Do opposites really attract?

The artist: Charlotte Cory, 56
I met Kevin on an Internet-dating site. I'd walked out of a long marriage and been rattling around on my own for 18 months.

The fact that he was a mathematician — well,  I'd wept through my O-level maths and I can't even write phone  numbers down correctly. In fact, I think I went to meet him out of sheer perversity. We went to the British Library for a coffee,  and he told me he had studied astronomy, so we ended up having a conversation about the stars and planets.

I was out of my depth but it was just so magical to be with somebody who talked in such a learned and open way — it was what I'd been looking for all my life.  I'm louder, whereas Kevin has a serenity, which I find very endearing. Sometimes he'll just sit gazing into space working out a formula and I've learnt to leave him to it. I've also learnt not to use language so casually, as it causes him genuine pain. We'll be out shopping and I'll say, "Oh god, we don't need butter, there's millions of packs in the fridge," and I can see him start to think, because he's looking in his head at the millions. He's got a fantastic eye: 

He's always been interested in the intellectual basis of my art.  But at the same time, we have our own takes on everything.  For example, last summer we went to the Olympics dressage.  I was obsessed with the beauty of the riders dancing with the  horses, but he was picking up on the mathematics of how  horses actually run.

The mathematician: Professor Kevin Parrott, 62

Charlotte said she was a photographer on her dating profile, and that drew my eye: I'd done astronomy at university, which at that time was mostly concerned with photographic observations. She said to me from the start, "I think I'm a bit wild for you" – which is true, but everyone's more flexible than they think they are. One of the main differences between us is that Charlotte notices so much:

she picks up about 10 times more than I do, in terms of where we are and what the people around us are doing. But she's also totally unembarrassed by things I appreciate; as a mathematician, if you see something, you say it.

And I enjoy her sense of humour: I don't know anyone else who'd claim to have had a séance with my dead mother, but she (will joke that) she has; she'll offer genuine insight into my behaviour based on what she reckons my mother would have said. If I didn't like her artwork, I don't think I would have married her. She works with taxidermy and I've had to get used to having it around the house. I'm currently staring at a monkey. I go to the odd [art function], but they're a bit difficult, to be honest. People talk at each other, and I never have anything to say. 

The key to our relationship is a sense of freedom, of being able to go on a bicycle ride together and be kids again, say. The older you get, the fewer answers you have, but you have to have fun.  Charlotte Cory is the founder  of over-50s dating website ffifty.com

The butcher: Des Whyman, 72
It was almost 50 years ago: I was working in a butcher's shop in Kentish Town in north London, and Vicky came in. The chap who worked next door to me lived in her road, and he did say, "She won't go out with you — she's stuck up. She walks with her nose in the air."

The first time I saw her getting off the bus, I didn't have the nerve to say anything. The second time I called out to her. She didn't look left or right. So I crossed the road, and she said, "I don't answer men shouting at me in the street." But we went to a pub and I thought I'd make a good impression on her. We decided we'd get married within the first week. There was uproar with the mother-in-law.

We got married at the registry office, w ich shocked our parents,
because it wasn't done then. It was a couple of weeks after that when I found out she was vegetarian. I got meat from work, a nice couple of steaks. She told me, "There is one thing — I'm a vegetarian." And I said, "Well, why didn't you say earlier?" And she explained that she didn't like to, in case it put me off marrying her. We don't argue about it, but I have tried to persuade her to eat meat sometimes. I brought a heart home once; she ran out of the kitchen. When we first went on holiday, I'd want to traipse round butcher's shops.

We had more photographs of butcher's shops than holiday snaps! She's very nice about it.  When we go abroad now she says,  "Why don't we get it over with.."

The vegetarian: Victoria Whyman, 70

I went in to the shop with my mum; I noticed this guy looking
at me – I thought, "What a fool!" But I didn't tell him that till much later.I had him running after me  — start as you mean to go on! — and it just developed from there. We'd known  each other just under a month when we got married.  We just knew; at 21, you do tend to think you know everything. I don't like eating meat. But while I lived with my parents, it was a case of you must at least try a bit. 

When I left home I thought, I shall do what I want. And I don't want to ever eat meat. But when you're newly married, you don't want to say you don't like something — so I ate little bits still. I left it a little while and then I had to tell him — and he thought it was ridiculous that  I hadn't set him straight before. I do the cooking, but if it's something like liver, it gets cooked from the end of a fork.
I have all the windows open; I'd rather freeze than smell it.

I don't like the texture, the taste, or anything else about meat. I don't like it, even on telly, when you see all the blood coming out of it. Des used to take the calves from the farms to the abattoir – I just couldn't. He made the mistake of showing me the calf once, and these  two brown eyes looked up at me. I wouldn't talk to Des for weeks  after  — murderer! Tolerance is the key to our relationship. 

It's thinking of each other  and being able to make allowances. (Hugo Montogomery/Holly Williams/The Independent)


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