By Jodi Bryant
When John Pollard and his friend walked into the 'Grab a Granny Night' at the Poenamo Hotel and sat at a table reserved for Trish De Mars' friends, she had three questions to ask; Marital status, star sign and were there dust bunnies under the bed.
The latter, according to Trish, is a sign of poor housework, but all questions were answered adequately and, by the end of the night, the two had exchanged numbers.
That was in 2002 when Trish was 51 and John 49 and, 17 years later, the couple have married in Whangarei but let's rewind back on their journey.
"It was Valentine's Day," recalls Trish, now 69. "The night we met was commonly known as 'Grab a Granny Night' at the Poenamo Hotel in Northcote. They used to have a disco there on Thursday nights for over-40s, and it was a lot of fun, great music and good crowds.
"John walked into the bar and I immediately liked what I saw. He and his pal came and sat at a table very near my friend Diane and me. It was me who approached them as I had three important questions to ask if they were going to sit at one of 'our' tables, where other girlfriends would soon be arriving."
After passing the test and exchanging numbers, John called Trish the next day and they went on their first proper date the following night. They have been together since.
Within a year, they had moved in together, were working in business together and subsequently formed a band Back in Time together.
"John was in a band at the time, which impressed me," Trish explains. "I love music, but, apart from early childhood piano lessons, had never really pursued it. Fast-forward about a year, and I bought a keyboard just for fun. John had left the band after relocating north of Auckland, but he still played every night, just for ourselves.
"One day he said we ought to start our own band and I thought: 'Not in a million years!'. I knew nothing, literally nothing. But I learned, and, before I knew it, we were playing in RSA clubs all over Auckland."
Trish describes their music as 'old-school' - a mix of classic songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s incorporating country, rock & roll, ballads, Latin and ballroom - with John the singer and rhythm guitarist and Trish performing the vocal harmony along with some back-up.
The couple moved to Northland ten years ago and on Valentine's Day 2019, Trish proposed to John. "We'd both had a few health issues and I felt like we needed something positive to work on."
The pensioners, who had both been married – John once and Trish twice - planned their October wedding on a limited budget but, with all hands on deck with families and friends, managed to pull off their dream wedding with 120 guests at Urquharts Bay. The dress was purchased online and Trish's hair and make-up was done by her niece and granddaughter. As well as a bbq, there was a huge ham, scallops, mussel fritters and salads prepared by family.
The initial entertainment was performed by their good friend John 'Scratch' Grey before John and Trish took to the stage which Trish describes as a 'hoot'.
"Most of our families had never heard us before. They are all scattered throughout the country and the wedding was a wonderful opportunity for our combined families to finally meet and get to know each other. I was always afraid that, if we didn't make this happen now, it would be someone's funeral before our respective sons and daughters, grandchildren and, in my case, great-grandchildren could meet.
"Just having both our families in one place meant everything to me. It was fun, it was emotional, it was perfect for us."
These days, although retired, the couple lead a busy life, learning and practising new songs and regularly performing.
"It is the best social life ever, as we meet lots of other musos and, of course, the public, who come to dance when we play."
Adds Trish: "Love and marriage are not the exclusive territory of the young and beautiful. I will be 70 in December, two months after our first wedding anniversary. John is now 68, and now that we are wed, I can't call him my toy-boy any more, but he really is the love of my life, and I am sure he would say the same about me."