Dunmow Flitch Trials: Helen and Ralph White

Dunmow Flitch Trials. Picture: Saffron Photo

Dunmow Flitch Trials. Picture: Saffron Photo - Credit: Archant

The first couple to be welcomed into the marquee at Foakes Hall with a fanfare was Helen and Ralph White, who have been married 35 years. They met in Weston Super Mare where he was on holiday and she worked. Ralph, 62, said: “I kept seeing her going for the bus and on the third occasion I thought it must be fate, I’ll ask this bird out.”

Helen, 57, said: “I went to the pub with him and I missed three buses. He was nervous, he was hopping from foot to foot. It was love at first sight.”

Because he lived in Birmingham and she in Swindon they carried on their romance through phone calls which he made from a public phone box. Helen said: “I think he often missed his last bus home.”

Eleven years ago, Ralph, a head gardener, developed throat cancer. Helen, who nursed him through it, said: “He’s an ambassador for anyone for a disability, I’m so proud of him.

Ralph said: “In five years, Helen never missed one of my hospital appointments. We took sandwiches and a flask and turned it into a picnic.” The keen swimmer was told after his recovery that he should no longer swim but they discovered a special snorkel from Germany. Helen, a swimming teacher, taught him how to use it.

He said: “It’s wonderful getting back into the water.” The couple, who both worked for a local authority, were chuckling during their hearing and instant with replies. In his cross-examination, Steve Bugeja said to them: “It’s good that you work for the council and answer so quickly, that’s very rare.”

He also told Ralph: “The snorkel’s from Germany, you’ll have to give that back now.”

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The couple who retired early, moved to London and like going to unusual places. They have discovered the smallest police station in Britain, now a broom cupboard in Trafalgar Square, and also ate at a pitch black restaurant where diners sit in the dark and are served by blind people.

“They want you to get the experience,” Ralph said. “I decided for a joke to put my hands all over my wife, I didn’t realise there was infra-red CCTV.”

The couple, who ride a tandem, volunteered for the 2012 Olympics and also work nights at a homeless shelter, as he said cheerfully: “Sleeping on the sofas with the mice and the bed bugs.”

The jury gave them the bacon. As their barrister Caroline Bradley said, imitating it with a great set of teeth, they couldn’t resist Ralph’s smile.