Clare was 16 years old when her schoolfriend, David, died in a motorbike accident. On the day of the funeral, in the summer of 1979, she spotted Andrew, his brother, for the first time. Although they didn’t speak that day, it was love at first sight for Clare. “I was completely besotted straight away. I still feel the same way now,” she says.
They lived in a small village in Worcestershire, and the community was devastated by David’s death. “It was a very traumatic time, especially for the young people. We were all so shocked by what had happened,” says Clare. She and David’s other friends rallied around Andrew, to make sure that he was coping. Clare regularly cycled past the place where he restored old cars in his spare time to say hello. Andrew admits he “fancied her” but wasn’t sure he was ready to date. “I’d seen her once before my brother’s accident and liked her but hadn’t thought much about it. After he died, the loss was a lot to take on board. I was so hurt,” he says.
That autumn, they met at a nightclub after some of David’s friends invited Andrew out. “They were looking after me. Otherwise I would have been sitting at home alone,” he says. He and Clare spent the evening dancing together to Donna Summer and Rod Stewart. “He was wearing a fetching zip-up cardigan and Oxford bags. I thought he looked gorgeous,” she says. Later that evening, Andrew dropped Clare at home in his MG Midget. “My mum said I raved about the car more than Andy,” she laughs. At the time she had been dating someone else. “I’m not sure how happy he was about me driving her back,” says Andrew. That relationship ended soon after, and Andrew and Clare became an official couple.
In 1981, they bought a derelict cottage in a nearby village, which they hoped to live in after their wedding the following year. It wasn’t renovated in time, so they spent the first nine months of married life living in a caravan. “They were the baked beans years,” laughs Clare. “We had no money, no running water, no shower and no toilet. It was a test of our relationship.”
Clare joined the civil service, and later trained as a lecturer in business studies, while Andrew joined his family’s engineering business. They had two children, born in 1985 and 1988, and moved to their current home in Worcestershire in 1987. Despite settling down very young, neither of them had doubts. “I think a lot of people thought it wouldn’t last. But if you really love someone you can do it, whatever age you are,” says Andrew.
They also believe that coping with the tragedy of David’s death at a young age helped them to face the peaks and troughs of life. “We both had hit rock bottom,” says Andrew. They have since supported each other through further family bereavements, including the loss of Andrew’s parents in the mid-90s, and Clare’s mum in 2006. “Anything that came along, we dealt with it together.”
In 2004, they bought a house in France and Andrew spent a year away renovating it while Clare stayed in the UK. “Andy really needed a change and I completely supported the idea,” she says. From renovating houses to their shared passion for old cars, the couple have “grown up together” and make decisions as a team. “If we don’t agree straight away, we find plan B. We found a way of sorting things out without rowing,” says Andrew.
They admire each other’s determination. “She’s very practical and we support each other as equal partners. We see the funny side of things and bounce off each other,” says Andrew. Clare agrees. “Laughter is the glue. Andy also has amazing inner strength. When I’m ready to throw in the towel, he just carries on and it keeps me going.” Clare says that Andrew’s brother, David, is never far from their thoughts. “He brought us together. We’ll always be grateful to him.”