There may be a 36-year age gap but that hasn’t stopped true love blossoming for Woodbridge couple Carly King and Billy Potter

Carly King, 22, and Billy Potter, 58, are set to wed.

Carly King, 22, and Billy Potter, 58, are set to wed. - Credit: Su Anderson

Billy, 58, has three children older than Carly, 22, and is a grandad of four. But, they both tell Matt Stott, love has found a way

Carly King, 22, and Billy Potter, 58, are set to wed.

Carly King, 22, and Billy Potter, 58, are set to wed. - Credit: Su Anderson

“This is good practice for your wedding next week”, laughs Su, our photographer, as she fills this sunlit, homely lounge with that paparazzi crackling noise better associated with the red carpet.

Sitting in the glare of her camera on their maroon couch with broad smiles a week before their church wedding, are Carly King, 22, and her fiancé Billy Potter, 58.

The Woodbridge couple have, perhaps inevitably, faced an altogether different spotlight since announcing their engagement last November.

Billy got down on one knee at their favourite restaurant, the Red Lion in Martlesham, to propose.

“It was a shock as he said he would never get married, but obviously he wanted to,” said Carly.

After the photography session concludes in their Peterhouse Crescent home and the interview begins, the subject of their 36-year age difference soon naturally arises.

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“We tried to hide it to start with because of the age gap,” reflects Carly, a night senior carer at Woodbridge Lodge residential care home.

“He’s got three children (aged 27, 29 and 31) and we didn’t really want it coming out if it wasn’t going to be serious. But people did find out and they had a lot to say about it. Most of it was negative to be honest.

“People were saying it wouldn’t ever last, that I was after his money. Just hurtful things. They just weren’t prepared to give it a chance at all.”

Were they surprised?

“No, we knew we had it coming,” she replies. “That’s why we tried to keep it hidden to start with. There are a lot of judgemental people out there.”

Carly had earlier explained how they first met, when she was aged 18 in November 2011: “I had just passed my driving test and my car had a dodgy clutch. My sister knew of Billy and said to take it to him. I said ‘can I trust him though?’ I was a bit worried about it because I didn’t know who he was. She said yes, of course you can.

“So I took it round and he looked at the car and I instantly found him quite attractive but I was a lot bigger then and had big, thick glasses on and was a bit of a mess. So he didn’t think anything of me at all.”

But one night six months later, after Carly, who was then working behind the bar at The Warwick in Woodbridge, had dropped more than two stone to weigh 10-and-a-half stone and was wearing contacts ahead of her laser eye surgery, Billy walked in.

“I think he then found me attractive,” she laughed. “At the end of my shifts, I would offer to give Billy a lift home a couple of times and that’s how that started.”

The conversation switches back to the present day.

Carly says: “We are getting married so it’s serious now, but back then when word started to spread, it was more of a ‘do you want to come to poker with me, do you want to come here with me’? It was more of a companionship rather than a relationship. We took it slow.”

“It was at least six months before anything happened between us,” Billy, who has Type 1 diabetes, adds. He was a firefighter for 29 years before retiring in 2013. He now works as a mechanic for Vehicle Surgeon in Hasketon.

“I would definitely not be getting married (if we didn’t love each other). I lived with someone for 27 years… and Carly and I have been together for more than three-and-a-half years and you have got to do it right, haven’t you. You never know what’s round the corner. I’m not losing her for not doing it by the book again.”

Carly added: “(The age gap) has not affected anything really. At the start he said he would never get married because he wanted to warn me.

“I accepted it, but I knew deep down one day I wanted my dream wedding and in the end it just got more serious and he wanted it to.”

She continued: “He loves me a lot. He finds his emotions hard to talk about but I know that he loves me. We genuinely worship the ground each other walks on.

“We like the same thing. I’m very mature mentally and Billy just likes to have fun and we meet in the middle. It is just perfect.

“I am never one to go out clubbing. I think I’ve been clubbing once and came home at about 10.30pm because I absolutely hated it. I would rather sit down at a pub and have a meal, which is what we do regularly.”

They managed to keep the relationship a secret for six months before the rumours eventually turned into fact.

Two months after the enforced public acknowledgment, Carly’s mum, Linda, was keen to meet Billy, who has four grandchildren.

Carly said: “My mum said bring him round for a barbecue. She said ‘we’ve got to meet him now; it’s been going on for too long’. He came round and met all my family, who just loved him.

“My mum just wants what I want. She is the best mum in the world. She just wants me to be happy. Billy would not have been her ideal choice for me, of course not. But she realised how happy he made me and that made her happy.

“My friends just want what’s best for me as well. At the start they didn’t say too much in case they hurt my feelings. They were obviously worried about the age gap like anyone else was, but now – two are going to be bridesmaids.

“Then Billy’s family had a barbecue and invited me over. I met his family, and I knew of his sons anyway because they are a similar age to my older brother and sister. I knew them all anyway which is why I wanted to keep it quiet. I didn’t want them to flip out.”

Before they met, Billy had never left Suffolk. Now, he has got a passport, been to Miami, and enjoyed a two-week cruise of the Caribbean.

“We’ve had rock ‘n’ roll dance lessons, we love playing poker, I go to the stock car racing at Foxhall with him, we go down to Felixstowe a lot and watch the boats come in at the docks, and go out for meals a lot.

“His family always say to me, when he is not about, ‘God, you are so good for him. He has done so much since he met you’. That is so lovely to hear.”

I ask Billy for his thoughts on the success of their relationship.

“I don’t think the age gap has got anything to do with it,” he says.

“We get on well. Like most people said, you don’t know whether it’s going to last or not (at the start), but as time went on we got more and more closer.

“Whatever happens, you can never judge if we are going to be together in 20 years because of my age. But we are happy as we are and we will continue as we are.”

The couple will tie the knot at St Mary’s Parish Church in Woodbridge next Saturday (August 22).

I finish by asking, rather tentatively, for Carly’s views on starting a future family.

“It is not being ruled out,” she said, briefly laughing.

“Everyone knows that to be fair, so it is not a secret.

“It is all I have ever wanted in life.”

Is there a big age gap between you and your partner? Tell us your story, email us today.