I’m 85, my wife Jacqui’s 81, and we’ve been married for 61 years! Apparently that’s rated to be quite a long time, though looking back at it all, over the years, it seems hardly more than a year or two since we walked down the aisle on that cold January day in Bristol, ready to start a life together and wondering, I suppose, just where it was going to take us, over the next forty years or so.
Sixty-one years of marriage didn’t even enter my mind in those days, and even an age of sixty-five years old seemed an immeasurable distance away – good Lord, I would be retiring then, with just a year or two to enjoy the freedom of not having to go to work every day. Then I’d pass on to that great studio in the sky; forgive me for popping the word studio into the sentence, I happen to have been a graphic designer all my working life, and I have a tendency to think in terms of ‘studios’, rather than ‘rooms’!
We’ve done a lot of things in those intervening years between 1959 and the present; not as many things as some perhaps, but at least we’ve done most of the things we wanted to do, and you can’t really ask for more than that, in a happy life, can you?
We’ve seen quite a bit of the world, traveling by ship to New Zealand as soon as we were married, with the experience of sailing through the Panama Canal and visiting Pitcairn Island on the way. Then, five years later, the return to England, again by sea, but this time stopping at Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, (little guessing that we’d be back here in twenty years or so), and cruising along the Suez Canal on the way, a sort of five-year circumnavigation of the world; not too bad really, I believe Francis Drake took longer than that.
Back in the UK I joined an advertising agency in Bath for several years, before setting up my own business in the town, and it was during these years that Jacqui and I experienced such pleasures as several balloon flights, my becoming a qualified glider pilot, and the two of us, with our three kids taking holidays all over the place, notably in Devon, Cornwall, Paris and Spain.
In fact we enjoyed a good life during those years, I was making very good money from my work, we were all fit and healthy, and we had very nice homes, in Westwood near Bradford-on-Avon, Trowbridge and Bath. We’ve always had a bit of a ‘wanderlust’ and it was a rarity for us to buy and stay in a home for more than about five years, except where we live now of course, this has been our home for nearly twenty years and I see no signs of us moving on again soon.
In 1987 we came out to Australia for a holiday and immediately fell in love with the place, so within a year we had wound up our business, sold our home in Bath and returned south again, this time, of course, to Australia, where we have lived ever since, happily retired in a small town with a population of about two thousand, down in deepest Gippsland, where we have made many more friends than we made in the whole of the rest of our marriage, and despite some bad luck which radically changed our financial situation, we have been very happy.
As for our actual marriage, well I would say we have enjoyed an above average, time together; we have the occasional fight, as most couples do, (none of them physical!), and we immensely enjoy making up again afterwards! We do just about everything together because we have similar interests, like travel, writing, painting, socialising with friends, and food – good food but not ‘fast-food’. We can often communicate with each other without saying a word, something that I would guess is quite common between couples who have been together for a long time and have been happy together.
I guess one of the most important things I have learned over the years, is that marriage is very much like any other job; you have to work hard at it to make a success of it. Too many people these days seem to have one argument and immediately rush off to a lawyer, hollering about ‘incompatibility’, and that is just plain silly. The ones who do this are simply missing out on one of life’s great pleasures – a family of your own!
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