How love at first sight turned into a diamond relationship

Luton couple Bob and Paddy Norman who are celebrating their diamond wedding
Luton couple Bob and Paddy Norman who are celebrating their diamond wedding

From the moment 15-year-old Bob Norman clapped eyes on Frances ‘Paddy’ Robson at Christ Church youth club way back in 1947, he was smitten.

And nothing has changed in the intervening decades.

Luton couple Bob and Paddy Norman who are celebrating their diamond wedidng

Luton couple Bob and Paddy Norman who are celebrating their diamond wedidng

The happy couple have just celebrated their diamond wedding and their cosy Bushmead Court apartment boasts a congratulatory card from the Queen, bouquets of flowers and a helium balloon, alongside framed photos of family and friends.

The former Luton Grammar School boy can still recall the impact blond blue-eyed Paddy made in her maroon college blazer. “It was definitely love at first sight,” he smiles. “All the boys wanted to take her out and I remember turning to my friend Tony and saying: ‘Who’s that?’”

It took Paddy a little longer to realise that the soon-to-be up-and-coming Luton News photographer was Mr Right.

They tied the knot at St Thomas’s Church in Stopsley in 1955 and are now the oldest couple on the electoral roll to be married there.

Paddy bought her elegant long-sleeved wedding dress from Gilda’s in Oxford Street and they and their 120 guests enjoyed a reception at the Warden Tavern.

She laughs and says: “But what I remember most of the day is my mum bringing me breakfast in bed.”

Bob, mildly surprised, says that’s not what he expected to hear.

The newly-weds moved into a bungalow in Sowerby Avenue where they brought up their sons, Mark and Peter – who were born on the same day, two years apart.

They now have five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Bob did his national service with the RAF and was headhunted by University Cameras on his return.

He spent 27 years with the company, rising to general manager of their seven stores in the area.

His only regret is not starting his own business. But he had a young family to support and it was never really an option.

When he retired, he published two local history books entitled Were You Being Served? telling the stories of 100 local families who owned shops and businesses in the town.

“They were both an unexpected and unbelievable success,” he says. Bob, now 82, has toyed with producing another. “I really enjoyed writing them,” he explains. “The only subjects I was ever any good at were art and English.”

He and Paddy met Cilla Black when they appeared on Surprise! Surprise! after Bob wrote to the star telling her of his wife’s wish to ride in a vintage vehicle.

They were invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party in recognition of all their charity work for the local community. And they were also on the guest list at a private function at St Paul’s Walden when the Queen unveiled a memorial to the Queen Mother.

They enjoy each other’s company, share many interests and have ‘tons’ of lovely friends.

They’re still involved with their local church and Paddy contines to chair the Arcadian Ladies Club, as she has done for 27 years.

So what’s the secret of their sucess?

“Give and take,” says Paddy, “We’ve never had a row – just little shouts. And he’s such a caring man – I couldn’t live without him.”