A Battle couple who credit love at first sight and a ‘zest for life’ as secrets to a long and happy marriage are preparing to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
John and Marianne Clemence met when she was a student nurse at the West London Hospital living in the nurses’s home, and he was a police constable at Shepherds Bush living in an all male Police Section House. The nurses’s home organised a dance and the rest, as they say, is history.
John said: “The evening began with a lady’s excuse me waltz and I had already spotted my wife-to-be, so when she walked across the hall towards me, I was quite excited. Imagine my disappointment therefore when she asked my Scottish colleague instead! She always says that she could not explain her choice as she was determined to ask me.
“Later there was what was then called a ‘Paul Jones’ where all the ladies present linked hands in a circle and walked around clockwise in time to the music, while the men walked in a circle outside the ladies in the opposite direction. When the music stopped, one danced with the girl opposite. I was trying hard to cheat and get around to my future wife and, unbeknownst to me, she was also cheating and trying very hard to get around to me. The ploy worked and so we danced together and from then onwards with no one else for the entire evening.”
The couple married in July 1957 aged 20 and their first child Mark was born 11 months later. Two more children followed at two year intervals, a daughter Annemarie and another son John-Paul.
After the youngest child had gone to school, Marianne obtained an honours degree in education and became a teacher, while John also obtained an honours degree, in economics. After this, John found himself attached to the Foreign Office and sent to Hong Kong as a Detective Superintendent to re-organise a section of that force. The posting was originally for two and a half years, at the end of which he transferred to the Royal Hong Kong Police, serving 20 years. Throughout their time in Hong Kong, Marianne taught full time at the German Swiss International School. John eventually retired as an Assistant Commissioner having been awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for distinguished service.
John and Marianne have six grandchildren – Alexandra, Michael-John, Matthew, Marianne, William and Simon. Alexandra, who lives in Hurst Green, has two boys – the couple’s great-grandsons – William, seven, and Henry, four.
When asked what the key is to a long and happy marriage, the couple said: “Love at first sight, never go to bed without ending a row, a zest for life and similar interests – and if your wife throws a pot of porridge at you in the first month, ignore it! Love of children and re-live their discoveries together throughout the generations.”
John added: “We still live an eventful and exciting life. For our 50th anniversary we drove right around Australia, only writing off one car, which unfortunately belonged to my Australian daughter-in-law!
“This year, after our celebrations on July 8 at Bannatyne Spa Hotel, we plan to take a canal boat on the Canal du Midi in France before driving around Spain and Portugal visiting towns and resorts we first visited in the late sixties and early seventies.
“Marianne still hankers after another trip to the Australian outback. I have not told her but I might eventually agree and take one more expedition before we’re too frail.”
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