On Clare’s first day at work 22 years ago, Ryan was the first person she was introduced to. They were at the Mars confectionery company, in the wrapping area of the factory that made Twix bars. Clare was 24; Ryan was 20. “He’s 6ft 3in, dark and handsome,” she says. The head-to-toe white overalls look good on men, she adds. “I thought: ‘Wow!’ straight away. But I was at work and I thought: ‘I’m here to do a job, not find my potential husband.’”
Did Ryan notice her? “It’s a very male-dominated area, and seeing a young lady walk into the factory, and especially one so pretty, yeah, it was a big day. I remember being taken aback at how beautiful she was.”
Clare smiles. “I don’t remember you saying that.”
Although they were part of a friendly, close-knit team, the couple found it hard to get time together. Their break times rarely coincided. On top of that, Clare says her factory outfit – hairnet, hard hat, steel-toe-capped boots, white overalls – was not the most flattering. “I had to do my best every day to look as good as I possibly could,” she says. “My eyebrows would be done, although I couldn’t wear too much makeup.”
She says he was oblivious to the fact she liked him. “I would try to engineer it so we were on the same break pattern, and I’d try to organise lots of social events,” she says. Did he like her? “I did,” says Ryan. “But I’m not a very macho, chase-the-ladies sort of person.” It took about six months of Clare “being quite underhand”, she says, before they got together on a night out, and Ryan says they have been pretty much inseparable ever since.
They moved in together six months later and worked together on the factory floor for another two years. “You spend a lot of time with those people who are working the same shifts as you,” says Ryan. “It was young love and we didn’t want that space – we were quite happy spending all our time together.”
What did they like about each other? “The most important thing is our sense of humour is the same,” says Ryan. And their values, Clare adds. At work “you find a lot of people who share the same values. I think that was the thing that has kept us together, and at work as well – it feels like it’s all wrapped up in our life.”
They are both still at Mars, a company they love, where employees are called Martians. Clare did a degree and now works in marketing; Ryan is in factory planning. “There are days when I won’t see him at all, and there are days when I’ll see him in the canteen,” she says. “It never really gets too much.” And they rarely talk about work at home, he says.
Do they eat chocolate all day? Ryan laughs and says he has type 1 diabetes, so has to watch his sugar intake. Working in a chocolate factory does have its advantages, however. “I’ve had a couple of low blood-sugar attacks, and chocolate is one of the things you can use to fight them.’” Their house is a magnet for trick or treaters at Halloween, says Clare.
Is she surprised that she and Ryan are still together, more than two decades on? “It sounds so trite, but when you know, you know,” she says. “My dad used to say: ‘You and Ryan are cut from the same cloth.’”
A few weeks ago, Ryan’s aunt died. She got Ryan the job at Mars, and worked for the company for a remarkable 73 years. They were close. “I was trying to be strong for my dad, keep a stiff upper lip, and then at the end when everyone was filtering out after the funeral, Clare came to see me and I broke down,” he says, “because it was Clare. She’s my person, the one I share everything with. You know that person means everything to you.”
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