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A love punctuated by laughter

Gercine Carter

A love punctuated by laughter

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Jacqueline and Les Cleavely’s marriage is filled with laughter. A conversation with this Devon, England couple is punctuated with laughter so infectious it is difficult for the third person to keep a straight face.
And when you ask Jacqueline what she likes most about her husband, the response is immediate “He makes me laugh. We both have a sense of humour.”
 Jacqueline told EASY magazine: “Throughout our marriage we have always laughed a lot and I believe that helps.”
“He makes me laugh. We never fall out. We might have discussions but we don’t fall out. We just go through life enjoying it. We have our ups and downs but everybody does, but you get over them.”
The couple has just ended another visit to Barbados, their 22nd, highlighted by the celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary with a real Bajan-style party.
The two first met at a party. Jacqueline’s eyes sparkle as with a chuckle she recounts the tale of the tall handsome man she spotted across the floor, coming over and asking her to dance.
“I went with somebody else and met him there . . . . I was with my girlfriends and Les was with his friends.”  
“She is that kind o’ girl,” Les interjects and they both laugh as Jacqueline tells about the chalk line of demarcation placed on the floor area where they were dancing –  “We stayed on the chalk mark all night.”
“We danced to Cliff Richard’s Living Doll and Bobby Darin’s Dream Lover,” Les remembers.
They may have been destined to be together as the following story from Jacqueline suggests: “[The] funny thing is that the week before we met Les had his fortune told in the West End of London, and this guy had written down that he would meet somebody in this particular month and it was me.”
What has kept them together all these years? “Fear” is Les’ playful response. Jacqueline waves aside the flippant remark through laughter, then growing serious for a brief and moment, she ponders before replying “having a sense of humour and giving one other space”.
Les, too, is at once serious, agreeing “I think you have to give each other space. We have been good mates. We understand each other’s space.”
He is an avid sports fisherman, a hobby he made it clear to his intended bride he was not going to give up after they were married. She understood and accepted this was the one thing that would be permitted to come between them.
“I am fishing crazy . . .  . I fish every week regardless of the weather,” Les admits – and he does it without Jacqueline.
“Me and his friends’ wives consider ourselves fishing widows, but I don’t mind. He does his thing, I do mine.” It is the time she chooses to devote to her favourite pastime, sewing – or “machining”, as she calls it.
“We have always been good friends, good mates and we can understand each other’s space. We don’t like to crowd each other too much,” says Jacqueline.
With their two grown-up children out of the house, Les and Jacqueline find pleasure in their respective hobbies outside the enjoyment of each other’s company. They confess the births of their children, daughter Leanda and son Brett, were the happiest moments of their lives and the reason they advocate approaching marriage “the old-fashioned way”.
“A lot of marriages don’t last these days,” remarks Les. “They get married and then they live a sort of fairytale and then they suddenly realize they have the mortgage to pay, the electricity to pay . . . everything to pay and I think they get little bit disillusioned – that’s when they break down.”
His wife agrees. “I think a lot of them today they give up too soon. They get married and they think it is all going to be a fairy story but it is not a fairy story . . . . We have been to some fabulous weddings where they spent thousands of dollars getting married and then about eighteen months later you hear they are splitting and we think you should find out before you spend all that money that you don’t like each other.”
Not so Les Cleavely. He adores his Jackie, as he calls his wife, who remains his “darling” (an affectionate term he uses throughout the interview) after being with her for the past 50 years.
As Les tops up his wife’s champagne flute with more local beer – “the best champagne in the house” – the smile fleetingly leaving his face. He says to EASY: “She is always there for me. I have never ever come home and there has not been a meal for me.”