When a 17-year old Jean Axten was first invited by Brian Avery to his Fresnaye home in the late 1950s, little did they know that in 2021 they would be celebrating their diamond anniversary at this same family house.
Brian and Jean got married today in 1961 and in an interview with the Atlantic Sun fondly recalled the memories of six decades together.
“We met at Fresnaye sports club, I was with friends and I saw Brian playing at court number one. He invited us for tea after the match and I had such fun. I told my mother about this crazy guy I met that made me laugh, and still makes me laugh,” said the 82-year old Jean Avery.
Ms Avery said she knew what she was getting herself into as her husband, a naturally talented sportsman, had conditions ahead of their marriage, one of them being that she makes pudding every night.
“He wanted kids, not just one, and he wanted them while we were young so that he could play cricket with them, and he asked me if I could make pudding and I said of course, we are English, that’s part of our tradition. I still make pudding, he is not fussy, so it’s anything from jelly, pancakes, rice pudding and tapioca pudding, every night,” said Ms Avery whose family moved to South Africa from England when she was eight years old.
“He doesn’t cook, I do all the cooking but he does do the drying up and he is the best at that. I must say we had our best conversations when doing the dishes, that’s when we make serious decisions.”
With the prerequisites for marriage established, they had three children, Barry, Neale and Lynn, that followed their dad’s example when it comes to sports, playing golf, tennis and soccer in Pinelands where they lived for over two decades.
“Brian became a referee because the boys played soccer and he became a professional ref as he does not do anything by half measures, he had to understand the game so he studied it and was dedicated to the sport,” said Ms Avery.
“I had so much fun being a referee, I did it for 34 years and I travelled all over the country”, said Mr Avery, 85, who once refereed a match that involved England legend Bobby Moore.
“I played tennis since I was 10 years old, part of the first team for many years. I was a soccer referee and I became an umpire in bowls so sports were always part of my life. I didn’t take to golf but my son Neale is a good golfer. Our eldest son Barry played cricket and my daughter Lynn was a hockey player, in fact Neale and Lynn became soccer referees too ,” said Mr Avery who was acknowledged by Western Province for his contributions to sport five years ago.
“Our lives revolved around sport, I told the kids that this is the life your father has chosen so you either love it or hate it, and they all loved it,” Ms Avery said.
Ms Avery said although they never thought they would get to this diamond anniversary, they always knew that they would honour their wedding vows.
“I always thought we would never divorce, we would die before that, there was no need for divorce. People ask what’s the secret, there’s no secret, only love, if there is love then you can accommodate each other, we are good friends, we enjoy each other’s company, we never get tired of one another, we never run out of conversation, maybe I talk more than he does but often he talks more than I do, believe you me,” she says.
While there are many good memories, Ms Avery said there was always drama when her husband went overseas for work purposes and one of them being the Tulbagh earthquake.
“There was always drama when he left, a water cylinder burst and when he called and asked if I’m fine I shouted at him because everything was not fine, I was quite hysterical. On another occasion Barry’s bicycle went through a glass door. These things always happened when Brian was away. Then there was the Tulbagh earthquake and I was alone with the kids, I heard the teacups and cutlery rattling and a neighbour said I should wake the kids up and get out of the house. His father died when he was away and I had never had anyone close to me die, his mother stayed with us and there were so many tears. When he returned from one of his trips I asked him not to leave us again for so long and he promised not to,” Ms Avery recalled.
“My boss called me to say my dad had died and suggested I leave and comeback, it’s 18 hours one way from New York and I decided not to. That was the longest I was away, seven weeks. I worked in information systems with a company called Vacuum Oil, they were part of Mobil and they are now known as Petronas and I went to places like Calgary and Paris for training, to work, and on the final trip I said to Jean meet me in London at Horse Guards Parade. There were no cell phones then and here we were among thousands of people looking for each other and it was something of a miracle to find each other,” he said.