama queen, probably like I am now. Being gay wasn't really an issue as Brighton was the gay capital of England, and my mum had a group of friends who were drag queens."

Colum trained in hairdressing after school, and then studied English and theatre at college. He harboured ambitions of becoming an entertainment journalist, and has successfully worked in both fields. He came back to Cork at 22 and opened his award-winning barber shop, The Crop Shop, on Paul Street, while his mum has her own salon on Castle Street called Philly's Crop Shop.

Colum has worked on various magazines and newspapers in Cork up the level of editor, and was also an entertainment journalist on RTE's Today Show for a year, which he loved. He launched his own magazine called #Woh last year, but found he had taken on too much and it was too pressurised. He now does entertainment news slots on 4fm, and enjoys the mixture of radio and TV contributing and freelance writing. He has also just finished writing his first novel called More Than a One-Night Stand.

Alex, 31, grew up outside Lyon in France, and comes third of Denis and Martine's four children. His parents' marriage ended when he was ten, and he hasn't had contact with his dad for years. Alex dated girls during his teenage years, but realised that he was gay around 18. He originally trained to be a social worker, and came to Ireland when he received a call from his godmother, Eliane, who was living in Kerry.

Eliane had cancer and he came over to help her with her small farm ten years ago, and stayed with her until she died three years later. He did a two-year course in tourism and business in Tralee, and then went to work in Fexco in Killlorglin. It closed during the recession, and Alex moved to Cork to work at Apple. He is now in management there.

Colum says that he is the more feisty and airy of the two and Alex is more placid and grounded. Alex loves that Colum can be a media professional one minute, and "Colum the teddy bear" the next, and life is never dull around him. It drives Colum mad that Alex doesn't switch off lights and close cupboard doors, so much so that he wrote it into his vows. Alex thinks that Colum is a bit OCD about all that kind of thing.

"Alex has supported me through the ups and downs and the good and the bad," says Colum. "I couldn't ask for a more supportive partner, particularly as I work in an industry as unpredictable as media."

Follow Colum on Twitter @colums_world

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